CAPS and "Dateline" Uncover Puppy Mill Horrors
Story Also Reveals AKC's and USDA's Roles in Pet Shop Industry
"If Dante were writing today, there would be a special circle of hell for people who do this to young, helpless animals, who rely on them for their guardianship and everything else."
Karen Overall, DVM
Director of the Behavior Clinic, University
of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital
"A Dog's Life," an expose of the multimillion dollar pet shop and puppy mill trade, aired on "Dateline" on April 26 and May 10, 2000. Viewers were shocked at the inhumane conditions at puppy mills that provide dogs to pet shops and appalled at USDA's Deputy Administrator of APHIS/Animal Care, Ron DeHaven's smug indifference to the horrid conditions at two USDA licensed facilities. They sent more than 9,000 letters and e-mails to NBC, the second largest response to any "Dateline" program in its history. "A Dog's Life" won a Genesis award in the network news magazine category.
CAPS worked for more than a year with "Dateline" to prepare the in-depth report on pet shops and puppy mills. This well-researched piece focused not only on Petland - "Dateline" featured Bella's story - and the puppy mills that deal with Petland and other pet shops but on the American Kennel Club's and USDA's roles in this tragic problem.
A significant portion of the "Dateline" story came from documentation and information provided by CAPS. We provided names of pet shop customers who purchased sick and dying puppies, photographs and video footage (hidden and camcorder) of USDA licensed facilities in Missouri and Iowa and Minnesota, CAPS investigation reports, USDA inspection reports, health certificates, broker invoices, Petland employee training tapes and manuals, and more. CAPS provided "Dateline" with crucial information on Puppy Ridge, a breeding/brokering facility in Missouri that ships dogs to many pet shops, including a number of Petlands. Puppy Ridge also brokers dogs to La Maison des Toutous (The House of the Doggies), a Flushing, NY store that was shown on the "Dateline" piece. "Dateline" did an on-camera interview with former Puppy Ridge driver, Sharon Williams. She and her husband, Bill, who had also been a driver, had originally contacted CAPS. "Dateline" interviewed a former Puppy Ridge kennel worker off-camera. She provided chilling information that wasn't used on the "Dateline" report.
Reputable breeders will not sell to pet shops. In an interview with "Dateline" reporter Chris Hansen in New York City, CAPS board member Dr. Don Allen said, "The fact is here that pet stores have no other source of puppies other than puppy mills. If the three of us [referring to Hansen, Ingrid Newkirk of PETA and himself] were to start a pet store tomorrow and sell puppies and were only going to buy from local breeders, well we might have puppies this month. But we don't have 16 breeds every day of the year." Thousands of breeding facilities, most of them USDA licensed, provide a half-million puppies each year to pet shops across the United States and Canada. The parents of these puppies live in crowded and usually squalid conditions. Their sole purpose is to turn out litter upon litter of puppies. Chillicothe, Ohio-based Petland has 163 franchise locations in the U.S., Canada, France, Japan and Chile. Dr. Allen went undercover with Mr. Hansen to three Petlands in Ohio. At one of the stores, a salesperson assured Mr. Hansen that Petland only buys from reputable breeders. "They have to be inspected and licensed by the USDA," she said. "And if the facility does not meet USDA standards, its license is revoked."
In the past three years, however, the USDA has revoked only twelve licenses from more than 4,000 puppy mills. The USDA has been extremely negligent over the years in its enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) as it pertains to commercial dog breeders and brokers. "Dateline" tried to show the conditions at a couple of federally licensed facilities to Mr. DeHaven. He refused to look at a tape of Nielsen Farms in Kansas or photographs of Joe McVeigh's breeding facility in Missouri (put onto tape). Mr. DeHaven claimed a videotape does not always accurately depict the "real situation."
Mr. Hansen asked Mr. DeHaven if USDA inspection reports depict the real situation. He provided the example of Joe McVeigh's facility in Missouri. According to a December 1, 1997 USDA inspection report signed by Harold Becker, McVeigh had no non-compliant items. The local sheriff's department raided McVeigh's facility on January 20, 1998. Humane Society of Missouri employees and two sheriff's deputies found seven dogs that had starved to death. "Dateline" showed viewers shocking photos of dead and starving dogs. "They found things like no food or drinkable water in any of the pens," Mr. Hansen informed Mr. DeHaven. "Explain to me how one day there could be no problems with a breeding facility and a little over a month later there's this." The only response Mr. DeHaven could muster was "We don't know what might have happened in the interim. When you have a third party looking at it, they might be looking at things differently. That's not to say, and I'm not suggesting that dead animals that aren't properly disposed of and those kinds of problems, I'm not trying to justify those." He conceded that only half of all licensed breeders even meet the USDA's minimum standards.
Harold Becker left the USDA at the end of 1998. In December 1999, the USDA charged Mr. Becker with violations of the Animal Welfare Act. He was operating as an animal dealer without a license. Mr. Becker told "Dateline" that he didn't need a license to just transport dogs.
One puppy mill that USDA inspected for years without impunity was Nielsen Farms in Kansas. Behind the charming farmhouse, dilapidated kennels housed hundreds of dogs in inhumane conditions. More than 500 breeding dogs lived their entire lives on wire for one purpose: to breed. The female dogs were bred at every heat.
