The story behind a rare dog breed at center of Nye County cruelty case

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LAS VEGAS (KTNV) – Caucasian Shepherds, also known as Caucasian Ovcharka or Mountain Dog, are one of the largest dog breeds in the world – a Russian breed with a history of breeding and protection of livestock against predators.

They are most often sold as watchdogs, and 13 surveys learned how Vasili Platunov first encountered the breed.

“He was actually a Russian soldier in Afghanistan. And his dogs were the landmine sniffers. And he was actually in a situation where he hit a landmine, and the dogs got in front of that landmine, got took most of the hit. Now he’s blown himself good,” recalled Nye County Commission Chairman Frank Carbone, who said what started as a ranching operation became a hoarding situation for Platunov.

“But that’s why he’s so attached to these dogs,” Carbone said. “They saved his life. Now that doesn’t mean he should have 300, but it’s his passion for these animals.”

County records show Platunov’s East-Alfa kennel was named after the dog that saved his life in Afghanistan.

The website, which has been taken down since his arrest, describes the breed as “gifted intellectuals who think and impress with their deeds, noble souls and expressive looks.”

These kind words make it even harder to understand how Platunov and his ex-wife Oksana Higgins allegedly abused the dogs, allowing them to starve and endure unimaginable pain.

“They’re big dogs. They’re loyal dogs,” said Beth Kakavulias, executive director of the Desert Haven Animal Society, which until recently was Pahrump’s contracted shelter with Nye County.

As 13 Investigates first reported, Desert Haven took in 30 malnourished and injured dogs that Platunov returned in April.

“They are used for protection,” Kakavulias explained, and as such they can be worth a lot of money.

Records Platunov submitted to Nye County show that his trained guard and patrol dogs sell for between $10,000 and $15,000 each.

He also said he rented the dogs for up to $150 a day or up to $55,000 for an annual lease on a single dog.

Commissioner Carbone believes this is partly why Platunov fought so hard to keep them.

“He was actually working with Homeland Security and another organization in the east,” Carbone said. “They were working on a place to take his dogs, to start training them for homeland security, which would have been pretty close to 70, 80 dogs. That’s what I remember the conversation. But over time , they were digging for funds, and then COVID hit and it brought everything down.”

Now that Nye County has seized the dogs after charging Platunov and Higgins with 66 combined charges of criminal cruelty, they must assess, rehabilitate and rehom those who can be saved.

“Males usually weigh around 200 pounds, 180-200 pounds. Females usually weigh 150-180 pounds, more or less, depending of course on the line,” Kakavulias said.

Photos from a Wisconsin breeder show what a healthy Caucasian Shepherd should look like.

Dogs seized in Platunov and Higgins have a long way to go.

Kakavulias has already adopted some of the dogs Desert Haven rescued in the spring.

She says they need lots of food and plenty of room to run and exercise.

“On the plus side, these guys aren’t aggressive towards people, but they’re also shy. They don’t know what human kindness is. »

She says, “Their lifespans are usually between 8 and 10 years, if you’re lucky. But they don’t usually exceed that because they’re so, so big.”

13 Investigates is awaiting more information from Nye County on how many dogs they have had to euthanize so far and how many more will need to be put down due to health and medical issues.

The ASPCA has a team working to assist Nye County authorities.

The group sent the following statement:

“The ASPCA’s priority is to provide these dogs with medical and behavioral assessments and care in the hope that many of them will be adopted into loving homes. The ASPCA believes that all animals should be considered as individuals and evaluated by trained and accredited behavioral experts to determine the most appropriate outcome for each animal.”

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