Last Thursday the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) came out with their “Horrible Hundred” – one hundred puppy mills it feels need closer scrutiny by state and federal authorities (“A Horrible Hundred: 100 Problem Puppy Mills“).
These are not necessarily the worst puppy mills in the country, but they are indicative of many puppy mills who provide inadequate and substandard care. Most of these facilities have been repeatedly cited by federal and local officials and have at least 100 dogs or more, including one in Minnesota with 1,100 dogs. Yes. 1,100 breeding dogs.
Many, if not all, of these facilities sell their dogs at pet stores (and over the internet) all across the country. One of the four puppy mills listed for Minnesota has been found to have sold dogs in pet stores in Michigan, Chicago, Ohio and California.
Want to see if any from your state are listed? Go here.
You can read a more detailed report on each of these mills here.
So which puppy mills were on the list from Minnesota?
Carole and Larry Harries/ Harries K-9 Ranch – Alpha, MN
Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) investigated the Harries back in 2007 and called out issues with the wire mesh flooring, which allowed the dogs legs to slip through. They also documented dirty kennels, dirty water dishes, matted fur on several dogs, feces build up and up to 5 dogs per kennel in several kennels.
Apparently, not much has changed since 2007. In February 2013, the Harries were cited for a repeat violation by USDA inspectors for several dogs in need of veterinary care, including a shih tzu whose teeth were so rotted that the inspector could see the roots of her teeth, and two dogs with excessive matting around the tail with feces matted into the fur.
Ted Johnson / Funtime Kennels – Windom, MN
Ted appears to have a revolving door policy when it comes to his USDA licenses, often letting them lapse and then reapplying (maybe he couldn’t make it just selling over the internet or just trying to hide his business from people like me?). He has also had multiple violations at his kenneling facility.
Back in 2011, he was cited for failure to establish and maintain adequate veterinary care as is seen in this USDA inspection report.
In April 2013, USDA inspectors found two Maltese dogs his kennel that had such severe dental disease that they had lost most of their teeth. One of the dogs had only two teeth left, and one of her remaining two teeth “was loose and moved easily when touched.” The dog was seen “excessively licking its mouth with its tongue hanging out of its mouth most of the time,” according to the inspector. The USDA also noted that the ammonia (urine) smell in the facility “was strong enough to make the inspector’s eyes burn.”
John & Lyle Renner/ Renner’s Kennel – Detroit Lakes, MN
Renner’s Kennels have been cited multiple times for violations. This is one from 2004:
“One kennel that houses three golden retrievers (199, 176, 175) has an area of kennel wire that has turned inside the cage and the ends are poking out towards the dogs in the cage. Another kennel housing three huskies (238, 184, ?) has a pipe end that protrudes to the inside of the kennel that appears that the end of the pipe is sharp and may cause injury to the dogs.”
The most recent set of violations were received in January 2013, when they were “fined more than $5,000 by the USDA for repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act regulations.” Previous violations documented on USDA inspection reports include “dogs kept in small cages without the minimum required space; lack of proper cleaning and sanitization, violations for dogs needing vet care, including a husky who could not bear weight on his leg, a dog with a missing eye and discharge, dogs with swollen/oozing paws (common in puppy mills with wire flooring), dogs without adequate protection from extreme temperatures, strong odors and accumulations of feces.”
Wanda Kretzman / Clearwater Kennel Inc. – Cushing, MN (has 1,124 dogs as of February 2013)
According to Animal Folks MN, Wanda’s facility is THE LARGEST BREEDER/BROKER in MINNESOTA. She has over 1100 dogs and multiple violations covering several years, including violations for incomplete records, wire mesh floors that allow dogs’ feet to go through, not enough floor or head space in pens, and buildup of feces under kennels and in outdoor pens in 2006 (St Cloud Times, Mar 3, 2007) and violations in 2012 for seven dogs with bloody, inflamed and/or swollen feet, likely from straddling the painful wire flooring (HSUS, 100 Puppy Mills Report, May 2013).
