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Government Agency Demonstrates Once Again How It Supports Puppy Mills

October 5, 2014 2 comments

On Friday, I was alerted to this Action Alert from the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS):

PLEASE ASK USDA TO ENFORCE THE ANIMAL WELFARE ACT
September 30, 2014 – In a stunning setback in their efforts to increase enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA),  USDA has suddenly reversed course and decided to, once again, tolerate substandard conditions at puppy mills.
Dr. Chester Gipson, USDA’s chief of enforcement for the AWA, recently told animal advocates that the USDA needs “to enable breeders to sell their dogs to pet stores” and citing violations is an impediment to such sales…..
Shockingly, USDA has made the decision to help substandard breeders circumvent these ordinances and to continue to sell puppies in spite of continuing violations.

Sad Looking Chocolate LabI found myself at complete odds. The idealistic activist side of me wanted to scream in outrage at what appears to be a setback in the fight against puppy mills, while the veteran, and somewhat jaded, side of me could only sigh and shake my head in resignation.

If you have any knowledge, understanding or experience with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), then you know this is simply par for the course for them. I don’t think I would be exaggerating to say they are probably one of the worst agencies in the federal government.

Whether it be the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS), responsible for enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and for inspecting puppy mills, or the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS), responsible for ensuring that the nation’s commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products are safe, the USDA seems to excel in their inability to perform their job.

In 2010, the Office of Inspector General issued their latest audit (one of many) of APHIS and their performance as it came to enforcing the Animal Welfare Act with commercial breeders. The results, while not surprising, were damning.

They found the following deficiencies:

  •  The Enforcement Process Was Ineffective Against Problematic Dealers -The agency believed compliance could be enforced through education and cooperation and thus took little or no enforcement action against most commercial dog and cat breeders
  • Inspectors Did Not Cite or Document Violations Properly To Support Enforcement Actions – inspectors did not correctly report all repeat or direct violations and did not take pictures or document properly. As a result, some problematic puppy mill dealers were inspected less frequently and in many cases got off easily.
  • APHIS’ New Penalty Worksheet Calculated Minimal Penalties. Although APHIS previously agreed to revise its penalty worksheet to produce “significantly higher” penalties for violators of AWA, the agency continued to assess minimal penalties that did not deter violators. In other words, puppy millers received minimal penalties a majority of the time.
  • APHIS Misused Guidelines to Lower Penalties for AWA Violators – Inspectors misused its guidelines so that violators would be penalized more lightly than warranted, even for repeat offenders with serious violations.
  • Some Large Breeders Circumvented AWA by Selling Animals Over the Internet. (This was recently changed, but given their past history, I doubt it will be enforced or treated any differently than today.)
  • Did Not Adequately Establish Payment Plans for Stipulations – Payment plans for violators were not adequately established so they rarely paid, and if they failed to pay, there was no process in place to follow up. (What a joke.)
Puppy mill kennelsI would like to say this is an aberration, a one-time deal, but that is not the case. Past audits from 2005, 1995 and 1992, showed similar inadequacies and violations.  The USDA excels in their inability and unwillingness to enforce current law. It is what they do best.And it doesn’t just apply to puppy mills.
Take a look at the Office of Inspector General’s report from May 2013 on the Food Safety and Inspection Service (FSIS) as it related to swine slaughter facilities (Reminder: FSIS is the public health agency responsible for ensuring food safety as it relates to the commercial supply of meat, poultry, and egg products.):
  • Enforcement Policies Do Not Deter Repeat Violators
  • Some Inspectors Performed Insufficient Post-Mortem and Sanitation Inspections
  • Swine HIMP Pilot Program Lacks Sufficient Oversight (HIMP = HACCP-based Inspection Models Project (HIMP) for swine.
  • FSIS Could Not Always Ensure Humane Handling at Swine Slaughter Plants

Or look at the Office of Inspector General’s report on Verifying Credentials of Veterinarians Employed or Accredited by USDA or the Office of Inspector General’s report on FSIS and their E. Coli testing on boxed beef or numerous other reports related to APHIS or FSIS.

PugYes. The USDA’s supervision of animals  (in puppy mills and/or other animal facilities) is a complete and utter failure and has been for a very long time. Maybe that is why I am not surprised by this most recent setback. The truth is this is not a setback at all. It is simply a new iteration of what they have always done – let the violators go free, unchecked, with little chance of ever having to face charges for their violations. Same dance, different dance hall.  If anyone thinks the USDA or APHIS is going to start enforcing the law now, then they are sadly mistaken. They haven’t been doing so for years.

I don’t discourage from contacting Secretary Tom Vilsack, as CAPS requests, just that you not expect much from this agency. This is just the same dance in a different dance hall.

You can contact Secretary Tom Vilsack at AgSec@usda.gov or leave a message at (202) 720-3631.

