Sign the Petition to

Constable Hubenak, G.A. "Trey" Maffett (Wharton County Attorney), Wharton County Sheriff Howell, Ross Kurtz (Wharton County District Attorney), and Dr. Bonnot (Wharton County Vet as appointed by the Wharton County Commissioner)

Dear Commissioner Doug Mathews, Pct. 4, Commissioner Steven Goetsch, Pct 3, County Judge Phillip Spenrath, Commissioner Chris King, Pct 2, Commissioner Leroy Dettling, Pct 1, Constable Hubenak, G.A. "Trey" Maffett (Wharton County Attorney), Wharton County Sheriff Howell, Ross Kurtz (Wharton County District Attorney), and Dr. Bonnot (Wharton County Vet as appointed by the Wharton County Commissioner),

Please immediately conduct an animal cruelty investigation of Smiling Dog Farms to improve the living conditions, health, and wellbeing of more than 300 dogs located at 6915 & 6919 South State Highway 60, Lane City, Wharton County, Texas. This investigation should include all of the physical structures on the property.

I visited Smiling Dog Farms with a friend on August 29th and 30th, 2014 as part of adopting a dog named D’bo. During my visit, I took 900 photographs and video documenting inhumane conditions and filed an animal cruelty report with the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office. Here is a summary of my animal cruelty complaint filed on September 4th, 2014, a report the officer was reluctant to log because the officer said Smiling Dog Farms is "doing the best they can":

#1: I saw 11 dogs that needed immediate medical attention and provided photographs of these 11 dogs. Their issues ranged from not being able to stand to having low body condition scores.

#2: There are also dogs that need medical attention for mange, eye infections, and skin infections.

#3: There are dogs without adequate shelter: multiple dogs sharing one shelter; travel crates being used as housing; housing that does not provide protection from the elements. As you know, this winter there have been multiple days of freezing temperatures in Wharton County.

#4: Bread was observed as being the primary food source for many dogs. Bread is not nutritious food for dogs.

#5: There are dogs that did not have access to clean water. I observed water bowls with algae sludge.

#6: While it is not against Texas state law, only 56% of the dogs are spayed or neutered, and there have been accidental litters at Smiling Dog Farms.

I took one of the puppies from an accidental litter to a vet for an evaluation, and the vet diagnosed the puppy as underweight. A copy of this vet report was included in my animal cruelty report.

I also gave Smiling Dog Farms a copy of my animal cruelty report along with an offer of assistance. In response, Smiling Dog Farms acknowledged they have been “toughing it out for years” and that they have more dogs than they have the resources to care for. By October, I had organized a team of volunteers, including a veterinarian, to conduct an assessment that would include medical triage, a spay-neuter plan, and a sheltering improvement plan.

In October, I arranged to relocate a dog named Tucker (originally sent to Smiling Dog Farms last year by Our Pal’s Place in Georgia) to Safe Haven Kennel in Nevada—a facility I have personally visited. Upon arrival from Smiling Dog Farms, Tucker had to have 13 teeth removed due to abscesses. The vet noted these infections had developed over the course of a year or more. A copy of the vet report for Tucker was shared with Ross Kurtz and the Humane Society of the United States.

Meanwhile, in October, based on the public records I received from Ross Kurtz, the owners of Smiling Dog Farms were consulting with the District Attorney about how animal cruelty investigations are conducted and their rights as property owners in Wharton County.

In November, Smiling Dog Farms rejected the offer for help. Based on the email exchanges that are public record between the Ross Kurtz and the owners of Smiling Dog Farms, my conclusion is that the owners rejected the help given their fears of being charged with animal cruelty.

Therefore, on December 7th, 2014, I placed a Sanctuary Alert on Smiling Dog Farms in Wharton, Texas, and the Sanctuary Alert remains in place. While Smiling Dog Farms has publicly stated they have closed intake until further notice, Smiling Dog Farms stated they took in two dogs recently in the fundraising emails they send out.

You’ll note their fundraising emails also state they are in the red at their bank. In their fundraising email sent on February 5th, 2015, they state they need “$1,800 by Monday” and that “$13,120 is still needed.” These fundraising emails state these funds are for “operations income.”

