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Breeder petitions to regain custody of seized dogs

CASSELTON - The breeder whose 174 dogs were seized by sheriff's deputies this month has petitioned to regain custody of the dogs.

Darcy Smith, the Wheatland breeder, had five days to file for custody of the dogs that are currently under quarantine at Casselton Veterinary Service.

Cass County prosecutor Leah Viste said the county will fight Smith's efforts to have the dogs returned to his care.

"We don't feel he has the ability to care for them," Viste said.

Authorities found the dogs July 10 in what they described as life-threatening conditions. Their kennels were stacked three deep in single-wide trailers on Smith's farmstead. As many as five dogs shared a kennel in filthy, cramped conditions.

All 168 dogs originally seized had some sort of medical issue, Dr. Trevor Bjerke, a veterinarian with the Casselton clinic, said this week.

The count of dogs has risen since the initial seizure because some of the dogs were pregnant. One of the dogs gave birth to a litter of six puppies Tuesday night, according the clinic's Facebook page.

Some dogs had hip dysplasia and heart murmurs. The most common problem was severe matting, which led to bacterial mold and skin inflammation in many cases.

The dogs - Shih Tzus, Maltese and Yorkies, as well as a mix of those breeds - range in age from a few days to 13 years old.

A judge will decide this month if the dogs will be returned to Smith.

If the judge decides the dogs will stay with the county, they may become available for adoption, Viste said.

Right now, the dogs can't be placed anywhere permanently.

The hearing is set for at 9 a.m. July 30.