TEXAS -- The operator of a bulldog breeding facility was handcuffed and taken into custody late Thursday after being charged with one count of animal cruelty following a hearing to regain custody of more than 50 animals seized from her north Houston property.
Kathy Drobina was arrested after she walked out of a municipal courtroom, where she spent most of the day at a civil proceeding to determine who would get permanent custody of 47 emaciated dogs and 10 cats found at Pickett's Pride American Bulldogs on Thursday.
Drobina's lawyer, Joseph J. Finkel, declined to comment on his client's arrest or the civil proceeding.
About 30 dogs and other animals were found dead on the property at 16119 North Freeway. Many of the living dogs were surrounded by feces, and they had little or no food and water, authorities said.
SPCA gets custody
Justice of the Peace Judge Dale M. Gorczynski made the decision to award the animals to the SPCA on Tuesday after a lengthy civil hearing.
The hearing included testimony from a Houston SPCA veterinarian and a veterinarian being used by Drobina. Drobina did not testify.
Veterinarian Dennis Wendt, who testified on behalf of Drobina, said he believed the dogs were suffering from a systemwide bacterial infection that appeared to be rapidly moving through the dog population.
Wendt said he met Drobina about two months ago when she brought a sick dog named Cleo to his clinic.
During the hearing, Finkel accused the SPCA of using the case for publicity.
"This is what the case is about is publicity. Nobody talked about what animal cruelty really is under the penal code," Finkel said. "She has bent over backwards trying to take care of these dogs."
At one point during the trial, an investigator for the SPCA brought in a seized dog, Mindy, described as among the worst. The dog sat motionless in the lap of the investigator as another investigator testified about what he found on the property in the seizure.
Drobina said that she only had 37 dogs on the property. She said two of the dogs belonged to her mother, two others belonged to another man who testified that he had brought his dogs there to mate.
Another League City man said that he was buying seven of the dogs for a total of $5,000, but hadn't yet taken possession of them.
In the end, Gorczynski divided the medical care costs between Drobina and the others who had dogs on the property. Drobina's portion of that amount came to about $7,000.
Along with being granted custody of the animals, the SPCA was also awarded nearly $10,000 for their care.
Infection or abuse?
While Drobina's attorney said the animals' conditions were due to a chronic bacterial infection, senior assistant Harris County attorney Helene Sterns called it animal abuse.
Wendt testified that he believed Drobina cared for the animals, but it was not enough to combat the bacterial infection that was being transmitted to the dogs. Wendt said that the one dog he treated, he sent to Texas A&M for a necropsy.
The SPCA's veterinarian testified that the dogs confiscated from the property had intestinal parasites and severely low protein levels and were badly malnourished.
Harris County Constable Christine Kendrick testified that there were 34 dead dogs and one dead kitten found on the property.
(Houston Chronicle - Sept 5, 2007)