North Whidbey dog breeder accused of running puppy mill

A North Whidbey dog breeder was recently cited for an alleged violation of the state’s four-year-old law aimed at preventing puppy mills.

It is the first time the law is being applied to a case on Whidbey Island.

Matthew Hernkind, owner of Matt’s Great Dane Ranch, pleaded not guilty in Island County District Court this week to violating the dog breeding law, which went into effect Jan. 1, 2010.

The law makes it illegal to have more than 50 dogs capable of breeding and over the age of six months. It also dictates requirements for taking care of the pooches, including cleanliness, temperature, size of cages and the ability for the animals to exercise.

Carol Barnes, the county’s animal control officer, investigated the case last November after a prospective puppy buyer reported concerns about the living conditions of dogs at the home.

Barnes said she inspected the residence which housed 20 adult Great Danes, two juvenile Great Danes, two Chihuahua-crosses and two litters of Great Dane puppies, according to her report.

Barnes described “unsanitary living conditions,” including pervasive feces all over the house and yard, a strong odor of urine in the house and poor ventilation. She also noted in her report concerns about some of the dogs’ body weight and hair loss.

Three of the dogs were housed in an outbuilding on the side of the residence. A female was locked in a “dirty” bathroom because she fights with other dogs, Hernkind explained, but he said he lets her out to exercise with dogs she gets along with, Barnes wrote.

Four adult Great Danes were locked in a bedroom, but Hernkind said he let them out several times a day for exercise, according to the report.

Two of the Great Dane mothers were underweight and suffered hair loss, Barnes said in her report, and added one litter of puppies appeared to be underweight.

Hernkind told Barnes that he spoils his dogs and they might look skinny because they are the lighter-weight “Euro style” of Great Danes, according to the report. He said he has five fenced acres for the dogs and he feeds them quality food “free choice,” which means it’s available at all times.

Barnes noted that the food bowls were full.

Hernkind said the dogs have five or six litters a year and he sells the pups for $1,000 each; he ships them all over the country, as well as to Canada, Barnes wrote.

Hernkind did not return a call for comment on the allegations


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