Bail was set at $25,000 today for a man arrested after authorities found 41 dead dogs on his property.
Troy Tagtmeyer, who formerly was a volunteer basketball coach at Stratton High School, remains in the Kit Carson County Jail, Sheriff Ed Raps said.
Today, at the Kit Carson County Courthouse, Tagtmeyer was advised of the charge of aggravated cruelty to animals.
State health and agriculture officials issued an order for Tagtmeyer's Neco Kennels to cease operating after they found 40 dead dogs and six malnourished and sick dogs at his operation, Raps said. The living dogs were without food and water.
Since then, one of those six dogs have died, but the other five are eating well and getting better, he said.
Tagtmeyer is a breeder and seller of dogs, according to some people who have bought dogs from him and have commented on the story.
When news breaks that someone has been hoarding dozens of cats or dogs, and that many of them have died, "it's often a case of mental illness," said Dena Fitzgerald, director of animal welfare for Denver-based American Humane Association.
That's not often the case with breeders, she said.
Breeders certainly don't have an incentive to see scores of their animals die, she said. But certain places, derided as "puppy mills," are known to keep their mating pairs in bad shape — and hidden — while taking better care of the puppies that they are showcasing, she said.
"I've seen cases where the dams and the sires are in terrible condition," she said.
And then there's economics.
"If breeders are giving proper nutrition and veterinarian care to their dogs, it's hard for them to make a huge profit," she said. Some breeders are tempted to cut overhead costs by skimping on meals and care for the dogs.
American Humane supports breeders that are licensed, responsible and "have a manageable amount of dogs," she said.
But she added that a great first place to look for a pet is an animal shelter where there are a wide variety of breeds and "you're saving a life.
"If you really want a purebred, buy from a responsible breeder," she said.
Her organization advocates for once-a-year surprise on-site inspections of each dog kennel within a state.
In Colorado, dog breeders are inspected once a year, said Kate Anderson, head of the Pet Care program for the state Department of Agriculture.
If there have been complaints about the kennels, or if past inspections have found a lot of problems, inspections are done every six months.
The Department of Agriculture wasn't able to immediately produce a list of the facilities that are on the "high-risk" list because of past programs.
Tagtmeyer could not be reached for comment.
It's not the first case of apparent horrific animal neglect that Raps has seen. In 2001, he worked a case in which 10 dogs and some cats were locked in a trailer house for more than a year. A few dogs were still alive, having resorted to eating the dead animals.
The investigation remains open, and other arrests could follow, Raps said.