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Man seeks return of dogs; Humane Society wants to ensure appropriate care

Breeding and selling German shorthair pointers has been the means of income for David Monkman. He is wrapped in a court case trying to get his dogs back from foster homes. Submitted by David Monkman

A Backus man who says his dogs are his life has filed a lawsuit against the Wadena County Humane Society, which is currently holding over 20 of his dogs in foster care homes.

David Monkman, owner of Algonquin Kennel in Backus, says he went to the WCHS for help in fostering 23 German shorthair pointers while he received mental health treatment in March 2018. While he claims he never surrendered his dogs at that time, at this point he is not being allowed to have the dogs returned. In the meantime, Monkman said being without his dogs has brought him great anxiety and he's considered suicide. Monkman said he is a veteran who suffers from PTSD.

Through their attorney, Charley Good of Pemberton Law Firm, WCHS provided this statement:

"Mr. Monkman, with the help of friends, reached out to Wadena County Humane Society in early 2018 to help foster his animals so Mr. Monkman could take the time get back on his feet and for personal medical reasons. WCHS normally does not offer this type of support, but it became obvious to us that these dogs were in danger and there were no other viable options to care for the animals, so WCHS took a leap of faith and offered support in a difficult situation. "Unfortunately, a dispute arose as to whether Mr. Monkman relinquished the dogs to the WCHS under the contracts signed by Mr. Monkman and the WCHS. Additionally, during this time, facts came to light that cause great concern as to whether Mr. Monkman can provide an adequate home and care for the animals. Notwithstanding the dispute, WCHS is committed to ensuring that these animals are in a safe and caring environment. We would like to thank everyone for their continued support of these animals and a special thank you to the incredible fosters families who have been rehabilitating these dogs and providing them loving homes."

Board members and staff of WCHS did not comment on the matter.

In April, Monkman filed an emergency motion for injunction with St. Louis County in order to keep his dogs from being adopted out by WCHS and Sue and Gary Berggren, two Duluth residents that have helped care for Monkman's dogs for several years. That injunction was in effect until May 15. It's believed all the dogs remain in foster care and they will remain there during the mediation between parties.

An affidavit from WCHS in opposition to the injunction states the following as facts: Monkman brought the dogs to WCHS in March 2018 as he was no longer able to care for them. WCHS was made aware that three of Monkman's dogs had died in a fight. WCHS was made aware that at times Monkman had no running water and no heat or electricity at his kennel. It also states that Monkman is the defendant in an eviction action in Cass County where he is at risk of losing the residence where he has the kennel for the dogs. WCHS claims it has provided safe and humane foster homes as well as veterinary care for the dogs. They claim the contract was read to Monkman and that he was offered copies but refused. WCHS further stated that Monkman remained in contact with the WCHS during the contract period, 45 days, and praised the work of WCHS.

Monkman denied all of those statements in an email to the Pioneer Journal.

According to court records, on April 20, three days before the 45 day deadline on the contract Monkman signed, he brought up specifics of reclaiming the dogs. Staff and volunteers worked over the weekend to come up with fees due for the services and to have a plan of reclaiming the animals. On April 23, the deadline day, the affidavit states that Monkman appeared to make payment and while contracts and receipts were being written, Monkman became belligerent and law enforcement was called. While Monkman was in the parking lot at WCHS, receipts were prepared totalling over $2,500. An officer later entered the WCHS building and told staff Monkman would not be making payments. At that time, Monkman was served a stay away order. By not making payment on the deadline, Monkman forfeited his rights to the dogs, records state.

In a statement in opposition to the injunction, Tracy Kooman, chairperson for the WCHS, said it would be a terrible mistake to give the plaintiff the dogs back now as "I highly doubt that we would ever be able to locate the plaintiff or these dogs again if he is allowed temporary possession of them."

In an answer to the counterclaim, not through court documents but through an email from Monkman, he said the dogs have never been relinquished. He believes WCHS is in breach of contract and "committing felony theft by swindle." Monkman is representing himself in the case.

He pushed back further on the assertion that he could not care for the dogs. He claims he sought foster care when mental health care was his desired course of treatment.

"Making arrangement for temporary care does not mean one is incapable of caring for them. It is a sign of responsibility," he wrote.

Monkman states that the dog fight was nothing more than hearsay. He added his dogs have never been without food and water and that they live in the house with him, which has electricity and water.

"My dogs eat before I eat," Monkman said in his email. "I live on a meager income but my dogs do not go without."

Monkman said his dogs include national champion bloodlines. They are all German shorthair pointers and he said they are worth over $100,000. Since being in foster care, more puppies have been born, but an exact number of dogs and puppies in foster care was not clear. Records show that two of Monkman's dogs were returned to him from the WCHS because they were unsafe to keep in their settings.

Monkman denies being told that he could have to forfeit the dogs by signing the contract and said without his glasses, he was unable to read all parts of the contract he was signing.

While Monkman, the WCHS and the Berggrens are involved in the lawsuit, other parties that have had previous contact with Monkman say they are not involved currently.

Cass County Sheriff Tom Burch said officers have checked on Monkman's dogs in the past after receiving complaints, but Monkman had always complied with what was requested. He added the county is not currently investigating Monkman or his dogs.

The Wadena County Humane Society is a licensed kennel and has passed its most recent annual inspection by the Minnesota State Board of Animal Health.

Monkman is neither licensed as a kennel or as a commercial breeder with the state of Minnesota. His kennel has had complaints from the public according to Michael Crusan, communications director with the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. They launched an investigation to see if he qualified as a breeder or kennel. According to the Cass County Sheriff's Office, his operation did not meet the needs of being a licensed breeder or kennel. A commercial dog or cat breeder in Minnesota is anyone who is engaged in the business of breeding animals for sale or exchange in return for consideration, and who possesses 10 or

more adult sexually intact (not spayed or neutered) animals and whose animals produce more than five total litters of puppies or kittens per year, according to state rules.

The state is not actively investigating the kennel, Crusan said.

But according to statements from Sue Berggren in court records, she witnessed over 50 adult dogs at times and nine to 10 litters of pups in 2017. She also claimed Monkman called himself a hoarder, keeping the dogs in the house with him.

While the parties fostering the dogs have not adopted them out yet, the Berggrens say they won't return them to Monkman until he follows a verbal agreement to seek help for his mental health condition and find an appropriate foster care home while he gets help.

The next hearing on this case was set for 1:30 p.m. July 30 in the St. Louis County Courtroom.