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Emily Welker, Published August 23 2013

Criminal neglect charges filed against Wheatland dog breeder

FARGO – A Cass County dog breeder is facing six criminal charges of animal neglect following the seizure of about 170 of his dogs from an apparent puppy mill operation at his home near Wheatland.

Darcy Darrell Smith, 51, was charged Aug. 15 with six charges of depriving an animal of necessary food and water, a Class A misdemeanor.

Smith waived his rights to the dogs three weeks after authorities seized 168 dogs from his rural Wheatland property July 10 after allegedly finding them stacked in cages three deep, some dogs five to a cage, in piles of their own feces and urine-soaked paper.

Some dogs had not been groomed in so long they were immobilized by matted fur, and the conditions inside the non-air conditioned single-wide trailers in which they were kept were “nauseating,” according to documents filed with the charges.

Cass County Assistant State’s Attorney Leah Viste said prosecutors didn’t file a charge for each animal individually because state law requires time in each count to be served concurrently if it is in the same course of conduct.

Instead, each of the six charges cover allegations linked to different places where the dogs were held on Smith’s property.

Since being seized by authorities, the dogs have been treated for medical issues and placed for adoption in rescue organizations throughout the region.

Several of the animals were pregnant when seized, and authorities estimate that there will be ultimately be more than 200 animals linked to the case.

No attorney of record was listed for Smith. His next court appearance is set for Sept. 10.

Readers can reach Forum reporter Emily Welker at (701) 241-5541