Veterinarian Dr. Karen Overall, director of the Behavior Clinic at the University of Pennsylvania Animal Hospital told Mr. Hansen that no reputable breeder breeds on every heat, yet puppy mills routinely breed their females as frequently as possible. "The dog is physically exhausted. The dog is unable to continue to replenish its stores to adequately supply nutrients to the next litter," said Dr. Overall. "And, in fact, mothers who are stressed like this can't provide the right kind of antibodies to their puppies to help protect them against infectious things." She went on to say that well-bred puppies need good nutrition because it has a direct impact on brain development, affecting both health and behavior. And 90 percent of socialization, she noted, occurs during the first few months of life.
Spending their first eight weeks in puppy mills, the Nielsen Farm animals, like puppies from other mills, did not get the socialization needed to grow into happy, well-adjusted dogs. Dr. Overall said, "They can't teach puppies to play because they don't have any place to play. They can't correct these puppies. There wasn't the rich, warm social environment that these animals need to have to become mature. "
At Nielsen Farms, neglect was rampant. Waste piled up. Food crawled with maggots. Water was non-existent or covered in green slime. Never allowed out of their cages, dogs developed severe behavior problems. Some of the dogs spent hours spinning around like tops in their cages. Other dogs paced back and forth across wire floors. A few jumped endlessly against the wire walls of their cages. Some of the dogs became aggressive and had bloody fights.
The neglect was long standing. Almost every Cocker Spaniel had "cherry eye," a hereditary condition that must be corrected with surgery. A Jack Russell Terrier's foot was trapped in broken wire. A Toy Poodle's leg was accidentally broken when it was taken from its cage. A Labrador Retriever had a collar that was so tight his skin grew around it. The collar was cut off leaving an ugly scar devoid of fur. Dr. Overall told Mr. Hansen that every animal in the videos showed signs of neglect.
"Dateline" returned to Nielsen Farms about a month after they had been there undercover. Mr. Hansen showed the owner, Amy Nielsen, a tape of what they had found. Ms. Nielsen said, "What do you call a puppy mill? I have a breeding operation here. I have a kennel. And that's exactly what it is. It's a kennel." She claimed conditions had improved since the video was shot, yet she refused to allow Mr. Hansen to see the animals. In fact, she angrily demanded that he leave.
The USDA finally charged Nielsen Farms, licensed since 1987, with numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. The facility auctioned off most of its breeding stock and moved to Arizona. According to "Dateline," the Nielsens still have more than 100 dogs.
Carrie Carney and Pete Tunkey bought Bella, for $150 at the Petland in Tallahassee, Florida. The Petland employee denied that she came from a puppy mill. According to Mr. Carney, the employee "made it sound like she [the breeder] come in her little station wagon with the puppy in the back seat of the car." Bella, however, was born in Missouri puppy mill investigated by CAPS in 1999. Honeydew Kennels, owned by The Hunte Corporation, one of the largest brokerage operations in the country, sold her to Petland. Although Petland represented her to be a purebred Alaskan Malamute with AKC papers, she turned out to be a mixed breed or as Mr. Tunkey said, "a mala-mutt." When Ms. Carney and Mr. Tunkey held her at the store, she smelled of urine and her feet were covered with diarrhea. The store recommended a veterinarian who had given the dog a clean bill a health. But Bella was far from healthy. She had a severe urinary tract infection that lasted several months. She also had diarrhea and still experiences vomiting.
Petland eventually refunded the $550 purchase price as required by Florida law, but the couple incurred nearly $1,500 in veterinary bills. The Petland warranty provides two weeks for diseases and one year for hereditary problems. Dr. Allen informed "Dateline" that many hereditary problems are not readily apparent in the first year or so. At six month, Bella developed hip dysplasia and shoulder problems. She runs with a limp and may require surgery in the future. Hip surgery can cost in excess of $2,000 per hip.
Ms. Carney said, "If you ignore the fact that she's an animal, you would return her." He added that Petland offered this option months later. The employee told him to bring Bella back and get a new dog. "We'd already become attached," Mr. Tunkey told "Dateline." "I mean, once you have a dog in your house, she's your little baby."
Each week, when puppies are eight weeks old, as required by USDA regulations, and sometimes younger, they leave their wire cages at puppy mills. Brokers then transport the puppies by van, truck or airplane to pet shops throughout the United States and Canada. Sharon Williams, was a driver for Puppy Ridge, a breeding and brokering facility in Missouri that was also investigated by CAPS last year. She told "Dateline" that Puppy Ridge transported as many as 126 puppies in a single cargo van. Just before the Ms. Williams and her husband, Bill, quit in May 1998, they learned that Puppy Ridge was planning to send 160 puppies in the van.
According to Ms. Williams, the puppies were stacked in cages and the dogs on the middle level didn't get enough air. She said that sick ones and healthy ones were jammed together. The puppies lived in their food and waste as it sloshed about the van, even though she and her husband tried to clean as best as they could.
