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North Iowa woman gets no jail time in animal neglect case in which 150 dogs were seized

Puppy mill operator must serve supervised probation, is banned from owning or breeding dogs

Barbara Kavars, of Manly, testifies at her sentencing hearing Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, at the Worth County Courthouse in Northwood. (Lisa Grouette/Mason City Globe Gazette)
Barbara Kavars, of Manly, testifies at her sentencing hearing Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2019, at the Worth County Courthouse in Northwood. (Lisa Grouette/Mason City Globe Gazette)

By Grace Zaplatynsky, Mason City Globe Gazette

NORTHWOOD — A woman from Manly who was found guilty of 14 counts of animal neglect will not spend any time in jail, unless she breaks the terms of her sentence handed down Tuesday in Worth County District Court.

Barbara Kavars was sentenced to two years of supervised probation with 420 days in jail — 30 days for each of the 14 counts — suspended.

Kavars is prohibited from owning and breeding dogs and can own only one cat during her probation.

She also must undergo a mental health exam with possible treatment dependent on the results and pay a $65 fine on each count, for a total of $910.

During her testimony in the hearing, Kavars said she had tried to get the Humane Society of North Iowa to take more of her dogs, but they kept saying they didn’t have the room for more dogs every time she called.

District Court Judge Lawrence Jahn said despite her testimony, the situation was getting worse and he didn’t see that Kavars did much to alleviate the situation.

“You didn’t spay or neuter these animals or separate them so they wouldn’t become pregnant. I suppose you tried to hire help, but I don’t know about your financial circumstances were. So you can’t blame the Humane Society for not taking your animals,” Jahn said.

“That’s not their responsibility. It’s your responsibility to keep these animals under control and more importantly to provide adequate care for them.”

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Humane Society of North Iowa Executive Director Sybil Soukup said she was happy with the sentence Kavars received so the whole situation — which needed the Humane Society, the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and the Worth County Sheriff’s Department to help fix — would not repeat itself.

“This mess was created by one person. It took a village to clean it up,” Soukup said. “And that’s what’s really powerful to me, is the number of people that stepped in, that care for the welfare of these animals.”

Soukup said the Humane Society will continue to work with Kavars to take any dogs she has in her care now and find them new homes.

“We were always willing to take dogs from her,” she said. “There were a few occasions she may have called and we couldn’t take dogs that exact day because our kennels were full, but we always were able to take some from her at every point throughout this process.”

Kavars was found guilty Oct. 18 on 14 counts of misdemeanor animal neglect in connection with the operation of a Samoyed puppy mill.

About 150 dogs, most of which were surrendered voluntarily by Kavars, were taken from the farm by representatives from animal welfare organizations on Nov. 12, 2018.

During the trial, which was held Oct. 15 and Oct. 18 at the Worth County Courthouse in Northwood, jurors were shown photos of filthy living conditions in the kennels. All the dogs were very thin or emaciated from lack of food, and a few were dehydrated, according Elizabeth Pearlman, a forensic veterinarian with the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, or ASPCA, who testified on behalf of the state.

Some of the dogs were in pain, and one had to be euthanized, according to Pearlman.

Kyle Held, director of investigations with the ASPCA, testified that all the food bowls were empty, and all the water bowls and buckets had ice in them.

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Kavars testified that she fed and gave water to the dogs every day. She has been running the operation herself since her husband died in 2017, and acknowledged in testimony that it was hard work.

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