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1,200 dogs buried on farm near Oberlin

POSTED December 14, 2010 4:23 p.m.

Some of the details became public Tuesday in canine tragedy in Decatur County that came close to involving Barton County this week.
According to state records, it was Jeff Fortin, of Beaver Creek Kennel, outside of Oberlin in northwest Kansas, who received the state permits to dispose of dog carcasses on rural property that he owns.
The permit was received Dec. 6, and a KDHE letter was sent out Dec. 8, outlining the “authorization #635, disposal of solid waste without a permit located in ... Decatur County. Disposal of unprocessed livestock carcasses (canines).”
This issue surfaced locally on Monday morning when it was discussed by the Barton County Commission.
County Administrator Richard Boeckman told commissioners that Landfill Manager Mark Witt had contacted him last week, explaining that, since Barton County maintains a state-approved regional landfill, he’d been contacted about this situation that had developed near Oberlin, the county seat of Decatur County in northwest Kansas, just south of the Nebraska border.
Witt had been contacted by state officials from the Kansas Animal Health Department about the probable necessity of disposing of 1,200 dog carcasses.
The dogs were in the process of being euthanized after being removed from a huge breeding facility, Witt had been told. Boeckman said it had been reported that the sound of the dogs barking could be heard miles away from the dog site.
The KDHE communication states that the issue was closed before the Barton County Commission discussed it, noting the state “application does not indicate when disposal was scheduled to begin, but that disposal will end by Dec. 10.”
Decatur County Attorney Steve Hirsch said Tuesday afternoon that when the permits were processed at the county level, there was no indication of the scope of the disposal.
Hirsch typed on the solid waste application form, where local government officials are to sign off, a note about Decatur County regulations: “No zoning exists for sites outside the city of Oberlin, so no local approval needed.”
And where the form was signed by the Decatur County Commission chairman, it was typed, “Signed but not approved as no approval needed from county.”
Hirsch said he did not find out about the scope of the disposal until this week.
Repeated phone calls from the Tribune to the Kansas Animal Health Department Animal Facilities Inspection were not returned.
Tuesday afternoon, a receptionist for the state department said the director of that department was “in meetings” and was “not accepting calls.”
There has been no official statement regarding why the dogs were euthanized.
Decatur County officials were looking Tuesday at a University of Wyoming website news release, dated Tuesday, that reported on a Wyoming State Veterinary Laboratory and Wyoming Livestock Board investigation into canine distemper in puppies that had turned up from late summer into the fall at Cheyenne, Laramie, Casper and Douglas, Wyo.
A Wyoming official reported that distemper was confirmed in 24 purebred dogs that had been purchased from pet stores in what was called by one of the officials “the largest outbreak of canine distemper I’ve seen in Wyoming in my 21 years at this laboratory.”
The report added, “the infected pups originated from a large breeding facility in” Kansas and it quoted Paul Grosdidier of the KAHD who reported “We know the facility did sell puppies to at least one Wyoming pet store where cases came out of it. Whether all the cases originated from Kansas, we are not absolutely sure.”
Grosdidier is the KAHD official who had contacted Barton County about the possible use of the local landfill for the disposal of 1,200 dog carcasses.

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