Puppy Mills and the Horrible Hundred of 2016

By on May 2, 2016 with 21 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

In December 2015, a U. S. Department of Agriculture inspector came upon a macabre scene in a cluttered shed at C & L Puppies, a puppy mill in Weldon, Iowa. A large, plastic table was sitting on blocks in the center of the room – used to perform cesarean sections on dogs and other major surgical procedures. Nearly the entire top of the table, the inspector noted, was dirty and covered and stained with dried blood. Half of the table had surgical equipment, multiple bottles of medications, and a small tub of dog food scattered atop it. Some of the medications stored in the “operating room” had expired in 2003 and 2006, and, in one of the other buildings housing dogs, there was an odor of urine so strong that it gave one of the inspectors a burning sensation in the eyes. As the inspector noted, this was “not an appropriate facility/area for conducting major surgical procedures.”

There were other violations found at this puppy mill — one of the 100 such facilities listed in our annual Horrible Hundred report that takes a close look at problem puppy mills in the United States. This is a critical annual overview that highlights some of the most troubling problems in the industry, and it’s a focus for our 10th annual Puppy Mill Action Week, which precedes Mother’s Day and draws attention to the plight of dogs. These puppy mill moms are typically treated as nothing more than breeding machines.

The final report highlights problem mills in 16 states, but our researchers looked at federal and state inspection reports for many more states, including some with very poor or no licensing and reporting requirements that have the effect of keeping problem puppy mills hidden from public scrutiny. Our findings included underweight dogs, injured dogs who had not been taken to a veterinarian, puppies left outside to freeze in frigid temperatures, animals living in filthy conditions with feces in their food bowls and fur, and unlicensed dealers offering to ship puppies sight unseen on websites like PuppyFind.com without the required USDA license.

A Chihuahua with an eye injury at Wilma Jinson’s kennel in Stella, Missouri. Jinson Kennel is appearing in our report for the fourth time in a row.

A Chihuahua with an eye injury at Wilma Jinson’s kennel in Stella, Missouri. Jinson Kennel is appearing in our report for the fourth time in a row. Photo by U.S. Department of Agriculture

In part because of our successful anti-puppy-mill ballot measure triggering much stronger reporting of the treatment of dogs of licensed operations, we know more of the grim details about Missouri. That’s one explanation why Missouri again topped the list with the greatest number of problem dealers, with 30 of the 100 problem puppy mills listed in the report. Iowa has the unfortunate distinction of climbing from fourth to second place, with the second largest number of dealers (15). It is followed by Kansas (14), Ohio (9) and Nebraska and Pennsylvania (5 each). Because of the many states with no inspection programs, these violations we know of are perhaps just the tip of the iceberg. And the USDA only inspects breeders who sell wholesale or sight unseen.

Just a few of the violations we found in the federal inspection reports include:

  • Three mastiffs at a puppy mill with “protruding hip bones, with all ribs showing and concave appearance in the muscle on the hind quarters, and bony shoulder bones.” (Kevin Wittmer, Loogootee, Indiana).
  • Twenty-six dogs found outdoors at a puppy mill with “little or no bedding material” in the bitter cold. The temperature at the time of inspection was 17 degrees Fahrenheit and it had been as low as minus two degrees the previous night. The owners had been warned about the same issue just a few months prior. (Doug and Wendie Dettbarn, Purple Heart Kennel, Strawberry Point, Iowa).
  • A nursing shih tzu found lying in her enclosure at a mill with four two-week-old puppies. The USDA inspector noted the mother dog was “very thin with a pronounced backbone and hip bones and was extremely lethargic and depressed.” (Bob and Leslie Loutsch, Remsen, Iowa).
  • Many severely matted dogs, two dogs with abnormal eye conditions, and a dog who appeared to have a prolapsed rectum were found at one kennel. The latter dog had “a large pink mass of moist tissue protruding from the rectal area.” The mass had “bumps and folds over the entire surface area,” according to the inspection report. (Pamela L. Baldwin, Samples Creek Kennel, Edgar Springs, Missouri).