Weather was also a problem. In the summer, Ms. Williams put a thermometer down behind the seat and it registered almost 120 degrees. "The puppies panted, and you had to stop and water them a lot," said Ms. Williams. In order to adequately feed and water the animals en route, the Williamses had to put the back row of cages outside while they maneuvered around to care for the other puppies. Even in cold weather, they had to leave the back row of puppies outside while the other puppies received food, water and medication. The van didn't have a secondary heat source.
Puppy Ridge sent sick puppies, including those with contagious illnesses, in the van to pet stores. Some of these puppies needed medication during the trip. The owner of Puppy Ridge didn't want the Williamses to take sick puppies to a veterinarian if the animals required treatment while on the road. Ms. Williams said that she had to improvise, sometimes nursing sick puppies with Pedialyte she'd buy along the way. In her 15 months driving for Puppy Ridge, four puppies died. Puppy Ridge told her that was much better record than that of the drivers before her.
There is something that still haunts Ms. Williams. She nursed a sick puppy for thousands of miles. When she returned to Puppy Ridge, the owners told her to place the puppy in the trash/burn barrel. She refused to do this and left the puppy on the ground outside the office. This was the last time she saw the puppy.
The American Kennel Club, the elite of dog registries and sponsor of high-end dog shows, has a prestigious reputation according to "Dateline." AKC registration papers that usually come with purebred pet shop dogs often impress buyers and provide a false sense of security. "Dateline" pointed out that any purebred dog, regardless of its health or condition can be registered with the AKC. Registration, however, does not guarantee proper breeding conditions, health, quality or claims to lineage. And the paperwork that comes with a pet shop dog may not actually be for that puppy. Mr. Hansen stated that "unscrupulous breeders will sometimes phony-up AKC papers to market their pups to pet stores at a higher price. Ms. Williams said that Puppy Ridge a simple solution for unregistered puppies that were rejected by pet shops. Her bosses instructed her to place the collar of another puppy with an AKC number on the neck of the rejected dog.
To test the integrity of the AKC's registry, "Dateline" registered a litter of eight non-existent puppies with the AKC. "Dateline" claimed they mated a deceased Golden Retriever male with a spayed Golden Retriever female. The AKC sent individual registration forms. "Dateline" used two of the forms to register real animals. "Dateline" received two registration certificates and gold-sealed AKC pedigrees certifying the animals were Golden Retrievers. The animals, however, were not puppies but two 13-year-old cats. The AKC imposed a suspension of five years and a fine of $1,000 on the producer of the "Dateline" story. CAPS president, Deborah Howard, who had provided registration information for the deceased Golden Retriever, was suspended for five years and fined $2,000. The AKC cannot enforce these fines since it is a nonprofit organization and not a court of law. Those who pay the fines are seeking reinstatement.
CAPS contacted NBC affiliates about doing tie-in stories to the "Dateline" report. WREX in Rockford, Illinois and KCAL in Lancaster, PA did stories about customers who had purchased sick puppies from area Petlands. WTTC in Rochester, Minnesota featured Marina and Scout, two of five puppies that CAPS rescued during an investigation of more than 25 USDA licensed facilities in four states. The story showed Marina and Scout in their new homes and took viewers on a tour of Paws & Claws, the no-kill shelter that housed the puppies after their rescue by a CAPS investigator.
AKC and Other Dog Registries
The American Kennel Club (AKC) contributes to allow dog overpopulation, the breeding and sale of pet shop dogs, and the pervasiveness of genetic defects in purebred dogs. AKC registration does not guarantee proper breeding conditions, health, quality or claims to lineage. CAPS was responsible for the "20/20" piece that exposed alleged fraud by the AKC (9/23/94) and a major investigative article on the AKC in the Philadelphia Inquirer (12/31/95).
In July 2000, the AKC began requiring DNA samples for all sires producing more than three litters a year or seven litters in a lifetime. A number of commercial breeders, therefore, are now using other registries. A pet shop puppy might come with registration papers from Continental Kennel Club (CKC), America's Pet Registry, Inc. (APRI), American Canine Association (ACA), Universal Kennel Club International (UKCI), United All Breed Registry (UABR), Federation of International Canines (FIC) or Canine Registration and Certification Services (CRCS). CAPS often receives complaints from pet shop customers who have purchased a "registered" puppy and received papers from a registry other than the AKC. It seems that some pet shop employees are using the word "registered" without specifying a registry name.
Loss and Bereavement
Have you ever lost a beloved companion animal?
Wallace Sife, Ph.D, author of The Loss of a Pet, started a unique nonprofit organization devoted to the understanding and treatmen t of grief related to the loss of a companion animal. The mission of the Association for Pet Loss and Berea vement (APLB) is "to provide comfort and counseling to bereaved pet owners and to offer training to counselors and other professionals in this important yet still under-served discipline."
By Randy Turner, CAPS' pro bono attorney
After my dogs died, I vowed that I would not get another dog because the pain of losing them is more than I can bear. (I still get teary- eyed thinking about them). Then I met Smokey. She is a one year-old mutt I met when I walked by a booth the local humane society had set up. They told they had been trying to adopt her out for five months but no one wanted her. Of course that was all I needed to hear! Sh e is my baby girl now. I realize that I was being selfish in not wanting to get another dog. A dog being able to have a loving home and a happy life is worth all the pain we go through when we lose them. There are so many dogs out there that need loving homes. I decided th at I don't have the moral right to deprive a dog just to save me some heartache.
