Public Safety

Samoyeds removed from Worth County puppy mill find happy homes

Barbara Kavars of Manly charged with 17 counts of animal neglect

Officials executed a search warrant Nov. 12, 2018, on a puppy mill in Worth County, Iowa. The American Society for the P
Officials executed a search warrant Nov. 12, 2018, on a puppy mill in Worth County, Iowa. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said many of the dogs were kept in dirty and crowded conditions. Barbara Kavars, 66, of Manly, was charged with 17 counts of animal neglect in the case. (Photo supplied by ASPCA)


Roughly nine months ago, the Worth County Sheriff’s Office, with the help of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, removed 163 dogs from a backyard breeding operation in rural Manly in north-central Iowa.

Once removed, the dogs received care at a temporary ASPCA shelter before they were divided among animal shelter and rescue organizations across the country. The worst cases were taken to ASPCA’s behavioral rehabilitation facility in North Carolina.

The former owner of the dogs, Barbara Kavars, 66, of Manly, was charged with 17 counts of animal neglect. The case still is making its way through the court system.


The ASPCA said most of the dogs were placed with network partners across the country where they were nurtured back to health and made available for adoption.

“Many of the dogs are already living in new, loving homes,” said Jessica Rushin, senior manager of partnerships for ASPCA Field Investigations and Response.

Some of the dogs suffered from extreme fear and severe undersocialization and were not immediate candidates for adoption. Those dogs were transported to the ASPCA Behavioral Rehabilitation Center in Weaverville, N.C., where a team of behavior experts continue to work with the dogs to prepare them for adoption.

Many, Rushin said, already have graduated from the program.

The rest of the dogs went to shelters and rescues — 10 went to the Wichita Animal Action League in Wichita, Kan., nine went to the Humane Society of North Iowa in Mason City, about 25 went to the Nebraska Humane Society in Omaha, Neb., nine went to the Dubuque Regional Humane Society, and 12 sent to the Cedar Bend Humane Society in Waterloo.

Dogs were also placed with shelters and rescue organizations in California, Ohio, North Carolina and Michigan, according to the ASPCA.

Sybil Soukup, executive director of the Humane Society of North Iowa, said her organization had been working with Kavars before the November raid to try to make her situation more manageable.

“Prior to November, my shelter had taken in about 135 dogs (from this breeder),” she said. “We did that over a period of months, and we placed them into homes or with breed-specific rescues. We were trying to help her get her breeding stock numbers down, but for as many as we took, is what was being born on the farm because she wasn’t controlling her breeding.”

After the raid, Soukup said her facility took in nine dogs, two of which were pregnant and gave birth to a total of 14 puppies.

“So literally in a matter of weeks, nine dogs turned into 23,” she said.

More than half the dogs since have been adopted, she said.

“We have been very selective about the homes we are allowing these dogs to go to,” she said. “People see them and they are beautiful dogs with their fluffy white coats, but Samoyeds take a lot of work. They need regular grooming and a lot of exercise. So we really want to make sure that the adopters really know what they're getting into."

Soukup said they’re asking that adopters have previous experience with the breed and at least some experience working with dogs that have behavioral problems.

Sarah Coffman, founder and executive director of the Wichita Animal Action League, said the 10 dogs her organization took in all have been adopted and are living in permanent homes.

“Most of the dogs had adopters before we even made it out of Iowa,” she said. “We got hundreds of applications so we were really able to make sure we found the perfect home for each dog. And all of them have been doing phenomenally well in their new homes.”

In April, the Dubuque Regional Humane Society received four dogs, and last week the shelter took in another five. Calls and emails to the shelter requesting an update on the dogs’ status went unanswered.

Nebraska Humane Society Executive Director Alicia Buttner said her organization took in 11 dogs — seven adults and four puppies — in November, and one of those gave birth to seven puppies. The organization took in another two adult dogs and five 8-week-old puppies in February.

All the dogs were adopted within a month of receiving them, Buttner said.

“Once we got them stabilized and healthy and worked on their socialization, we knew we wanted to get them adopted as quickly as possible,” Buttner said. “We knew the dogs would only make so much progress in the shelter.”

Buttner said the shelter received hundreds of applications for the dogs, and all ended up in homes with experienced dog handlers who are familiar with the breed and dogs with behavioral issues. A lot of the pups went to homes that already had Samoyeds.

“All of them are doing really well,” she said. “There are some that are still having a hard time adjusting to a home life, but they are just going to need more time and support.”

We were lucky to have so many applications. It meant that we were able to make sure we placed the dogs in the absolute perfect home for them where they are being loved and well cared for.”

l Comments: (319) 398-8238;

Give us feedback

We value your trust and work hard to provide fair, accurate coverage. If you have found an error or omission in our reporting, tell us here.

Or if you have a story idea we should look into? Tell us here.