The Toledo Area Humane Society removed 35 Shih Tzus from a West Toledo breeder Wednesday.
Accompanied by Toledo police, the humane society served a warrant at 1802 Perth St. at about 10 a.m. Seventeen adult dogs and 18 puppies, who all seemed friendly and in good physical shape, were seized. Two of the females are about finished nursing litters, while another is due to have puppies any day.
George Francel, 63, was visibly upset, but cooperated with authorities and later thanked officers.
Gary Willoughby, executive director of the humane society, said the organization first worked with Mr. Francel last fall. A veterinarian called in April regarding a dog Mr. Francel brought in for an ear infection.
The dogs’ living conditions were unsanitary, Mr Willoughby said. A strong odor coming from the home could be smelled from the street.
Mr. Willoughby said the owner loves the dogs and did his best to care for them. Other than having hookworms, the dogs did not appear to have any medical issues. Lucas County records show Mr. Francel purchased 29 dog licenses in January and also has a kennel license.
Mr. Francel said he and his mother, Vlasta Francel, began breeding the dogs about 11 years ago after she met a friend’s Shih Tzu. He said he continued breeding the dogs after she died in July because he enjoyed them so much. He gave most of the puppies away as gifts, and he estimated that amounted to about 70 dogs over the years.
“I felt that I wouldn’t be doing this unless it was good and was something that was God’s will for me to do,” he said. “No one in their right mind would do this unless they were called to do this, to be able to give people dogs and make them happy.”
Keeping up with the cleaning has been difficult recently, he said. While he said he has mostly kept up with picking up the dogs' feces inside the house, the main pathways along the hard floors are caked with what he said is a mixture of dirt and dog hair. The furniture in the home is visibly dirty, and mice could also be seen.
“I’ve let it go too long,” Mr. Francel said. “Unfortunately, [the humane society] came in at my absolute worst.”
It was the unsanitary conditions that prompted the humane society’s seizure of his dogs, Mr. Willoughby said.
Dennis Kennedy, commissioner of code enforcement for Toledo, said the city does not have any restrictions on the number of animals allowed in a home, as it does not create a nuisance for neighbors with noise, smell, or other annoyances.
Dr. David Grossman of the Toledo-Lucas County Health Department said having lots of animals does not necessarily pose a health risk. The risk is when owners cannot keep up with the cleaning.
The organization has not yet decided whether to file charges against Mr. Francel. Mr. Willoughby said the humane society is working to help connect him to appropriate services to improve his living environment.
Some of the dogs could be returned, though likely a limited number and not until the home has been cleaned.
“The conditions were such that we wouldn’t be comfortable putting any dogs back with him until conditions improve,” Mr. Willoughby said. “We definitely felt like he had more animals than he could properly care for.”
They would also have to discuss whether the animals that might be returned would be spayed or neutered. Mr. Francel said he wants his 17 adult dogs back because they gave him something to care for after losing his parents.
“The dogs were my life,” he said. “They kept me busy.”
By Alexandra Mester - The Blade, Toledo, Ohio (MCT)
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