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Posts Tagged ‘puppy mills’

Minnesota puppy mill on List of Horrible Hundred – S G Kennels

May 10, 2016 11 comments

puppy mills 1Every year the Humane Society of the United States issues their list of Horrible Hundred puppy mill breeders. In past years, there have been at least 3-5 Minnesota breeders on their list. This year, there is just one. And wouldn’t you know it? It’s the worst of the lot, multiple violations over many years.

Here are just a few details on S G Kennels, owned by S Glance Vilken, in Roseau, Minnesota:

  • Has been found to be in violation of the Animal Welfare Act with every USDA inspection done between 2013 – 2016. (Isn’t it amazing that you can break the law year after year and still be in business?)
  • In the latest inspection, conducted in February 2016 (yes, this year), she was cited for not providing adequate care for two dogs, even though the inspector instructed her to do so in multiple citations.
  • One of the dogs she was ordered to get help for was first seen in June of last year. The puppy was 16 weeks of age back then and had an eye issue that caused drainage from the eye. The inspector thought the dog was experiencing pain.
  • The owner failed to get the dog looked at by a veterinarian, even after 3 more inspections indicated she should do so.
  • The second dog was a Pomeranian with advanced dental disease and had symptoms of a severe ear infection. The dog had discharge from both gums and from the infected ear. (Can you imagine being forced to breed and care for puppies while in extreme pain?)
  • The owner has been cited numerous times for filthy conditions, sharp rusty points in the kennel area that could hurt a dog and for not providing proper vet care.

Reading that would make any caring human being cringe. How callous does a human have to be to let a dog suffer through dental disease and a severe ear infection? Neither the breeder or the USDA seem capable of taking action to stop this dog’s suffering. (If you don’t know by now, the USDA is useless when it comes to shutting down mills like this.)

You might be asking me at this point… But, didn’t you guys just pass a puppy mill law? Why can’t this place be shut down through that law? Good question.

Yes, we did pass a puppy mill law in the state of Minnesota. Unfortunately, we decided to give responsibility for enforcing that law to a state organization that prefers to collect a paycheck while sitting on their asses, the Minnesota Board of Animal Health. They pretty much give carte blanch to Minnesota puppy mills.

Why do I say that? Look who is on the Minnesota Animal Board of Health‘s approved breeder’s list:

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The moral to the story? The titles “USDA certified” and “Minnesota Licensed Breeder” means nothing. If you are buying a dog from this place, you might as well set up a running account with your local vet because dogs that come from puppy mills like this are a genetic mess and you will be paying lots of money for their healthcare in the future.

Want to know if a breeder is a good one? Ask to stop by and meet the adult parents and puppies. If they take you to a barn to show you one dog, or they tell you they don’t like people to stop by, don’t buy from them. They are hiding atrocities like this. Never buy from a pet store or online. You are buying from a puppy mill if you do, and that makes YOU part of the problem.

Favorite Video Friday – Cavachon Puppy Cuteness

April 29, 2016 3 comments

I’m not a small dog person in general (I generally prefer the medium to large-sized dogs), but back in my pet sitting days there were two sibling dog boarding clients I absolutely adored – Noah and Sophie.

Noah and Sophie were both Cavachons (Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and Bichon mixes), and just about the most adorable dogs you could imagine. As a breed, they were wonderful little dogs: sweet, well-behaved, easy to train, and terrific cuddlers.

Unfortunately, being a designer dog combo, this breed is likely to be found in great numbers in puppy mills and pet stores. As a result, I have been reluctant to even mention the mix-breed in passing for fear I would be encouraging someone to buy one from a pet store or from a puppy mill breeder.

Fortunately, there are now some reputable breeders popping up and specializing in this mix and as a result, I feel I can openly share how much I love this little breed combination. I am sure not every Cavachon will be as wonderful as Noah and Sophie, but working with the right breeder will increase the likelihood.

