Women accused of operating 'puppy mill' file lawsuit

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The mother and daughter who were accused of running a “puppy mill” and had animals removed from their homes as a result of tax law violations are now suing the Indiana attorney general and others involved in the removal of the dogs.

Virginia and Kristen Garwood filed a lawsuit in May in Harrison Circuit Court against the Indiana Department of State Revenue, Attorney General Greg Zoeller, and dozens of other defendants; the suit was moved to federal court last week at the request of the defendants.

The AG’s office and the state revenue department investigated the mother and daughter’s business activities involving the sale of puppies and found they weren’t remitting sales and income tax due on the sales. The dogs were seized and sold. The AG’s office said the animals were confined in squalid cages and enclosures and tested positive for disease.

The women pleaded guilty to Class D felony failure to remit or collect sales tax in connection with their dog-breeding operation; that charge was recently reduced to a misdemeanor.  Virginia also pleaded guilty to a separate felony count of income tax evasion. Daughter Kristen’s felony was later reduced to a misdemeanor. There is also a civil case seeking more than $140,000 from the women.

In their lawsuit, the women claim to never have received a hearing addressing taxes due or the value of the property seized in June 2009. Virginia says that she reported the profits of the puppy sales on her taxes and that her income tax advisor didn’t advise her that she should be paying sales tax. They say they have been subjected to public ridicule and harassment because several of the defendants – including the AG – described their operation as a “puppy mill.” The women claim several of their constitutional rights were deprived by the raid on the business and lawsuit for taxes.

The mother and daughter also are in the midst of challenging the jeopardy tax assessments made against them. This issue made it to the Indiana Tax Court in December 2010, and Judge Thomas Fisher denied the state’s motion to dismiss their challenge.



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