The operator of Black Diamond Kennel, who had numerous violations of animal protection regulations, was sentenced in federal court on Thursday to three years probation.
Gerhard “Gary” Felts, 61, of Kingsley, pleaded guilty in July to one count of making false statements to the government in U.S. District Court. The false statements were made in connection with a USDA civil judgment against him for $18,938 in 2010.
The United States Department of Agriculture conducted 17 inspections since 2010 and found Felts had 51 non-compliant violations at his kennel operation, including inadequate housing, cleaning, sanitation and housekeeping, court documents show. The civil judgment was an administrative penalty against Felts for the violations in order to collect the money he owed.
U.S. District Judge Mark Bennett granted a summary judgment in January 2012 for the government. As of 2012, with interest and penalties, Felts owed $19,475, according to court records.
Court documents show Felts, during the fee collection process, lied to the government about his bank accounts and his income from a workers’ compensation settlement. Specifically, he failed to disclose a checking account he opened in April 2011, a savings account opened in April 2013 and his receipt of $25,000 worth of worker’s compensation payments in April 2013.
When Felts received the workers’ compensation settlement, he used the money to expand his kennel, instead of paying the administrative penalty. Felts still owes $13,382.70 on his administrative penalty.
U.S. District Chief Judge Linda Reade, along with the probation, ordered a special condition that requires Felts to stay current on monthly payments to USDA. He must also, while as a licensed dealer under the Animal Welfare Act, must comply with all applicable federal, state and local regulations and laws regarding his license and care of animals.
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“The United States takes very seriously its obligation to collect debts from those who violate the Animal Welfare Act,” U.S. Attorney Kevin Techau said after sentencing on Thursday. “The Animal Welfare Act’s purpose is to protect animals and those who violate it and are ordered to pay penalties will not be allowed to avoid those consequences by lying to the government.”
Techau said they recommend that the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service “debar” Felts from operating as a federally licensed dog breeder and dealer. The failure of Felts to care for the animals and this conviction demonstrate he cannot protect his animals, he said.
An IowaWatch review of USDA inspection reports in 2014, showed Felts also received violations for rusted surfaces and dirt and grime in facilities that house animals in 2013 and 2014, as well as not having adequate records of the dogs in 2014.
Felts was named twice to the Humane Society of the United States’ “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mill breeders across the country and Black Diamond Kennels was named to the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” list in 2013 and 2015.