German Shepherds seized from LeRoy farm will not be returned to owners

(ABC 6 News) – Judge Jeremy Clinefelter ruled Tuesday, April 9, that the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office was justified in seizing 15 German Shepherd dogs from Anderson Farm in LeRoy. 

He also ruled that the dogs would not be returned to Anderson Farm. 

Immediately after the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office seized the dogs from Anderson Farm, citing mistreatment under MN Statute 343.22, the dog breeders filed a lawsuit challenging probable cause.

The dogs are currently housed at the Animal Humane Society in Golden Valley.

Judge Clinefelter said he did not take the decision about the dogs’ futures lightly. 

“Mr. Anderson and Ms. Alayyoub clearly care for these animals,” he said. “That was plain in multiple pieces of evidence presented to the court. What’s alarming is the seeming disconnect between their love and care for these animals, and what was clearly happening. It’s a head-scratcher for the court.”

However, Clinefelter said it was “simply undeniable” that the dogs had been kept in “appalling” conditions, without adequate nutrition or cleanliness, for a long stretch of February. 

RELATED: Court documents detail poisoning investigation, reason for dog seizure at Le Roy farm – ABC 6 News –

“What Mr. Hovey said about dogs not dying – it’s simply not true,” he said. 

Clinefelter pointed out that the Andersons had seen three dogs die since November of 2023 – ending with the female dog’s death that prompted the Andersons to call the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office with concerns about poisoning. 

Donald Anderson and Elham Alayyoub, the owners of Anderson Farm, were silent in the final hearing in their case against the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office. 

The Anderson Farm owners are scheduled to appear on 9 criminal charges of animal mistreatment each May 16, related to the seizure of their dogs.

Fillmore County Court paused the civil hearing in March to allow Anderson and Alayyoub to consult with criminal defense lawyers.

After doing so, the pair chose not to testify in the final civil hearing.

Final testimony and closing statements

During the third hearing, Attorney Steven Hovey, representing the Anderson Farm owners, called Animal Humane Society staff to again detail the dogs’ weights since their seizure, then showed a video of a puppy in front of a full food bowl that was taken at the LeRoy farm.

FIRST HEARING: Veterinarians, Fillmore County sergeant and Anderson Farm associates present case for, against German Shepherd seizure – ABC 6 News –
SECOND HEARING: Anderson Farm owners join civil hearing hours after criminal charges filed; third hearing scheduled for April – ABC 6 News –

“This is a video of one of the dogs you accuse the Andersons of torturing by not feeding?” Hovey asked. “Ms. Pudas, how do you reconcile that?”

Pudas said the puppies still may not have received adequate nutrition, protein, and fats to maintain a healthy body weight, even if the Anderson Farm owners had kibble available.

Puppies and adult dogs require different types of food, she added – puppies and extremely active dogs require more protein and calories than “your average dog that lies around the house.” 

The Humane Society did not study the dog food at Anderson Farm, she told Hovey. 

Both attorneys rested their cases immediately after that line of questioning. 

Before the attorneys made their closing statements, Judge Clinefelter reiterated that the County has a duty to prove that the seizure was warranted, while Hovey had a duty to prove that the Andersons wre capable of caring for the dogs. 

Hovey claimed none of the Anderson’s care led to “pain, suffering, or death” of any dogs.

He alleged that Dornink “misled” the court when he drew a line between the death of one dog and the allegedly underweight condition of the other dogs.

“The county has thrown two words at you – emaciated and feces, these kind of gut-reaction words,” Hovey said. 

However, none of the dogs died, required surgery, or displayed serious illness since their seizure, he pointed out. 

“Where is the county’s proof of pain, suffering, or death in these animals? It simply does not exist,” Hovey said. 

Clinefelter later refuted that argument, pointing out that the death of multiple dogs was, in fact, what prompted the Andersons to call the sheriff’s office to their farm. The last dog died from gastric dilation and volvulus (GDV), in which an animal’s digestive system traps air and eventually twists around on itself, pressing against parts of the circulatory system and causing failure.

According to VCA Animal Hospital, risk factors for GDV include eating one meal a day, rapid eating, and being thin or underweight.

Fillmore County Attorney Brett Corson, representing the sheriff’s office, argued that Hovey was misconstruing the legal definition of animal cruelty, which includes neglect.

“Just like any other crime or any wrongdoing, we try to intervene before death, or before the animal is assaulted and maimed and can’t get up,” Corson said. “I’m not saying (the Andersons) were bad people, but what happened wasn’t acceptable under the law.”

Corson also called attention back to the low “body condition” ratings three separate veterinarians assigned to each dog since February, as well as photos shown in court, which showed blood, feces, and urine on the floor and walls of the dog kennels on both Feb. 13 and 22.

“To suggest that’s not painful to be hungry all the time… and that there’s no pain and discomfort associated with sleeping in your own urine and feces? I think that goes against common sense,” Corson said.

Update from the Humane Society in Golden Valley

Sarah Bhimani, the communications manager for the Animal Humane Society, released the following information about the dogs from Anderson Farm:

All the dogs removed are German Shepherds, ranging in age from eight weeks to three years. Four additional puppies were born in the care of AHS. The dogs are currently being cared for, examined, and evaluated by AHS veterinary and animal behavior staff and many are dealing with challenging medical conditions. It’s been a long road of recovery, and they still have a way to go. We’re happy that these dogs are getting the critical care they need. The dogs won’t be available for adoption until medical and behavior challenges are addressed.

AHS has been caring for an unusually large number of animals with significant challenges resulting from humane investigations cases in the past year, including 671 dogs, cats, and critters since July 1, 2023. AHS humane agents are the only full-time professional humane investigators in the state. They partner with local agencies and community members in all 87 counties to investigate reports of animal abuse and neglect and provide non-judgmental aid and support whenever possible. 

Learn more about the Humane Investigations team here.