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Suspected Virginia Puppy Mill Claims Defamation

A Fauquier County dog breeder is suing the humane inspector who says she uncovered puppy mill conditions.

A dispute between the owner of an alleged puppy mill and animal advocates and concerned neighbors in Fauquier County is intensifying. Irina Barrett, who runs Canis Maximus Kennel, is suing the Middleburg Humane Foundation and the Fauquier County humane inspector for defamation, as reported by Fauquier Now News. The lawsuit comes in the wake of heated hearings before the local zoning board where Barrett has been trying—in the face of widespread community opposition—to get approval to house her dogs. She has operated without a business license for the past three and a half years.

In the suit, filed in federal court this month in Alexandria, Barrett, who breeds Doberman Pinschers and Great Danes, claims that Fauquier County humane inspector Hilleary Bogley spread lies about her business in a report distributed throughout the area.

Bogley made a series of visits to Barrett’s kennel earlier this year, after she says she received an anonymous tip about inhumane conditions there. Among the observations Bogley documented: pens soaked in urine; dogs without access to water, heat, and ventilation; underweight and fearful dogs; and overall conditions that qualified Canis Maximus as a puppy mill.

Ultimately, Barrett agreed to surrender 12 of her dogs to be adopted through the Middleburg Humane Foundation. In her report, Bogley noted that the surrendered dogs had many health problems, including eye and ear infections, pneumonia, sores, and worms. In her complaint against Bogley, Barrett doesn’t deny the dogs were ill; rather, she says “many, if not all” of the problems are not unusual, and that she purposefully turned over dogs “most in need of veterinary support.”

The lawsuit doesn’t end with Barrett’s assertion that Bogley’s report defamed her. She also takes issue with the fact that Bogley runs the Middleburg Humane Foundation, in addition to her job as a humane inspector. She alleges that Bogley stood to benefit financially from taking her dogs, since they were then adopted out by the Humane Foundation, which charges adoption fees.

“It seems to be a direct conflict of interest,” said Barrett’s lawyer, Andrew Bodoh, to The Washingtonian. “The Middleburg Humane Foundation may not be a direct competitor [of Bogley], but they’re in the same business of placing dogs with families.”

But like most animal shelters, the Middleburg Humane Foundation is a nonprofit—not a commercial business—and says it charges adoption fees only to cover medical costs. According to its website, the $125 fee to adopt a dog helps cover expenses such as spay or neuter surgery and vaccinations. By comparison, Barrett’s Canis Maximus website says she sells her dogs for $1,500 to $2,500.

Asked how the Humane Foundation’s $125 adoption fees could be considered a profit, Bodoh said: “We don’t know all of the specifics at this point. That’s going to be part of discovery.”

Bogley has yet to respond in court filings to the lawsuit. We left a message for her, and will update this post if she returns the call.

  • J.S.

    If you leave at the overall picture in this case, I think you will see that this is a Hail Mary pass by Barrett. Barrett's totally illegal operation produced 99 puppies in 2012 alone. (I don't know if that includes the two litters that starved to death.) In addition, before the inspection, there were numerous reports from neighbors about Barrett's dogs running loose and threatening pets and horses, to say nothing of the continual sounds of dogs barking and fighting in a residential neighborhood. One neighbor stated she doesn't feel safe letting her grandchildren play in the yard due to the undersocialized dogs regularly running loose. Barrett is trying to take the spotlight off herself with this lawsuit, and portray herself as the victim here.

    Unless the pictures at the inspection were faked, Barrett's operation is quite clearly a puppy mill. The pictures looked like a concentration camp for dogs.

  • ejstruan

    As I understand it, Bogley owns the property that houses MHF and charges MHF a hefty sum for the lease. Thus, Inspector Bogley impounds ("steals") animals and turns them over to MHF Pres Bogley to sell the animals so that MHF Pres Bogley can pay private owner Bogley the rent. Why can't folks see that this is a conflict of interest ... big time.

  • David Braun

    You are a moron, Eric. You know nothing and your uniformed opinion is worth exactly that, nothing.

  • chienblanc4csi

    Ms. Kashino - the "adoption fees" for the animals is only a tiny part of the financial conflict of interest. Humane societies all charge fees for the animals, but in the long run, the really big money comes from the publicity and the fund raising that follows the media reports. That can be substantial. Humane societies all across the country are involved in this money 'double and triple play' - seize the animals from what they alone claim is "deplorable conditions", collect large fines and/or seizure bonds (usually over a weekend, before a court hearing), hit up the local media for some video and 'news at 11:00', where they plead poverty and beg for donations 'for the animals', and if the investigator/humane officer is also the director of the humane society there is another kind of 'conflict of interest'. There is big money in animal rescue these days, the expenses for care is nothing compared to the fund raising opportunities. Then, there is the private fund raising, the lavish society dinner parties and $XXX.00 a plate dinners that the public rarely hears about, the fun runs, 'dog walks', where these 'success stories' are featured prominently . . . yeah, conflict of interest Big Time!

  • thetxlady

    What world do you live in that there is "big money" in rescue? Figure at minimum $5 per dog per day for food, water & hosing kennels. Toys, kennels, out door exercise & air conditioning are all additional. $15 x 3 for vaccinations, $10 for worming, additional $50 in misc vet fees & for arguement a round $100 for large dog spay (which is a discounted rate). THAT'S FOR A HEALTHY ANIMAL!!
    Adoption fee of $125-200 for exceptionally healthy, trained or beautiful purebred. Where is this so called profit you speak of?

    Walks pay for rent, electricity, full time staff, euthenasia fees, additional surgery, computers, new equipment like leashes/bowls & all the rest depends on volunteers. Breaking even in rescue is difficult...thus the NON-PROFIT designation.
    Anyone thinking that sick, underweight, ill mannered, intact animals were "stolen for profit" is high!! If someone was going to "steal animals for money" they would be better off hanging outside dog parks, training centers or vets for healthy, obedient animals that would easily fit into any home with a check book that came looking.

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