Yesterday, the Pet Industry Joint Advisory Council (PIJAC), a lobby group for pet stores, puppy millers and pet product makers, announced they had hired the former head of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), Ed Sayres to lead their group.
Shocking? Yes, but maybe not as much as we would like to think. After all, Ed left the ASPCA under less than positive circumstances. He and the board were in disagreement over several things, among them Ed’s half a million dollar salary and which legislative battles to pursue. And if one close to the situation is to be believed, there was also a battle going on over focusing more on animal welfare than fundraising. I’ll let you guess where Ed fell on this disagreement.
The decision to hire an industry insider who may have the ASPCA playbook is no accident. The puppy mill industry is running scared. They know that the tide has been turning, and not in their favor. Cities, towns and counties are taking action where national and state legislators have failed. They are banning the sale of cats and dogs and requiring pet stores to follow the rules, move or close down. If the puppy mill industry hopes to have any chance of turning things around they have to act now. Their hope is that Ed Sayres will be their savior.
The question is… can they turn back the tide? Can they stop social media from continuing to educate the average consumer about pet stores and puppy mills? Can they stop local grassroots organizations from working with their city, county and other local officials to stop the sale of puppy mill dogs in their towns and cities? Can they ever encourage the average consumer to buy a puppy mill dog once they have seen what a puppy mill parent goes through? Can they get people to un-see what they have already seen or forget what they already know?
It will be some time before we know if Ed will be the savior PIJAC hopes he will be, but my bet is on you, the average consumers and pet lover.
You and I, we care about our pets. We care where they came from and the conditions they were raised in. We want to make a difference. We believe in fighting for those who have no voice. We also believe puppy mills need to go. We may not win every legislative battle, but if we change people’s minds, and their spending habits, then we still win. Ed or no Ed.
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I’ve been a bit sporadic in my posts lately, but I wanted to at least give an update on little Miss Maggie.
Do you know that it has already been a year since Maggie was rescued? On July 16, 2013, she and her babies were rescued and taken to the Animal Humane Society (AHS), where she received medical care, food, water and kindness. In the days that followed, she learned that people could be kind and gentle. She learned it from her first foster mom, Sabrina, who taught her about leashed walks, living in a real home and that steak tastes quite good (the steak was in celebration of a judge awarding her custody to AHS).
With this new freedom came opportunities. A new place to live, time to heal and a chance to learn how to be a real dog. She came into Minnesota Sheltie Rescue and soon after that into my home. I have given her time and space. I let her learn from my dogs what a dog’s life can be like. So far, she has learned bones and ice cream are delicious, and everyone goes outside in the morning and again at night. She has also learned that cheese is good, but it is even more interesting and fun when it is hidden in dog puzzles or comes after touching my hand. She has learned how fun it is to roll in the freshly cut grass and that one must be quick if they want to get a treat before one of the other dogs. She is learning new things every day and in the process becoming more of the dog she was meant to be.
Here are just a few highlights of Maggie’s progress. Don’t miss Maggie’s two videos at the end of this post!
Maggie learns Watch me
Hand targeting with Maggie (She has only done this once outside. Too many noises outside.)
It’s sad that even though Missouri passed a puppy mill bill four years ago, they remain one of the top states for bad breeders (22 of the top 100 are from Missouri this year).
Over the past few years, the Missouri puppy mill bill has been weakened by local by politicians, individuals who caved under the pressure of big Ag and the puppy millers themselves. The truth is one cannot be assured that passing a puppy mill bill will lead to an end of puppy mills or to animal cruelty in puppy mills. The battle may be won once a puppy bill passes, but the war goes on. There will always be those who prefer to take dollars from deep pockets than to do the right thing, and those deep pockets have no interest in keeping laws pertaining to puppy mills in place. They will do what they must to get rid of the bill or make it weaker so it is no longer effective. We must stay ever-vigilant if we want to see puppy mills go away.
