CAPS comment for USDA’s proposed regulation of Internet breeders
Founded by President Deborah Howard in 1992, the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) is the only national nonprofit organization dedicated exclusively to protecting companion animals from cruelty in pet shops and puppy mills. CAPS actively addresses the abuse and suffering of pet shop and puppy mill dogs through investigations, education, media relations, legislative involvement, puppy mill dog rescues, consumer assistance and pet industry employee relations. Below are examples of investigations and outreach concerning the sale of puppies via the Internet. We are also including a chart that summarizes some of our complaints. CAPS has an online complaint form for purchasers of puppies, kittens and other animals.
Puppies Direct, Missouri
CAPS has been investigating online puppy sellers since the early days of the Internet. In 1998, we investigated Puppies Direct (Appendix A-1), a consortium of then current and former USDA-licensed Missouri-based (one Iowa) breeders led by Mickalyn Crawford in LaGrange. CAPS investigated Crawford in 1999 and 2001 and rescued several dogs from her facility, where we documented many AWA violations.
Crawford would only provide us with the first name of the breeders. However, we were able to figure out who they were. Most of these breeders still have USDA licenses. When we were investigating these breeders in 1998, Tammy Burchett and Joe McVeigh had dropped their USDA licenses. Burchett, who is now in Missouri, obtained another license in 2010. Joe McVeigh was charged with animal cruelty in 1998.
According to a December 1, 1997 USDA inspection report signed by Harold Becker, McVeigh had no non-compliant items. The Scotland County Sheriff’s Department raided McVeigh’s facility on January 20, 1998. Humane Society of Missouri employees and Mary Martin, an inspector from the Missouri Department of Agriculture (MDA), went with two sheriff deputies. They found seven dead dogs on the property – all who had starved to death. There were cannibalized dogs and skeletal remains in the snow. McVeigh had more than 120 live dogs. The Humane Society of Missouri report stated that the ground under the raised wood and wire pens was saturated with urine and feces. There was about an inch of snow on the ground. There was no food or drinkable water in any of the pens. Some of the bowls contained frozen water.
In the fall of 1998, CAPS investigators visited Joe McVeigh’s kennel in Memphis, MO. McVeigh was using hog panels to construct dog runs on the ground. The pens stood independently of each other and did not appear to be soundly constructed. One can disassemble and move these pens. Our investigators noted that McVeigh must move the pens periodically in lieu of proper cleaning and sanitizing. The watering containers were plastic buckets around five gallons in size. The water was not clean and potable. McVeigh allowed dogs to run freely on the property near the main highway. McVeigh remarked that he had been “raided by the Missouri Humane Society in early 1998.”
McVeigh had about a dozen dogs at the time of our investigation but had no federal or state license. Yet, he was selling puppies through Crawford’s Puppies Direct online business. Burchett appeared to be out of business.
CNN Story about Wizard of Claws
On May 11, 2006 CNN aired a lengthy segment entitled, “Sick Puppies Dog Some Online Purchasers.” In this story on Internet puppy sales, CNN Consumer Correspondent Greg Hunter interviewed CAPS President Deborah Howard, who addressed the issues involved with Internet puppy buying and showed video footage of puppy mills that sell to The Hunte Corporation, the largest puppy brokerage facility in the country. The story focused on Celebrity Kennels (aka Wizard of Claws) in Florida, which obtained many of their puppies from Hunte. Celebrity Kennels also sold puppies both through a strip mall storefront, where they showed puppies to consumers who sit in a waiting room, and over the internet. Just because pet shops and online sellers have celebrity customers doesn’t mean that these puppy merchants obtain puppies from reputable breeders. Wizard of Claws went out of business as the result of a consumer class action lawsuit.
Robin Schulder, Queens, NY
In 2007 and 2008, CAPS received a number of consumer complaints about Robin Schulder, who had several Internet puppy businesses selling various breeds, including one that sold expensive “guard dogs.” She also claimed to be running a rescue. See Daily News article and email correspondence between CAPS President Deborah Howard and Robin Schulder (Appendix A-2). We turned over these complaints to the Office of the New York Attorney General. Schulder was selling sick puppies and violating the New York lemon law. We also gave them undercover footage taken by a CAPS investigator who visited Robin in her home to look at puppies. She lived on a 2,000 sf lot; there was no evidence that she was breeding dogs herself, although she claimed to be a breeder of the dogs she was selling. See attached Petition by the State of New York dated January 6, 2010 (Appendix A-3), Stipulation of Settlement dated April 6, 2012 (Appendix A-4) and Order Authorizing the Stipulation of Settlement, etc. (Appendix A-5). Schulder filed for bankruptcy so it was only just recently that funds were released to the state to satisfy the settlement on behalf of the consumer plaintiffs.
