A hearing is scheduled for Tuesday to determine whether a man suspected of operating a puppy mill at his west Modesto duplex can retain ownership of the approximately 150 dogs, which authorities have removed from the home and said are being kept in deplorable conditions.
Assistant District Attorney Tracy Griffin requested the hearing from Stanislaus County Superior Court Judge Carrie M. Stephens.
The petition describes the living conditions of the dogs, including being kept in small, inadequate cages with no food or water. The dogs were standing in their own feces, according to the petition.
Even though Nicholas Dean Baugh, 38, is charged with 15 counts of cruelty to an animal – two of the counts include enhancing the use of a knife – and a misdemeanor of keeping an animal without proper care related to 134 of the dogs, he is entitled to an administrative hearing to determine whether he can care for and keep them.
But Griffin petitioned Stephens, who is overseeing Baugh’s criminal case, because she said it was faster than going through the administrative hearing process. Griffin said Friday she expected Stephens to issue a ruling at Tuesday’s hearing.
Griffin had hoped the hearing would take place on Friday, but the judge gave Baugh’s attorney more time to prepare.
Dogs are cared for by the Stanislaus Animal Services Agency and are being held in several undisclosed locations. The dogs strained the resources of Animal Services, which has kennels for 188 dogs and was operating above capacity before authorities removed the dogs from the duplex.
Authorities said the dogs were French Bulldogs, Dobermans and other breeds, many of which were registered with the American Kennel Club.
Griffin said if Stephens issues an order relinquishing Baugh’s ownership, it would allow animal services to begin finding the permanent, loving dogs through adoption, foster placements and rescue groups. She said none of this could happen without a judge’s order.
The order would remain in place even if Baugh was acquitted of the criminal charges against him, Griffin said.
The accused pleads not guilty
Baugh pleaded not guilty. He is also charged with six counts of assault and battery against a spouse or cohabiting partner and one count of false imprisonment related to two women. He also pleaded not guilty to those charges.
According to Sgt. Luke Schwartz.
The duplex is in the 500 block of Roselawn Avenue. Public records show Baugh owns the property.
Deputies from the Sheriff’s Department’s Special Investigations Unit “found 56 dogs in small, inadequate cages, standing in their own feces, and without water or food,” according to Griffin’s motion filed with the court. The petition says deputies found 96 additional dogs living in similar conditions in the other unit of the duplex.
The petition quotes a Stanislaus Animal Services agency supervisor as saying she believed these were the worst conditions she had ever encountered and “identified several dogs in need of immediate and emergency medical attention.” .
“Thirteen dogs were transported to emergency veterinary care facilities for immediate treatment, including two adult female dogs with open and infected C-section wounds and two severely dehydrated puppies, and one who suffered a seizure,” according to the petition.
DA: Dogs are not necessary as evidence
The petition says the dogs can be abandoned and placed in new homes because they are not needed as evidence in the criminal case.
“Because the condition of the dogs at the time of seizure is the primary evidence against the defendant, that condition has been documented by photographs, video, animal control officers and licensed veterinarians,” according to the petition.
“The defendant has this evidence and will have the ability at trial to attack the qualifications of the veterinarians and the inferences (conclusions) that can be drawn from photographs and videos,” the petition states.
Baugh’s bail was set at $850,000 in both criminal cases.
His mother posted bail, according to court records. But Baugh remains in custody pending the outcome of a hearing to determine whether the source of funds for his bail is legitimate, Griffin said. She said the hearing began on Friday and is expected to end on Tuesday.
Baugh’s mother filed a statement with the court saying the bail money came from a mortgage line of credit on her home, court records show. Baugh is represented by Modesto attorney Alonzo Gradford. Gradford did not return a message left at his office on Friday.
This story was originally published May 30, 2022 8:07 a.m.