I’m Pete, CAPS’ lead investigator and author of Rescue Dogs. My 18 years of experience working for CAPS includes investigating hundreds of puppy and kitten mills and pet shops across the country and working undercover at the then largest USDA-licensed puppy brokerage facility, at an atrocious largescale USDA-licensed broker/breeder, and at a Petland franchise. Recently, I went undercover to six pet shops in Miami-Dade County that sell puppies and one that sells birds, fowl, and rabbits.
In 2018, I went to all 27 pet shops to provide evidence for a proposed ordinance introduced by then County Commissioner (now mayor) Daniella Levine-Cava. The county currently has 23 pet shops selling puppies. I visited select stores, four of which are included below, to see how things had changed in three years and to gather more evidence for another ordinance CAPS is hoping animal-friendly commissioners will introduce this year. I was happy to see that as compared to 2018, more stores had begun to post information about where their puppies come from. However, I ultimately found that for customers, things had become worse.
Miami-Dade County has ordinances mandating standards of care for out-of-state breeders and brokers who sell to county pet shops and requiring a certificate of source for each dog that is within three feet of enclosures. These laws are designed to protect customers. The problems I encountered that had become more serious between 2018 and 2021 are not the fault of Miami-Dade authorities. Rather, they are common problems at pet stores everywhere, as stores go to great lengths to deceive customers about the sources of their puppies and kittens.
In 2018, many Miami-Dade stores violated the law by not posting breeder information and refusing to give it when I asked. By 2021, I saw breeder information more readily available, though often in places so high up or tucked into a corner you wouldn’t know it’s there unless you were specifically looking for it. In Miami-Dade, many stores buy puppies from pbtmarketplace.com, a website where puppy sellers bid on commercially bred puppies. In 2018, most stores readily admitted they use PBT. By 2021, most stores refused to tell me how they got their puppies. In 2018, I found about half of pet stores admitted knowing nothing about their breeders. By 2021, once most of the stores realized they could no longer hide from the public that they use commercial breeders from out of state, they began telling elaborate lies about their breeders to make them appear as though they aren’t puppy mills.
For example, in 2018 Puppies Secret told me they knew nothing about their breeders. In 2021, employees said all of their dogs lived in breeders’ houses, and they insisted they don’t use puppy mills. They also stated that puppies aren’t coming from individual breeders year-round. However, USDA inspection reports from breeder for the store reveal the breeders have dozens, and some even hundreds, of breeding dogs.
The store buys puppies from Samuel Gingerich in Seymour IA, who is noted on the store’s paperwork as being at the same address as a notorious breeder named Daniel Gingerich. Daniel Gingerich had over 1,000 dogs in 10 locations in Iowa and amassed 120 violations of the Animal Welfare Act between March and September 2021, including having emaciated, dead, and dying dogs and puppies. The USDA complaint against Gingerich on September 24, 2021 is 67 pages long. On November 2, 2021, a federal judge permanently barred Gingerich from selling, breeding, or brokering dogs, and Gingerich was forced to give up 541 dogs to the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
World Famous Puppies (formerly Puppy Store at Doral)
In 2018, I visited Puppy Store at Doral, which had no breeder information available on puppies and told me they knew nothing about their breeders. By 2021, the store had become World Famous Puppies. Breeder information was available and clearly posted, but this time an employee and the owner had a lot to say about their breeders. They claimed they didn’t buy from puppy mills, with the owner telling me his USDA-licensed breeders have multi-million-dollar facilities, don’t keep dogs in cages, and that the USDA requires breeders to genetically test dogs. Of course, USDA breeders don’t have multi-million-dollar facilities, aren’t required to do genetically test dogs, and many do keep dogs in cages. The owner claimed dogs have a “sleeping area” with a “flap that lets them go outside and play.” If by “play” he meant be in another part of a cage or run, that would be accurate. If he meant play with other dogs in a yard, he would be lying. It’s rare for facilities to have exercise yards as required by the Animal Welfare Act, and none allow their dogs constant access to the yards like many stores claim.
World Famous Puppies uses Golden Seal Puppies in Fresno, OH, which is owned by notorious broker Abe Miller, who also runs Preferred Canine next door. Miller has a long history of selling sick puppies, violating the Animal Welfare Act, and being the subject of lawsuits.
Every time, Miller is in trouble, he changes the name of his facility. When Sarasota County held a hearing for the ordinance banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in January 2016, he testified against the ordinance, using the kennel name of Quail Creek. Certificates of Veterinary Inspections over the last few years showed him using the names, Comfort Canines and Holmes for Canines. Miller hired a bus to transport at least 30 of his Amish breeders to testify against the ordinance, which passed in January 2016.
