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Minnesota puppy mills: The fight goes on

August 11, 2015 8 comments

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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Getting involved to regulate Minnesota puppy mills – Dog #201 is my motivation

February 25, 2013 10 comments

IMG_8860As 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 IMG_8824taking 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.

IMG_8857

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?

Daisy's tattoo - She was dog #201

Daisy’s tattoo – She was dog #201

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