A monthslong investigation has led to numerous charges against a Pine County woman and her 86-year-old mother for allegedly starving and neglecting dogs, horses and other animals.
Kathleen M. Doenz, 65, and Gloria I. Carlson, 86, have each been charged with five felony counts, five gross misdemeanor counts and four misdemeanor counts related to animal abuse and neglect.
Complaints from concerned citizens led the Pine County Sheriff's Office to serve search warrants on properties owned by the mother and daughter on at least two different dates in September and October.
Doenz, however, has been under investigation off and on for nearly 10 years for animal cruelty and neglect.
She was convicted in 2006 of gross-misdemeanor cruelty to animals in an agreement that averted a jury trial.
Court records show she had been charged in 2004 with 83 counts involving neglect of horses and dogs, including failure to provide water, adequate kennels, hoof care for horses, and more.
She was convicted of four counts of animal cruelty in a plea agreement. She was fined $900, ordered to pay $6,321 in restitution and placed on two years' probation in Pine County District Court. Judge James Reuter also ordered psychological testing and said Doenz could not own any animals. He said inspections could be done on her property to see whether she was in compliance.
In the searches last fall, deputies found dogs, horses, cats and chickens living in filth and other inhumane conditions and in deteriorating health, said Steven Blackwell, chief deputy for the Pine County Sheriff's Office.
The animals didn't have adequate food, water, veterinary care or in some cases, even housing, he said. Doenz had faced many similar allegations in 2004.
Neither she nor her mother could be reached for comment Friday evening.
The first seizure this year came Sept. 12 at a farm northeast of Pine City and led to removal of 14 starving horses, 22 dogs, 84 chickens and 18 ducks. A second on Oct. 10 involved 14 horses and 15 dogs. Three of the horses had to be put down.
Nearly all of the dogs have been adopted since then from Guardian Angel animal rescue, which was caring for them in rural Pine City, said Connie Wright, who runs the shelter.
Many of the seized dogs, including German shepherds and Great Pyrenees, were underweight. At first, they were afraid of trees and the sunlight bothered them, Wright said, because they had never been out of the barn. Some of the dogs also had trouble smelling because they had been exposed to so much ammonia from urine, she said. And many exhibited fear of humans.
But with good nutrition and being able to run, the dogs had stretched out — and filled out — she and the veterinarian on the case, Dr. Delores Gockowski, noted recently at the shelter.
As of last week, six out of the 28 horses still needed homes, said Gockowski, from North Ridge Veterinary Service of Sturgeon Lake, Minn. The horses also have filled out, and a trainer has worked with them, trying to get them used to being around people, she said. Prospective owners must provide a reference letter from a veterinarian and contact information from a farrier, Gockowski said.
The sheriff's office has accepted donations to help with the animals. Hills, which makes Science Diet dog food, contributed 500 pounds of wet and dry dog food to the shelter to help feed the dogs, for example.
Gockowski said many people have also helped provide for the horses in various ways.
Still, horse feed and veterinary costs have been mounting — to more than $40,000 for Pine County, where sheriff's officials also want to be mindful of the costs to taxpayers, Blackwell said. He's said if they can't soon find homes for the horses, they may be faced with a decision to euthanize the remaining animals.
Joy Powell • 612-673-7750