Protestors Draw Attention to Ohio Amish Puppy Mill Auction

Respectful barks to these protestors. Ohio Dogsters should note that one of your state Representatives is going to be pushing important legislation. Please help him...


Toni Berry and daughter ANgel Roberts--phot by Chris Russell.jpg

Respectful barks to these protestors. Ohio Dogsters should note that one of your state Representatives is going to be pushing important legislation. Please help him end this horrible practice.

Thanks to the Columbus Dispatch for covering this story.

Amish accused of running dog millsAnimal-rights activists protest auction in Holmes County
Sunday, April 22, 2007
By Holly Zachariah


MILLERSBURG, Ohio — The cream-colored Pomeranian, no bigger than a basketball, arched her back like a riled-up porcupine.

Atop the plastic table, she stood on shaking, spindly legs. The auctioneer’s call rang out, and the bidding began. As the pace picked up, her price increased even as she deflated. The little dog had lost her bluster; her ears drooped and she tried to hunker down.

But she was on display, and her young Amish handler would have none of that. He straightened her legs and gave her a quarter turn so the crowd could get a better look.

In less than 60 seconds, the gavel fell. She went for $350, high by any standard. But the sale bill says she had bred with a Yorkshire terrier. She could be pregnant. That almost always ups the price.

This was business as usual yesterday at the Buckeye Dog Auction even as a protest raged out front.

About 50 demonstrators came to spread their message that puppy mills are bad and that dog auctions should be outlawed.

“Got morality? Stop puppy mills,” the signs read.

And from the gravel road in front of the auction house, they shouted at those driving through the gate: “Read your Bible. It calls for tender, loving care of animals.”

Animal-rights activists set their sights months ago on this auction, a daylong event held about six times a year in Holmes County. Opponents say the breeding dogs are kept in awful conditions and that their physical health is even worse.

But an inspector on site yesterday from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which licenses dog breeders, said she’d seen nothing wrong. She wouldn’t give her name.

The catalog listed 339 dogs. Interested bidders browsed the pole barn and studied the animals, most in metal cages stacked four high in 25-foot-long rows.

It smelled of urine, and many dogs huddled in the corners of the cages. That didn’t deter buyers. More than 100 appeared to be registered, and nearly double that came as onlookers.

More than two-thirds of the crowd was Amish. They seemed to be selling, not buying. And that, critics say, is the problem.

The Amish are increasingly entering this lucrative dog-breeding business, and animal-rights groups want them stopped.

Since the auction began in 2004, the number of kennels in the area has mushroomed. Holmes County licensed 478 kennels last year, a 40 percent increase from before the auction started, according to the Associated Press.

There are 186 USDA-licensed breeders in Ohio, and more than 100 of them are in Berlin, Millersburg and Sugarcreek, the heart of Amish country.

The attention paid to this auction — the only one of its kind in Ohio — exploded in March when auctioneers announced that the business had sold and would move to Geauga County. Critics reacted, Geauga County officials resisted and the move was canceled.

On sale fliers, Harold Neuhart says he is now the owner. He is a USDA-licensed “class A” breeder, a designation that allows him to sell dogs to brokers from retail stores. He won’t talk publicly about his sale or the protesters campaigning against him and the Amish.

His foes, though, have plenty to say.

“This is about money, money and money,” Janelle Kowal said yesterday. She and her husband drove four hours from Livonia, Mich., to protest.

“All these people care about is breeding these dogs and selling them. They don’t care about loving them, caring for them, or for their feelings.”

The auction is legal in Ohio, as in most states. But some say a national movement to end such sales is gathering steam.

“Ohio is a hotbed of activity,” said Libby Williams, who founded an animal-rights organization in New Jersey four years ago. She didn’t make it to Holmes County yesterday but hopes to attend in June.

“The number of puppies coming out of Ohio is alarming. Right now, lots of eyes are focused on making sure Ohio gets in line,” Williams said Friday.

State Rep. Jim Hughes, R-Columbus, said that will happen. He plans to introduce legislation soon that will set minimum standards for care and conditions at kennels. He said the Ohio Department of Agriculture is expected to help inspect and enforce the new regulations.

“If we can improve the kennels and stop the puppy mills, the auctions wouldn’t be as lucrative and there wouldn’t be as much of a market,” Hughes said.

The Amish aren’t saying much about their involvement. No one at the local seed store would talk about puppy breeding last week. Or at the buggy maker’s. Or at the lumber yard or the pet store. Not even at the corner restaurant.

They didn’t want to talk yesterday, either.

Instead, they marked the dog prices in their sale catalogs and, as they inched by in their buggies, looked away from the protesters.

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