ROOT - Doghouses are being built at Flat Creek Border Collie breeding kennel on Rappa Road after dozens of dogs were handed over Tuesday to the Montgomery County SPCA.
Herbert Weich, owner of the facility, agreed to surrender 41 of his 66 dogs to the Montgomery County SPCA as a result of being charged by state police Tuesday for violating the state Agriculture & Markets Law.
SPCA President Amy Tollner said 36 of the dogs are border collies and the remaining five are shih tzus. The collies were transported to Glen Highland Farm in Morris, and the shih tzus will remain at the SPCA until further notice.
Four of the adult border collies that Herbert Weich of Flat Creek Border Collies breeding kennel in Root was allowed to keep are shown?Wednesday. In the background, at left, is one of the new doghouses.
Weich's violation stems from a complaint police received on Dec. 31 that the dogs were being kept outside without adequate food, water or shelter. Police investigated and found primitive housing, food and water on the property, but no animals showed distress, police said.
Police said as the investigation continued - and based upon the recommendations of a veterinarian and consultation with the state attorney general's office - troopers later charged Weich.
The SPCA is currently financially responsible for the dogs that were taken.
Tollner said Weich has agreed to permanently surrender 31 of the dogs and is hoping to get 10 of them back. The 31 dogs Weich voluntarily hands over will be spayed or neutered and taken care of by the SPCA permanently.
Tollner doesn't know what Weich's odds of getting 10 dogs back will be.
"I can't say right now if he'll get [the 10 dogs] back," she said. "We're still getting the vet evaluations and everything done so we can't really tell at this point."
Tollner said she personally didn't think the dogs were treated well, but the shi tzus appeared to be happy.
"That isn't the way dogs should be kept, it's not fair to the dogs at all," she said. "Health-wise, the shih tzus are extremely matted and need to be groomed. Hopefully, we can get them cleaned up with a groomer in the city [of Amsterdam.] They seem to be healthy though, and they're very happy dogs."
Tollner said the collies were scared when the SPCA crews were loading them into vans.
"[The collies] had never had much interaction with people," she said. "That's another issue with that business."
Weich currently has 14 puppies and a few adult dogs in his care. Weich said he doesn't think he was doing anything wrong because he was following the law.
"If I wanted to hide something I would have fences built ... everybody can see everything. I've been doing this for 20 years and I've never had this much of an issue," he said.
Weich will report back to the state Supreme Court on Jan. 21 to update the judge on shelter renovations, and he'll answer the Agriculture and Markets Law charge in Town Court on Monday.
Part of Weich's agreement in court was to build proper shelters for his dogs. The dogs were originally housed in plastic barrels lined with hay. The veterinarian deemed that form of shelter inadequate for subzero temperatures.
Weich's neighbor, Brian Clukey, has been instrumental in constructing doghouses for Weich's business. He completed three doghouses and had two nearly finished as of Wednesday.
"I've run out of some supplies," Clukey said. "Each house costs about $175 and I've got about 24 more to finish. I've had some people donate materials, though, and that's been very helpful."
Clukey said the new shelters, which will be composed of plywood and foam insulation, will be "phenomenally better" compared to the plastic barrels.
However, no sooner had he spoken those words when one of Weich's remaining border collies stepped into one of the old barrels and made himself at home.
"The barrels really aren't too bad," Clukey said. "The plastic is thicker than the plastic used for manufactured doghouses and they're compact so they heat up faster. But we're making these doghouses so that [Weich] can hopefully get some of his dogs back."
Clukey said he's helping Weich out because "it's what neighbors should do," but he also wants the negative attention Rappa Road has received to dissipate.
Clukey said close to 50 cars daily were driving down the dirt road to see the kennel.
"That's a lot of cars for this road," he said. "I had someone throw nails in my driveway. People were yelling hateful things out of [vehicle] windows. It got out of hand."
Clukey thinks Weich is being "crucified" by the public.
"They've painted the worst picture of [Weich] possible," he said. "It's like they put him on a stake in the middle of town and are burning him like a witch."
Clukey said Weich cares about the dogs too much, which is why the population of collies got so large.
"In a puppy mill, the owner euthanizes an adult dog when it can't breed anymore," he said. "But [Weich] loves these dogs too much so he keeps them. When people return collies because they realize they can't have them, he'll keep those dogs too, so the number grows, but he's never intentionally harmed his dogs."