Most of those who made the list were cited for extremely bad care and treatment of animals. According to HSUS, some of these citations included:
- A breeder in Missouri who admitted to leaving a gravely injured and nearly unresponsive Pomeranian named “Woofie” lingering for three days without taking him to a vet (Johanna Steele);
- Four breeders who listed gunshot as a method of euthanasia on their official veterinary plans (Barker in AR; Mamma’s Minis in CO; Tietz and Williams in NE);
- A breeder in Illinois who had five beagles euthanized rather than providing them with warmer shelter as directed by his inspector (Melton Christiansen);
- A breeder in Missouri who was found with a dead, four-week-old shih tzu puppy frozen solid in the outdoor portion of an enclosure when overnight temperatures had recently been as low as -9 degrees (Johnny Dake);
- Breeders who left their dogs exposed to heat indexes as high as 109 degrees or bitter cold temperatures as low as one degree Fahrenheit (Hines in SD; Pesek in NE);
- USDA inspectors photographed a Yorkie with an eye disorder at a facility owned by Andy Troyer in Fredericksburg, Ohio, in 2011 after the operator repeatedly failed to get adequate treatment for the dog. Additional problems were found at the same facility in 2014. /USDA 2011.
- A breeder in Missouri who admitted to slaughtering downed cattle (cows unable to walk and who could be ill) from a local slaughterhouse in order to feed the raw meat to her dogs; rotting meat infested with maggots was found in her kennels (Barbara Neubert); and
- A breeder in Nebraska (listed in our appendix because she was in last year’s Horrible Hundred report), who was found with no fewer than 54 dogs in need of veterinary care during a single USDA inspection (Linda Hager).
Yes. Lovely people aren’t they? I can’t imagine how one becomes okay with treating an animal this way, but I suspect your soul has to die off a bit first.
There were five Minnesotans that made the HSUS list this year. One of them is from Pine River, but strangely enough, it is not he one who ran the place Maggie came from (that one was run by Deborah Rowell). It makes me wonder – just how many puppy mills are in business in Pine River?
Here are the five Minnesota puppy mills that made the list:
- Gloria Brouwer, Jasper, MN – Three dogs died after not being treated properly. Brouwer received an official
warning from the USDA in February 2013 for failing to get proper care for three dogs who were observed to be sluggish with poor appetites in July 2011. A USDA Director of Investigative and Enforcement Services noted that Brouwer took the dogs inside when they seemed ill and attempted to treat them herself with Baytril. All three of the dogs died. The incident occurred in 2011 but the USDA did not publish its official warning until February 2013. In January 2013, the USDA cited Brouwer for several new problems, including expired veterinary drugs and unsafe housing. In February 2014, the USDA went to check on the kennel but was not given access, which is a violation. USDA #41-A-0364.
- Paul and Sheila Haag, Valley View Kennel aka A Maze N Farmyard LLC, Eden Valley, MN – Mega mill, repeatedly cited for dogs with injuries. Although it passed one USDA inspection in 2013, Valley View Kennel was cited for violations during four previous inspections in a row, including repeat violations for lack of adequate veterinary care for issues such as limping dogs with swollen feet (common in facilities where dogs are forced to stand on wire cage floors), a dog with “a red ulcer-like mass in the eye,” unsafe and unsanitary housing, and numerous other problems. The Haags appear to have an enormous amount of dogs; in July 2013, the USDA counted more than 800 dogs and puppies on the property, indicating it may be one of the largest puppy mills in the country, and the second largest in the state next to Animal control officers found deplorable conditions at Chien d’Or Kennel in Farmington Hills, MI. The kennel has registered AKC breeding stock and sells online. In recent years, the AKC has opposed more than 100 bills designed to crack down on puppy mills. /Oakland County Animal Control, 2013. Clearwater Kennel in Cushing. The facility has not been inspected yet in 2014 (as of April 10). Concerned local advocates are calling for action via social media: facebook.com/pages/Shut-down-A-mazen- Farmyard/175238609266415. USDA #41-A-0281.