Maybe the best plan of attack is to take the middle guy out and just take the fight to your own local town and city governments. The more you support ordinances and laws that outlaw the sale of pets in pet stores in your community the less power the USDA has to influence anything. Let’s take the fight where it is most effective. Lead the charge locally and eliminate the need for the USDA at all.

Is Iowa State and true CDC teaching puppy millers how to run a mill?

November 18, 2013 9 comments

I recently saw someone share a petition on Facebook that made me do a double-take. The title of the petition?

Iowa State University & CDC: Stop Teaching How to Run a Puppy Mill.

What? Why would Iowa State University and the CDC be teaching people how to run a puppy mill? Surely they must be mistaken. That made absolutely no sense.

IMG_2486According to the petition, the Center for Food Security & Public Health (located at the Iowa State University), with funding from “the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, offers an eleven-part course in Regulatory Compliance for Commercial Dog Breeders.” The petition went on to say that it was “unconscionable” that these two agencies would help to facilitate the breeding of dogs when so many are sitting in shelters waiting for a home. Well, I cannot argue with that. It’s a legitimate point.

But, I wanted to know more about their claims. So, I Googled the Center for Food Security and Public Health. It wasn’t hard to find them, or the 11-part course offered to breeders. As it turns out, the courses they offer are nothing more than a series of PowerPoint presentations covering the licensing and regulatory requirements under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). In essence, they inform a potential puppy miller of the rules and licensing requirements of a USDA- licensed breeder. They probably are required to offer the courses by law.

I think what is more laughable is that they offer these courses at all.

I mean, how can one not laugh when one reads the slide (Slide 16) on the Enforcement Measures in the course labeled Presentation 1: Introduction to APHIS Animal Care and the Regulatory Process:

If violations of the AWA are found, enforcement measures can include:

  • Confiscation or euthanasia of animals
  • Issuance of a cease and desist order (stopping a business from buying/selling dogs)
  • Monetary fines
  • Suspension or loss of a license
  • Formal prosecution (being taken to court)

Very few USDA-licensed commercial breeders ever face these types of enforcement measures. Take Deborah Beatrice Rowell, a USDA-licensed breeder in Pine River who was raided this summer and had 130 dogs seized. The seizure wasn’t conducted by the USDA. No. It was Minnesota law enforcement who stepped in, alongside the ASPCA and Animal Folks MN.

In fact, the USDA seems to have done nothing despite reports showing noncompliance over several years.

USDA inspection photos and compiled USDA inspection reports that showed noncompliances over multiple years, including one official USDA warning for lack of proper shelter. (from Animal Folks MN)

It took the USDA years before they shut Kathy Jo Bauck down too, and that only happened after CAPS video-taped the horrible conditions in her facility and it was aired on TV news.

Also laughable is the course on dog exercise (see slide 11 of that presentation):

Let’s go through an example.

Sparkles is a Scottish Terrier that measures 18 inches from the tip or her nose to the base of her tail.
First calculate the minimum floor space required for her by taking her length 18 inches and adding 6 inches and multiplying the sum by itself. This equals 576 inches (4 sq ft.) This is the minimum amount of space Sparkles needs for housing purposes.

To calculate the inches of floor space required if Sparkles will not receive additional exercise, take 576 and multiply by 2 to equal 1152 inches (8 sq. ft).
If Sparkles will not be taken out for additional exercise, she needs to be in a primary enclosure with 8 square feet of floor space.

IMG_8857Try measuring your own dog once. Start at the tip of his nose and go to the base of his tail. Now follow the calculations above for minimum housing requirements where exercise is needed. Then measure the size pen your dog would live in for life if they were in a pen not requiring any exercise. At all. Ever.

Now you can start to see the ridiculousness of such a requirement. The sad thing is that most puppy mill dogs live in housing that is at the smaller requirement, the one that requires exercise, and yet receive no exercise at all. Ever.

I don’t have a problem with the Center for Food Security & Public Health and CDC educating commercial breeders on the requirements of federal law.

What I have a problem with is the fact that they even bother at all. Educating breeders on USDA licensing requirements is like threatening to punish your child and not following through. How much is your child likely to respect you and your rules if they know they can get around them every single time? How likely is it that a commercial breeder will either? 

What do you think? Can an animal shelter also breed and sell puppies?

January 29, 2013 64 comments

PugRecently, 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.

Golden Barns

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.)

Golden Barns

There were only 3 dogs listed on their Adopt a Dog page. Here are two of them.

Golden Barns

Golden Barns

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).

Golden Barns

Golden Barns

Golden Barns

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.

Golden Barns

Although the site had a spot for you to Adopt a Cat, it appears there were no cats available – yet.

Golden Barns

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.

Golden Barns

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.

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