Eight Iowa dog breeders among country's worst 100 puppy mills

In 2010, the Iowa legislative approved and Governor Chet Culver signed a bill to curb abuses at so-called "puppy mills." The lawmakers who worked hardest to pass this bill were Iowa House Democrats Jim Lykam and Mark Kuhn and Iowa Senate Democrats Matt McCoy and Joe Seng, a veterinarian.

Unfortunately, at least a few bad actors still lurk among the hundreds of Iowa dog breeders. A new report by the Humane Society of the U.S. named eight Iowa puppy mills among the country's "Horrible Hundred." You can read the list in this Radio Iowa story, but after the jump I've posted the revolting details from the report, along with advice on how to buy a dog without supporting puppy mills. Please spread the word among your friends and family.

While there are many responsible breeders, I urge everyone who wants a dog to consider adopting a shelter animal. Nine years ago today, a friend driving through Cass County found a friendly stray along a country road. She took him round to a few farms in the area, but no one recognized the dog. (Most likely, someone who could no longer take care of him dumped him in the country after removing his collar.) My friend took him home, bathed and fed him, and brought him to the Animal Rescue League, because she already owned three dogs. Having found him near Noble Methodist Church, she named him Noble. His temperament was a perfect match for our family, and as an adult, he was house-trained and not prone to chew up everything in sight.

Why are some breeding facilities called puppy mills?

Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction, and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life. There is little regard for the breeding dog's health or any existing genetic conditions that may be passed on to the puppies.  

Breeding dogs at puppy mills must endure constant breeding cycles and are typically confined for years on end, without ever becoming part of a family.    

Dogs from puppy mills are sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog's health, genetic history or future welfare. Consumers should never buy a puppy from a pet store or Web site; instead visit an animal shelter or screen a breeder's facility in person.    

Excerpts about the Iowa breeders featured in the Humane Society of the United States report A "Horrible Hundred": Problem Puppy Mills in the United States (pdf).

David and Joane Cline - Sully, IA: Numerous Repeat Violations, Unsafe Housing

At its most recent USDA inspection in February 2013, the Clines' kennel was cited for eight different violations, six of which were repeat violations, according to inspectors. The repeat violations included twelve dogs who had matted hair coats and dental problems; some dogs kept in unsafe housing with sharp points or inadequate protection from the wind and rain; and unsanitary conditions.

The Clines were previously notified about problems with unsafe housing. In 2011, the Cline facility received an official warning from the USDA for similar violations of the Animal Welfare Act regulations. The warning listed 13 violations, including two repeat and direct violations for "failure to construct and maintain primary enclosures free of jagged edges and sharp points."

In addition to the problems documented in USDA inspection reports, local residents have called HSUS and local authorities to report concerns about this kennel. USDA #42-A-1420.

Doug and Wendie Dettbarn/ Purple Heart Kennel - Strawberry Point, IA: Dogs in Need of Vet Care, including one with "A Mass the Size of a Baseball"

In 2012 the USDA cited Purple Heart Kennel for keeping dogs in outside kennels that did not provide adequate protection from the wind and rain, and for buildings in disrepair. In 2011, inspectors cited Purple Heart Kennel with seven different violations, four of which were "repeat" violations, including a lack of proper veterinary care for a pug with "green crusty material around both eyes," and a dog with a mammary mass "approximately the size of a baseball," neither of whom had been evaluated or treated by a vet for their conditions. Inspectors also noted a maltese and a poodle with excessively matted fur; the matting covering most of their bodies and the inspector noted that "excessive matting can cause discomfort and skin conditions." In December 2010, an inspector noted that "three Yorkshire Terriers, one schnauzer, two lhasa apsos, two maltese, and five poodles" all had excessively matted hair coats. In 2009, inspectors cited the kennel for water bowls with "green slime" in them, a strong ammonia (urine) odor, and "at least a four- week build-up" of feces in some of the outdoor runs. USDA #42-A-1328.

Gary Felts/Black Diamond Kennel - Kingsley, IA: Fined $18,000 by USDA

The USDA has documented numerous Animal Welfare Act regulation violations at Black Diamond Kennel, including recent violations for unclean, pest-infested kennels, inadequate ventilation, and unsafe housing. The kennel produced many breeds including dalmatians, mastiffs, and cane corsos. Most recently it has reportedly switched to a smaller operation, breeding Chihuahuas. In June 2010 the kennel was fined $18,000 by the USDA for failure to provide vet care to some of its animals. USDA #42-A-0757.

Connie and Harold Johnson/ CW's Quaint Critters - Melvin, IA: Sickly Dogs and Repeat Violations

In July 2011,CW's Quaint Critters received an official warning from the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act regulations. In June 2011 a federal inspector noted that there weren't enough staff available to take proper care of the large number of dogs on site, stating, "it is evident by the number of noncompliant items that there is an inadequate number of knowledgeable and/or supervised employees to carry out the level of husbandry and care required by the Animal Welfare regulations. There are 234 adult animals at the facility." Despite or perhaps because of this notation, federal inspectors made six visits to the facility in 2012 alone, and five visits in 2011, finding violations every time they inspected the kennel (most USDA-licensed facilities are visited no more than once a year).

Some of the dozens of violations recorded at this facility between 2010 and 2012 include: a skinny beagle who was straining to defecate and was passing "clumps of red matter" that appeared to be blood; a sickly Maltese found hovering in the back of her cage; two beagles in an outdoor run covered with feces; repeat violations for two dogs with eye disorders; 120 dogs found in a whelping trailer who were living in darkness; dogs who were so severely matted outdoors that they had difficulty staying dry because the matted hair was dragging on the wet and dirty ground, and a total of nine repeat violations for the same previous dangerous and unsanitary conditions. USDA #42-B-0226.

