30 dogs rescued from Bemidji home, woman faces multiple charges due to conditions

A Bemidji woman is facing charges for allegedly depriving dozens of dogs of shelter, water, and air after law enforcement discovered them on her property.

Virginia Ann Bellino, 63, faces one count each of overwork/mistreatment of animals-neglect, deprivation of food/shelter, and deprivation of wholesome exercise/air, after the Beltrami Sheriff’s Office found the animals following a complaint.

On June 13, authorities received a report of possible animal maltreatment occurring at a home on Whitetail Road Northwest in Beltrami County.

Upon arrival, Beltrami County Sheriff’s Office Deputy O'Bryan informed Bellino of the reason for her presence and was allowed to view the dogs on her property.

In a basement bedroom of the main residence, Deputy O'Bryan observed numerous puppies kept in "small, crudely constructed kennels" – approximately six to eight dogs per kennel. The kennel bedding and floor were saturated with feces and urine, and the resulting odor in the room caused Deputy O'Bryan's eyes, sinuses, and throat to burn, according to charges.

As the search continued, Deputy O'Bryan observed approximately 18 total dogs kept in "crudely-constructed" kennel enclosures made of particleboard and wire livestock fencing divided within a shed outbuilding. According to charges, only one window in the building was open to allow fresh air and natural light, while the rest were closed or boarded up. 

According to the charges, Bellino was instructed to address the issues found and improve overall conditions for the animals prior to a follow-up visit from deputies in approximately one week.

On June 20, Deputy Critchfield responded to Bellino's property to conduct a follow-up visit and found conditions unchanged, according to the charges.

Deputy Critchfield also observed specific concerns in regard to two dogs – an adult female silver Labrador mix and an adult male long-haired Labrador/Poodle mix, noting extensive hair loss, skin thickening, and skin lesions/sores over the entirety of both bodies. The male Labrador/Poodle mix was also matted with urine, feces, and other substances, according to charges.

Bellino confirmed that the dogs had never been bathed/groomed, according to charges, and was warned that if conditions did not improve when deputies returned in two weeks, additional action may be taken to remove the dogs.

On July 9, both Deputy Critchfield and Deputy O'Bryan responded for a final follow-up visit and were able to view the dogs and their housing conditions, which showed no signs of improvement, according to charges.

The following day a search warrant was executed at the residence and a total of 30 dogs and puppies were seized from Bellino, then transported to the Babinski Foundation Animal Rescue of Pequot Lakes.

Following the relocation, the Babinski Foundation said the seized dogs had numerous ear infections, parasite infections, and other issues that had since been addressed.

One dog that was initially believed to have a leg or hip injury due to difficulty walking normally was found to have "copious amounts of long hair matted with urine and feces that was cut and removed," and the dog was able to walk normally again afterward.

Bellino was issued a summons to appear in court at a later date.