Joyce Johnson

A woman accused of operating a puppy mill in the Wesley area where nearly 300 dogs were seized pleaded guilty to two felony counts of aggravated cruelty to animals Wednesday.

Joyce Eulela Johnson, 68, faced 29 felony counts and 266 misdemeanor counts before taking the plea deal. Per the plea, she has been sentenced to 12 years of probation, and she must dispose of all the kennels and animal pens on her property. Per the terms of her plea, she will not be allowed to own an animal for the duration of her probation.

"It's difficult to tell what things will be like for her in 12 years, but the idea was that we resolved this in such a manner that she will not be owning animals again," Prosecutor Joel Cape said.

Cape said the plea bargain was offered because Johnson does not have a criminal history, and because the state could find it difficult to prove that Johnson's actions in operating the mill were malicious, per the burden of proof for felony aggravated assault to animals.

"For what it's worth, she lived like the dogs," Cape said. "Her house was basically a kennel.

"I say that because some people will be upset that she wasn't punished more severely, but considering her age, her lack of criminal history and the fact that she did basically live like the dogs did ... all things considered it was really an appropriate result."

Look for more information in next week's edition of The Record.

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