Just over half of the dealers in the report are repeat offenders. These dealers have appeared in one of our previous reports, yet have continued to be found in violation of basic animal care standards. Fifteen of the dealers are in the report for the third time, and 11 are in the report for the fourth time. One of the dealers, a broker that was found purchasing more than 100 puppies from unlicensed puppy mills, is a primary supplier of many pet stores.

The USDA enforces only the minimum care standards required under the Animal Welfare Act regulations for puppy mills—these standards are barely enough to ensure survival standards for the dogs, and licensed puppy dealers can still legally keep hundreds of dogs in small, stacked cages for their entire lives, with little or no exercise, enrichment, or human attention, as long as they are given the basics, like food, water, and rudimentary shelter. In fact, 75 of the 100 dealers identified in the report are USDA licensed.

In September 2015, The HSUS and partner groups filed a legal petition with the USDA, urging the agency to improve its minimal care standards by requiring more space for dogs, regular exercise, better veterinary care, and the removal of harmful wire flooring in dog cages, among other improvements. The USDA has yet to take action on the petition.

The HSUS fights puppy mills on many fronts: we work with states to pass laws to regulate these breeding operations, we work with local governments to pass ordinances cracking down on the sales of puppy mill dogs at pet stores, and we conduct public education efforts against puppy mills and Internet sellers of animals. We also conduct law enforcement trainings to teach officers about puppy mill regulations in their state, how to handle such large-scale cases, and about the practices that often go hand-in-hand with these operations, including crimes against humans, tax evasion, and water pollution. And we work to educate consumers and drive the market toward shelter and rescue groups and responsible breeders.

More than two dozen of the problem puppy mills identified in our last few Horrible Hundred reports have closed their doors. You can add your strength to the fight against puppy mills by not buying puppies from pet stores or online, and spreading the word about the scourge of these mills.

Read The Horrible Hundred 2016 report here.

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals, Investigations

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  1. Dale Berry says:

    This is so sad and unhumane . Crulty really.alot more should be done for the safety health of these animals.I think they should all be shut down asap..

    • Dianna Martin says:

      Puppy mills should be shut down and illegal period. We have a government without compassion, to allow such cruel and horrific treatment of these precious beings. Is it any wonder no one respects the government in this country anymore?

    • Karl says:

      Puppy mills are used to kill and i love dogs so i agree with the people who say kill the animal mills.

  2. Janice Wilson says:

    As usual, it appears that the bigger problem with the system is not so much the need for better care regulations, but the USDA and State Ag & Markets not doing their jobs. Why are these breeders allowed to defy and threaten the regulatory agencies and continue repeatedly to display the same and continued lack of proper care? Usually they are not even fined as per their own regulations, but are just given “warnings”? Really? First time, they need to get the fine for each and every violation. A second violation should warrant revocation of their licenses and their animals should be taken from them. I just don’t get it. What good is it to have laws, regs and paid (with our tax money) enforcement personnel if nothing is done by the books? These are not broken widgets or improperly created foodstuffs. These are live sentient beings that are suffering day after day when they are not, by law, supposed to be allowed to suffer these abuses. It is shameful. The blame should be as much on the agencies as it is on the violators. We need to demand they enforce the laws.

    • Dave Strack says:

      Spot on Janice. The 2010 OIG audit of the USDA’s enforcement of animal cruelty regulations found that the USDA had failed miserably to enforce the existing regulations.

      Warning – this report contains some graphic images that some will find disturbing. The full report can be seen here: https://www.usda.gov/oig/webdocs/33002-4-SF.pdf

    • Linda says:

      I couldn’t agree with you more. To let this happen and not place fines on laws that aren’t withheld is an atrocity. These poor animals are mistreated and abused on a daily basis. This needs to end and the place to start is by enforcing the law.

    • Jessie says:

      The USDA of the past was quite bold in admitting that they worked WITH AND FOR the puppy mills.

      Will this change with the present USDA?

    • NJ Ray says:

      I so strongly agree with you. It makes absolutely no sense at all to pay for Law Enforcement that does not enforce Laws. When you are hired to do a job, how is it that you can pick and choose which parts of that job you want to perform and simply ignore the rest? What is the point of being SWORN IN ? I strongly believe that cities having a high rate of Law Enforcement “turn over” should be thoroughly investigated for corruption. It’s the “Good” officers that seek employment elsewhere.

