Minnesota puppy mills: The fight goes on


puppy mills 1There is one thing they don’t tell you when you get involved in animal welfare advocacy – the victories are short-lived, and perseverance is required to maintain the momentum.

The battle rarely ends with one victory. There are always those opposing forces to deal with, the ones who don’t want you to succeed: factory farms, big Ag, local communities and politicians, and the ones who may not care, the always underfunded and under-motivated government agencies charged with enforcing the change.

You can work hard to close all the loopholes and to ensure that animals are being saved, but one failure along the chain of implementation and suddenly the fight takes a few steps back, or is put right back to the beginning.

Last year, when we passed the Minnesota Dog and Cat Breeder Law, most people thought we had won the fight.  I think it would be more accurate to say we won ONE victory in the war against puppy mills and animal cruelty. Remember those opposing forces? They are always there, looking for ways to slow your roll. Progress is passing a law, but making that progress “stick” takes time, diligence and lots of dedication and follow-up.

As an example, take a look at who the Minnesota Board of Animal Health gave breeder licenses to this year:

  • Debbie Rowell of Country Pride Kennels – Debbie is the Pine River facility that was raided a couple of years ago. 130 dogs were seized in July 2013, including Maggie, my foster dog, and several other Shelties so damaged they will likely be in foster care for life. A Facebook page has been set up to keep an eye on Ms Rowell’s activities. We can’t know for sure, but given her past conviction, I suspect she will be in trouble again some day soon.

  • Wanda Kretzman of Clearwater Kennel, Inc. – This kennel was one of three kennels on the Humane Society of the United State’s (HSUS) Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Wanda’s kennel has had so many violations that the USDA filed an official complaint in March 2015.  She even made the worst list for the Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF) in 2013. Her violations go as far back as 1997.  The lovely Wanda has one of the largest puppy mills in the state (with more than 1000 dogs). Needless to say, it is hard to believe she passed an inspection by the MN Board of Animal Health. How does someone with this kind of history pass an inspection by the Minnesota Board of Animal Health? My mind is filled with theories.

  • John & Lyle Renner of Renner’s Kennel – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. USDA inspectors have found numerous injured dogs in their facility, including swollen red skin, eye and dental issues, damaged paws, etc. This kennel is so bad that it has made HSUS’ list numerous times. And yet, they too got a license from the MN Board of Animal Health.

  • Michelle Sonnenberg – Also on HSUS’ Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed. Repeated health and sanitation violations litter Michelle’s dog kenneling history. Sounds like a place you want to get a puppy from doesn’t it? You have to wonder why she refused inspectors into her facility back in April of this year. Maybe she was cleaning things up in anticipation of a visit from the MN Board of Animal Health? Hmmm… maybe so. After all, she somehow was able to get a breeder license from them. Don’t you wonder how?

(Side note: Both Michelle Sonnenberg and Renner’s Kennels sell to the Hunte Corporation which is a broker for Petland stores.)

Eighty plus breeders have received licenses thus far.  They had to submit an application and go through an inspection in order to be licensed.

am3_1403_thumbYou can read what the inspector looks for when inspecting these facilities in the Commercial Dog or Cat Breeder Inspection Guidelines.

You’ve got to wonder how the 4 breeders above passed inspection for  item number 12, which states: “Exercise. All dogs and cats must be provided the opportunity for periodic exercise, either through free choice or through a forced work program, unless exercise is restricted by a licensed veterinarian. (346.39)”

How much you want to bet Wanda Kretzman didn’t pass that part of the inspection? I can’t imagine how she is exercising 1000 dogs, but hey she got a license, she must be exercising them right?

You probably can tell that I am disappointed in the Minnesota Board of Animal Health, but what I am not is surprised. Like I said, we only won the victory, not the battle.

What the opposition doesn’t understand is that time is on our side. More people are getting knowledgeable about puppy mills and how they work. Petlands, and other pets stores like them, are failing (the Petland in Shakopee closed last year and I am hoping the St Paul store isn’t far behind).

And, as more people get educated on what these places are like, they are also taking action. When people realized that Debbie Rowell was back in business, her Yelp profile and Better Business Bureau status took a hit. (If you think Walter Palmer, the dentist who killed Cecil, is an aberration, think again.) People are getting involved and when they do, they take action.

So, the fight goes on. The battle is not yet won. More work needs to be done. 

Want to help?

  • Share the information about this and other substandard kennels
  • Educate others that pet store puppies come from these kennels
  • Encourage friends to adopt
  • Contact legislators to support legislation with tougher penalties
  • Educate others about what responsible breeders do and don’t do
  • Volunteer with or donate to Animal Folks MN & share their posts
  • Volunteer with Minnesotans Exposing Petland & share their posts
  • Report substandard breeding kennels to the authorities
  • Do not shop at pet stores that sell animals of any kind
  • Support pet stores that support adoption
  • Contact the Minnesota Board of Animal Health: Phone: (651) 296-2942
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  1. August 11, 2015 at 7:37 AM

    I hadn’t realized that you support HSUS, an organization that I hold in contempt as being nothing more than an offspring of PETA. We have to part company..

    • Mel
      August 11, 2015 at 8:09 AM

      You never asked me. I never said I was or wasn’t, but either way good riddance. I’m not much of a one-issue person. I tend to look at more than one factor when making a decision about someone or something.

  2. Annie B.
    August 11, 2015 at 12:31 PM

    HSUS, Best Friends, ASPCA, etc, right on down to our state and local rescue agencies, as well as individual efforts, we all do the best we can given the tools/money we have at any given time. People will always find fault with something. We are all fighting and being a voice for those that cant fight or speak. Keep up the fight Mel! Paws 5!

    • Mel
      August 11, 2015 at 11:08 PM

      Thanks Annie. I completely agree.

  3. August 11, 2015 at 3:21 PM

    So disappointed to read this and like you can’t understand how they would have been given licenses. Who does that Board answer to?

    • Mel
      August 11, 2015 at 11:09 PM

      The Board answers to the people and the state. I’m not sure why they are incapable of doing their job.

  4. August 18, 2015 at 1:04 PM

    It seems to me that someone’s getting a little something extra in a pocket somewhere in order for people like these to be able to get licenses.

  5. September 29, 2015 at 3:57 PM

    I wish I lived closer I would foster some of those dogs. I am good with the damaged ones. Over the years have adopted several many thought were a lost cause. My most recent one is 10 now and you would never know he was so badly damaged mentally as he was when I got him. He is a normal dog now.

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