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There's Horror But Also Hope in This List of 101 Worst Puppy Mills

It takes a strong stomach to read the new report from the Humane Society of the United States, but it contains reasons to be optimistic.

 |  May 9th 2014  |   6 Contributions


Compiling the Humane Society of the United States' latest report seems like it must have been a truly thankless job. At the very least, if I had been involved in putting it together, I would have needed to get my antidepressants cranked up to eleven and needed to see a therapist twice weekly.

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Lonely dog in cage. by Shutterstock.

The report documents and lists 101 of the most abusive puppy mills in the United States, covering mills in 22 states. As you might imagine, it's hard reading, even briefly skimming it. Briefly, the offenses documented include:

  • An owner who euthanized five Beagles instead of giving them warmer shelter, as ordered by a state inspector (Christiansen Kennels, Poplar Grove, Illinois)
  • A puppy farm with a "foul odor" caused by standing water containing maggots and feces; one inspector noted that the smell of ammonia (from dog urine) was "strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat." (Michelle Sonnenberg, Detroit Lakes, Minnesota)
  • Bulldogs that could barely walk because their untrimmed nails curled back and dug into their pads. (Angelia Kochs, Rocky Creek, Inc., Niangua, Missouri)
  • Numerous instances of animals being left out in extreme cold or heat.
  • Numerous examples of owners who regularly "euthanized" animals with a gun.

If you have a strong stomach, there are 41 pages of that waiting for you. But the takeaway point is that despite increasing awareness of the problems with puppy mills, there is still widespread abuse that needs to be addressed.

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A dog at a local shelter by Shutterstock.

The report is in part a follow-up to last year's Horrible Hundred, and one of the pieces of good news that it gives is that 15 of the original 100 have closed down. However, there are more than enough facilities ready to take their places, and in the appendix that lists the status of the breeders covered in the original report, a depressing number are marked "Still Horrible."

The worst five states listed in the report are Missouri (22 breeders), Kansas (13), Nebraska (12), and a tie between Arkansas and Iowa with six each.

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This puppy mill Yorkie was photographed by USDA inspectors in 2011. The breeder refused to get treatment for the dog repeatedly.

The report notes, though, that just ranking state by state can easily lead to some deceptive conclusions. For instance, most of the breeders listed sell via the Internet, so it's quite possible that their dogs are winding up in any of the 50 states. In addition, the greater number in Missouri might be the result of increased reporting and regulation, rather than implying that the state is a magnet for abusive dog breeders. A law passed in 2011, the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act, increased standards of care for professional breeders. Other states are also tightening up laws:

Greater progress is being made on the regulatory front in many other states as well, with stronger laws passed in 28 states over the past five years, and a long-awaited new USDA rule finalized in September 2013. This rule requires commercial breeders in every state who sell puppies and kittens online sight-unseen to be federally licensed and inspected.

The report makes for some gruesome reading, but the fact that progress is being made is at least reason for hope.

Via Humane Society

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