Former AKC Judge Faces 27 Criminal Charges After Officials Found 2 Dogs Dead, Others Reportedly ‘Swimming in Feces’ at His Kennel

Published by Elena Waldman.

James “Jim” Deppen, a longtime breeder and former American Kennel Club (AKC) judge who was under investigation after authorities reportedly found two dead dogs on his property, is now facing 27 criminal charges, including two counts of cruelty to animals. 

Authorities Uncovered Filth and Neglect at the Former AKC Judge’s Kennel

In March 2023, investigators reportedly found a deceased dog in a trash bag in Deppen’s vehicle and another inside a barn that also contained three surviving dogs on his property. A veterinarian reportedly determined that both dogs had died from bite wound trauma and had severe injuries on their heads and bodies. Court records indicate that the dogs had a history of fighting on the property.

The dogs found alive on the former judge’s property were allegedly “swimming in feces.” Officials reportedly seized 13 dogs, including animals who were confined in filthy conditions in a basement. The search warrant also indicated that dogs had been denied proper veterinary care.

The recent charges against Deppen add to an alarming pattern of apparent animal abuse. In April 2022, authorities warned him about providing adequate shelter and veterinary care for dogs at his kennel. Two dogs were then treated at a local animal hospital. One had eye issues, and the other had a mass and a wound on their chest. A few months later, Deppen pleaded guilty to unlawfully operating a kennel without a license.

In 2010, he was convicted of numerous counts of cruelty to animals. During the trial, a veterinarian testified that a border collie seized from his kennel was so emaciated that “it is a surprise [their] body was functioning.” Despite these charges, Deppen, who was an AKC judge at the time, was allowed to continue judging dog shows for another six years.

The AKC Breeds Cruelty

As a national “purebred” dog registry, the AKC promotes and profits off dog breeders. Not only do breeders exacerbate the companion animal overpopulation crisis—because every dog or cat purchased from a breeder means one in a shelter loses a potential familyall “purebreds” also suffer from congenital and often painful health conditions.

White dog photo © Isselee | Dreamstime.com; Dog Behind Bars © iStock.com/Dan Brandenburg

Star the English bulldog won Best in Show at the 2022 AKC National Championship dog show, and French bulldogs were the most AKC-registered dog breed in 2022, but the flat face, large head, and narrow hips they were bred to have will likely cause them all a lifetime of suffering.

English bulldogs like Star, French bulldogs, boxerspugs, and Cavalier King Charles spaniels are breathing-impaired breeds (BIB). They typically suffer from brachycephalic syndrome, which leaves many of them struggling just to breathe while they engage in normal activities. Going for a walk, chasing a ball, running, and playing—the things that make dogs’ lives joyful and fulfilling—are impossible for many BIB dogs. Breeding dogs to look a certain way and endure a lifetime of suffering is nothing to celebrate.

By enforcing breed standards that favor dogs’ appearance over their health, the AKC is partially responsible for the suffering of “purebred” dogs. The breeding industry is big business, and as long as there is money to be made by selling, showing, and breeding dogs, greedy breeders will keep on producing more—regardless of how much they cause dogs to suffer in the process.

The two dogs found dead on Deppen’s property were of his favorite breed—the Neapolitan mastiff, a giant dog prone to numerous skin problems as well as hip dysplasia, elbow dysplasia, bloating, cruciate ligament injury, and bone cancer. The breed’s standard requires loose skin and allows for cropped ears. Other dogs recently found in poor conditions on his property include German shorthaired pointers, for whom the AKC standard requires a docked tail. Ear-cropping and tail-docking are cruel, disfiguring surgeries that cause significant suffering.

Here’s What You Can Do

Don’t give your money to a breeder, a pet store, or anyone else selling an animal. If you’re prepared to care for an animal properly and for a lifetime, adopt from a shelter.

If you purchased a dog of an AKC-registered breed who struggles with their health or behavior or who died prematurely, let us know by clicking the button below: 

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 Ingrid E. Newkirk

“Almost all of us grew up eating meat, wearing leather, and going to circuses and zoos. We never considered the impact of these actions on the animals involved. For whatever reason, you are now asking the question: Why should animals have rights?” READ MORE

— Ingrid E. Newkirk, PETA President and co-author of Animalkind

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