Animal handler told to remove dogs as complaints pile-up - WQOW TV: Eau Claire, WI NEWS18 News, Weather, and Sports

Animal handler told to remove dogs as complaints pile-up

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LYNDON STATION (WKOW) -- Officials have told an animal handler to remove dogs from her rural Juneau County home, just weeks after some of her dogs were killed in a fire at a separate property.

Town of Lyndon Chairman Pat Mitchell tells 27 News Sharon Richards is in violation of the town's three dog, residential limit, and faces fines of $25 per animal,  per day, if she does not comply with the regulation within ten days. Mitchell says neighbors have been complaining about the German shepherds on Richards' land constantly barking and getting loose.

"Obviously, when you have large German shepherds , looking into your windows, looking mean...we certainly don't want that in the township at all," Mitchell tells 27 News.

When a 27 News crew visited Richards' home, more than a half dozen German shepherds paced the property. All of them appeared to be tied-up with long leads to trees.

Richards initially refused to answer a reporter's questions, but eventually addressed the concerns of town officials.

"I guess if I can't have more than three (dogs) here, we'll just move them to one of my other properties," Richards told 27 News.

Town of Kildare Treasurer Michelle Senzig tells 27 News Richards has obtained licenses for twenty-three dogs for Richards' property in that community. But several dogs perished in a Dec. 16 fire at that site, and Richards says lingering fire damage prevents her from safely keeping animals there at this time. Richards says she also houses dogs at locations in Minnesota and Iowa.

Kildare neighbor Cherel Zufall tells 27 News before fire, Richards' animals were a concerning nuisance. "You just had dogs barking constantly, and then the dogs started showing up in our yard."

Juneau County law enforcement officials have filed nearly half a dozen citations against Richards, who also goes by the name Sharon Lambrecht, since December, for violations including howling animals, and lack of control of animals. Richards told 27 News she was unaware of any citations.

In 2002, Richards was sentenced to nine months in jail, six years of probation, and forbidden to be around animals, as a the result of a felony animal mistreatment felony conviction in Washburn County.

Richards is also tied to a pending, felony case against another dog handler, for what authorities say was the sale of potentially diseased dogs, despite a quarantine on the animals. A September 2012 news release from the state department of agriculture, trade and consumer protection warned people who purchased dogs from Richards of the potential threat.

Zufall is baffled that such a history has not led to more sanction against Richards. "I don't understand how people like this stay in operation, and are allowed to have the dogs,"   Zufall tells 27 News.

Richards is defiant about her ability to properly care for animals.

"Since 1964, when I started raising dogs, and training dogs, I've gotten through everything from soups to nuts, all the veterinary care and everything else," Richards tells 27 News.

DATCP animal health division director Dr. Paul McGraw tells 27 News Richards is under investigation for potentially operating as a dog seller without a needed state license. A license is required when someone sells twenty-five or more dogs from more than three litters in any given year.

Richards says she sells too few dogs to need a state license.

The fire which claimed animal lives remains under investigation. Richards tells 27 News she's unsure how many dogs she lost to the fire. Juneau County Sheriff Brent Oleson has yet to return a call from 27 News seeking comment on the fire's toll and the continuing probe. Richards says she has enemies and believes the fire was intentionally set.

Richards has a court date Monday in Juneau County for the first of her several, animal-related citations.

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