CAPS Works with Reader's Digest
February 1999 Issue has Special Report on "Scandal of America's Puppy Mills"
CAPS played an important role in the February 1999 Reader's Digest article, "The Scandal of America's Puppy Mills." We worked closely with the writer, Bill Ecenbarger, and provided information on pet shops and puppy mills, the USDA and the AKC. We also provided interview contacts and arranged for Mr. Ecenbarger's visit to a horrendous Missouri puppy mill that sold a very sick puppy to a broker who dealt with Shake A Paw.
Ecenberger interviewed Dr. Donald Allen, a CAPS board member. Dr. Allen disagreed with statements made by Melvin Nolt, a commercial breeder in East Earl, PA. Mr. Nolt claimed that a lot of the criticism about puppy mills "comes from city people who don't understand animals or farming." He claimed that these people "get overly emotional about dogs, and they don't understand that dogs are different from people." Dr. Allen replied, "Sure, dogs are different from people. But dogs are different from livestock, too, because they're destined to live someone's home. It's difficult to house-train a pup from a mill because it's used to voiding wherever it wants. And it's failed to bond with people."
The article stated that consumer demand keeps the puppy mills in business. Part of this demand comes from the idea that the "best" dogs are purebred. Dr. Allen said, "For the past half-century, the American Kennel Club (AKC) has driven home the propaganda that a purebred dog is better than a mixed breed. In doing so, it has created a popular demand for pedigreed dogs, and puppy mills have sprung up to supply this demand at the retail level." According to the article, an AKC policy statement maintains that the AKC is opposed to "random, large-scale breeding of dogs solely for commercial purposes." The article noted, however, that the AKC collected $26 million in registration fees in 1996 alone.
Under a heading aptly titled "Short, Sad Tale," Mr. Ecenbarger told the story of Oscar, a Shake A Paw puppy. For liability reasons the article didn't mention the names of the pet shop, broker or breeder. Susan Lively, whom CAPS found through the Ohio Attorney General's Division of Consumer Protection, works for American Airlines and saw Shake A Paw puppies waiting in the baggage area for six hours. During this time, she fell in love with one of the puppies, a Dachshund. When the store owner finally came to claim the puppies, Ms. Lively said she wanted to buy the Dachshund. The next day, she purchased the puppy at the Dublin, OH Shake A Paw for $449. When she took him home, he vomited. The following day, Thanksgiving, she drove with Oscar to her parents' house, two hours away. That night, he started vomiting again. Oscar stayed at the veterinarian for five days before dying from parvovirus. Ms. Lively spent $375 in veterinary bills.
The store credited Ms. Lively's credit card, but she received no reimbursement for the veterinary bills. Ms.Lively told CAPS she had to fight the owner just to get the purchase price credited. In a letter to the Ohio Attorney General's Office, the owner alleged that "Susan played a role in the demise" of the puppy because she transported him to her parents' house shortly after purchasing him. Perhaps if the owner had been to the breeding facility where Oscar was born, she wouldn't have asserted that Ms. Lively had anything to do with the puppy's death. The Dublin Shake a Paw went out of business in June 1997.
Oscar was born on September 29, 1996 at Surritte Kennel in West Plains, MO. Carolyn and Donald Surritte have a USDA Class A license. The Surrittes sold Oscar to Thunder River, a Class B facility (broker) in Elk Creek, MO. Thunder River sold Oscar to the Dublin Shake A Paw. In the fall of 1997, a CAPS investigator visited Surritte Kennel and Thunder River as part of an investigation of breeders and brokers who deal with Shake A Paw franchises.
Surritte Kennel was off a gravel county road. The property consisted of a farmhouse surrounded by junk and other debris and trash. Scattered beneath the trees were hutch style cages as well as runs with concrete floors. A huge building housed female dogs that had whelped or were about to whelp. The conditions were so deplorable, the CAPS investigator couldn't believe the Surrittes had federal and state licenses. The investigator did not see anyone caring for the animals and no one answered the door. He visited the Surritte puppy mill the following week with a Hartford news 8 crew. They took undercover footage to use in a two-part expose that aired in November 1997. A dead Dachshund was in plain view. The reporter told the Surritte's daughter about the dead dog. The daughter, who was carrying a young child on her hip while tending to puppies in cramped, dank cages inside a mobile home, seemed quite indifferent about a dead dog being in one of the cages.
CAPS has copies of 13 USDA inspection reports for the Surrittes from April 1995 to December 1998. These reports show a pattern of habitual non-compliance with the Animal Welfare Act.
