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Rowley dog kennel owner charged with 39 counts of animal cruelty, police say

When four goats wandered up Route 1 in Rowley last month, they unwittingly led the local animal control officer, and later the FBI, to investigate a dog kennel operated by their owner, town police said.

While returning the goats, interim Animal Control Officer Carol Larocque noticed that there were many dogs in a metal storage trailer at the Hydrant Regency kennel, police said.

She was alarmed by the dogs barking and heat coming from the trailer’s window screen. After an investigation, April Bernhardt, the kennel’s owner, was charged with 39 counts of animal cruelty, among other offenses after an investigation involving the FBI, according to police.

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Bernhardt, 40, turned herself into the police and was booked Wednesday on the cruelty charges. According to a police report filed in court, an investigation by Rowley police, the animal control officer and the FBI Evidence Response Team uncovered evidence of neglect and the death of at least one dog.

At her arraignment in Newburyport District Court, a not guilty plea was entered on Bernhardt’s behalf, court records show. Bail was set at $3,000, which she posted, the records show.

Milton E. Cranney Jr., a lawyer listed in court records as representing Bernhardt, did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Friday.

On its Facebook page, the kennel wrote that it is closed. The investigation into the cruelty charges began on the afternoon of Aug. 27.

Rowley police and animal control responded to a report of four goats walking on Route 1, which is also known as the Newburyport Turnpike, where the kennel is located.

Officers rounded up the goats and returned them to the Hydrant Regency, police said.

It was there that Larocque heard the dogs barking from the trailer, according to a police report filed in court.

Inside the trailer, there were multiple crates, some with more than one dog inside. The air conditioning unit was not on, and while fans were running, the dogs did not have water, according to the report.

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The next day, Larocque went to the police station to report her concerns about the kennel. Sergeant Matthew E. Ziev and Officer Gavin Forni headed there to conduct a welfare check of the animals, the report said.

Because numerous dogs were crated together in 82 degree temperatures with no air conditioning, Ziev reached out to Lieutenant Alan Borgal of the Animal Rescue League, he wrote in the report.

On Aug. 30, Captain David Sedgwick, MSPCA-Angell Officer Tia Devallon, and Borgal went to the kennel for a follow-up inspection, Ziev wrote. The thermometer read 90.6 degrees and Devallon counted 37 dogs in the trailer, Sedgwick wrote.

Most of the dogs were transferred to different shelters, a couple were taken into custody by Larocque, some were picked up by their owners, and three remained with Bernhardt since they belonged to her, the report said. Multiple owners reported their dogs to have sores, worms, and limps, Ziev wrote.

Rowley detectives executed a search warrant on Sept. 6, sifting through records at the kennel, the report said. A tarp, which could be used to assist in animal burial, was found on the property. Detectives also found a shed with a sealed door, prompting them to apply for another warrant, the report said.

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The FBI Evidence Response Team discovered a deceased dog wrapped in a blanket, partially buried, the report said. The dog’s microchip was tracked and its former owner, a woman from Raymond, N.H., was contacted, with no response. Other evidence found around the dog was examined and turned over to the ARL of Boston.

Animals that were being boarded at the kennel have been returned to their owners and the goats are in the hands of the MSPCA, according to Rowley police.


Bailey Allen can be reached at bailey.allen@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @baileyaallen.