Alleged "puppy mill" may be back in business
Amargosa Valley, NV (KTNV) -- A guilty plea of cruelty to animals and a promise to the court to shut down -- that should have been the last word from a place authorities called a puppy mill.
The alleged puppy mill was exposed in a Contact 13 Investigation two years ago, but Chief Investigator Darcy Spears found it may be back in business.
About 90 miles northwest of Las Vegas in Amargosa Valley, it doesn't take but a moment to see things haven't really changed.
The barking dogs and the junkyard atmosphere. About the only thing missing from LOLAA Kennel is the sign that advertised it back in 2011.
On August 29, 2011, Linda L. Smith was convicted in a Beatty court of misdemeanor animal cruelty after a Contact 13 hidden camera investigation.
She was sentenced to pay fines and told the court she sold the business and was dismantling the kennels and having them hauled off.
She promised she wasn't going to operate a kennel again.
But what we saw a few days ago looks just like the scene in 2011.
Dogs living in outdoor enclosures with very little shade, their water green with algae, and their fur matted and dirty.
We made the hour and a half drive from Las Vegas to talk to Linda Smith.
Linda: Put your camera down.
Darcy: You don't want to talk with us?
She says she will if we walk with her out to the street.
Darcy: I simply want to know what's going on out here. I understand you had another run in with animal control.
Linda: No, I did not have a run in.
On May 28, Nye County Animal Control cited her for issues involving the animals on her property.
Linda: They issued me a misdemeanor ticket, and... which is being taken care of... which they will do what they are supposed to do and come back out and see that I am in compliance.
Darcy: What did they tell you you needed to do to come into compliance?
Linda: That is my business. That is not your business.
Darcy: In 2011, you told them you were getting rid of all your dogs and you've got maybe 40 some odd animals out here?
Linda: Well, I'm not going to tell you how many. It's none of your business.
She says the unused kennels and dog houses lying around are evidence that she's in the process of shutting down.
"I have adult dogs. In today's economy, they're very difficult to find good homes for."
About 75 dogs were rescued through various organizations after her 2011 guilty plea.
Steve Benson of Happy Acres sanctuary organized the rescue effort.
Benson sits on the Nye County Animal Advisory Board and still has a few of Smith's dogs at his Pahrump facility.
"I'm sorry, because the last time it was a real fiasco. And we were doing real good in placing the animals and then she pulled the plug."
Linda says she stopped working with the rescue organizations because they wouldn't allow her to remain anonymous.
And she claims she's no longer breeding.
Darcy: The authorities say that you're the dictionary definition of a puppy mill.
Linda: If that's what they want to say. I am -- have been -- a dog breeder. Not a puppy mill.
Darcy: And how would you describe the difference?
Linda: I care. Right now. If I didn't care, I would have just dumped all the dogs that were born and raised here. I do care. So I'm getting them into good homes.
Darcy: And you say you're not selling any of these animals at all?
Linda: Oh, you know, I may get $50 bucks for them, but mainly, I'm giving them away.
When we ask about the conditions of some of the dogs...
Darcy: They're matted and their conditions -- there's algae in the water...
She decides she's done talking.
Steve Benson says the environment Smith's dogs are living in isn't healthy.
"She's got to stop doing what she's doing and either do it in way down limited amounts or stop altogether."
Nye County Animal Control will be back out at Smith's property on Tuesday to see if she's come into compliance.
We'll be closely following this story.