An inspection report for 12/29/98 stated that the licensee performed a cesarean section on a Dachshund in a surgical area that was "dirty, littered with equipment such as computers, was dusty and aseptic conditions could not be maintained." This dog had given birth to eight puppies. The Surrittes admitted to the inspector that they had performed c-sections on four other dogs. It is shocking that the USDA allows licensees to perform surgical procedures, let alone in less than sterile conditions. The report also noted inadequate bedding, broken housing structures, dirty enclosures (feces and moldy food), sharp broken wires protruding from hutches, improper use of identification tags, and faulty record keeping for acquisition and disposition of animals. The inspector also stated that a small white puppy with its front paws severely chewed by the mother needed veterinary care by the next day.
On July 28, although the television was on and the phone line was busy, the inspector stated that one was available to accompany him on an inspection. The next day, Carolyn Surritte refused an inspection. The July 15 inspection report stated "The black dog (NO ID) Â… must been seen by the attending veterinarian to treat the large lump on the neck and mucous in the eyes." The inspector could not find this dog during an inspection on August 4. On July 15, the inspector also ordered the removal of two decaying carcasses from the cat housing area.
The Surrittes obtained a USDA license in 1992. It wasn't until November 1998 that the USDA finally charged the Surrittes with numerous violations of the Animal Welfare Act. An administrative law judge in Springfield, MO will hold a hearing on July 27. The USDA requested a $28,000 fine and license revocation. In February 2000, the Surrittes agreed to a civil penalty of $2,000. They had to divest themselves of all regulated animals under their control and surrender their license. They were also disqualified from ever becoming licensed again.
The Philadelphia Inquirer Exposes AKC Greed
Dog Registry is "Largely a Sham"
CAPS was responsible for a major investigative article on the AKC in The Philadelphia Inquirer (12/31/95) and other newspapers throughout the U.S. and Canada. The article entitled "Digging into the AKC: Taking cash for tainted dogs" started on the front page of the newspaper and continued for more than one entire page.
CAPS has been working with six former AKC inspectors to obtain information about AKC malfeasance. The Inquirer interviewed these inspectors at length. They told the Inquirer that the AKC's dog registry is "largely a sham."
Over the past five years, the AKC has made more than $100 million for providing registration papers to more than six million purebred dogs. A significant percentage of this money came from puppy mills. The former AKC inspectors said in the article that AKC papers are "often worthless or untrue."
According to the former inspectors, "the AKC does not verify bloodlines." The organization processes applications and fees and sends out registration papers. The AKC assumes the information provided by the breeder is correct. Under AKC rules, all dog breeders must keep strict records of their dogs' lineage. "If the chain of proof is broken at any point, the dogs can be canceled from the registry."
The former inspectors claim that the AKC registry has been tarnished. They told the Inquirer that the registry is "no longer reliable" because the organization has, in recent years, accepted so many dogs without proper papers and proven lineage into the registry. In addition, they informed the Inquirer that in many cases, "the AKC knows the registrations are suspect but approves them anyway for a fee. The AKC has never undertaken a thorough study of its stud book." (There are actually two AKC books: the registry which lists the names of all purebred dogs registered with the AKC and the stud book which lists all dogs that have been bred.)
Robert Nejdl who became the AKC's first investigator in 1973 and retired in 1994 told the Inquirer the following: When people buy an AKC dog, they expect it to be of high quality and they expect the papers to truly match the dog. But that's not often true. It's just so much window dressing. The American Kennel Club is in the registration business and not the deregistration business. It's the cash cow."
Robert E. Hufford, an eight year employee and a former manager of field agents, stated that the AKC is nothing more than a "moneymaking operation." According to Hufford, "'[t]he AKC is shipping out registration papers daily they knew should have been canceled out. The bottom line is the AKC, they don't give a damn [about conditions] as long as the checks don't bounce.'"
Rona Farley, an inspector from 1991 to 1995, estimated in a court affidavit that 90 percent of the breeders she inspected did not meet AKC record-keeping requirements. She informed the Inquirer that very few noncomplying breeders were, to her knowledge, ever disciplined, sanctioned or suspended. In fact, when breeders failed to comply with AKC rules, the AKC told her to help these breeders re-create records.
Sharon D. Reed, a five year investigator, said that the AKC never wanted dog registrations canceled, even those that were fraudulent. When AKC told her that they didn't want to harm consumers by canceling registrations, she informed them that they were only augmenting the harm. Reed told the Inquirer that "'AKC registration is worthless."
Mike Reilly, an inspector from 1985 to 1994, told the Inquirer that the AKC "'didn't want to know anything that would upset the applecart. They wanted everything to run smoothly, get the registration money, don't make waves. The bottom line is the money.'"
Martie W. King, an investigator for four years, said that the AKC did not want to cancel registrations because if they removed too many dogs, the AKC might have to refund money.
Current AKC inspectors refused to talk to The Philadelphia Inquirer because AKC policy prevents employees from speaking to reporters without permission.
State's Attorney Refuses to Bring Charges Against Illinois Puppy Mill (Lorton)
CAPS Investigators Found Numerous Violations and Rescued Nine Dogs
Stephen Friedel, the state's attorney in Fayette County, Illinois refused to bring charges against the Lorton facility. In March 2002, Mr. Friedel met with CAPS Lead Investigator, Julie Workman. CAPS president, Deborah Howard, attended the meeting by phone. Mr. Friedel said that he knows the state inspector and can't believe that "such an honest guy" would lie on an inspection report. The state and federal inspectors found no violations at the Lorton facility. CAPS Investigators found numerous Animal Welfare Act violations during seven visits to this horrible puppy mill. They also rescued nine dogs.
