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Two allegedly sold greyhounds for medical research

Associated Press

MADISON, Wis. -- A former greyhound kennel owner and an assistant have been accused of sending retired racing dogs to their deaths in medical experiments.

Daniel Shonka, 49, of Cedar Rapids, Iowa, and Heidi Dierks, 30, of Hudson, Wis., each face four counts of felony theft, three counts of felony theft by fraud and one count of racketeering in a criminal complaint filed by the Wisconsin Department of Justice. The charges were mailed to St. Croix County Circuit Court from Madison and filed on Friday.

Scott Scepaniak, the state's top gambling regulator, said on Monday that Shonka violated a cardinal goal of Wisconsin's 11-year-old greyhound racing industry that retired animals should be adopted into homes where they'll be pampered.

"His actions were just horrific," said Scepaniak, administrator of the state Department of Administration's Division of Gaming.

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Scepaniak said Dierks, a former dog hauler for Shonka, was just as guilty as her boss because "she knew what was going on" and "was a willing participant."

The dogs' owners thought the animals either were still racing out of Shonka's racing kennel at the now-defunct greyhound track at Hudson or had been adopted into loving families, the complaint says.

Shonka received at least $374,000 by selling dogs to Guidant Corp., a St. Paul cardiac-research facility, from 1996 to 2000, the complaint alleges. Shonka received about $400 per animal. At that rate, the $374,000 would cover payment for about 935 dogs.

However, Scepaniak said records indicate Shonka sold about 1,050 greyhounds to Guidant. All died in the research, except for 100 who were rescued during the state investigation in spring 2000.

The investigation, which took 20 months, was led by the state Department of Justice with assistance from the Division of Gaming and the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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