The owner of the Solon-based collie breeding company R-N-D Kennels pleaded not guilty to a civil charge of cruelty to animals on Oct. 16 after 107 animals in need of “urgent care” were seized from her property in July.

Donna Noyes, 50, was charged with animal cruelty after state animal welfare workers, with the help of the Somerset County Sheriff’s Office, executed a search warrant on her property at 196 Rowell Mountain Road on the morning of July 23.

Officials originally thought the number of animals rescued was 80, but on July 24, Jim Britt, director of communications for the Department of Agriculture, disclosed that the number was higher than originally reported. In total, authorities rescued 96 dogs, six cats, three chickens and two horses from the property.

In the formal complaint, officials stated that Noyes deprived the animals of necessary sustenance, medical attention, proper shelter, protection from weather and humanely clean conditions.

After the seizure, the animals were taken to an impromptu emergency shelter set up by the state and put through medical and psychological evaluations. Custody of the animals has not been confirmed.

Noyes entered the not guilty plea in Skowhegan District Court and has another court date scheduled on Jan. 22 for a “dispositional conference,” where she can either elect to change her plea to guilty or request a trial.

Noyes has also entered a motion to compel scheduled for Nov. 14, a civil action usually employed in discovery disputes over evidence.

A charge of animal cruelty can result in fines from $500 to $2,500 and up to one year in prison. The court may also prohibit a defendant from owning or possessing animals.

After the seizure, Noyes, who began breeding rough coat collies in 2004, took down the kennel’s website which once contained an “About Us” page where she described her passion for animals.

“From the time I was very young I had an overwhelming love for animals, much to my parents dismay!” it said. “I went about life attempting to save every critter in need. In particular I had a love for horses and collie dogs.”

The website stated that the 14-acre farm where the kennel was located ensured the safety of the animals.

However, on the day of the seizure, Somerset County Chief Deputy Michael Mitchell 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 on July 25. “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’ asking price for the dogs ranged from $700 to $1,000 and according to her website, dogs were only placed in homes as she saw fit.

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

Dr. Paul Gervais said he adopted his dog, Jack, from Noyes two years ago. Gervais said that after the seizure, what he saw while visiting the property finally made sense.

“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.

Liam Hughes, the director of Maine’s animal welfare program, disclosed details about the conditions of the property to the Boston Globe on July 24.

“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.”

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 NewsCenter Maine on July 23, 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.”

Since the dogs were seized, they have been dispersed to several kennels and have been put up for adoption.

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