More than a year after the successful investigation of a Minnesota puppy mill, the federal government is closing it down. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) recently announced it has suspended the kennel license of Kathy Bauck, owner of Pick of the Litter kennels, for two years. Bauck shipped thousands of sick dogs to local pet shops across the country. The USDA, in its final decision and order, declared Bauck "unfit" to be licensed because she operated the kennel in a criminally improper manner.
Bauck's case garnered attention in early 2008 after Jason Smith, an animal cruelty investigator, began working undercover at the kennel. Smith submitted testimony and video footage of injured, ill and emaciated dogs, as well as of Bauck dunking dogs in vats of insecticide, to Otter Tail County sheriff’s detectives. Bauck was arrested in August 2008 and charged with several counts of felony animal cruelty, torture and practicing veterinary medicine without a license.
Dr. Melinda Merck, ASPCA Senior Director of Veterinary Forensics, helped secure an animal cruelty conviction by testifying at Bauck’s trial. “The veterinarian working with the prosecution contacted me about one month before the trial started,” recalls Dr. Merck. “I was asked by the prosecutor to review all the video and case files and provide expert opinion.” Bauck was found guilty and sentenced to 90 days in jail, with 20 days to be served right away. The other 70 days were “stayed,” meaning they will be served only if she violates her probation.
Unfortunately, neither the criminal conviction nor the license suspension puts Bauck completely out of business. While the USDA license suspension dictates that Bauck can no longer vend animals directly to the public or pet stores, she can continue to sell them online because Internet pet sales are not regulated by the USDA. To learn more about this aspect of the case, visit our puppy mill law page.