More than 3 months after dozens of animals were seized from a Pine County farm, two women are now facing 14 criminal charges of animal abuse and neglect at their family farms.
Kathleen Doenz, 65, and her mother, 86-year-old Gloria Irene Carlson, are each facing 5 felony charges, 5 gross misdemeanor charges and 4 misdemeanor counts after dozens of horses, dogs, and a variety of other animals were found living in inhumane conditions.
The investigation began with a search warrant issued on Sept. 12 at a property owned by Carlson, where Doenz acted as caretaker, after concerned citizens filed complaints. Veterinarians and animal rescue workers joined law enforcement officers from the Pine County Sheriff's Office and seized 12 starving horses, 21 dogs of various breeds, 18 ducks and 84 chickens.
Many of the animals were found in "filthy pens and makeshift enclosures" made out of boards or fencing, investigators said. Some of the dogs were living in holes dug 4 feet into the ground.
Before a month had passed, another animal rescue seizure took place at a property owned by Doenz. This time, 15 dogs and 14 horses were seized, and the corpse of a horse that was reduced to bones was also found on the property.
"The mane is falling out, the bloated belly, the hind quarters are completely -- well, they're basically gone," Pine County Sheriff Robin Cole said of the horses.
Shortly after the second raid, Cole told Fox 9 News he suspected Doenz had been playing a sort of shell game by moving animals between farms owned by her family members.
"We hope we have them all, but again, this is some 400 acres that is kind of under the control of this family," Cole said.
Investigators had to euthanize several seized animals due to their "deplorable condition," and Chief Deputy Steven Blackwell told Fox 9 News it was the worst case of animal neglect he'd ever seen.
"Not only the conditions of the animals physically, but the conditions where they were at," he explained. "You could tell there was not a lot of water, food or care being attended to them."
One of the horses had an injury where its skin was literally peeling down the animal's leg, and others appeared horribly malnourished.
Doenz has previously pleaded guilty to gross misdemeanor charges of animal neglect. Seven years ago, she was charged with 35 counts of animal neglect.
In late September, Doenz went to the shelter where her animals were taken to demand them back, but she left once a call was put in to the sheriff's office. Her attorney, Robert Richman, returned the next day to photograph the animals in an effort to have them returned.
In reviewing the 2006 case, it appears Doenz engaged in some legal intimidation previously, including threatening to sue those who reported her to the authorities.