Wanda’s puppy mill puppies have been sold in California, Chicago, Michigan and at dog auctions in Ohio. In an undercover video from the January 15, 2011 Farmerstown Dog Auction in Ohio, over 300 of the 504 dogs sold were from Clearwater Kennels (see the video below to learn more about dog auctions).
It’s hard not to see how this puppy mill ended up on the list is it?
Don’t see your state on the list? Chances are you will on a previous year’s report. HSUS has been highlighting some of these awful puppy mills for seven years now.
Want to stop puppy mills?
- Share with your friends. Pick just one person and educate them on where pet store and internet puppies come from and then ask them to share with just one friend. Spread the word.
- Send one tweet about puppy mills today.
- Post one story on Facebook today about puppy mills and let people know where pet store and internet puppies come from.
- Don’t buy puppies from pet stores or over the internet. Many puppy mills are turning to the internet to sell their dogs now because they are not required to have a USDA license nor are they subject to inspection.
- Get active. Write your legislator and ask him/her to support a law to tighten the standards of care for puppy mills.
Just before Christmas, a friend recommended a book to me. Being a sucker for a good book, I immediately checked it out on Amazon. It didn’t take much for me to know that I needed to add it to my Christmas list. I am so glad I did.
The book is called “As Bright as the Sun” by Cynthia Schlichting, and is about a strong but vulnerable victim of the dog fighting world, Bella.
I can hardly explain some of the emotions I felt as Cynthia wove the tale of Bella’s life, as told from her perspective. Some of the details are true and some of them are based on Cynthia’s imaginings of what happened to Bella prior to coming to live with them. It works. I found myself smiling at times and crying at others as I followed Bella on her treacherous journey. If Cynthia wanted to place the reader in Bella’s shoes, then she did a good job.
The book starts out with Bella as a puppy and follows her as she is kidnapped from her loving family and forced into the dark, cruel and sick world of dog fighting. For years, Bella is used and abused by her captors. She is bred over and over again for her puppies – all forced into the dog fighting ring, and she is also forced to fight. It was during her last fight (more of an assassination than a fight) that Bella faces her worst moment. She is tossed into a ring with a fighting dog with her legs tied together, unable to defend herself. Her captors intended for her to die there. Instead, she survived. So they tossed her into a roadside ditch – pregnant, bleeding, skin and ears ripped up, she lay there in that ditch all but giving up on life until a good samaritan comes along and saves her. A guardian angel was looking over Bella that day and the days to come.
By all odds, Bella ends up at the now infamous Chesterfield County Animal Shelter, where employees shot and killed 22 of their dogs and buried them in a landfill. Thank goodness she was pulled by a rescue before she could suffer that fate. The rescue cares for Bella’s wounded body and soul and shares her story on Facebook, where it is passed on by many.
It is there that Cynthia and her husband, Brian, read Bella’s story and decide they are the ones to give her a new home. What follows is their, and Bella’s, journey to bring her home (to Minnesota) and to give her a chance at a new life. She meets her new doggie siblings, Foster and Jane, and learns what being a dog really is when you live in a home where people love you.
It’s a powerful story and one worth reading
If I had but one wish it would have been that Cynthia had shared more about Bella’s life after she was rescued. For those of us with dogs who have suffered a horrible beginning in life, we want to know how she, and her husband, Brian, helped Bella to assimilate into her new world. But, I think I know why Cynthia chose to focus more of her time and attention on Bella’s story. It’s because Bella’s story is not just a story about Bella, it’s a story about every fighting dog still living in that world. It’s the story of those who try to help these dogs and what really happens in that cruel sadistic world that some consider a sport. If you didn’t know much about dog fighting before, you will after reading Bella’s story. You can even follow the work Cynthia continues to do to bring attention to this issue on her Facebook page.
Reading Bella’s story opened my eyes even more to the horrible world Bella lived in for so many years. She is a symbol for those who have come before her, and all those who will, no doubt, come after her. If you get a chance, I would encourage you to read her story. It’s one worth reading.
Yesterday, I saw a story announcing the opening of a new center dedicated to helping fearful dogs. The center, located in New Jersey, is a project being led by the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA). Now dogs who have lived their whole lives in puppy mills or have come from a hoarding situation or were victims of animal cruelty will have the chance to get help meant just for them.
