Sunday, July 28, 1996

California: Puppy mill breeder/hoarder Emma Harter, 64, avoids jail by hiding most of her 40 Chihuahuas

CALIFORNIA -- An Acton woman convicted of operating an illegal kennel for about 40 Chihuahuas that share her home avoided jail Friday after complying with a court order to get rid of all but four of her dogs.

Emma Harter, a 64-year-old retired school cafeteria manager, had been ordered by Antelope Municipal Court Judge Howard Swart to remove the dogs after she violated her probation by failing to build a shelter to house the tiny canines rather than keep them in her home.

"It's sad when people can't cooperate with well-meaning and appropriate people with animal control who are just doing their job," said Deputy District Attorney John Evans.

Swart two weeks ago ordered Harter to remove all but four of her dogs or spend a month in jail. Swart ruled that Harter would be allowed to keep three dogs - four if they are spayed and neutered.

Animal Control Officer Jerry White had informed Evans that as of Thursday, Harter still had more than four dogs on her property. White told Evans that he observed 15 dogs outside and heard more dogs inside the home, Evans said.

But Harter appeared in court Friday and said she had only four dogs, Evans said.

She didn't "get rid" of these dogs. She merely moved them somewhere else - probably stuffed them into a hot shed somewhere.

Swart warned her that animal control officers can enter her property anytime during the next 2-1/2 years remaining on her three years' probation, and if there are more than four dogs, she will be sent to jail and the dogs will be confiscated, Evans said.

Harter could be not reached Friday for comment.

Harter received a suspended sentence in December of up to 180 days in jail and was ordered by Swart to erect a building. Swart also placed her on probation for three years and ordered her to pay a fine of $1,490 or work 16 days of community service.

In a March hearing, Harter avoided jail when Swart decided to give her more time to erect the shelter.

Harter raised Chihuahuas and sold them for $250 to $1,500.

She contended that the case stemmed from neighbors around her who didn't like her dogs and complained about their barking. Charges were filed in June 1995 after Harter failed to comply with conditions set forth for a kennel license, animal control officials said.

Animal control officers said they had been going once or twice a month to talk with Harter in response to neighbors' complaints about noisy dogs. Neighbors started circulating a petition to protest the barking.

Harter said she began breeding Chihuahuas in 1982 when she was living in Granada Hills, where she got into similar troubles with Los Angeles city animal control officials.

She then moved to Acton in 1992 and obtained a kennel license.

(LA Daily News - July 27, 1996)