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Couple Dog Breeding, Pension Plan Brings Back Painful Memories

By Jessie Becker from Sentinel Diary

It was 16 years ago, but Jim Hurley remembers it like it was yesterday.

The stench of ammonia and diarrhea inside Boo Boo’s Pups and Cuts, a dog grooming salon in Beloit, was unbearable. Four dead puppies were in a garbage bag and several other sickly animals were inside the unventilated building.

“I just remember being gagged in the store,” said Hurley, deputy executive director of the Humane Society of Southern Wisconsin. “It’s something you never want to experience.”

The store, owned by Randall and Deborah Henson of Rockford, Illinois, was closed in 2000, and they were found guilty of failing to provide proper shelter for the animals.

The store was an “intermediate puppy mill,” apparently built for retail, hastily converted into an animal grooming parlor and not maintained as a breeding house, Hurley said.

Now he is afraid it will happen again.

The Hensons are applying for a license to operate a kennel and breeding business in Rockford and will have their case before a public hearing at the Winnebago County (Illinois) Zoning Appeals Board – for the second time – on July 13. .

Few attended the couple’s first court appearance earlier this month, but opponents who have since inundated county officials with emails will have a chance to speak out after zoning committee chairman Jim Webster ruled Wednesday to refer the matter to the Zoning Board of Appeals for another. audience.

The Hensons say naysayers don’t give them a good shake and ignore the couple’s true love for their animals – especially the French bulldogs they plan to raise in the new facility.

The Hensons say in their permit application that they are “race stricken.” Deborah Henson does not deny: they are also lucrative.

“It is our desire to build a kennel that will facilitate our dream of improving the breed through selective breeding for quality and temperament,” they wrote.

Problem with the law

Opponents invoke history. In January 2001, the Hensons were found guilty of four counts of intentionally impounding an animal in improper shelter and ventilation, and each served three years of probation, completed 100 hours of community service general and paid $2,300 in court fines.

Officers, accompanied by Hurley and a vet, searched the couple’s Beloit living room and found the conditions to be inhumane. Although there was a small fan in the building, it “appeared to be kicking up dust”, according to a criminal complaint.

Several days of dog feces accumulated in trays under dog crates.

The animals tested positive for parvovirus, a contagious pathogen affecting young puppies or unvaccinated dogs, according to the American Veterinary Medical Association. It can cause symptoms like fever, vomiting, diarrhea and death.

Deborah Henson says the puppies had parvovirus before being taken into care and the four deaths were not due to their neglect.

That same year, Deborah Henson was charged with selling a puppy under 8 weeks old and spent a year on probation. A 2000 incident report also said the couple were selling dogs at a Caledonia flea market.

The couple were again cited for an animal offense in 2015, this time for failing to register and vaccinate several dogs and puppies in their home, according to an incident report. An officer reported that the house smelled of feces, but appeared hygienic.

Plan of the boarding kennel

By the time the Hensons’ proposed kennel is completed, it would occupy 6,900 square feet of land, with a 20-by-12-foot fenced-in play area in the back, according to floor plans.

Nicole O’Connor, a law student at Northern Illinois University and president of the school’s Student Animal Legal Defense Fund, says the outdoor play area doesn’t provide enough exercise space for dogs.

Deborah Henson says the couple plan to give the puppies the time they need outside.

Zoning board recommendations allowed French Bulldogs and three other breeds to be kept on their property simultaneously, with a total capacity of 70 dogs, 40 of which can be kept on the property.

The couple don’t plan to house that many dogs at once, Deborah Henson said.

Currently, the pair have five breeding females. If they acquire more, they will need to register with the Illinois Department of Agriculture as a kennel operator.

Opposition Mounts

Hurley said he would be wary of endorsing the Hensons’ proposed kennel and breeding operation, although with the rise of social media it will be harder for breeders to get away with treatment inhuman without anyone noticing.

At a June 8 Zoning Appeal Board meeting, Randall Henson and his daughter, Jennifer Ferris, laid out their plan, promising to follow state licensing requirements, invite families collect their new pets from their building and inspect the homes of future owners, according to a draft of the meeting minutes.

The council did not investigate the Hensons’ past run-ins with the law.

The next day, Webster said, he received hundreds of emails about the case, urging him to deny the request. An online petition calling for the Hensons’ request to be denied has surpassed 5,000 signatures.

Opponents flooded a third-floor room in the Winnebago County Administration Building on Wednesday, wearing shirts and holding signs reading “No to Puppy Mills” and “Say No to Hensons,” O’Connor said. law student leading the opposition.

The couple have received threatening emails since news of their zoning application broke, Deborah Henson said. She says she is worried about her family.

“We have lived in this community for 31 years. We are law-abiding citizens. We have paid our debt to society.”

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