Kirker charged with 156 criminal counts for mistreatment of animals in Forest CountySubmitted: 04/19/2017
Ben Meyer
Ben Meyer
Managing Editor / Senior Reporter

Kirker charged with 156 criminal counts for mistreatment of animals in Forest County
CRANDON - A witness "did not believe what she saw" on Patty Kirker's Crandon property in January.

That witness--who is not named in court documents--told police she saw adult dogs eating young puppies and dogs eating dead horses.

Moreover, the witness saw collars embedded into the necks of dogs and a house floor with one or two feet of dog feces on it.

On Wednesday, Forest County District Attorney Chuck Simono filed 156 criminal charges related to animal mistreatment against the 52-year-old Kirker.

The charges come about a month after Forest County sheriff's deputies and workers from the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals seized dozens of dogs, wolf-dog hybrids, and horses from Kirker's property.

That seizure, which had been in the works for about a year, took place on March 17.

"Those animals live in horrid, filthy conditions," Kirker's sister and neighbor, Casey Carpenter, said that day.

Allegations set forth in the criminal complaint filed Wednesday match that description.

A witness told police she saw adult dogs eating young puppies on the property.

She said, "All the adult dogs are trying to kill any litter that is not theirs."

Kirker is charged with failing to provide proper food and water.  The hungry dogs may have turned to other sources of food after Kirker failed to feed them properly.

For example, the same witness said four to five horses and a pony have died on Kirker's property since last summer.

"Then she feeds the bodies [of the horses] to those dogs," Carpenter said. "There's no evidence [of the dead horses], because the dogs eat them."

During the March seizure, Forest County Sheriff's Lt. Andy Karcz found about 40 dogs, but just one bag of food and one pail of water on Kirker's property.

Karcz observed "canines present were malnourished, as he observed the ribs and leg bones were easily visible," according to the criminal complaint.

The document alleges Kirker failed to care for animals in other ways.

The witness told police the collars of several dogs became embedded deep in their necks.

"[The collar] was so embedded and that all you could see was the chain that was connected to the collar hanging from the dogs [sic] neck," she said of one dog.

During a visit to a house on Kirker's property, "[The witness] had to forcibly shove the door open, because there is approx. 1-2 ft of dog feces on the floor."

The witness said Kirker was aware of the adverse situations, and said Kirker "intentionally harms her own animals."

ASPCA expert Kyle Held said it would take months to years for the different ranges of mistreatment listed in the complaint to occur.

People in the area had apparently been complaining about Kirker for years.

The Forest County Sheriff's Department said it had been receiving reports about Kirker and animal issues since early 2015. It recorded about 80 reported incidents between January 2016 and February 2017.

Those pieces of evidence led to the criminal charges against Kirker.

She's accused of six counts of felony mistreatment of animals, 46 animal mistreatment misdemeanors, 52 misdemeanor counts of not providing proper food, and 52 misdemeanor counts of not providing proper water.

If convicted on all charges, she could serve more than 130 years in prison.

"This is untrue, overblown allegations," said Jay Kronenwetter, Kirker's defense attorney. "It's a misunderstanding at its worst."

Kronenwetter is confident that once more facts come out, the community will be satisfied Kirker is a good animal owner.

"Anyone who has any number of animals over their lives knows that animals [sometimes] get sick," Kronenwetter said. "Animals become lame."

Kronenwetter believes the prosecutor, Simono, went over the top with the charges.

"To pile on 150 charges, I think, is more reflective of trying to make a point of outrage rather than search for the truth," Kronenwetter said.

Simono was unavailable for comment Wednesday.

Kronenwetter said he doesn't foresee a plea agreement forthcoming in the case, indicating he will fight the charges.

"My client cares very much for her animals and has tried very hard to take care of them," he said.

Kirker also faces five felony drug charges and remains in jail.

She will return to court on May 3 for a preliminary hearing. Simono indicated he plans to call witnesses, including an ASPCA expert from Atlanta, to testify.

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