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NEWS: Animal Folks sues Minnesota Board of Animal Health for violation of commercial breeder law


On June 27, 2017, Animal Folks, in conjunction with the Animal Humane Society and Steve and Denise Sterling (property owners in and taxpayers of Cass County), sued the Minnesota Board of Animal Health for violation of the Commercial Breeders Licensing and Enforcement law, known as the Commercial Breeder Law, by granting a state license to a commercial dog breeder convicted of cruelty against animals.

According to the lawsuit, the Commercial Breeder Law states that the board must refuse to issue an initial license when a commercial breeder "has been convicted, other than a petty misdemeanor conviction, of cruelty to animals under Minnesota law." (Minn. Stat. sec. 347.58)

The Complaint seeks an Order compelling the Board to annul the commercial breeder license of this dog breeder, Deborah Rowell of Cass County, and to prevent the Board from issuing a license in the future to any breeder convicted of cruelty to animals under Minnesota law.

"This complaint is about enforcement," says Ann Olson, Executive Director of Animal Folks. "The breeder law was passed to protect dogs and cats in breeding facilities. But for protection to work, the law must be properly enforced — the intent of the law must be followed. Allowing a breeder who has been convicted of animal cruelty to obtain a state license is not enforcement of the law."

The mission of Animal Folks, based in St. Paul, is to protect animals, and to aid in the enforcement of laws that prevent cruelty to animals. As part of this mission, Animal Folks files complaints with law enforcement when cruelty is suspected. In 2012 and 2013, Animal Folks filed multiple complaints against Deborah Rowell, a dog breeder in Cass County, for suspected animal cruelty. An investigation was conducted by the Cass County sheriff's office and more than 120 dogs were seized. Rowell was charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty and convicted of Minn. Stat. sec. 346.39, subd. 4.

Animal Folks' legislative arm, Animal Folks Minnesota (AFMN), also worked for several years with a large coalition of animal welfare organizations and Minnesota residents to get the breeder bill passed into law to provide greater protections for dogs and cats in commercial breeding facilities.

In 2014, the Minnesota legislature enacted and the governor signed the Commercial Breeder Law. Soon after the law became effective, Animal Folks and its partners were distressed to learn that the Board of Animal Health granted Rowell a state commercial breeding license, which has allowed her to once again breed and sell dogs.

The purpose of this lawsuit is to hold the Board of Animal Health accountable so the intent of the breeder law is followed and animals are protected. The Sterlings are also party to this suit because they, like others in the county, were dismayed by the Board's actions.

The Complaint was filed in Ramsey County District Court. The plaintiffs are represented pro bono by Robins Kaplan LLC.

Copy of the lawsuit is available upon request.


Legal case: Dog breeder Deborah Rowell

Below is one photo from the Rowell investigation conducted by the sheriff's office. For additional photos and summation of Deborah Rowell legal case: Breeder: Rowell





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