- Sharon Lanz, Pine River, MN – Dogs in the freezing cold. In November 2013, USDA inspectors found a number of issues at Lanz’s kennel, including dogs outside in the cold without adequate protection when the temperature was only 29 degrees, expired vaccination drugs and accumulations of wastes and clutter. Records show that USDA inspectors attempted to re-inspect the kennel three times in February 2014 and made calls to the owner each time, but were not given access during any of their attempts, a repeat violation. Violations were also found in 2011 and 2012. USDA #41-A-0027.
- Deloris and Dick Richards, Marshall, MN – Ten dogs found with injuries; dogs repeatedly exposed to freezing cold and walking in their own feces. In January 2014, USDA inspectors found three different repeat violations at the Richards’ kennel, including dogs without adequate protection from the bitter cold, safety issues and excessive feces. In August 2013, USDA inspectors found no fewer than ten dogs in need of veterinary care at the Richards’ kennel for issues such as hair loss, bleeding wounds and blackened scabs on their ears from fly bites. In addition, the Richards have been repeatedly cited by USDA inspectors for inadequate cleaning of feces in their dog runs (Jan. 2014, Dec. 2013, Aug. 2013, April 2013, and March 2011) and for dogs with inadequate protection from the weather. In December 2013, a USDA inspector noted that dogs were not properly sheltered when “the outdoor winter temperatures and wind chills are frequently falling below zero degrees,” and that some dog runs were so soiled with feces that “there were no clean areas for [the dogs] to step without coming into contact with the waste.” USDA #41-A-0016.
- Michelle Sonnenberg, Detroit Lakes, MN – “A foul odor” and standing water was mixed with feces and maggots. USDA inspectors found multiple violations during five inspections in a row at Sonnenberg’s kennel between December 2011 and September 2013. In September 2013, inspectors noted a “foul odor” due to standing water mixed with feces and maggots, a “prevalent ammonia [urine] smell” that was “strong enough to make the inspector’s eyes burn,” dogs without adequate space, and sanitation problems. During the September 2013 visit, more than 430 dogs and puppies on the property. In February 2013 an inspector noted an “ammonia level strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat” and other problems. In December 2011, inspectors found underweight dogs, dogs with matted fur, numerous unsafe conditions and puppies with their legs falling through wire flooring, which, as the inspector noted, “risks malnourishment” because puppies whose legs are stuck through the wire gaps may not be able to reach their mother to feed. The HSUS has received two complaints from buyers who reportedly purchased sick puppies from the facility. USDA #41-A-0021.
Want to stop puppy mills? Don’t buy from a pet store. People who have started following and commenting on the FB group “Shut down A maze’n Farmyard” (the 2nd mill on the MN list), have mentioned buying sick puppies from a pet store that were sourced from this place. Buying a sick dog from a pet store may be saving THAT dog, but it is sentencing the parents to a continued life of misery, pain and cruelty. Just don’t do it.
Don’t shop, adopt.
Since December, I have been sharing updates on Maggie and how she is progressing after being rescued from a puppy mill in Pine River, Minnesota.
Most of my updates have been about the things I am doing to help Maggie adjust to life in a home – hand-targeting, showing her how to tell me when she wants to be touched, chewing on bones, adjusting to all the new sights and sounds she has never experienced. What I probably haven’t shared enough is all that goes on behind the scenes.
Let me just say, fostering and rehabing a puppy mill dog is not for the impatient.
While Maggie is making great progress, there are still things that she does that remind me every day that she is still dealing with the remnants of her former life:
- Unusual or loud sounds and sights during the daytime will send her scurrying for her two favorite hiding spots – the kitchen and bathroom. She prefers her kennel during the day because it is dark and quiet and safe from the reflections of light in the house. Seeing a car driving by the front window is frightening to her. She has no context for such a thing in her previous life.
