Group protests at commercial dog breeder’s home in Winona County

More than a dozen people gathered in rural Winona County Saturday in protest of several commercial dog breeders.

It’s the third weekend in a row members of the group Minnesotans Against Puppy Mills¬†have been protesting in the county.

On a gravel road outside Lewiston, Minnesota, more than a dozen people lined the street across from a commercial dog breeder’s home, equipped with handmade signs and loud voices.

“Dogs aren’t livestock, dogs aren’t crops,” they shouted.

Cindy Neumann is a life-long resident of Winona County and lover of animals. She said until recently she had no idea there were what she calls puppy mills in her backyard, and she doesn’t want them there anymore.

“Puppy mills are a moneymaking racket for dog breeders. (The dogs are) living in filthy conditions with limited vet care, if any, limited water and (they’re out in the) cold stacked cage on top of cage,” Neumann said.

Neumann said about a month ago she visited the property she was protesting in front of to see a dog. She said what she saw was not a healthy animal.

“He told me that the dog could walk — the dog could not walk, the dog literally crawled around on its stomach, wiggled around like a worm, it could not stand,” Nuemann said.

But the chair of the Winona County Board, Marie Kovecsi, said she saw no evidence of animal cruelty when she visited all six commercial breeder locations before the county board granted conditional use permits to each site earlier this month.

“Well apparently in some areas there have been instances of animal cruelty. We don’t tolerate animal cruelty or neglect in Winona County, if those instances happen here we will prosecute,” Kovecsi said.

Kovecsi said all six breeding locations have been inspected and are licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the State Board of Animal Health, which are the regulatory agencies of commercial breeding in Minnesota.

Winona County only deals with issues of land use and public health.

“We had issues like noise from the kennels, we had issues of setback, treatment of the waste water, treatment of solid waste, we had some security issues if the dogs happened to get out,” Kovecsi said.

Provisions added to each breeder’s county permit subject the owners to random searches by Winona County, but Neumann doesn’t believe that’s good enough.

“No, because how much are they really going to monitor? Are they really going to come out here every three months, and are they really going to pick up every dog in here to check to make sure it’s OK? No. They don’t have the time or the resources for that,” Nuemann said.

The protesters were outside the breeders’ homes for about an hour before moving to a more visible location in downtown Winona.

The homeowner declined to comment.