If you have ever had a fearful dog, one who has had little exposure to the world or has been abused, then you know that rehabilitation takes time. Unfortunately, time is not always an option for them. Many are euthanized because the amount of time and dedication (and money) it takes to work with a fearful or traumatized dog is more than most shelters can give.
This center is a source of hope for these dogs and the people who rescue them. The Behavioral Rehabilitation Center at St. Hubert’s Animal Welfare Center in Madison, N.J. will take dogs from shelters across the country as well as those that come those animal seizures involving the ASPCA. Their first guests, Malamutes, are coming in from Montana in the next few days. These were the dogs who were seized from a breeder charged with animal cruelty (I wrote about them a couple of months ago).
Dogs who come to the center will stay on average about 6-8 weeks, but they are not putting a strict time limit on their stay. As anyone who has worked with a puppy mill dog knows, sometimes it can takes a year or more before a fearful dog can really function in their new environment. Knowing there is a center, and people, focused on helping these dogs is really encouraging. I hope that what they learn can be used to help more dogs in the future. I suspect Debbie Jacobs from FearfulDogs.com could tell them a lot, but I am hoping that more will be learned from their work that can be used by rescuers across the country to help dogs like these, like Daisy and Cupcake.
I’ll be watching to see what they learn. How about you?
As defined by the Humane Society of the United States, “Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies in large numbers. The puppies are sold either directly to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, at the mill itself, or are sold to brokers and pet shops across the country.
The documented problems of puppy mills include over breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of socialization with humans, overcrowded cages, and the killing of unwanted animals. To the unwitting consumer, this situation frequently means buying a puppy facing an array of immediate veterinary problems or harboring genetically borne diseases that do not appear until years later.
Sadly, some dogs are forced to live in puppy mills their entire lives. They are kept there for one reason only: to produce more puppies. Repeatedly bred, many of these “brood bitches” are killed once their reproductive capacity wanes. Thousands of these breeding operations currently exist in the United States.”
Don’t Shop, Adopt.
Spread the word about puppy mills to all you meet.
As many of you know, I am quite passionate about closing down puppy mills. Having three former mill dogs of my own has made me want to be more educated on this issue, and in turn, want to educate others.
Last Tuesday, I had the opportunity to attend a rally to support the Breeder Bill currently meandering through the Minnesota State Senate and House of Representatives. House File 84 and Senate File 36 are two versions of the bill that will eventually become one, if they pass through the various committees that are required to review it and pass it on (with or without amendments).
I’m not usually a person who actively goes out and seeks to engage my legislators on any issue. The last time I did so was in college, when I was an idealistic student and unafraid of challenging my elders on issues that were important to me. But this one issue has me more engaged than I ever thought I could be. This year we have a good chance to pass a bill, one that could make a difference for dogs like Daisy, Cupcake and Jasper.
I’m sick of seeing these breeding facilities get away with a slap on the wrist while their dogs sit in small cages, covered in their own feces, and suffering all kinds of abuses. Their vet care is nil and if they do get any care it’s usually by the breeder in the most cruel of circumstances. They would never consider taking a puppy to a vet to get their dew claws removed. No. They would simply do it themselves, pulling the out with a pair of pliers (as Daisy likely had done to her), or leave them to get caught in their wire cages, like the German Shepherd a woman I met at the rally has in her home. Her puppy mill rescue dog’s dew claws dragged on the ground and inhibited his ability to walk. Can you imagine? He came from a Minnesota breeder – WHO IS STILL IN BUSINESS.
Besides all of the stories I heard at the rally, there was one other thing that really struck me in the gut. A picture of the kenneling requirements for a USDA-licensed breeder (BTW – USDA-licensed does not mean they are a responsible breeder). I thought I would include that picture for you to see. Even thought I wrote about this a couple of months ago (Puppy Mills: Do you know what size cage would your dog live in? I do), I think this picture may say so much more than I ever could.
My favorite requirement (sarcasm inferred) is the last one…
“If two or more dogs are housed together, no exercise plan is required. Up to twelve dogs can be housed in the same cage. Each dog must have the minimum of floor space. Interaction between two or more dogs is considered “positive physical contact” and no additional floor space or exercise plan is required.”