This week’s video features the most adorable Cavachon, Boba Fett. I cannot guaranteed the owners of the sweet little dog in this video bought her from a reputable breeder, but I am going to hope that is the case. Either way, he is too cute to not share with you today. I guarantee your heart will be a puddle on the floor before this video is done. 🙂

Happy Friday everyone!

Puppy Rentals and Puppy Parties – The new puppy mill scam

September 21, 2015 14 comments

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).

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.

Puppy Wearing BowI 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.

If you come across someone looking to sell you a puppy party or is offering to rent you a puppy, ask some 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:

A Puppy Party from CAPS on Vimeo.

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

Pet store puppies: The stress of the mother passes to down to the child

March 29, 2015 9 comments

puppy mills 1The more you dig into puppy mills, the more you learn about the physical and physiological repercussions it has on the mother dog (and that doesn’t even take info consideration the genetic issues) and her puppies.

Last fall, when Dr. Frank McMillan spoke at an event (hosted by Animal Folks MN), he shared some data on the behavioral issues that show up in puppy mill puppies sold in pet stores. The results were quite startling:

  • Out of 14 behavioral variables measured across puppies from responsible breeders and those sold in pet stores, the pet store puppies were found to have fared worse in 12.
  • As they grew up, pet store puppies showed more aggression towards their owners.
  • Pet store puppies also displayed more aggression towards other dogs.
  • Puppies who are purchased in a pet store are more likely to escape and run away.
  • Pet store puppies tend to be under-socialized because they are taken away from their mothers too early and are likely to experience trouble as they grow up.

You can read more about Dr. McMillan’s study via Penn State here: Penn Vet study finds pet store puppies come with increased risk

Puppy mill breeding dogs have their own set of behavioral issues – almost all due to a lack of socialization and fear and ongoing abuse, but now we can show that the puppies they bear have problems too. Why is this the case?

New evidence suggests that mother dogs experiencing extreme levels of stress can pass that stress on to their puppies, and that stress can impact their lives long after they have been weaned and adopted into loving family homes.

The body is designed to protect the puppies from normal amounts of stress:

“Normally, an enzyme inactivates cortisol at the placenta, protecting the fetuses from the level of cortisol that the mother is experiencing. But when the cortisol level is extremely high, some passes through the placenta to the developing puppies. They receive the extra cortisol as information: The world is scary. We should be prepared. “

You can read more on this in the Whole Dog Journal from their November 2014 issue, titled “How a Mother’s Stress Can Influence Unborn Puppies: A highly stressed mother dog may influence her unborn puppies and affect their adult behavior.”

That pet store puppies are more likely to carry this stress message in their systems should not be all that surprising. After all, past evidence has shown that the stress of the mother passes down to the baby, both in humans and rats.

Puppies born in mills experience the stress of the mother in utero and after they are born. When you add in the fact that they are then pulled away from their mothers at a very young age, shipped across country in trucks with other sick little puppies, manhandled and placed in a pet store window, where they are on display and handled over and over again until they are adopted, it’s a wonder any of them survive, much less make it into a home as a normal dog. That they fare poorly on 12 of 14 behavioral variables should not be surprising either. It makes one wonder why anyone would want a dog from a pet store at all.  

DSC04401

Daisy in the early days.

Daisy’s last litter of puppies were kept by the organization that saved her life. They were going to be trained to be service dogs. I wonder how many of them failed to make the cut?  I hope not many, but the more and more I learn about puppy mills and their impacts on the dogs and their offspring, the more I believe that they were doomed from the start.

Now how sad is that?

 

 

 

Puppy mill dogs as the Sad Story Dog

March 24, 2015 13 comments

puppy mills 1This past week I read a really great piece that was posted on Facebook by 4Paws University. It was a powerful message and one that seemed to resonate with people (it had over 900 shares, 930+ “Likes,” and so many comments I had to quit counting. You can read the actual posting here:  BONE TO PICK: THE RUSH TO ADOPT THE SAD STORY DOG.)