CAPS lead investigator, Julie Workman, witnessed Sassy, a Great Pyrenees whom she was rescuing, being beaten by Mr. Lorton. Other dogs CAPS rescued from this puppy mill are extremely afraid of men. The state's attorney said that it is just Ms. Workman's word against that of the puppy mill owner. Some of the dogs seen by CAPS investigators desperately needed veterinary care. They saw a dead mother dog that had been thrown outside the door of the whelping building. Mr. Friedel said that there is a lower standard of care in Fayette County because it is a farming community. He added that a jury would side with the Lortons because dogs are considered livestock in this community.
Mr. Friedel promised to inspect the Lorton puppy mill with the state inspector, but failed to do so. He also promised to call the state department of conservation because Mr. Lorton is trapping birds -- he claims they eat the dog food that is strewn all over -- and letting them starve to death. Despite numerous calls to the state conservation department by Ms. Workman, the state won't go out to inspect. Mr. Friedel finally did call conservation and claims that they instructed the Lortons to use humane methods of bird trapping. The Lortons shouldn't be trapping birds at all. And birds wouldn't be a problem if the Lortons cleaned up the food that is strewn by the dogs from the self-feeders.
What we experienced in Illinois is quite common in rural communities in the Midwest. Once a place is federally licensed, local authorities don't feel it is their responsibility to step-in. But it is extremely difficult to get something done on a local level. Usually, the puppy mill operator knows the sheriff, prosecutor or even the judge, as in the McVeigh case, which was featured on the "Dateline" story.
Contact the state's attorney in Fayette County and tell him that you want charges brought against the Lortons for cruelty and inhumane treatment of animals.
Mr. Stephen Friedel
State's Attorney of Fayette County
221 S. 7th St.
Vandalia, IL 6247
CAPS President, Deborah Howard, appears in CNN story
CNN, May 11, 2006
CAPS worked with CNN on a segment about Internet sellers of puppy mill dogs that aired May 11, 2006. "Sick Puppies Dog Some Online Purchasers" featured an interview with me by CNN Consumer Correspondent Greg Hunter. It also showed us looking at CAPS footage of puppy mills that sell to the Hunte Corporation, the largest brokerage facility in the country, while I described the conditions at these horrendous mills. Hunte was selling puppies to Celebrity Kennels, the focus of the CNN piece.
Detroit Free Press July 12, 2006 (3 articles)
Detroit Free Press, July 12, 2006
CAPS provided a considerable amount of information to investigative reporter Steve Neavling with the award-winning Detroit Free Press for the July 12, 2006 series of articles on pet shops and puppy mills. "Dog Buyers Beware," an article about pet shops, had the following: "This is an industry that is counting on consumer ignorance and impulse," said Deborah Howard, founder of the nonprofit Companion Animal Protection Society, which monitors breeders and has campaigned to warn consumers of the risks of buying dogs from stores that buy from large breeders. "It's all about the cute puppy in the window."
"Agency Faulted for not Cracking Down on Violators," an article about USDA, had a compelling quote from Rep. Dennis Kucinich (D-Ohio): "I think there is a desire by the USDA to let the industry regulate itself," said Kucinich, who has two dogs. "Where is the compassion? These are poor, defenseless creatures who rely on human kindness and trust for their own survival, and it is the worst type of cruelty to subject animals to these kinds of conditions. The cruelty is compounded when you understand it's all for profit." Kucinich stated that he was going to call for oversight hearings in July but failed to do so. If you live in Congressman Kucinich's district, please remind him of his promise to ask the House Committee on Government Reform, of which he is a member, to hold hearings on the USDAs failure to enforce the Animal Welfare Act as it pertains to commercial dog breeding and brokering facilities. CAPS lobbyist Ed Green aptly summed up the inherent problem with USDA, which he called a cumbersome, incompetent bureaucracy that fails to use its limited resources wisely: "The USDA has a broken culture," Green said. "They just do things the same old way because that is how they've always done it."
"In Buying Dogs Online Has Risks," Deborah Howard stated that CAPS receives complaints almost daily from people who bought sick puppies over the Internet. The CAPS website has a downloadable fact sheet on Internet puppies.
Ohio-based Petland is the largest pet shop chain in the country that sells puppies. Petland has over 150 stores in the United States and more than 50 in foreign markets (Canada, Chile, France, Japan and South Africa)
Honey-Dew Kennel, a large Missouri brokerage facility owned by the Hunte Corporation -- they also own Sundowner Kennel -- sold an Alaskan Malamute to the Petland in Tallahassee, Florida. A young couple purchased the dog, whom they named Bella. When they held her at the store, Bella smelled of urine and her feet were covered with diarrhea. The Petland employee denied that Bella came from a puppy mill. Bella had a severe urinary tract infection for several months. She also experiences frequent vomiting. The couple has incurred nearly $1500 in veterinary expenses so far. Bella also has hip dysplasia and front shoulder problems and may need surgery.