While Smiling Dog Farms continues to tough it out financially, I have not seen a plan for how Smiling Dog Farms will improve living conditions and quality of life for the more than 300 dogs under their care. They have not secured the resources required to: provide adequate and ongoing vet care; spay and neuter every dog in their care; make the necessary shelter improvements; address the lack of enrichment required for a dog’s mental wellbeing; or to reduce the number of dogs to their stated goal of less than 25 dogs before year-end.

Smiling Dog Farms has not invited an animal welfare investigator to freely inspect their entire facility. Smiling Dog Farms has not participated in a shelter health assessment to improve their quality of care.

Therefore, it is my obligation to share the details of my animal cruelty complaint with the public to raise awareness and to encourage individuals and rescues to inquire about the welfare of their animals and to reclaim their dogs if possible.

How did I find out about the deplorable living conditions at Smiling Dog Farms in Wharton, Texas?

Through a dog named Maggie Mae. Maggie Mae bit someone in the city of Seattle, and her owner chose to find a sanctuary for Maggie Mae. When Smiling Dog Farms was selected, the Seattle Animal Shelter contacted the local Sheriff to see if there were any complaints about your facility. The Wharton County Sheriff's Department said "No." And that was not true. According to public record, Bob McClintock from the Houston SPCA (and formerly of the TV show Animal Cops Houston) filed a complaint with the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office on December 6th, 2010 on behalf of a former employee that witnessed animal cruelty at Smiling Dog Farms. The case was closed by the Wharton County Sheriff’s Office as unfounded; however, I have been unable to obtain a copy of the investigative report because I was told the Wharton County Sheriff's Office does not release reports.

We don't know what type of "sponsorship" (the word used to describe the payment people give to Smiling Dog Farms to kennel a dog) Maggie Mae came with but I know that when Amanda Tattersall Craft from Seattle visited Maggie Mae at Smiling Dog Farms in 2012, she was aghast at the way Maggie Mae was living.

Amanda wrote Smiling Dog Farms a check for $1,100 on the spot to move Maggie Mae "up front" (what we refer to as a showcasing area) so that she would have adequate shelter. Amanda has also donated annually to Smiling Dog Farms out of fear Smiling Dog Farms will put her in "the back"--where the dogs without "sponsors" go-- where few people are allowed and where the living conditions are sub-standard. We’ve included a few photographs of dogs living in “the back."

Legitimate rescues do not tier the level of care for the animals in their facility.

Legitimate rescues do not guilt people into writing checks out of fear an animal will receive poor care.

And based on our conversations with people who live in Wharton on Friday, February 13th, I confirmed that Smiling Dog Farms is a kenneling facility--a business and not a dog rescue. The few locals that know Smiling Dog Farms exists out there on Highway 60 refer to the facility as the Lane City Kennel, and they were appalled when I shared a handful of the 900 photographs I took on August 29th and 30th, 2014.

Most locals have never heard of Smiling Dog Farms because Smiling Dog Farms does not engage the local community. Smiling Dog Farms does not hold adoption events. Smiling Dog Farms does not host open houses where people can visit their facility. Smiling Dog Farms does not host fundraisers or recruit volunteers. Melody Nichols, Smiling Dog Farms' adoption coordinator, lives in North Carolina.

Instead, Smiling Dog Farms is hiding out in Wharton and that's why they have paid a Wharton County Police Officer $35 an hour to stand guard on their doorstep on Friday, February 13th and Saturday, February 14th, 2015.

Legitimate rescues don't hire police officers; instead they team up with their local communities to make a difference for homeless pets.

We urgently call upon you to leverage expert resources to conduct an animal cruelty investigation of the entire property at Smiling Dog Farms, including all of the physical structures on the property.

We believe it is your civic duty to act immediately.

Signed,
Maggie McDowell

Signed,

Sanctuary Watch

This petition closed about 4 years ago

How this will help

By signing this petition, you are being an advocate for the more than 300 dogs living in sub-standard conditions at Smiling Dog Farms in Wharton, Texas. You are asking Wharton County officials to...

By signing this petition, you are being an advocate for the more than 300 dogs living in sub-standard conditions at Smiling Dog Farms in Wharton, Texas. You are asking Wharton County officials to conduct an animal welfare investigation of Smiling Dog Farms to improve the living conditions, health, and wellbeing of more than 300 dogs located at 6915/6919 South State Highway 60, Lane City, Wharton County, Texas.

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