Lenny Adams, owner of Hurricane Bullies, whose company website is shown in this screenshot, was charged with 48 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty following an investigation by Jefferson Parish authorities, court records show. (HurricaneBullies.com screenshot)
Jefferson Parish officials seized a total of 72 dogs from two houses as part of an ongoing animal cruelty investigation involving the sale of American bully puppies, according to authorities.
Six defendants are facing dozens of charges of animal cruelty and other charges related to the keeping, breeding and sale of the dogs, some through the website hurricanebullies.com.
American bullies are typically pit bulls that have been cross bred with English bulldogs and or French bulldogs to accentuate the breed's compact, muscular frame and short legs, said Robin Beaulieu, director of the Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter. The dogs are sometimes referred to as "low riders," and they fetched between $4,000 and $5,000 on the Hurricane Bullies web page.
Officials seized 48 dogs from an Old Jefferson home during the investigation, including 33 breeding female bullies, a federal violation, Beaulieu said. At least two puppies from that house have since died and many of the breeding dogs had problems such as heart murmurs, she said.
"They were a puppy mill, in our opinion, when you have such a large number of dogs," Beaulieu said.
The residents of another house in Avondale kept the animals in deplorable conditions with little food or water available to them, according to Jefferson Parish Sheriff's Office records.
Some of the defendants told investigators they improvised medical care for the dogs, including administering shots, horse sedatives, antibiotics and docking tails and ears, a Sheriff's Office report said. Veterinary experts say some of those actions may have been illegal.
"I would say this is exploitive breeding," Beaulieu said.
The Jefferson Parish district attorney's office on June 13 charged Minh Nguyen, 37, Le Nguyen, Khanh Nguyen and Anthony Nguyen, all of the 600 block of Phyllis Drive with 46 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, two counts of illegally keeping exotic animals, 24 counts of having no rabies licenses, one count of violating parish dealer breeder/breeding regulations and 46 counts of violating the parish's animal cruelty ordinance, Jefferson Parish court records said.
Minh Nguyen was the main target of the investigation and the owner of the residence, according to authorities. The others lived at the house with him.
Investigators suspect Mingh Nguyen worked with Lenny Adams, 34, of 700 Jefferson Park East, Old Jefferson, Beaulieu said. The district attorney's office on May 23 charged Adams and Lauren Brennan, 34, with 48 counts of misdemeanor animal cruelty, court records said.
Adams and Brennan pleaded not guilty in Jefferson Parish First Parish Court, according to court records.
"Mr. Adams is looking forward to resolving this case in the most amicable way that he can that satisfies the animal shelter and also the court," said Vinny Mosca, Adams' attorney.
No one answered the door at the Nguyens' residence Friday.
The animal shelter began investigating in February after receiving tips from the Louisiana Department of Health about the homes of Adams and Minh Nguyen, Beaulieu said.
Authorities eventually obtained search warrants for the residences and served them March 9, the Sheriff's Office incident report said. When animal shelter employees and deputies entered the Nguyen's Avondale home, they found 23 bully breed dogs, including litters of puppies being kept in large plastic tubs, and an elderly Chihuahua, the Sheriff's Office incident report said.
Authorities noted the overwhelming odor of ammonia, animals with no access to food or water and homemade incubators, the report said.
In addition to the dogs, authorities seized 19 feral cats locked in kennels, 2 dead lizards and one duck who also in a kennel with molded food and no water, the report said. Authorities found Rimadyl, a prescription pain medication for dogs, empty bottles of injectable antibiotics, prenatal vitamins and heartworm medications, the report said.
Minh Nguyen told authorities he takes the animals to a veterinarian, but he also noted that he "provides shots needed for the dogs, himself," the incident report said. None of the animals had any current rabies vaccinations paperwork.
The conditions at Adams' house were much better, Beaulieu said. But the dogs were in cages that were too small for animals their size, she noted.
"It appeared that (the dogs) spent the majority of time in those cages," Beaulieu said. "Initially, they really didn't walk anywhere. We had to carry them everywhere."
Adams is the proprietor of "Hurricane Bullies," a company and website dedicated to the breeding and sale of American Bully breeds.
When questioned by authorities, Adams said he improvises medical care for the dogs, treating them with antibiotics, vitamins and supplements that he buys over the internet, according to the report. Adams also artificially inseminates his dogs, crops their ears and docks their tails. Adams told investigators he uses horse sedatives for medical procedures which he performs at his house, the report said.
The seized dogs were immediately treated by the animal shelter's veterinarian. One puppy died of anemia within 24 hours, Beaulieu said. Another puppy with a significant heart murmur has since also died, she said. Another of the adult females has end-stage heart disease.
"We had several conditions that were very concerning, including heart murmurs, which can be genetically passed. Some were heartworm negative, others were high positive," said Beaulieu, who was especially concerned for the pregnant dogs who were carrying puppies despite their heart conditions.
"Responsible breeders will generally test for certain genetic diseases and not use those animals or use them as sires or dames," she said.
Neither Minh Nguyen nor Adams had a Jefferson Parish Animal Shelter breeding permit, a license required for anyone who produces more than one litter a year, Beaulieu said. Anyone with more than four breeding females on a property must be licenses through the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Adams had 33 breeding female dogs at his home, according to Beaulieu.
Mosca said Adams did not have any of the necessary breeding permits.
"He acknowledges that, and he has indicated a willingness to try and, after this issue is over, he wants to try and satisfy all of the requirements he's supposed to," Mosca said.
It's possible Minh Nguyen and Adams have fallen afoul of state laws governing the practice of veterinary medicine, according to authorities. There are Louisiana regulations that bar people without a veterinary license from performing surgery and dental procedures on animals.
The law also makes it illegal for anyone other than a veterinarian to"diagnose or treat" any animal disease, injury or other physical condition, including the use of drugs and medicine. Actions related to fertility are also covered by the law.
"Lay people are absolutely not allowed to perform any procedure that may be deemed surgical," said Dr. Nancy Wellborn, an assistant professor and the service chief of community practice for the Louisiana State School of Veterinary Medicine. "Docking tails and ear crops are surgical procedures. Only a licensed veterinarian can perform those."
It's also illegal for anyone other than a veterinarian to administer rabies vaccinations. Pet owners shouldn't administer medication, including horse sedative or antibiotics, themselves, according to Wellborn.
"Without having the education or experience with these drugs, many potential problems can arise, including death to the pet," she said.
Mosca questioned whether it was truly illegal to dock tails and crop ears, but said his client has no intention of ever doing so again.
For now, the dogs are being housed at Pen Pals Inc., the animal shelter inside Dixon Correctional Institute in Jackson, La., Beaulieu said. Mosca has filed a motion with the court for the return of Adams' animals.
"He loves his dogs," Mosca said.
Trial for Adams and Brennan has been scheduled for July 20, court records said. Minh, Le, Khanh and Anthony Nguyen are scheduled to be arraigned on Aug. 2.