SOLON — A local business that breeds rough-coat collies was confirmed by authorities Thursday as the location where nearly 100 animals in need of “urgent care” were seized by animal welfare agents executing a search warrant earlier this week.

Somerset County Chief Deputy Michael Mitchell said police supervised the search and animal seizure at R-N-D Kennels, which is at 196 Rowell Mountain Road.

Officials haven’t said what tips led them to the kennel business, but according to Jim Britt, director of communications for the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, state animal welfare workers along with Somerset County Police executed a search warrant around 8 a.m. Tuesday.

They seized dogs, cats, chickens and horses that were said to need “urgent care” and set up an emergency shelter at an undisclosed location.

Officials originally thought the number of animals rescued was about 80, but Britt disclosed Wednesday that the number is higher than the 80 originally accounted for and is actually closer to 100. Britt did not say how or when officials were able to come to that number.

Donna Noyes is the founder and owner of R-N-D Kennels, according to the business website, and has been breeding rough-coat collies since 2004.

Noyes has not responded to multiple requests for comment. A woman who answered the business’s phone number said “no” when asked if it was R-N-D Kennels, and immediately hung up.

At 196 Rowell Mountain Road Thursday morning, a car was parked at the head of the driveway in the remote location, and a “no trespassing” sign was placed on a tree branch to the left of the vehicle. The residence was not visible from the driveway.

Under the “About Us” section on the website, Noyes has a mission statement for her company that describes her passion for collies. “From the time I was very young I had an overwhelming love for animals, much to my parents dismay!” it states. “I went about life attempting to save every critter in need. In particular I had a love for horses and collie dogs.”

Noyes goes on to write she has a 14-acre property that was redesigned to “ensure the safety” of her collies and farm animals.

But when Mitchell pulled up to the scene Tuesday, he saw a different picture.

“It didn’t look like a farm to me. When I pulled up, I thought, ‘Where do they keep 80 animals?'” Mitchell said. “Some of the dogs looked like they were in real bad shape, like they were malnourished. I mean they could’ve been; how do you feed and care for that many animals?”

Noyes’ selling price for the dogs ranged from $700 to $1,000, according to her website, which states that the company will only place the dogs with homes as they see fit.

“Puppies are placed in approved homes only,” Noyes’ website states. “It is expected that you are purchasing a family member and this is a life long commitment.”

Dr. Paul Gervais, who specializes in treating mental health disorders at his clinic in Augusta, said he adopted his dog, Jack, from Noyes two years ago. Gervais said that, since visiting the residence, he’s wondered whether Noyes was really running a “puppy mill.”

“When we went to get Jack, we drove up to the property and were taken to the backyard,” Gervais said. “There was three or four cages with about 25 collies in each one. So you’re looking at probably 75 total. Some of them were missing hair, some looked to be in poor health. … When we went inside, it was very dark, and the house was in disarray. There were animals caged up everywhere. In the dining room, there were two Dobermans in one cage, with one being pregnant. There were a number of cats caged up. …

“We had a funny feeling about what she was running up there, but we didn’t want to give her trouble if that wasn’t the case.”

Gervais said his dog Jack exhibits clear signs of anxiety, likely due to poor treatment during the first months of his life.

Dr. Paul Gervais’ rough coat collie, Jack, whom he purchased from R-N-D Kennels of Solon. Photo courtesy of Dr. Paul Gervais

“Socialization is a major issue. He doesn’t know how to behave well around strangers,” Gervais said. “We can’t allow him to go out in public because he’ll jump or nip; we can’t let him loose whatsoever. And it’s uncommon for collies to behave this way.

“I’ve spoken with a number of vets and trainers, and I myself treat people with post-traumatic stress disorder, and Jack definitely exhibits symptoms of chronic anxiety and reactive attachment issues.”

Gervais’ said his experience with R-N-D Kennels has made him feel victimized.

“She (Noyes) is a nice lady; she clearly loved dogs, but something was happening there,” Gervais said. “She created a lot of victims, not only with the dogs but with the owners. When you get your dog and it starts to have these problems, you don’t know what to do.”

According to a news release by state officials, the animals will undergo medical and behavioral evaluations and given needed care while in state custody. After custody is determined by the court, possible new homes can be found.

Officials have declined to comment further on the details of the condition of the animals because of the ongoing investigation.

Liam Hughes, the director of Maine’s animal welfare program, disclosed more details about the conditions of the property to the Boston Globe on Wednesday.

“The conditions were very poor,” Hughes told the Globe. “A lot of them needed a lot more attention than what they were getting. They’re all getting evaluated medically and getting behavior evaluations. Most of the dogs are kind of in a state of shock.”

Hughes also said that animal welfare workers rescued 96 dogs, six cats, three chickens and two horses from the property.

The agriculture department said in its release that about dozen organizations and agencies provided volunteers and assistance in the case, including the Franklin County Animal Shelter and Kennebec Valley Humane Society.

“Many animal shelters and County Animal Response Teams are assisting in the care for these animals while in state custody,” the release said. “Donations can be dropped off at local animal shelters. Needed items include pads and blankets, towels, sheets, dog toys, paper towels, cleaning supplies and dog food/treats. Anyone interested in helping animals in their community should inquire with their local animal shelter.”

According to Solon Select Board Chair Elaine Aloes, town officials have known about the crowd of animals inhabiting Noyes’ property for upwards of 10 years. In an interview with News Center Maine on Tuesday, Aloes said that it was a relief when the state stepped in to address the situation.

“It’s been a problem for many years that’s just steadily grown … ” Aloes said. “The state worked really hard with her, and our animal control officers worked really hard with her to try and manage it, but it reached the point where they thought it wasn’t working.”

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