Bella was born at a USDA licensed facility in Missouri. The USDA inspection report issued prior to a visit by a CAPS investigator showed no non-compliances. Yet, our investigator saw a very cluttered facility with a number of violations. There were "retired" poodles with very matted fur, older Pomeranians desperately scratching on the wood of their hutch-style cages, and small dogs in precarious two-story wire cages attached to a shed. One of the Pomeranians spun in circles, a condition caused by constant confinement. Crowded hutch-style cages contained small breeds used as breeding stock.
Michelle and Jason purchased a two-month-old German Shepherd, Coti, at the Mechanicsburg Petland in June 1999. Their veterinarian initially treated the puppy for kennel cough. At five months, Coti started falling down and hopping on one hind leg. The veterinarian diagnosed him with severe hip dysplasia. X-rays showed no right hip socket and a partial left hip socket. Petland told Michelle and Jason to return Coti for a refund.
Coti recently had surgery for the right hip. So far, Michelle and Jason have incurred veterinary bills of more than $1,000. Under Pennslyvania's lemon law, they can recover $500 (the price of the puppy) for reimbursement of veterinary bills. Coti may require additional surgery. The dog was born at an unlicensed breeder's facility in Minnesota. Pick of the Litter, a USDA licensed breeder and broker in Minnesota sold the dog to Petland. Michelle and Jason are still waiting for Petland to provide AKC supplemental transfer papers.
Scout, a Siberian Husky, was always crying in pain whenever Beth went into the Mechanicsburg Petland to purchase dog food. Beth wanted to get the dog out of the pet shop and purchased him for $499 in November 1997. Scout was four-months-old and weighed only 12 pounds. He had severe diarrhea after leaving the store, and Beth took him to the veterinarian. When Beth called Petland, they said that Scout had not been ill. When he finally reached to owner of Petland, he said that their veterinarian had certified the dog as healthy. He wanted Beth to return Scout for another puppy.
By December, Scout weighed only 20 pounds. Beth took Scout to specialists in Maryland who said that the dog was allergic to almost everything. These allergies caused irritable bowel syndrome which prevented the proper absorption of nutrients and vitamins. Scout eats dry food made up of fish and potatoes and drinks bottled water. He now weighs 80 pounds. The irritable bowel syndrome recently returned.
In 1999, Scout began having epileptic seizures and now takes valium for this condition. Beth has spent thousands of dollars to treat Scout. She filed a complaint with the Pennsylvania Attorney General's Office in 1998 and recovered the purchase price of the dog from Petland. Petland never provided AKC supplemental transfer papers for the dog. According to Scouts' pedigree, Pick of the Litter was the breeder and broker.
On a sad note, Scout passed away on April 29 2000, following six hours of emergency surgery on Friday night. The actual cause of death was profound hypotension which was caused by a bowel perforated in five places.
Read about Marina in the rescue dog section
Joanne purchased Ruby, a female Pug, for $675 on July 4, 1998 from the Petland in Rockford, Illinois. After leaving the store, Ruby had diarrhea and was vomiting. She would not eat and began having grand mal seizures. Joanne's veterinarian treated Ruby for three days, but the puppy's condition did not improve. The veterinarian thought the dog should be put down. When Joanne called Petland, they criticized her for taking Ruby to her veterinarian. Petland told Joanne to bring the dog to their veterinarian. Petland's veterinarian kept Ruby alive until July 11. The broker who sold Ruby to Petland was Pick of the Litter. The breeder has a USDA licensed facility in Minnesota. She was the sales contact on Pick of the Litter's web site (now defunct).
Shake A Paw
After seeing a Shake A Paw ad in the Philadelphia Inquirer, Jeff Crabtree, drove more than 25 miles to the pet shop to look for a puppy for his wife's birthday. Jeff and his mother-in-law, Bobbie Hinrichsen, fell in love with a darling two-month-old female Bichon Frise puppy. One of the Shake A Paw owners assured them the puppy did not come from a puppy mill but from a breeder in Minnesota. Jeff purchased the puppy for $599.
Shake A Paw, originally based in Millstone Township, New Jersey, had franchises in a number of states. Shake A Paw stores, which are now independently owned, are located in New Jersey and New York. Shake A Paw claims its stores specialize in "privately bred" AKC puppies. The stores call themselves "breeder representatives." Store owners deny they obtain puppies from puppy mills. Shake a Paw puppies live in crates on the floor. Employees encourage potential buyers to play with the puppies. Physical contact with these puppies can be a health hazard to humans. In fact, potential and actual customers have been exposed to sarcoptic mange. Other Â (these worms can go the brain, eyes and spinal column, especially in children) - are also transmittable to humans.
Shortly after Jeff's wife, Ann Margaret Hinrichsen, received the dog, Penny, at her birthday dinner, Penny began coughing violently. Ann Margaret took Penny to the veterinarian at 8 a.m. the next morning. The veterinarian thought the puppy had a respiratory infection. After leaving the vet, Penny began vomiting and had diarrhea. Ann Margaret and her husband brought Penny back to the vet that evening. Within eight days of leaving the pet shop, Penny died of parvovirus, distemper, coccidia and kennel cough.