The post has to do with America’s penchant for the “sad story dog.” You know the dogs I am talking about, the ones that come from a sad situation, get shared in the media, and generate a mass swelling of people who want to adopt the dog and “save” them. It happens time and time again.

You and I have both seen those individual stories of that one dog who was abused and saved, or the dog who ended up in a serious, life-threatening situation and suddenly needed a home. But the most common situation you and I see is the one where there is a mass rush to adopt a dog after it has been rescued during a puppy mill raid.  Stories like these make the local (and sometimes national) news. The pictures and video are usually heart-rending. People follow the story closely. When the dogs are ready to be adopted, there is usually a big media campaign to let people know about them and to encourage them to adopt.

None of this by itself is bad, but what gets missed is that some of the people wanting to “save” the dogs involved in the sad dog story are not always the “right person” for the dog and his/her needs. People who are drawn to a hard-luck story may be motivated by different reasons, and not all of them are motivated by the right reasons.

Oh yeah, that is the spot. #maggie #SheltieWhen foster Maggie and her fellow puppy mill friends were rescued, there was a lot of media attention around the raid and the care of the dogs. The facility that cared for them was flooded with adoption requests. I could not help but wonder the motivations of those who wanted to adopt a puppy mill dog. It wasn’t like this facility didn’t have dogs available for adoption before the raid, or that they ran out of dogs after the raid. So what motivated the people to adopt when they had not done so before? Was it the hard luck story? Did they see themselves as the hero in that story (rushing in to “save” the dog)? Or, did they want a certain breed that was rescued in the raid? Were they already looking for a dog and this just happened to be the right moment? Or, did they just act on impulse and get a dog with a story?

All too often we are motivated by the sad story dog without knowing a lot about what a commitment it is or whether the dog is a good fit for our family or lifestyle. Too many of these dogs are getting swooped up by emotion and being left behind by reality. Some of Maggie’s fellow puppy mill survivors have been re-homed, lost or discarded because the people adopting them did not know what they were getting into. They did not understand that the sad story dog they were getting was one that required work, time, patience and in many cases, another dog, to help them to start to live a normal life.

As adopters, we need to take more time to do our research. It’s great that people are excited and want to help by adopting a sad story dog, but we need to understand our motivations for adopting and recognize if it is a good fit. As rescuers, we need to be more diligent about who adopts a sad story dog. Rescuing a dog from a sad situation is not enough. We need to make sure that where they land is the safe landing we want for them too.

Sad story dogs will continue to come along. We just need to be prepared to ask the questions that will ensure it lands in the right home.

Puppy mills: The livestock argument

December 10, 2014 17 comments

puppy mills 1Long ago and far away, when crop yields were low and the American farmer was struggling to make ends meet, a government organization looked for a way to help them out. The government agency was the USDA. Their solution? Encourage farmers to raise a variety of livestock that could then be turned into a cash crop and allow them to thrive.

The “livestock” the USDA encouraged them to sell were dogs, cute and cuddly, little purebred puppies that could be sold to an ever-growing American middle class, who had begun to see the dog as a part of the American dream (a house, a fence, two kids and a dog).

What we couldn’t know then, but know now, is that this industry would grow and spread across the United States, and it would increase in scope and size and numbers. It would become a burgeoning industry that made farmers money and would feed an ever-growing American need for a dog – a purebred dog, a designer dog, an -orki and an -oodle, and every other kind of combination of dog possible.

Farmers, including the Amish, benefitted from this cash crop in tough times. They found  this type of farming appealing and one that could supplement their incomes and help their families. To them, dogs really were livestock. They were just like cattle or sheep, only smaller and cheaper to raise. They could be kept in cages and bred and their offspring could be sold to pet stores across the country. The adults could be harvested for their pups, and when too old to produce, could be sent off to the slaughterhouse, much like a dairy cow, only in their case the slaughterhouse was out back of the mill, the one in which they had lived for their whole life.

