Last year, The HSUS released a Dirty Dozen report of some of the worst puppy mills in Missouri—the state with the highest concentration of these high-volume dog-breeding operations. Our report catalogued a raft of violations of the weak state and federal rules and showed a pattern of negligence and neglect.
Among the most egregious entries on our Dirty Dozen list was S&S Family Puppies, a puppy mill with more than 500 pages of enforcement records documenting dogs underweight, with oozing sores, and with untreated injuries. The records showed that the dogs lived in cramped and filthy conditions and had inadequate protection from harsh weather. Despite this appalling mistreatment, the kennel had maintained its license—until now, that is.
A matted, filthy dog at S&S Family Puppies.
This month, Missouri’s Attorney General, Chris Koster ordered S&S Family Puppies to close its doors. We hope this is just the start of an effort to crack down on the many inhumane and substandard breeding kennels in Missouri, especially the chronic violators that have demonstrated so little respect for the law or their dogs.
The Stephensons’ dogs, however, are not going to rescue groups or shelters where they could be adopted into loving families. Instead, the state is allowing them to be transferred or sold to other commercial breeding facilities. Forty of the dogs are scheduled to be sold to the highest bidder this Saturday at the Southwest Kennel Auction in Wheaton, Mo.
And because only the Stephensons were mentioned in the Attorney General’s statement, we suspect many of these dogs may be transferred to a second kennel operated by another family member, Brandi Cheney. USDA records list Stephenson and Cheney as co-owners of S & S Family Puppies. In fact, last year several aggrieved consumers sued Diana Stephenson and Cheney under the Missouri consumer protection law. The consumers alleged that Stephenson and Cheney sold them sick puppies but misled them into believing the puppies were healthy. A copy of the plaintiffs’ complaint was sent to Attorney General Koster.
Nevertheless, as detailed in our March 2011 Dirty Dozen update, Cheney recently obtained a USDA license for a new kennel, called Circle B Farms, which has also been cited for severe animal care violations.
Thus, the surviving dogs likely won’t have a chance at a better life, but merely a life in another puppy mill. This is unacceptable. Puppy mill operators who have repeatedly violated both state and federal laws should not be permitted to move or sell their surviving “stock” to other puppy mill operators. The dogs have already suffered untold trauma and should not be transferred to another breeding facility, especially considering that local and national animal groups are prepared to help these dogs. It’s time they find a loving home.
Editor's Note: The HSUS is appealing to Missouri Attorney General Chris Koster to allow dogs like these to be taken in by shelters and rescue groups in the future, so they can find better lives after their ordeal.