While Penny was at the animal hospital, Bobbie Hinrichsen called the pet shop a couple of times to tell them about Penny's condition. The owners promised they would pay the veterinary bill. The day Penny died, Jeff called the store. He asked one of the owners to reimburse him for the cost of the puppy, supplies and veterinary bills. The owner refused Jeff's request. The Shake A Paw warranty states that the only recourse for the loss of a puppy due to illness is replacement with another puppy of equal value.
Two days later, Jeff, Ann Margaret and Bobbie went to the store and demanded restitution. After much arguing, the owners finally agreed to provide a Visa credit for the puppy and supplies but refused to cover the veterinary bill of $214. Nearly a week later, Jeff and Ann Margaret received a check for $214. But the money could not bring back Penny. "That sweet puppy was one-of-a-kind and cannot be replaced," says Ann Margaret. She and Jeff are angry that the store owners represented Penny as a healthy puppy who did not come from a puppy mill. They want to know what the owners are doing about the sick puppies in the store who are infecting healthy animals.
CAPS determined that Penny came from a breeder in Minnesota. We found out that the breeder sold the puppy to a Minnesota broker, Pick of the Litter, who deals with a number of Shake A Paw franchises. Bob Baker, during his investigation of South Dakota puppy mills in 1992, discovered that this broker obtained puppies from the two horrendous facilities featured in the Life magazine article (9/92). He also learned that the broker was selling puppies to a new pet shop chain: Shake A Paw.
"Hard Copy" featured Ann Margaret in its May 5, 1998 expose of pet shops and puppy mills. This segment showed footage of the facility where Penny was bred. "Hard Copy" also confronted one of the owners of the Bensalem Shake A Paw. She told them to remove the camera. One of the owners of this Shake A Paw told the reporter on the phone that if conditions at the breeder's and broker's facilities were as horrible as "Hard Copy" claimed, the would no longer buy from Pick of the Litter. Minnesota health certificates show that Pick of the Litter is still a major supplier to the Bensalem Shake A Paw.
As part of our Shake A Paw investigation, we have collected a number of complaints from customers who purchased sick or dying puppies as well as dogs with behavioral problems. Some of these stories are very tragic. These customers were shocked to learn their dogs came from puppy mills. And none of them realized that Shake A Paw buys directly from brokers. Shake A Paw deliberately misleads the public by claiming its franchises are "breeder representatives." Some Shake A Paw advertisements state that puppies are "privately bred for temperament." How can these dogs be privately bred when they are being mass-produced in commercial breeding facilities for resale?
Shake A Paw store owners deny they buy from puppy mills. In fact, one store owner told a customer he buys puppies from Missouri because Pennsylvania is the puppy mill state. While it is true that Pennsylvania has puppy mills, Shake A Paw is buying from Midwest brokers who obtain puppies from mills. Missouri has the largest number of puppy mills in the country.
As we started collecting complaints, we obtained the names of a number of Missouri breeders and brokers who deal with Shake A Paw. A CAPS investigator inspected these facilities. A crew from WTNH, the ABC affiliate in Hartford, went with our investigator to film some of these facilities. The two-part series aired in November 1998. Surritte Kennel, the USDA licensed puppy mill that produced Susan Lively's Dachsund puppy (Dublin, OH Shake A Paw) -- the dog died of parvo -- was atrocious. One of the pens had a dead dog. Reader's Digest also featured the story of Susan's puppy in its February 1999 article, "Scandal of America's Puppy Mills."
CAPS' investigator and the television crew visited Superior Pets, a brokerage facility in Elkland, MO. In the fall of 1998, a driver for Superior was found guilty of 96 counts of animal cruelty. Unfortunately, the judge did not fine him and sentenced him to accelerated rehabilitation which means that his record will be erased if he stays out of trouble while serving two years of probation. After exiting the Long Island Ferry, he crashed into a railroad bridge in Bridgeport, CT. Puppies were stacked from floor to ceiling in cages. They had been in the dark truck without water for at least four days. Two puppies were dead. The truck had already made stops in Ohio, Indiana and Long Island and was scheduled to make deliveries in Westchester Country, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Massachusetts. Superior Pets forfeited the puppies to the Connecticut Humane Society.
The owner of the Bensalem Shake A Paw told a CAPS board member just before this incident that he uses several brokers but prefers Superior. CAPS knows for certain that two Shake A Paws were using Superior Pets. We requested health certificates from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA) for all states with Shake A Paws. The MDA requested exorbitant fees for finding and copying the certificates, and therefore we were unable to obtain them.
We must expose Shake A Paw's misrepresentations to the public. Customers have told CAPS they had no idea their dogs came from puppy mills. They are shocked when they learn that Shake A Paw is not a "breeder representative" but instead buys directly from brokers. And how can some Shake A Paw ads state it is "not a pet store?" Some ads also state that puppies are "privately bred for temperament." How can these dogs be privately bred when they are being mass-produced in commercial breeding facilities for resale? Since franchise owners claim their puppies are not from puppy mills, it is essential to show the public the horrible breeding facilities in the Midwest.