Dozens of animals including rabbits, chicks, and ducks were taken from a Spring Grove home on Thursday. It happened after an Animal Humane Society (AHS) agent got multiple animal cruelty complaints last week.
The Animal Humane Society agent, Scott Hill, says he got multiple complaints that the animals were injured, physically abused, and in a deplorable sanitary environment at a home in rural Fillmore County. When he went to the home on Saturday he saw a group of rabbits, ducks, and chicks confined to unsanitary and over-crowded cages.
According to a press release from AHS, several of the animals appeared to be suffering from untreated injuries and health problems. The existing conditions appear to have accumulated over a period of months.
However, the owner, Paula Chounard says she had to keep them in those particular cages because it was safer and warmer than putting them outside in traditional cages. As for the health problems, she says the animals didn't have any.
The agent offered Chounard ways to address and improve the conditions, but says she was unwilling. Chounard, on the other hand, says no such help was offered.
Five days later the agent, along with the Fillmore County Sheriff's Office, obtained a search warrant and removed 18 rabbits, 8 ducks, and 5 chicks.
"What the Animal Humane Society tries to do is resolve this most of the time without seizing the animals themselves. What they try to do is come up with a resolution of someone else getting involved taking care and custody of animals until things can be rectified. It's not always a 'let's go in there and seize the animals [type thing]. They do that as a last resort," said Fillmore County Sheriff Tom Kaase.
But Chounard disagrees and says she was given no such option. "He did not give me anything about negotiating where the animals can go in the meantime. He said he was going to take them. I had to surrender them. He gave me no other options."
It's unclear if Chounard's soon-to-be ex-husband filed the complaints. She believes he did because he wants sole custody of their two children. According to her, he has even refused to return her service dog. When KTTC asked the AHS who filed the complaints, they didn't give an answer.
The investigation is ongoing and could result in criminal charges. The Animal Humane Society took photos of the alleged neglect and overcrowded cages but cannot release them at this time.
Agent Hill is working with the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office on this pending criminal animal cruelty investigation. The animals have been quarantined at AHS, where they are receiving care and treatment until a disposition hearing pursuant to Minnesota statute 343.235.
In order to get the animals back, Chounard has to do two things: file the necessary paper work and pay a surety bond, which covers vet care, food, and labor while the animals are being watched at the Animal Humane Society's office in the Twin Cities.
If Chounard doesn't pay, the animals will be adopted out.