First hearing: Veterinarians, Fillmore County sergeant and Anderson Farm associates present case for, against German Shepherd seizure

(ABC 6 News) – The Fillmore County sheriff’s office, a veterinarian, and two witnesses connected with the Anderson Farm testified in the first evidentiary hearing concerning the seizure of 15 dogs from the LeRoy breeders.

In late February, the Fillmore County Sheriff’s Office removed the German Shepherds over concerns that the dogs were malnourished and kept in filthy conditions.

RELATED: LeRoy dog owner, Fillmore County sergeant and humane society reps meet in court over dog seizure – ABC 6 News –

Attorney Steven Hovey, representing Donald Anderson and Elham Alayyoub, argued Friday that the dogs’ kennel conditions were due to the Andersons’ concerns that someone had been poisoning their animals.

“You’d agree that it’s unusual for someone who’s torturing dogs to call the police out to the farm to see the dogs, correct?” Hovey asked.

However, Fillmore County attorney Brett Corson called Fillmore County and Animal Humane Society employees, who described unsanitary conditions on the farm and underfeeding that could have — if left too long–led to serious health complications or death.

There were still witnesses waiting to testify at the end of the hearing Friday, and a second hearing has been scheduled.

Sheriff’s Office sergeant speaks on investigation

Investigator Sergeant Dan Dornink, the Fillmore County officer who filed the search warrants and application for seizure of the dogs, applied for the warrant after a University of Minnesota veterinarian told him he was concerned about the dead dog’s condition.

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

Hovey claimed that Dornink had learned from a veterinary expert at the University of Minnesota that the dog’s death was “unrelated” to the dog’s poor nutritional state, but had not included that information in the search warrant application.

Hovey also claimed that the University of Minnesota expert had treated the German Shepherds in the past, but had not told the Andersons he was concerned about their weight.

However, that same expert told Dornink he was going to file a formal welfare complaint, Dornink told attorney Corson.

Dornink took photos of the kennels on Feb. 13, which showed feces on the floor of one enclosure and blood-soaked cardboard in another and in the yard.

Several pictures from Feb. 13 and Feb. 22 showed filth streaking the walls and floor of another enclosure, and caked around the doors leading to an outdoor running area.

He also told Corson that the dogs’ thick coats made it difficult to assess them visually, but that when he ran his hand over their backs and sides, he could easily feel their spines and ribs.

The Andersons were fixated on their belief that the dogs were being poisoned, Dornink said, despite being told that the dogs’ nutrition was a separate issue that also needed to be addressed.

“They were not accepting of the findings,” Dornink said. “They argued that the dogs were not underweight.”

Veterinary testimony

Hovey first called Dr. Ashley Plotkowski for a cross-examination.

Plotkowski told Hovey none of the dogs had died or needed surgery since they were seized by the Animal Humane Society, though one needed treatment for intestinal worms.

She also conceded that none of the dogs showed signs of organ failure or disease at the time of their seizure.

However, none of them showed signs of poisoning as the Andersons claimed, Plotkowski said.

If the Andersons were concerned about poisoning, they should have set up alternative housing or taken the dogs out on leashes to sanitize the pens, Plotkowski added.

Condition of the dogs

Seven of the nine adults lost weight right after their arrival at the shelter, Plotkowski testified — possibly due to nerves, or because emaciated dogs can take time to adjust to normal feedings.

Plotkowski told Corson that she believed that the initial weight loss was due to underfeeding, and said most of the dogs have begun to gain weight again.

One pregnant dog gave birth to five puppies overnight before the evidentiary hearing, Plotkowski said.

The slightly older puppies seized from the Anderson farm, which were about 8 weeks old in late February, were rated a 1.5 or 2 out of 9 body condition during their intake exams, Plotkowski said.

To get to that body condition, the dogs would have had to be malnourished for 10-14 days, she added.

An adult dog named Pixie was at a 3 out of 9, Plotkowski said — the best body condition of the group. The others hovered around 2 out of 9.

“A 4 out of 9 is acceptable — considered to be lean, but at a healthy weight,” Plotkowski said.

If the dogs were returned to the Anderson farm, Plotkowski would recommend feeding them individually to monitor individual appetites and weight gain, she testified.

However, she did not recommend returning the dogs to the Andersons.

Character witnesses, family friends

Hovey called two people who know the Andersons personally to describe the dogs’ kennels and condition during previous visits to the farm.

Nina Jorgenson, who owns a dog from the Anderson Farm, said she visited just four days before the seizure and had no concerns about the cleanliness of the puppy pen — though she had no photos from the visit.

Jorgenson said she had visited the farm often because she and the Andersons believed someone was throwing poison into the dogs’ kennel areas and wanted to recommend security measures.

A second family friend said the dogs had seemed clean and in good condition when she visited in October of 2023, but could not attest to their condition in February.

Next hearing scheduled

Donald Anderson and Elham Alayyoub, the Anderson farm owners, were not able to testify Friday, March 8.

Hovey said he also plans to call another veterinarian to discuss the dogs’ condition on behalf of the Andersons.

The next evidentiary hearing is scheduled for Monday, March 18. In the interim, the dogs will remain at the Animal Humane Society.