- She still drags a leash behind her because she is still a huge flight risk. If feeling cornered or faced with something scary (and let’s face it, everything is scary to her right now), she will run. Fast and far.
- Doorways are still scary – she needs a lot of space to go through them on her own. In the past, I could catch the end of her long line and lead her inside (always keeping my back to her, because facing her while leading is still very scary for her), but now that she has progressed to a shorter leash, it is about pretending I don’t see her. In the winter, I would bundle up in coat and boots and go outside and slowly usher her in by corralling her towards the door until she would go inside. Now that it is warmer, I go outside in pajamas and slippers and play ball with Jasper, because that allows her to head towards to door on her own and cautiously make her way inside. If I turn and look at her while she is doing this, she will freeze and/or run away from the door. If that happens, we have to begin the process again. On days where the doorway is really scary and she won’t go inside on her own, I will coral her from a distance in the yard. This is always done from a distance because I don’t want her to feel as if she has to run from me (and all humans). I think the longest time it took to get her inside was 30 minutes, but on a typical day it can be anywhere from 5- 10 minutes.
- Touch is not alway a welcome thing. Maggie is definitely not keen on being held. Many times, she prefers not to be touched at all, especially when highly agitated or fearful. (This is when we focus on hand-targeting and using cheese to change how she feels about whatever is making her fearful at that moment.) She is learning however, that touch can be good and will seek it out from time to time (like right now, as I am writing this post).
Daisy was like this in the early days too. She has made amazing progress in the 6 years I have had her, but it did not happen overnight. I already know that.like Daisy, some of Maggie’s unusual behaviors will fade with time while others will remain her entire life (even now, Daisy still has problems with doorways from time to time). What I do know is that Maggie’s quality of life is better than what it used to be. She is learning how to be a real dog, not just a miserable being just trying to survive in a puppy mill.
Franklin D. McMillan DVM, of the well-known Best Friends Animal Society, recently released a study on puppy mills that was quite enlightening (Understanding and Caring for Rescued Puppy Mill Dogs). It’s probably the most comprehensive study I have seen on mill dogs since I first adopted Daisy. It reaffirms most of what I know and have experienced with mill dogs myself.
Behaviorally, puppy mill dogs are very different from normal, well-socialized dogs.
- Have many more fears and phobias – strange people, sights, sounds, movements and objects
- Soil in the house more frequently (this has not been the case with Daisy or Maggie)
- Have compulsive and repetitive behaviors
- Are less likely to have aggression
- May be less trainable because of their fear (anti-anxiety drugs can often help them get beyond the fear so they can progress)
- Have less excitability and low energy levels
- Are less likely to chase small animals
- Have less desire to be touched or picked up
- Often have a vacant or blank stare (this faded over time with Daisy)
- Do better in homes where there is another dog or dogs
This does not mean that puppy mill dogs cannot make progress or should not be saved (in fact, McMillan’s study suggests the opposite), but rather that they need time, patience and a safe place to land, so they can adjust to life outside the mill.
If you are looking to foster or adopt a mill dog your first skill you need to practice is PATIENCE.
Monday could very well be the day that our Minnesota State Governor signs the Dog and Cat Breeder bill into law. Even if it does not happen today or tomorrow, it will be signed into law soon, and that is amazing in and of itself. It has taken close to ten years of hard work to make this happen. From those who did the heavy lifting (you know who you are) to those who called their legislators and rallied at the capitol and committed the time and effort to get us here, you have my (and Daisy and Cupcake and Maggie’s) thanks and gratitude.
So what happens with this bill and when does it begin?
- Dog and cat breeders operating in the state of Minnesota will be required to be licensed, regardless of whether or not they are a USDA breeder. The licensing process will begin in July. (This means those who sell over the internet can no longer drop their USDA license and think they are safe from scrutiny. It also means that we will have a more accurate data on the breeders that operate in our state.)