That must be how Daisy got all her scars – all that “positive physical contact”. Lucky her.
This is how puppy mill dogs live, and in Minnesota, where 600-1200 dogs living in one breeding facility is more common than not, this is how dogs live every day without any laws to protect them. This has got to change.
It’s why I decided to get involved in something for once. It’s why I am so passionate about this issue. It’s why I will continue to call each and every committee member as the bill goes before them. The time for change is now.
And, if ever I get a the least bit queasy or nervous or afraid to call one more state legislator and ask them to support this bill I have a good reminder why I need to stay on track and see this through…
The tattoo in Daisy’s ear. She was dog #201 in her puppy mill. Need I say more?
Recently, a friend shared a website with me that left both of us pretty disturbed. As animal welfare advocates we often see and hear things that can be pretty disturbing – puppy mills, animal abuse, animal neglect, etc. but this was one that seemed pretty wrong, at least on the surface.
It left us asking a lot of questions, including:
- How can a rescue or shelter claim to be saving dogs when it is breeding dogs and selling their puppies?
- How does a rescue or shelter legitimize the fact that they are selling dogs when there are so many dogs already in sitting in shelters needing to be rescued?
- If a rescue or shelter breeds dogs and sells their puppies, can they really be a rescue or shelter?
- Can a breeder claim to be a rescue or shelter, but really just be a front for selling dogs?
- How can a rescue or shelter breed a 7-year-old dog and still be considered a shelter or rescue?
- How can a state allow a breeder to be registered as a no-kill shelter too? Isn’t that some sort of state law loophole?
I can’t help but think something is wrong here. It doesn’t pass the smell test. But, I thought I would let you, the reader, weigh in and share what you think. Below are some screen shots of the website in question. I would love your thoughts on this.
What do you think? Is this a puppy mill or a shelter? Or is it a breeder masquerading as a shelter?
Their Mission Statement begins with…
These are the quality that Have a Heart dog homes has to improve and care for the homeless and unwanted of the No-Kill shelter that they live on.
The breeding and puppies that come from these AKC dogs pay to build buildings, pay large electric bills and fence the 10 acres that is needed for all that are here.
They also say “This shelter has no choice but to breed some to support the many that never leave.”
Their puppies are sold on Puppyfind.com and Next Day Pets (Next Day Pets is a well-known website for selling puppies. Many puppy millers use this site to sell their puppies.)
There were only 3 dogs listed on their Adopt a Dog page. Here are two of them.
The majority of the website was focused on the breeder dogs and their puppies, including 7-year-old Angelique (who just had her last litter) and Cabella (no age given).
Clicking on the Breeders tab provides you with some additional information:
We will have more Goldendoodles and Golden Retriever puppies
in the spring.
Please call or email to reserve.
Also puppies seen on Puppyfind.com and Next daypets.com
AKC bred Standard Poodle puppies ready now.
Although the site had a spot for you to Adopt a Cat, it appears there were no cats available – yet.
Their Happy Adoptions page features quite a few customer comments, but it appears many of the “adoptions” are puppies from the breeder dogs. In fact, I couldn’t find one picture of an adopted dog that wasn’t a Golden Retriever, Goldendoodle or Poodle – all puppies and all the same breed or breeds as the breeder dogs.
According to their About Us page they “are now licensed per state laws as a No-Kill with breeders through the DATCP.” which is the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade and Consumer Protection. Is it possible that they would provide a breeder with a shelter license? It seems so. Their last inspection was just this past month.
Blog the Change is a chance for bloggers to write about something they are passionate about. I am passionate about a lot of animal welfare-related issues, but always at the top of my list are pet adoption and stopping puppy mills. Having adopted two former puppy mill breeding dogs and a former pet store puppy (who also came from a mill), I tend to be a little passionate about this issue.
Is it fate that caused Blog the Change to fall exactly one day after two new breeder bills were introduced in the Minnesota State House and Senate? I prefer to think not.