IMG_2486For years, the argument has been made that dogs raised in puppy mills are livestock, not pets. They are bred for one purpose, profit, and thus should not be afforded the same kind of care as a dog raised in home. Viewing puppy mill dogs as livestock and not as companion animals, allowed farmers (a.k.a. puppy millers) to argue that they should be treated the same as a farmer raising beef cattle. It allowed them to argue that additional regulations should not apply to them since it did not apply to farmers who raised cows and sheep.

And this argument has worked, for a very long time (and continues to do so, if you live in Missouri).

But in Minnesota, there is reason for hope. There is reason to believe that this argument (that puppy mill dogs are livestock) may be changing.

Recently, a dog breeder, Dayna Bell, was convicted for animal cruelty. And this year, she tried to make the argument that her breeding stock of dogs were not companion animals or pets, but in essence “livestock,” and thus she was not subject to the state statutes that were used to convict her of felony animal cruelty.

Unfortunately for her, the Minnesota State Court of Appeals disagreed.

You can read the full background and history on the case against and the conviction of Dayna Bell and the recent Minnesota State Court of Appeals opinion on the Animal Folks MN site, but here is an excerpt from the court papers.

….Under Bell’s interpretation, so long as her subjective “enjoyment” of a dog at her kennel amounts to use of the animal as a vessel for conceiving, birthing, and rearing puppies that would be sold as pets, the breeding dog would not qualify as a “pet or companion animal” under Minn. Stat. Sec. 343.20. We presume that the legislature does not intend results that are a “absurd, impossible of execution, or unreasonable.” Minn. Stat. 645.17(1)(2012). Just as a farm cat that is kept in a barn to kill mice or a hunting dog that is used to retrieve game can still be a pet, some of Bell’s dogs may have served incidental roles that imparted some economic benefit. But these animals continue to qualify as pet or companion animals under Minn. Stat. 343.20, subd. 6. In every objective sense, the dogs and puppies that Bell “enjoyed” at her kennel were small-breed, household dogs raised to be and treated as domesticated pets, and Bell sold many of them as pets. Each of these dogs, colloquially referred to as “man’s best friend,” qualifies as a pet or companion animal under the non-exhaustive definition of Minn. Stat. 343.20, subd.6, which is sufficiently definite such that “ordinary people can understand what conduct is prohibited.” State v. Newstrom, 371 N. W.2d 525, 528 (Minn. 1985) (quotation omitted).”

Puppy mill dogs are not livestock. They are pets and companion animals, and yes, man’s (and woman’s) best friend.

Do they look like livestock to you?

Silly dogs.

Former puppy mill breeding dogs – Daisy and Maggie

Voting for the animals

November 4, 2014 4 comments

WE VOTEDHere we are again with another voting day upon us. Do you know who you’re going to vote for? I’m fairly certain I know I am voting for this year.

More than any year before, my voting concerns weigh heavily around animals and animal welfare. I’ve never been a one issue voter. I’ve always tried to look at the whole picture and make the best choice based on a wide variety of issues. But this year we have a Cat and Dog Breeder Law in place. This year we are finally heading in the right direction when it comes to puppy mills and the treatment of cats and dogs in these facilities. I don’t want that to change.

There are those who want to gut this bill or rescind it completely. There are those who want to eliminate nine years of progress. They want to maintain the status quo. So for that reason, this year, I am more motivated than ever to vote for those candidates who support the legislation that passed this year to help dogs and cats in breeding facilities.

I also want to support candidates who support the Beagle Freedom legislation that made it a law that dogs in testing facilities get a chance at a life in a home when they are done. No more euthanizing dogs after testing is done. Not without a real chance at being adopted. There were other wins this year too. You can read more about the progress made this year in the Minnesota Humane Scorecard.

Progress like this is unusual. My vote matters because it means these laws can stay in place. Your vote matters too, so I hope you’ll get out and vote.  No matter what. Get out and vote.

