Protesters stand up for Indianapolis dog trainer who had dogs seized

Paul Upton

Nearly two dozen dog owners, several with their canine companions, demonstrated outside the City-County Building Thursday afternoon.

They held signs that read "stop the injustice," while shouting "save these dogs!" to passing motorists.

They were showing support for Paul Upton, who owns a breeding, boarding and training facility on the city's southeast side.

In November, Indianapolis Animal Care and Control seized 32 dogs following a random sweep of kennels the agency conducted with the city's Department of Code Enforcement.  

"I think someone might have had a vendetta against him...I think it was illegal and they never should have done it," said Carol Flagle who's known Upton for several years.

But City Prosecutor Mark Pizur said IACC had many reasons to take the dogs.  

"Animal Care and Control was concerned about the conditions," Pizur said. "It was filthy. The kennels housing dogs in the back were too small, forcing dogs to walk and lie in their own excrement and the kennels were rusted due to the excessive urine," he said.

Sandra Normal, a veterinarian with the Indiana State Board of Animal Health helped in the investigation. Her report concluded, "these dogs clearly need additional food...and removal of infected teeth along with antibiotic treatment...the kennel environment needs to improve dramatically with repair of any rusted or kennels in disrepair.and thorough cleaning of all surfaces along with increased lighting to all areas of the kennel. Many of the cage and kennel areas are too small for the German Shepherd breed and need to be increased in size."

Those protesting on Upton's behalf staunchly defended him.

Phillip Sheffield, who works with search and rescue dogs, acquired two from Sheffield and trained others at the southeast side facility.

Pointing to a picture of a puppy of his, Sheffield said, "I wouldn't take that dog anywhere if I thought he'd be abused...If these were children, I would say it was kidnapping and holding them for ransom. That's what the city is doing."

Flagle said, "I've known him for years and I've never seen any cruelty."

There are three lawsuits pending, involving two filed by Upton, who wants his dogs back. For now, he's been ordered to pay $6,200 for their care and treatment until the case is resolved. 

His supporters also say he could face up to $112,000 in fines.

Pizur said while technically that's true, it's very unlikely. 

"The city is not in the business of putting people out of business," he said, adding the biggest goal is to make sure the animals are properly cared for.

Nina Laurenzana, who's worked for Upton for several years, said in his three decades, Upton's never failed an inspection - never had a violation.  

"If there were any violations ever in 30 years, we absolutely would have immediately fixed any problem there was, but we were given no rights to that," she said.

While Paul Upton declined to comment on his case, he did say he wasn't giving up. He vowed do to everything possible to get his dogs back. The first court hearing is set for January 22.