- The Minnesota Board of Animal Health will now have the authority to inspect commercial dog and cat breeding facilities and enforce existing State laws to ensure animal care standards are met and they will be funded to do so. (This can begin as soon as licenses start coming in or they can start next year, June 30th, the deadline for breeder licenses to be submitted.)
- The state will also have the ability to apply civil, administrative and criminal penalties for those who violate the law.
I have no doubt that many breeders will be thinking about whether or not they want to stay in business. For those who do not, there will be the issue of closing down their business. I expect we will see more animals coming into shelters and rescues. We must be ready for them.
For those who stay in business, it will be an adjustment. They will need to pay a license fee, establish and maintain a written protocol for disease control and prevention, euthanasia, and veterinary care of their animals, and identify all known owners of the business. They also must make any USDA violations available to state inspectors, report whether they have ever been convicted of animal cruelty in the past, and subject themselves to an annual inspections. In other words, they will face more scrutiny than ever before.
Change is coming to Minnesota breeders. They only question is how successful will it be? I guess that is dependent on the Minnesota Board of Animal Health and us. Our vigilance will be required. There are those who will gladly look for ways to weaken this law.
My personal hope is that people like Deborah Beatrice Rowell will find it harder to do business like they did before. She owns the puppy mill that Maggie came from and is back in business today. If this law makes it hard enough to make her quit, then that would truly be a blessing, especially for the dogs like Maggie, who have not yet escaped.
Maggie has made some great progress over the past few weeks and month. She might not be ready for a new home yet, but she is definitely heading in that direction. She eats and drinks comfortably in and outside of her kennel. She no longer needs to be led inside and outside the house most days. She now follows the herd, and sometimes, she even beats them to it and gets to the door first!
One of the things she does well inside the house, but not outside, is coming to me for treats. She will hop up on the couch next to me when called and she will engage in hand-targeting easily, but outside she keeps her distance from me.
Like many shy dogs, Maggie is afraid of someone approaching her while they are facing her. It is scary to have someone looming over you when you are a shy dog (actually many dogs hate looming, not just mill dogs). To have someone come towards you and loom? Terrifying. Maggie will run to the opposite side of the yard to maintain a comfortable distance from me at all times. She trusts me, but only so far. There is safety in distance.
To help Maggie with this I have been slowly working her up to being more comfortable with looming. This is something I have been looking forward to trying now that we all can be outside without freezing our patooties off. Debbie Jacobs of Fearfuldog’s Blog, first shared this idea with me soon after I started fostering Maggie. She did the same thing with her dog, Nibbles. (Thank goodness for her Nibbles videos!)
I started by tossing cheese to Maggie and my dogs while sitting in a chair on the patio (Maggie loves cheese and the word “cheese”). Then I started asking my dogs for tricks for cheese while Maggie watched and got tossed a few pieces here and there. This drew her nearer to me as she wanted very much to have more cheese (“More cheese, please!”). Over the past few days, she has been steadily getting closer and closer to me in anticipation of getting more cheese.
Yesterday, I decided to switch it up a bit and stand in the yard and toss cheese to all four dogs. Of course, my dogs were ALL over that. Maggie kept her distance, but she would run in to nab a piece the other dogs missed. After doing this intermittently throughout the day, last night I decided to try to see if she would participate in a game of hand-targeting with me looming over her. She watched for a while as the other dogs all touched my had and got a piece of cheese., then started moving closer and closer. From time to time, I would offer her a chance to touch my hand, but always she would back off. Then, just as I was starting to run out of cheese, she did it! She targeted my hand twice while I was standing and looming over her! Yay Maggie!
I think we’ll keep working on this one for a while, until she feels much more comfortable with looming, but I am hoping we’ll be working up to walking on a leash in the yard soon. Cross your fingers!
Curious about looming and what Debbie Jacobs did to help her dog, Nibbles, become comfortable with it? I’ve attached the video here, but to read the whole story on Nibbles and looming, go to her post titled, “Learning to like looming.”