Owners of a kennel north of Santa Fe, N.M., are suing country singer Carlene Carter and her companion, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein, for more than $22,000 in fees they say t

Owners of a kennel north of Santa Fe, N.M., are suing country singer Carlene Carter and her companion, Tom Petty & the Heartbreakers bassist Howie Epstein, for more than $22,000 in fees they say the couple owes for leaving dogs in the kennel for more than a year.

Carter -- who is the stepdaughter of Johnny Cash and the daughter of June Carter Cash and country singer Carl Smith -- and Epstein dropped six dogs off at Kiki's All Breed Grooming on April 3, 1999, and did not pick them up until Oct. 21, 1999, according to the lawsuit filed by Gary Gibson and Darlene Sponsel, the kennel's owners. The lawsuit said the couple was supposed to pick up the dogs on July 21, 1999, but did not contact the kennel owners. The lawsuit alleges the couple still owes $8,000.

Then in July 2000, the kennel took four dogs from the couple, who said the animals would be picked up in a few days, the lawsuit said. However, the complaint said, the kennel still has the dogs and "boarding fees continue to accrue," and the outstanding balance now totals more than $22,000.

Carter and Epstein, who could not be reached for comment, were arrested in late June in Albuquerque, N.M., after they were stopped in a stolen vehicle. Police said heroin and drug paraphernalia were found inside the vehicle, which Carter claimed were "for [her own] personal use."


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