Yesterday, January 14th, 2013, Minnesota Senate by Senator John Marty (D-66) introduced S.F. 36 and House by Representative John Lesch (D-66B) introduced H.F. 84 . These two files (bills) address inhumane dog and cat breeding (also known as puppy/kitten mills) in Minnesota.
While Minnesota may not have the most puppy mills (Pennsylvania and Missouri claim those infamous positions), we are one of the top states to mass-produced puppies and kitties. We have some of the largest breeding kennels in the nation – many of them housing up to 300, 600 or over 1,000 dogs and puppies in one facility or “puppy mill.” I know of one facility o=in southern MN that has over 600 breeding pairs and only 7 people to care for them. Can you imagine? And yet, under current state law that is perfectly legal.
Clearly, we have a problem in Minnesota and now is the time to take action.
So what can you do?
1. Join me at the rally in support of S.F. 36/H.F. 84, the Minnesota Dog and Cat Breeder Bill on TUESDAY, FEBRUARY. 19, 2013, from 3-4pm at the STATE CAPITOL in ST. PAUL, MN.
2. Ask your vet to sign the online petition to ask our legislators to pass the breeder bills. Our goal is 500 signatures by the end of January!!! Ask your veterinarians, vet techs and vet assistants to sign the petition. The petition has been very effective in the past in garnering legislator attention on this issue. We would like to present a list of 500 signatures or more to our legislators as soon as possible. Please call your vet and ask them to support!
3. Educate your own State Senator and Representative on what goes on in Minnesota breeding facilities. This year there are many new legislators who have not heard from us. So, please, contact them. Even if they are back and heard from you last session, contact them again. The problem did not go away and new bills were introduced. Don’t Know Who Your Legislator is? Go to http://www.gis.leg.mn/OpenLayers/districts/
Be sure to tell them the bill numbers and authors’ names because conflicting bills may be introduced this session. Support S.F. 36 (authored by Senator John Marty) and H.F. 84 (authored by Representative John Lesch).
4. Learn more about the problem and sign the petition at: www.animalfolksmn.org in support of the breeder bills.
5. Add your name to a list of Minnesotans who want to take action on the legislation to regulate commercial breeders. You can email firstname.lastname@example.org and ask to be added to the database. You will be alerted when you should contact legislators asking them to support these bills.
6. Print out this PDF and share with all your friends and family and ask them to support the Minnesota breeder bill.
Now is the time to take action!
Without your help dogs like Daisy, Cupcake and Jasper will continue to suffer in Minnesota puppy mills. We need your help!
Thanks to the media, celebrities, and numerous animal advocates, the message about pet stores, and the puppy mill dogs that supply them, is starting to reach people. More and more pet stores are being shut down or have stopped selling puppies. It’s encouraging to see the tides of change coming.
However, there is another front in the fight against puppy mills that people don’t often think about – the internet.
The internet is a relatively new marketplace for puppy mill owners, but they love it.
- It’s an easy way to sell their puppies. Create a website, tell a great story about how much you lovingly care for your puppies, post a few cute puppy pictures, and you’re in business.
- It also increases a puppy miller’s profit margins – no middle man to take a cut of the profits. They just ship the puppy directly to you.
- The other attractive feature in using the internet is that it’s safer than selling your puppies to pet stores. Online sellers of animals are not subject to USDA inspections. No licensing. No inspections. It’s a relatively safe way to hide those skeletons while preying upon the unwitting puppy lover.
What most people don’t realize is that puppy millers are some of the best grifters out there. They know how to build trust, tug on your heart-strings, and reassure you they are on the up-and-up, all in one phone conversation or email exchange.
The sweet stories they are telling you online is not what’s really going on behind the scenes – animal cruelty, abuse, starvation, minimal, if any, medical care, and no socialization for the dogs.
Using the internet allows them to fool you into thinking they are a wonderful family who breeds dogs because they love them so much. Of course, they will be sure to let you know all of their breeding dogs are “family dogs” and live inside with them as a member of their family. How sweet. How could you not trust someone like that?
It’s so easy for them to fool people.
One example came to light recently that I thought was worth sharing.
Example: Pedigree Pets
What a sweet little family. You can tell they care so much for their dogs and puppies. It’s so sweet that their grandchildren play with the puppies. And, I love how they “deliver each and every one of the puppies themselves.” I wonder how they do it with such loving care?
Oh wait. What happened here? A raid? 241 dogs seized? What happened to that nice little family with the grandchildren that loved to play with all their cute puppies? The puppies they personally delivered by hand?
I know it’s hard to believe, but that cute little family story puppy millers put on their website is just that, a story. Or, as I like to say… B.S. According to the sheriff, veterinarians and the Ohio SPCA, the dogs were starving, had no water and were in bad shape. At least those are the allegations. The owners plead Not Guilty today, so we will have to wait to see how many of the 723 charges they will be convicted on. I’ll leave you to check out the video of the raid on Pet-Abuse.com and make your own judgement.
Here is an excerpt of the story from Examiner.com:
Pedigree Pets was raided on Saturday, November 17, 2012 after an investigation by Deputy Cami Frey. Dogs and puppies were found living in horrid conditions and many were found to be ill, injured and emaciated. Several of the dogs had to be treated for wounds and infections.
The local sheriff that was involved in the raid on Pedigree Pets says it best…
Don’t be fooled by those cute little websites featuring cute little puppies with fanciful stories of their wonderful families and family life. Buying a puppy online is just as bad as buying from a pet store.
Please Don’t Shop (not online or in a pet store), Adopt.
My sincere thanks to the Ohio SPCA for their hard work in saving these dogs and in seeing to their immediate care. Pedigree Pet’s breeding dogs, and their puppies, are now in the care of 22 wonderful Ohio rescues. The money it costs to care for all these dogs is not a minimal amount. Many puppy mill dogs are sick, undernourished, full of worms and have eye and dental issues. This case is no different. I am listing all of the rescues here. If you an donate to help with the care for these puppy mill dogs, please do so. It takes a village to help these dogs. One dollar is more than nothing. Please give what you can.
Permission to share this photo was granted by the Ohio SPCA.
Thanksgiving is such a wonderful time of year. It’s a time to pause and reflect. A time to feel gratitude for all that we have in our lives. For some, it might not be much, but for all of us there is at least one thing we can all be grateful for in our lives, whether it be a our children, our pets, our friends and family.
I am thankful for quite a lot this year. I have a job, a house, three lovely dogs (safely at home and not wandering throughout Eagan), a wonderful family and some really awesome friends.
I am also feeling grateful for all of you, my new friends, who have added so much to my life. You laugh with me, cry with me, question me, challenge me and support me. You also share your very own personal stories – many of which have moved me to tears. When I started this blog it was to share information with my pet sitting and dog walking clients. I never expected it to become a place to make friends. To have such wonderful people like you reading my words (as good or bad as they may be some days) is something I never expected. Thank you for taking the time to read and comment, but above all for sharing your very own stories. I love reading them.
As I was thinking about what I wanted to say this Thanksgiving Day, I realized that there were two groups of people I wanted to say THANKS to this year.
To the volunteers and staff with Minnesota Sheltie Rescue I say thank you for all you do. Thank you Karen, Estelle, Susan, Mary, Heather, Cindy, Francine, Pat, Kathy, Judy, all the foster parents and volunteers I may have missed. Most people don’t realize all that is involved in saving dog’s lives, but I do – transporting, vetting, fostering, conducting home visits, calling potential adopters, answering inquiries from people wanting to surrender their dogs, helping people with lost Shelties, – you do all of this and more. Thank you! (A special thank you to Estelle and Susan who spent their Thanksgiving last year helping me find Cupcake. I hope you actually get to enjoy your holiday this year!)
To the volunteers and staff at Animal Folks MN,thank you for your continued work and dedication to bringing attention to the puppy mill situation in our state. Nancy and Ann – you have worked tirelessly to bring about change in Minnesota. We may not have the most puppy mills in this state, but we do have some of the largest facilities in the country. I cannot tell you how much I appreciate your hard work and dedication in leading the charge to change how breeding dogs and cats are treated in this state. Daisy thanks you too!
May you all have a wonderful Thanksgiving Day. May the blessings be great and the connections deep.