North Country Kennels
CAPS also received several complaints about sick puppies sold by North Country Kennels (mixedbreedpups.com) in Ironton, MN. See attached CAPS fact sheet: Why You Shouldn’t Buy That Puppy in the Window (Appendix A-6). Because this Internet seller lives in Minnesota, which has no state licensing and inspection program, she never gets inspected. The site lists 17 types of “designer” small breed dogs and seven types of purebred dogs. One can only imagine how many breeding dogs she has on the property. On the FAQ page, she states that the facility is inspected – every two or three years by AKC.
Korean Teacup Puppy Dealers
CAPS has been investigating Internet sellers of Korean teacup puppies. We have complaints for two dealers: Ashley Anderson and Ginger Turk (Appendix A-7):
Boutique Teacup Puppies
Las Vegas, Nevada.
Relocated from Mississippi to Las Vegas in April. Only her personal Facebook account is visible: https://www.facebook.com/#!/Ashleynanderson82
See CAPS complaint for Nichole Casper in Boston area who bought a puppy that died of parvovirus. Broker was Jung Puppy Club (see below).
The Mississippi Attorney General’s Office is investigating Anderson’s previous online dog businesses.
Beverly Hills Teacups
Formerly Once Upon A Teapup. She is using a different name, probably because the other company was involved in a fraud complaint, forging signature of a vet. Ginger forged her vet’s name to CVIs, resulting in her being charged with forgery in CA. Ginger was previously using Jung Puppy Club, which may be associated with Victory Puppy Club.
Other CAPS Complaints from Internet Customers
See attached chart summarizing some of our complaints (Appendix A-8).
Internet Sellers Acting as Brokers Without a Federal License
Critters and Pets, a San Clemente-based online seller of puppies illegally brokered to I Heart Puppies in Corona del Mar, California (now out of business). They did no breeding and instead obtained dogs from USDA-licensed facilities in the Midwest, such as Barb Crick in Nebraska 47-A-0426, who is under investigation by APHIS. We filed a report with Dr. Gerald Rushin in July 2011. We can no longer find a website for them.
Judy Hulett sells to individuals via a website but also brokers to Puppy Town in Sarasota without a license; there are no CVIs filed with Florida Department of Agriculture.
Name: Hulett, Judy
Address: 91 Pittman Farm Rd
While complaints filed with CAPS about sick puppies from pet shops still outnumber Internet puppy complaints, this may change as more municipalities pass ordinances banning the sale of pet shop puppies/kittens and some pet shops offer adoption animals only. Some Internet breeders or sellers have a USDA and/or state license while others, such as North Country Kennels, aren’t subject to any government licensing or inspection. That is why it is imperative that USDA/APHIS implement a regulation that closes a loophole that has allowed breeders and brokers to sell dogs and cats sight unseen over the Internet or via the phone or mail without being subject to federal licensing and inspection. Websites that have numerous breeders selling puppies, such as Next Day Pets, Terrific Pets and Puppy Find, will need to be monitored. We are glad to hear that companies and individuals that broker (no breeding at all) to individuals via the Internet will also be covered.
Over the years, we have investigated individuals, such as Wendy Laymon (previously in Washington but moved to Missouri due to numerous legal problems and serving time in WA) who sold puppies through newspaper ads. These individuals did no breeding and instead obtained puppies from commercial breeding facilities, mostly USDA-licensed, in the Midwest. Those who sell through newspapers should also be covered, whether they are breeding themselves and have at least five breeding females or are obtaining puppies and other animals from other sources. People who sell through newspapers typically meet prospective customers in a parking lot. Wendy met customers in McDonald’s and WalMart lots. The customers saw just one puppy and could not see the conditions in which these puppies lived.
Wendy Laymon lost her USDA license for three years effective April 2009 and now sells online: