25 counts of animal cruelty against dog breeder dismissed
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A judge has dismissed 25 counts of animal cruelty against a woman who was accused of operating a "puppy mill" out of a Hawaii Kai condo in 2003.
Lucy Kagan said yesterday she loves dogs, and denied ever mistreating 25 dogs that the Humane Society says were discovered in cages crammed into a filthy condo.
The judge dismissed the charges because of the lengthy delay between the time of the alleged offense and the filing of the complaint.
Kagan, however, is not completely in the clear. She was sentenced by another judge yesterday in a tax evasion case.
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Lucy Kagan says she might be a pack rat, but she loves dogs and would never abuse them despite widely publicized accusations.
Circuit Judge Reynaldo Graulty dismissed 25 counts of misdemeanor cruelty to animals against Kagan on Thursday. She was accused of running a "puppy mill" after 25 dogs, including newborn puppies, were found in kennels at her ex-husband's Hawaii Kai condo on May 7, 2003, by firefighters responding to a fire that broke out in the kitchen.
Hawaiian Humane Society investigators who also responded described the kennels as "filled with feces, urine and infested with insects, including cockroaches, flies, spiders and other pests."
Kagan defended herself yesterday after a state judge placed her on five years' probation in a tax evasion case that arose after she failed to report income from the sales of dogs in 2001 and 2002.
She said the dogs belonged to her former business partner Norman Texeira, who submitted a check yesterday to the state Tax Department for the unpaid taxes totaling $1,362.
Circuit Judge Richard Pollack stayed a 30-day jail term but ordered Kagan to serve 100 hours of community service.
Kagan's attorney and family friend Richard Lehrfeld of Sacramento, Calif., said Kagan has been "castigated" in the media and has been known as the "dog lady" since the fire.
From the start, Kagan denied mistreating the dogs, calling the investigation and resulting publicity against her a "witch hunt."
She maintained that the dogs were healthy, being properly cared for and caged with food and water. She sought a dismissal of the charges last month based on the lengthy delay between the time of the offense to the date of the complaint.
Graulty agreed that Kagan would be "substantially prejudiced" if she went to trial without the testimony of witnesses who have since moved away or are no longer able to testify on her behalf, said Lehrfeld.
City Prosecutor Peter Carlisle acknowledged that there was a long delay between the alleged offense and when she was charged on Feb. 24, 2005. However, the charges were filed within the statute of limitations and brought because there was probable cause Kagan had committed the offenses, he said.
Pamela Burns, president and chief executive officer of the Hawaiian Humane Society, which supported animal cruelty charges against Kagan, said the group was extremely disappointed to hear the case was dismissed.
The Humane Society conducted a nearly monthlong investigation into suspected animal cruelty and neglect after the dogs were removed from the condo. The group determined that the dogs were kept in "deplorable conditions and small cages -- well below standards considered acceptable," Burns said. Earlier, the Humane Society said Kagan was basically running a "puppy mill."
Kagan objected to the characterization, saying the Humane Society found that the dogs were healthy and not abused.
The Humane Society later returned 14 of the dogs so Kagan could turn them over to the people who had bought them. Another 10 were returned to Texeira. One miniature Pinscher puppy died.
Kagan said she was using the condo as storage for furniture and belongings after moving into a smaller place about a half-mile away. She does not deny the place was messy and in disarray, and stray cats apparently had the run of the place after entering through a hole in the roof. Repairs to the condo were neglected because her ex-husband was living on the mainland, she said. A trash can containing remnants of dog food had tipped over, attracting roaches, she said.
She said she went daily, even twice a day, to feed and care for the dogs, who were being bred for sale and were valued at about $1,000 apiece.
Kagan said she and Texeira, who invested thousands into constructing a kennel on his farm, had planned to go into business together to breed dogs. The plan fell through after the fire and the resulting negative publicity, which affected her physically and emotionally, she said.
Kagan, a self-professed "eccentric dog lover," said she has cared for strays and rescued dogs since she was a child.