I’m Pete, an undercover investigator for the Companion Animal Protection Society. Over the years I’ve investigated hundreds of puppy mills and pet shops for CAPS. Evidence from my investigations has been used by CAPS to shut down atrocious animal breeders and create new laws that protect animals. Lately, I’ve focused my work on exposing a coordinated new form of consumer fraud that’s being perpetrated by pets shops and animal mills: fake rescues.
Thanks to the legislative work of CAPS and other animal advocates, many pet shops around the country have been banned from selling puppies, kittens, and rabbits. Pet shops in areas affected by these bans can now only offer animals from shelters and rescues for adoption. These laws are powerful tools against puppy mills, which rely on pet shops for profit. The laws also help put shelter animals into loving homes.
However, unscrupulous business owners are taking advantage of loopholes in the system to continue selling mill-bred animals. One of the worst offenders is Jolyn Noethe, who runs a USDA-licensed brokerage facility called J.A.K.’s Puppies Inc., in Britt, Iowa.
J.A.K.’s Puppies buys puppies from mills and resells them to pet shops across the country. Consequently, when cities and states began to ban the sale of puppies, J.A.K.’s and its puppy suppliers started to lose money. So, Jolyn Noethe set up two fraudulent rescues to act as go-betweens for the mills: Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa. They both sold mill-bred puppies, which they passed off as “rescues” in order to circumvent retail ban laws. Literally, J.A.K.’s Puppies started a puppy laundering scheme.
Whether Jolyn Noethe’s puppies were labeled as coming from J.A.K.’s Puppies or from one of her false rescues, they were all bred at the same puppy mills. I have personally been to many of the mills that supply J.A.K.’s and have documented disturbing evidence at kennels such as:
— Prairie Lane Kennel, run by Dennis and Donna Van Wyk in New Sharon, Iowa, where a dog had an open, infected wound while standing on a feces-smeared flooring.
— Purple Heart Kennel, run by Wendie and Doug Dettbarn in Strawberry Point, Iowa, which had filthy dogs with matted hair and frozen water bowls.
— Ervin Bontrager’s mill in Hillsboro, Wisconsin, which had matted dogs in wire cages over puddles of feces and urine that stank so bad it was difficult to breathe.
— AJ’s Angels in Cushing, Minnesota, owned by Angie McDuffee, which had 400 dogs in wire cages, some circling and pacing non-stop from anxiety and stress.
The list goes on. The evidence I saw was clear to me, but it was completely hidden from customers at pet shops, who usually believe the lies they are told by employees. Pet shops also told me many lies when I investigated them. But I managed to get an employee at Pet Luv Pet Center in Chicago to admit that the “rescued” puppies in the store were actually from breeders who just used Jolyn Noethe’s Hobo K9 Rescue as a pass-through. Other pet shops investigated by CAPS have admitted this, too.
My investigation of Hobo K9 took me to the address in Britt, Iowa listed with the Iowa Secretary of State. That address turned out to be for the Iglesia Pentecostes church on Main Ave. I then walked a few doors south to the Britt Veterinary Clinic, which signs the interstate health certificates for Noethe’s puppies. They told me that they didn’t know of any dog shelters in the area, but that Hobo K9 was two blocks further south. You don’t have to be an investigator to guess what happened next.
Instead of arriving at an animal rescue, I found the offices of “J.A.K.’s Puppies, Inc.” Inside, I encountered two women who were quite suspicious that I was looking for a dog to adopt from a shelter. They promptly had me leave, telling me only to “call Jolyn.”
CAPS provided its investigative evidence, proving that Noethe and J.A.K.’s were operating false animal rescues, to the Iowa Attorney General, requesting an investigation. She was ordered to shut down the rescues and pay a $60,000 fine. Noethe formed Rescue Pets Iowa after the Iowa Attorney General started an investigation of Hobo K-9 in June 2018. She used Rescue Pets Iowa to provide puppies to Bark Adoptions, a California-based fake rescue, which sold puppies to pet shops after the enactment of The Pet Rescue and Adoption Act (AB 485) on January 1, 2019.
The closure of these fraudulent rescues is a reason to celebrate but not a reason to be complacent. Noethe is far from the only person creating fake rescues. The real solution is to ban the retail sale of puppies, kittens, and rabbits, using legislative language that closes loopholes that allow pet shops and fraudulent rescues to benefit financially, such as the National City ordinance CAPS drafted with the city attorney and California AB 2152, which CAPS also helped draft. This would put an end to this blatant consumer fraud and encourage the adoption of homeless animals from legitimate shelters.