The dogs he brokered included those with the campylobacter virus that made dogs and people ill in the outbreak at numerous Petland stores.
One such store that claims their breeding dogs have constant access to exercise yards is Petland Kendall. Petland didn’t change much between 2018 and 2021. By 2021, more breeder information was available, but they continued lying by showing videos and pictures of dogs running in grassy fields while claiming those are the conditions for dogs in USDA-licensed kennels. In 2018, employees claimed they obtained dogs from the “top ten percent” of USDA breeders. There is no “top ten percent” USDA breeder list or ranking system the USDA has for their breeders of any kind. Instead of changing this lie, by 2021, Petland Kendall doubled down on it and claimed they bought from the “top two percent” of USDA breeders. By showing dogs in grassy yards, claiming dogs have access to play areas every day, and then lying about a percentage ranking system of breeders, Petland cleverly deceives customers while not violating Miami-Dade’s regulatory ordinances.
Petland uses Blue Ribbon Puppies in Odon, IN, run by broker Levi Graber. Graber purchases puppies from primarily Amish and Mennonite breeders, and has often had between 100 and 300 puppies at his facility at a time. As the ASPCA notes, he’s largest seller of puppies to Florida pet stores, which is significant since his puppies were linked to a multi-state campylobacter outbreak at pet stores. The CDC found the second most infections from the outbreak in Florida.
CAPS has investigated numerous puppy mills, some unlicensed, selling to Graber over the years. When I visited Graber in person, he refused to allow me to see his kennel.
To see investigations of breeders who sell to Graber, see CAPS Investigator’s Journal: The Truth Behind Pinellas County, Florida Pet Shops
Pet Stop Hialeah
I visited Pet Stop Hialeah in 2018 and 2021. In 2018, I found Chihuahuas and Shih Tzus in stacked wire cages in a dark room hidden behind the owner’s office. The owner told me he bred the dogs himself, though he was not allowed to sell puppies out of his store. After I reported the situation to Miami-Dade Animal Care and Control, the cages were removed. However, in 2021, the owner told me he could still sell me Shih Tzu puppies at his store, but he claimed his friend breeds the dogs. It seems clear the owner still breeds and sell puppies under the table. While the law concerning this violation can be enforced at the store, it can also be enforced in a parking lot in public view.
In addition to this problem, at Pet Stop Hialeah, I found numerous rabbits and birds of various species crowded into filthy wire cages. There was so much manure in the cages that despite an open doorway next to them, a strong ammonia odor was present. Water dishes of some bird cages were set on the floorings so that they filled with feces as well. Rabbit and chicken cages were placed directly next to and on top of each other. Elsewhere, a macaw was in a barren cage with only a single rope hanging down in it. The bird had self-mutilated all of their feathers underneath and partially on the back of their wings. This kind of mutilation is from the stress of extreme boredom.
A specific concern some in Miami-Dade have with banning the retail sale of animals is that a black market will outweigh the good of the ban. While this argument is simply aimed at the well-being of animals, CAPS disagrees. Sale bans increase adoption rates at local shelters. Pet store puppy sales appear to be legitimate, while sales out of parking lots are shadier to many people. The clearest option for customers is to adopt healthy dogs from shelters and rescues. Also, black market sales already exist in Miami-Dade. I found them at Pet Stop Hialeah in 2021; I also encountered a puppy seller in 2018 whom I thought had a pet shop but instead wanted to meet me on a street corner.
Miami Dade Animal Services is telling people who find stray dogs to leave them on the street because they are at full capacity. Miami-Dade is supposedly a no kill shelter, but it is only staying this way by transporting animals to other states or Canada. Wings of Rescue flew 54 dogs to Toronto-based Dog Tales Rescue in October, 2021. In a November 29, 2021 Miami Herald video on YouTube, a shelter employee begged people to adopt and foster. The shelter made a similar plea on WSNV-News in July, 2021.
Miami-Dade County must ban the retail sale of puppies, kittens, rabbits, birds, and fowl. It’s the only way to fight against animal mills supplying pet shops and protect customers deceived by store lies. The ban will help reduce euthanasia at local shelters and increase adoptions. Unregulated sales of puppies will occur, but as we see in other places where identical bans take effect, it is not on the same level as regulated sales. Otherwise, shelter adoptions wouldn’t be increasing when bans take effect.