If you’re curious about who in Minnesota is on the side of animals, the group Minnesota Voters for Animal Protection has posted a list of state legislators who rate high on the list.

Need help on other voting issues? There is a great app that will help you decide on the best candidates for you. It’s called isidewith.com. Answer a few questions and get a full list of candidates to vote for. No need to register or log in.

 

 

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.

Puppy mill dogs – Building a community is important

September 25, 2014 8 comments
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Puppy mill dogs do better in a home with another stable or “normal” dog and adopters benefit too!

Over the past week, I have inadvertently ended up in discussions with two different co-workers about puppy mill dogs. Each shared their experiences with adopting a puppy mill dog themselves. They shared what they had done/not done to work with their dogs and how the dog was doing now. The outcomes were very different and I suspect that this was directly related to their experiece with dogs and with the support structure they had around them.

One co-worker was an experienced dog owner who had trained dogs previously and had a lot of dog training knowledge, and access to a lot of other experienced dog people. The other did not seem to have a lot of experience or an extensive support network and struggled with helping her puppy mill dog along, eventually euthanizing him because of his biting behavior.

Both examples were great reminders to me about how important it is that those of us who have experience  share our stories with others. Not only share our stories, but also work to build a community where puppy mill owners can share their struggles and victories, and learn how to manage their dogs in day-to-day life. From personal experience, I can tell you that a support network can really help when working with a puppy mill dog. It also makes the process a little less overwhelming.

Dr Frank McMillan of Best Friends Animal Society recently collected data from the foster parents and owners of puppy mill dogs to better understand what works or doesn’t work (Understanding and Caring for Rescued Puppy Mill Dogs).

One of his findings was how much owners can be impacted in the process. Being the owner of a puppy mill dog, when there are no other  dogs in the home, can be frustrating, discouraging, and even disappointing.

In many cases, there is no connection between you and the dog (this is especially true in the early days). The normal behaviors and interactions one expects when getting a dog is not there. There is no wagging tail or happy face or cuddling on the couch. It takes time to build a relationship with a puppy mill dog, and it is even harder when they don’t have another dog to look to for guidance on how to “be” a dog. I can personally attest to this. When I lost my dog, Aspen, I felt very much alone, even though Daisy was there with me.

Maggie searches for treats and finds them! #picstitch #puppymilldog

Maggie is making progress with nose work games.

Even the most wonderful adoptive dog parent will get down and depressed under such circumstances. Having a community to go to during those tough times is necessary. Building a community of people who can support and encourage one another and offer ideas about what worked or didn’t work is so vital. One community worth checking out is the Fearful Dogs group on Facebook. It is a great resource for dog owners with fearful dogs. There is guidance on how to desensitize and counter condition your fearful dog, progress updates on dogs who have struggled, encouragement and advice. It is a support structure that I am sure many a puppy mill dog owner has taken advantage of, but if you have not, please do so. You will find it very valuable.

Even as we work to build that community, we know now (based on Dr. McMillan’s study) that puppy mill dogs are nor are they viewed as a burden by those who adopt them.

When asked if they would adopt another puppy mill dog (after their experience with their current puppy mill dog), adopters overwhelmingly responded Yes (95%!).

When it came to recommending the adoption of a puppy mill dog to others, 53% said Yes, 45% said Maybe and less than 5% said No. (I think this makes sense. Not everyone is suited for a puppy mill dog. Maybe they do not have the experience, time or energy to work with one or they just aren’t looking for a challenging dog.)

Even more encouraging however is how puppy mill dog adopters responded to the question around satisfaction levels. When asked their level of satisfaction for having adopted a puppy mill dog, respondents overwhelmingly said they were extremely satisfied. In fact, 91% said so (7% answered moderately satisfied, 1% slightly satisfied and 1%not satisfied). This is wonderful news. It means that even without a suypport network, puppy mill dogs and their owners are managing to have a connection that is valuable and satisfying.

I wonder how much more this would be the case if they had a support network?

Something to think about for the future. 🙂

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