  3. Diana says:

    I think it is obvious that no matter which party is in control, the government agencies that are supposed to be protecting these poor dogs (and cats) truly do not care.

  4. Maria Fowler says:

    For the love of GOD. shut those Hell Holes down. there should be NO puppy mills at all.

  5. Regina says:

    Can any of you imagine if it was YOU that was in one of those HELL HOLES? You think if just ONE USDA INSPECTOR was put out in the freezing cold, left alone to be abused and be starved to death… you think the USDA might care JUST A LITTLE MORE TO SHUT THEM ALL DOWN? Does anyone realize that all these puppy mills are being run by the AMISH?? It makes me sick to my stomach that they are getting away with CRUELTY TO ANIMALS? Where’s our laws that are suppose to protect our animals? Why are the AMISH allowed to continually get away with it? How much grease are they putting on the palms of their hands? I’m disgusted by it!!! I’m more devastated that these poor animals are suffering at the hands of these monsters! They didn’t ask to be born into this life. I can rant on this all night and not have it do me no good. I just wish the laws were enforced and the USDA would feel their suffering! STOP PUPPY MILLS!! STOP BUYING FROM PET STORES AND PETFINDER (ONLINE)!!!

  6. Christine Howlett says:

    I would love for everyone to stop calling them “puppy mills” and instead call these facilities Dog Breeding Factories. Much stronger connotation and more to the point of what they really are.

  7. Marshs says:

    I equate puppy mills with war prison camps. Shut down all puppy mills & fine & imprison repeat offenders!!

  8. Sean says:

    I don’t consider anyone who hurts, kills and/or eats dogs human.

  9. Kathleen Willey says:

    Then I have just one very simple question. Why aren’t they ALL shut down for good and the owners prosecuted. How difficult is that?

  10. DIANN COLTON says:

    As it is stated in this blog, the State of Hawaii, and the counties, have
    no laws against any kind of breeding, effecting a free for all, and .
    making it impossible to regulate breeders, and again the result is
    the sad fact that they are neglected, abused, and end up in our humane
    societies, and overcrowding them. The laws on the books are not being
    enforced adequately. However, no laws, means no enforcement.
    If our legislators do not pass breeding bills, there are no laws to enforce, and
    people it costs us all money to end up having to euthanize the overwhelmeing amount of breeding animals that end up in our humane societies in Hawaii.
    There needs to be formal licensing of dogs and cats, with strict guidelines, as well as no pets shown in pet stores. Other localities have passed laws, against having breeders pets in pet stores, only shelter pets can be shown.
    IT works.

  11. Susanne Strimling says:

    Puppy mills need to be shut down and the rights of these animals respected! Government agencies that are supposed to be protecting these dogs and cats are not doing their job and don’t care for the welfare of these wonderful animals.

  12. Maggie says:

    I want to know why you aren’t going after the AKC? Every puppy is AKC registered. They don’t care about pups. They only care about money. I have been telling people for 30 years not to register their pups. I have been to puppy mills and rescued pups. My Chihuahua lived 5 years breeding before a rescue group got her and asked me to take her because she was unadoptable. I have talked to former pet store workers who dealt with the crammed cages of filthy pups. They had to clean them and make them look good to be sold for $1000. The USDA is responsible, the AKC, and every mall pet store. Reliable breeders are out there for purebred pups. Only buy a purebred from a breeder. Can’t you or the Humane Society just take all the dogs from the mills? Why give them citations?

  13. Kath Fitzgerald says:

    Why doesn’t anyone go after the Amish and their horrible treatment of animals. I don’t understand.

  14. NJ Ray says:

    Would these people be allow to adopt a Child?
    The rules for pet ownership need to be changed. That is the only way this will ever stop. No followups are ever done on people that buy or adopt pets. That makes it too easy for anyone to acquire pets and do whatever they want with them.
    Sex Offenders: Registered Sex Offenders are allowed to own pets. Do you think they don’t sexually abuse their pets?
    Think again.

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