Dog tales

Published 12:00 am Sunday, July 25, 2004

Suffolk News-Herald

One woman told how her kids, expecting to find a cocker spaniel under the Christmas tree last year, still haven’t gotten the dog.

Another recalled going to pick up her black-and-white cocker, Oreo, for her young boys, only to find her $200 deposit and the dog gone.

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One by one, more than two dozen people appeared in Suffolk Circuit Court over the last two days, telling similar stories of having been duped by Suffolk dog breeder Monica Binkley during the past three years.

Binkley – who was known as Monica Arnold to most of her victims – made national headlines last December when she took off to Texas with a U-Haul trailer filled with more than 50 cocker spaniel and English Labrador retriever puppies that she sold to people across Hampton Roads and beyond.

Binkley, 35, who has been held in Western Tidewater Regional Jail since her extradition back to Virginia last January, is charged with 28 counts of taking money under false pretenses and one count of writing a worthless check.

On Thursday, the prosecutor’s case revolved around testimony from Steve Robinson, head of the American Kennel Club’s investigative unit. That department specializes in conducting checks on the 550,000 litters registered each year by the organization, paying special attention to anyone who registers an unusually large number of litters, he said.

Between 1993 and 2002, Binkley registered 31 dogs, mostly cocker spaniels and labs, Robinson said. Since 1998, Binkley has registered 29 litters. The AKC has put a hold on processing papers for any of Binkley’s dogs, pending the outcome of her trial, he said.

On March 14, Binkley’s mother, Barbara Binkley, was granted legal power of attorney within the AKC, allowing her to handle Binkley’s affairs with the organization for one year, Robinson said. Since then, Barbara Binkley has applied to have two litters, one born as far back as 2002, registered, he said.

Most of Binkley’s victims told stories about having difficulties getting the AKC registration papers on their puppies.

When selling the dogs, Binkley would take a deposit and have the customer sign a contract. The document contained a clause that the customers would get their AKC papers only after presenting paperwork from a veterinarian to verify that the pet had been spayed or neutered.

Several buyers said Binkley offered them excuses, including that her daughter had cancer or that the AKC never sent her the registration papers.

Robinson said that was not accurate information.

&uot;We are very conscious about that,&uot; he said. &uot;Our goal is process it and have it in the mail the day after we receive it.&uot;

Binkley’s bench trial will continue on Monday.