North Whidbey dog breeder denies puppy mill charges

A North Whidbey dog breeder asserts that he is not running a puppy mill, despite continuing legal troubles.

“It’s not even close,” Matthew Hernkind said, adding that the allegations against him are largely based on misunderstandings.

“This whole thing is a crock of crap.”

Hernkind, owner of Matt’s Great Dane Ranch, was in Island County District Court Monday for a hearing on modification of pretrial release conditions.

He was charged earlier this month with violating a 2010 law aimed at preventing puppy mills.

Carol Barnes, the Island County animal control officer, started investigating the case last November after receiving a complaint about the living conditions of the dogs.

Barnes went to Hernkind’s home and found 20 adult Great Danes, two juvenile Great Danes, two Chihuahua-crosses and two litters of Great Dane puppies. She reported that dogs were living in “dirty living conditions” and that some of the dogs were underweight.

Hernkind, however, said Barnes isn’t familiar with the breed. He said the dogs she felt were underweight are actually still juveniles and that being skinny is normal.

“My vet says they are fine,” he said. “They do not get full sized until 2 or 3 years old.”

Hernkind denies that the house is filthy, as reported by Barnes. He said she was standing next to a recently used mop bucket when she complained about the smell of urine.

“It was blown way out of proportion,” he said.

Hernkind said he currently has 25 dogs, plus a couple of litters of puppies. He points out that the dog breeding law allows for up to 50 adult dogs.

“I ain’t never going to get that close,” he said. He said he doesn’t believe he has too many dogs.

Barnes searched the house a second time last month after obtaining a search warrant, based in part on photos Hernkind posted of the dogs on his website.

She wrote in her search warrant application that they looked “malnourished, underweight, skinny, with ribs showing.”

In court Monday, Barnes claimed that the living conditions and the dog’s health had gotten worse since her first visit to the house.

Judge Bill Hawkins set pre-trial release conditions Monday. He ruled that Hernkind cannot breed any of the dogs, either intentionally or by accident, and cannot obtain any new dogs. The dogs have to get veterinarian attention and kept in  living conditions compliant with the law.

Barnes is also allowed to do site visits. She plans her first for this week.

Hernkind said he’s planning to get an attorney to deal with what he feels are false allegations. He plans to continue breeding Great Danes and currently has puppies for sale.


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