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UPDATE: MN Supreme Court denies petition for review
In response to the Court of Appeals opinion (see below), Dayna Bell had 30 days to file a petition with the Minnesota Supreme Court for further review of the decision made by the Court of Appeals. Bell did so; and filed a petition for review on November 18, 2014.
On December 4, 2014, the Dakota County Attorney filed a response in opposition to this petition for review.
The MN Supreme Court could then make a decision to deny or accept this case. On December 30, 2014, the State of Minnesota in Supreme Court filed an order stating that "the petition of Dayna Kristine Bell for further review be, and the same is, denied."
This is great news. It means the Minnesota Supreme Court will not be reviewing the case further; the decision by the jury (and Court of Appeals) remains. Once again, Bell was trying to argue that there are "at least two classes of animals: those that are pets and those that are not." Bell was arguing that the breeding dogs in the kennel were not pets and companion animals (and, instead, was suggesting the animals were livestock); hence, felony charges could not be imposed under Minnesota law. Both the jury and the Court of Appeals disagreed. Now the Minnesota Supreme Court has denied any further review of this matter. For further discussion of this case, please read below.
A win for breeding dogs and their puppies
For link to a copy of the Court of Appeal's opinion scroll down page.
On October 20, 2014, the State of Minnesota in Court of Appeals issued an opinion affirming the convictions in the Dayna Bell animal cruelty case (#A14-0137).
This is great news and a win for breeding dogs and their puppies.
The opinion means the Court disagreed with all six arguments submitted by Bell and upheld the guilty decision made by the jury. (For further details of the case, scroll down to Charges and Complaint.)
The opinion by the Court in regards to the Bell case helps to legally explain what many within society know to be true and have argued for years — that every dog in a breeding kennel, whether a puppy or an adult dog used for breeding, is a pet or companion animal under Minnesota law and must not be neglected, abused or treated poorly.
The fact that a commercial dog breeder may have tens or hundreds of adult dogs for the purpose of breeding each and making money (i.e., economic gain) does not allow that business owner or operator to "view" these animals differently and, therefore, justify substandard, neglectful or cruel treatment. Under Minnesota law, each dog within the kennel is a pet or companion animal and must be treated as such.
The Court's decision is unpublished, which means it cannot be used as "precedent" to bind another court. However, it can still be used as a persuasive argument in other court cases. The details of the opinion should also be read and understood by all authorities who have jurisdiction over inspections or investigations of kennels and where there is any false interpretation of the law as to how dogs should be viewed and treated.
KUDOS: This type of case shows why strong County Attorneys are needed throughout Minnesota who are willing to take animal cruelty cases seriously, and charge the offender with the appropriate charges and penalties. The original charges were agreed to and led by James C. Backstrom, Dakota County Attorney. The trial was prosecuted by Assistant Dakota County Attorney Jessica Bierwerth. The Court of Appeals briefs were written by Assistant Dakota County Attorney Stacy St. George. At the time Bell was charged, County Attorney Backstrom said:
"It is a very disturbing case.
Dogs and other pets depend on us for safety and well-being,
and when that trust is breached ... it's a very serious matter."
For the Court of Appeals opinion: State of Minnesota vs. Dayna Kristine Bell
ARGUMENT: Livestock vs. Pet or companion animal
Minn. Stat. Sec. 343.20, subd. 6 reads: a pet or companion animal "includes any animal owned, possessed by, cared for, or controlled by a person for the present or future enjoyment of that person or another as a pet or companion, or any stray pet or stray companion animal." Bell was charged and convicted under Minn. Stat. Sec. 343.21.7; the above subdivision is a definition for that statute.
One argument made by Bell, of particular interest to Animal Folks and all of us who are concerned with how breeding dogs are viewed and treated within breeding kennels, was the claim that "the state failed to prove the essential element that the dogs were pet or companion animals." In other words, Bell was trying to argue that breeding dogs in her kennel were, essentially, livestock and not pet or companion animals. Under Minnesota law, felony penalties only apply to pet and companion animals.
The Court of Appeals disagreed. As stated in the Court's opinion (excepts below):
For the Court of Appeals opinion: State of Minnesota vs. Dayna Kristina Bell
Dayna Bell was a dog breeder/broker located in the city of Northfield in Dakota County, Minnesota. Bell bred dogs and sold puppies for years through her kennel named Bell Kennels and websites.
In 2010, Bell applied for and received a Class B USDA (federal) broker license, which allowed her to also buy and sell dogs wholesale. USDA license number: 41-B-0265. This license was revoked with status date December 13, 2013.
Due to her felony convictions and the sentencing imposed, Bell Kennels is no longer operating. Bell sold or got rid of the remaining dogs and puppies on her property prior to the end of the jury trial.
BREED TYPES AND INVENTORY COUNTS
Based on the Bell website, consumers and USDA inspection reports, Dayna Bell owned and bred a variety of dog breeds. Some of the breeds included:
During the trial, employees stated Bell's kennel housed over 200 dogs and puppies. Past USDA inspection reports listed Bell's dog and inventory as:
NOTE: No animals were seized at the time of the investigation. One of the conditions imposed on Bell at sentencing: "No ownership, care for, possession of or contact with a pet or companion animals....The defendant has 30 days to find homes for her two pet dogs. After 30 days, the Dakota County Sheriff's Department shall collect any animals still remaining on the defendant's property. In 30 days, the Humane Society is to verify that there are no animals in the defendant's care." Following the jury decision, Bell stated that all animals had been removed from her property — so no animals were remaining on the property to be seized. It is not known where the dogs and puppies were placed.
The veterinarian listed on Bell's Health Record and Conditional Use Permit was Dr. Sharon Dreifus.
USDA INSPECTION REPORTS
Below are examples of USDA inspection reports for Bell Kennels.
On June 25, 2012, Animal Folks submitted a formal complaint and multiple affidavits from consumers who had purchased sickly puppies from Bell Kennels to the Minnesota Office of Attorney General. No action was taken by the Attorney General.
Consumers believed they had been misled. Examples included:
Observations were also made by these consumers as to kennel conditions:
REGISTER OF ACTIONS
The Register of Actions lists all the actions taken during the criminal case.
CRIMINAL CHARGES AND COMPLAINT
The criminal complaint lists the charges and also provides a Statement of Probable Cause, which laid the foundation for a Search Warrant and investigation. The charges alleged Bell drowned multiple dogs and puppies and, in one case, broke a dog's neck. One witness says she saw Bell throw a dog tied to a cinderblock into a pool, where it drowned. Drowning causes animals to suffer and is not a humane or acceptable form of euthanasia. The jury agreed, and found Bell guilty of 13 felony counts.
NEWS ARTICLES — CRIMINAL CASE
COURT OF APPEALS
As explained by the Minnesota Judicial Branch:
The mission of the Minnesota Court of Appeals is to "provide justice through a system that assures equal access for the fair and timely resolution of cases and controversies." This Court reviews "all final decisions of the trial courts, state agencies and local governments. As the error-correcting court, the Court of Appeals handles most of the appeals, which allows the Minnesota Supreme Court to spend time resolving difficult constitutional and public policy cases. Court of Appeals' decisions are the final ruling in about 95 percent of the 2,400 appeals every year. Typically, about 5 percent of the court's decisions are accepted by the Minnesota Supreme Court for further review."
The jury convicted Bell of 13 of the 14 animal cruelty charges. Bell appealed this decision to the Court of Appeals.
COURT OF APPEALS — BRIEFS
Briefs were filed to the Court, laying out the arguments for appeal. Copies are below.