I don’t know if you have seen these headlines in your news feed lately, but if not, you are now on notice. Commercial breeders (a.k.a puppy millers) and the pet store industry (specifically, pet stores that sell animals) have found a new avenue in which to use and sell their wares (i.e., products, or in this case, puppies).
- For a Better Party, Rent Puppies (Wall Street Journal, July 21, 2015)
- Party Puppies for Hire (The Bark, July 24, 2015)
- Puppy parties are a real thing — and one happened in the TODAY studio! (The Today Show, August 12, 2015)
- Puppies for Rent? The Surprising World of Puppy Temps (Rover.com, April 15, 2015)
Yes. You are reading this right. Puppy parties.
For a fee, people can rent a whole litter of puppies for a birthday or bachelorette party.
Gee, what fun.
I suppose it really would be fun to play with a whole gaggle of puppies for a couple of hours. Who doesn’t love the smell of puppy breath? Unfortunately, what the “journalists” writing these stories, and promoting them on their television networks, failed to do was ask questions. They failed to ask where the party promoters and puppy rental operators were sourcing their puppies. I suppose no one really wants to hear that something so novel and cute could have a shady backside, do they?
“We just want the feel good story ma’am.”
Fortunately, CAPs (Companion Animal Protection Society) asked the questions the journalists did not, and what they found, at least in one case, was deeply concerning:
What David Dietz, owner of PuppyParty.com and Puppy Paradise, is neglecting to tell the media and his clients who seek puppies for children’s birthday parties, bachelorettes parties and other events, is that Puppy Party puppies come from inhumane high-volume commercial breeding facilities known as puppy mills. These mills supply puppies to Dietz’ store, Puppy Paradise – the source of the Puppy Party puppies. If a party-goer happens to fall in love with a puppy, then he or she can purchase that puppy from the store.
Not only did CAPS discover that this puppy party rental business sourced from puppy mills, but that many (if not all) of the mills they sourced from had a history animal neglect and abuse. Just take a look at some of the puppy mills sourcing David Dietz’s pet store and puppy party business:
- Gayle Duncan, of Gayle’s Country Pups in Oklahoma, was exposed by CAPS for having multiple serious violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. One of her mill’s employees, Gayle’s brother-in-law Jeff, admitted to running over a dog with a four-wheeler on purpose because the dog had bit him after trying to escape the pen.
- Kevin Street, one of the substandard and inhumane breeders who sold to Puppy Paradise, had a dog CAPS rescued that had signs of cattle prod burns and suffered from a painful growth that came from lying on an ongoing Ruptured Anterior Cruciate Ligament (ACL)
- Dwayne Hurliman, was found to have a thousand dogs and puppies (he claimed to have around 500) in dirty, crowded and collapsing cages when he was investigated by CAPs.
- Maureen Butler, another horrible breeder, owner of PugPekinpoo-tzu in Missouri, kept her dogs in outside pens, exposed to extreme cold in the winter and hot sun in the summer. In one instance, she nonchalantly showed a CAPS investigator a puppy that had lost toes to frostbite, in what she described as a “cold day” in May.
- Betty Mings, owner Bet-Ter Kennel in Missouri, exposed dogs to the harsh Midwest winters. CAPS investigators uncovered AWA violations and witnessed numerous cages with days of fecal accumulation. Mines said that her dogs have puppies every breeding cycle and added, “I got dogs nine to 10 years old, still have seven, eight puppies.”
I’m not sure when puppy parties became a “thing”, but I hope you’ll spread the word. Puppy mills and pet store owners are looking for new streams of revenue, and they’re counting on nobody asking them any questions.
- Where do you get your puppies from? (They will lie to you and say they only use reputable breeders. Ask them for actual names, locations and phone numbers.)
- Can I speak with the breeder(s)? (They most likely will refuse this request, which should be a huge red flag, but if they do provide a number ask lots of questions of the breeder.
- How old are the puppies you use? (Anything under 8 weeks should raise tons of red flags. Puppies should not leave their mother before 8 weeks and ideally, not before 9-10 weeks in age. A puppy that is shipped across state lines younger than 8 weeks is illegal.)
- How long do you use the puppies in your puppy parties?
- What happens to the puppies when they are no longer puppies? (They will most likely lie to you on this one, but my bet is many of them are sold at the puppy parties. Buying a puppy from one of these party promoters is supporting a puppy mill and the continued abuse of the mother and father. Don’t do it.)
- How often are your puppies attending parties and how long are they exposed to a high-stress environment and forced to be handled? (This is something I would love to know. I suspect these puppies are getting overworked and stressed out frequently. A puppy that is not making money is a puppy that is of no use to these people.)
You can watch the full CAPS story here:
In light of some recent disheartening puppy mill news…
It’s encouraging to see some good news coming out of one of the states with the most puppy mills – Missouri.
In 2011, Missouri passed the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act (CCPA), requiring puppy mill owners to provide better care, submit to veterinary inspections once a year, provide access to outdoor exercise areas for all their dogs and removal of kennels with wire flooring.
Despite legislative action to weaken the bill, which it did, and a lawsuit brought by 83 dog breeders, Missourians still managed to keep some major provisions that will now have the opportunity to impact puppy mills where it hurts – in the pocket-book. In fact, it already has begun.
- The breeder lawsuit was withdrawn thus leaving the CCPA in a good position to move forward – My friend Sue over at Talking Dogs Blog provides some highlights from the breeder lawsuit and the testimony that likely led to it being withdrawn (you really must read it to understand how badly they underestimated their ability to sway public opinion). Mischief Monday: Missouri Puppy Mill Lawsuit Withdrawn
- The Hunte Corporation, the largest broker of pet store puppies in the country (think Petland), has seen business decline by over 50% and they have had to downsize the number of employees from 350 to 150 since the act was enacted.
- More than 1,000 dog breeders have chosen to stop breeding dogs rather than comply with the requirements and more are expected to do so.
And in California, there’s more change. Several cities are taking the lead on banning puppy mill puppies sold in pet stores.
[San Diego] City Council votes unanimously to ban ‘puppy mill’ sales (Did you know San Diego is the 32nd city in North America to ban such sales?)
[Los Angeles] Ban on sale of puppies in L.A.
Did you know San Diego is the 32nd city in North America to ban such sales? Here’s a full list of the cities choosing to ban pet sales in pet stores.
Even though Minnesota has yet to pass any bill regulating dog breeding operations (we have some of the largest puppy mills in the country), I am encouraged, because the tide is turning. It’s only a matter of time.
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.
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.