Crime

How 'The Ozark 14' — owned by JoCo woman jailed in animal cruelty case — were saved

See the harsh conditions that led Missouri breeders’ starving dogs to cannibalism (warning graphic content)

Videos taken by Maris Ewing on property in Morgan County, Mo., where 11 dogs, two horses and a goat were found and rescued in January 2018. The animals allegedly were kept by Julie Bernet, a former dog breeder in Johnson County, Kan.
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Videos taken by Maris Ewing on property in Morgan County, Mo., where 11 dogs, two horses and a goat were found and rescued in January 2018. The animals allegedly were kept by Julie Bernet, a former dog breeder in Johnson County, Kan.

People who breed and train German shepherds tend to know, or at least know of, each other.

And for years, Maris Ewing knew of a woman named Julie Bernet.

But what Ewing knew troubled her.

The animals Bernet posted pictures of online sometimes seemed unhealthy, and Ewing thought that blurred images in some pictures may have covered up injuries.

Ewing, a long-time Kansas City-area breeder and trainer of German shepherds, heard about Bernet's arrest in 2015 on animal cruelty charges in Johnson County after authorities found starving dogs that had turned to cannibalism. And she heard when Bernet was found guilty by a Johnson County judge in March 2017 and placed on probation.

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In the months after that, Ewing said she got a tip that Bernet was living near Lake of the Ozarks and had a number of animals.

"The German Shepherd world is quite small," Ewing said.

But it wasn't until January when Ewing saw any of Bernet's animals in person.

Family members of Bernet's asked Ewing to take custody of animals that were left on property in Morgan County, Mo., after Bernet was arrested at a St. Louis casino for violating conditions of her probation in the Johnson County case.

And what she saw disgusted her.

"Absolutely horrific conditions," she said.

Eleven dogs, two horses and a goat were being kept in filthy conditions, she said.

Temperatures were below zero and what water there was, was frozen.

"There was blood on the ice where pieces of the dogs' noses got stuck while they tried to drink," she said.

There were feces and urine and trash everywhere, she said.

"It looked like a nightmare," she said. "It was rough to see."

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Fourteen animals were rescued from Morgan County property in January. Maris Ewing

The animals were suffering a variety of health ailments. Several are still being cared for by a veterinarian.

Ewing started a Facebook page for what she calls The Ozark 14.

Most have been adopted by new owners, she said. Three dogs still need to be adopted, she said.

Although Bernet was initially charged in Morgan County, the case has since been dismissed.

Bernet's attorney, John Picerno, said the charge was dismissed after a veterinarian told officials that injuries found on the animal were not the result of abuse of neglect.

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Julie Bernet, a would-be breeder of expensive dogs imported from Europe, has been charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty. Facebook

Although Ewing was glad to hear that Bernet was jailed Tuesday for violating her probation in Johnson County, she is frustrated and angry that Bernet has not been jailed for what was found in Morgan County.

"She should have been punished more," Ewing said.

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