Kenneth and Leatrice McGuire - North English, IA: No Vet Visit for Almost Three Years

In March 2011, the operator admitted to a USDA inspector that no vet had visited the facility since 2009; despite being repeatedly cited for having no attending veterinarian to regularly visit the facility, this serious issue was not corrected until 2012, according to USDA reports.

In March 2013 the McGuires' kennel was cited for three dogs in need of immediate veterinary care and several repeat violations for filthy and unsafe conditions. In November 2012, the kennel was cited for several dogs in need of veterinary care, including two Chihuahuas with eye problems and a long-haired Dachshund with matted fur, and a repeat violation for dirty conditions. In March 2012, an inspector found a Yorkie with an eye disorder, as well as numerous repeat violations, including issues with run-down and unsafe housing and dirty conditions. USDA #42-A-0830.

Debra Pratt - New Sharon, IA: Dogs with Bulging Eyes and Dog's Head Covered in Scabs

In February 2013, the USDA cited Pratt for numerous dogs in need of urgent veterinary care, including several dogs with red, swollen and bulging eyes, an untreated mass, indications of severe dental disease, and an English Bulldog with missing fur, red skin, and "scabs covering the majority of the ears and the top of the head." In addition, the facility has failed five different times in 2013 alone to grant access to USDA officials who arrived to conduct an inspection, a serious violation of the Animal Welfare Act regulations because it left inspectors unable to check on the safety and welfare of approximately 185 dogs and puppies held in the kennel. Two of these failed access violations occurred in March 2013, after the sick dogs noted above were found and the USDA ordered Pratt to obtain treatment for the dogs.

Other problems cited in the past have included: animal wastes from the top tier of cages washing down into the animal cages below; unsafe housing, and a strong ammonia (urine) odor. In January 2012, the licensee received an official warning from the USDA for violating the Animal Welfare Act.

The HSUS has also received complaints from consumers who allegedly purchased sick puppies from this breeder. One of the sick puppies was sold through a pet store and the other online via PuppyFind.com. Pratt's sale of puppies online is of special concern to The HSUS because at press time there were indications that Pratt might be cancelling her USDA license and selling all her breeding stock at auction. But unless authorities take specific enforcement action, Pratt will be able to continue to sell puppies over the Internet because currently direct-to-consumer sales do not require a USDA license. The HSUS has contacted USDA officials about these concerns. USDA # 42-A-1399 and 42-H-0005.

Lennie and Lonnie Rumley/ Tripple L Kennels - Leon, IA: Flies and Filthy Conditions

Tripple [sic] L Kennels has been cited by USDA inspectors for filthy conditions again and again since 2008, including issues with a "severe accumulation of feces," build-ups of grime, strong ammonia (urine) levels, and pests and flies. Operators also failed to make the facility available for inspection on at least three occasions between 2010 and 2012. This violation is a concern because problem operators can easily avoid revealing poor conditions by appearing to be unavailable when an inspector arrives; it can also indicate a lack of oversight and proper staffing on the premises. In 2011, the facility received an official warning from the USDA for a repeated failure to make an adult available to allow USDA inspectors to inspect the facility, yet the facility committed the same violation again in 2012.

In addition to selling to pet stores, the facility also sells puppies online, via websites like PurebredBreeders.com. USDA #42-A-1294 (cancelled) and #42-A-1447 (current).

Linda Thorpe/ Sky Blue Ranch, Inc. - Winterset, IA: Dog Found Dead in her Cage

In October 2012, according to a USDA report, a state compliance inspector found a black and tan female, long-haired dachshund who was dead in her cage. The inspector noted the dog was already "severely stiff and had small matts in [her] hair coat and under [her] ears." Inspectors also noted a strong ammonia (urine) odor in a portion of the facility that housed 130 dogs, as well as overall filthy conditions. Prior repeat violations included foul odors and build-ups of urine and feces. The HSUS also received a complaint from a buyer who allegedly purchased a very sick puppy from Sky Blue Ranch; the buyer claimed vet bills were over $3,600. USDA #42-A-1140 and 42-H-0006.

From the Humane Society's tips on avoiding puppy mills:

1. Consider adoption. Adopting a dog instead of buying one is one of the surest ways to strike a blow against puppy mills. To find the perfect match, you'll want to choose the right one for you and your lifestyle. Animal shelters have dozens of dogs, many of them purebreds, just waiting for homes. There are also breed specific rescue groups for every breed of dog, including "designer" or "hybrids" like Labradoodles and Puggles. Mixed-breed dogs also make wonderful pets. Read more about adopting a puppy through a shelter or breed rescue group »

2. Find a responsible breeder and visit their premises. Responsible breeders provide a loving and healthy environment for their canine companions, one that they will be proud to show you. Never buy a puppy without seeing where they and their parents are raised and housed with your own eyes. [...]

3. Don't be fooled by common claims made by pet stores when pushing their puppies. Despite what they may tell you, pet stores do sell puppy mill puppies. [...]

4. Don't be swayed by a great website or ad. Just because a website says great things about their "home raised" or "family raised" puppies doesn't make it true. Many puppy millers pose as small family breeders online and in newspaper and magazine ads. For many years The HSUS has aided local authorities in the rescue of puppy mill dogs across the nation. In almost all cases the puppy mills sold puppies via the Internet using legitimate-looking ads or websites that made claims that couldn't have been farther from the truth.

5. Avoid the temptation to "rescue" a puppy mill puppy by buying him. Even though your intentions may be good, don't buy a puppy with the idea that you are "rescuing" him or her. Your "rescue" opens up space for another puppy mill puppy and puts money into the pockets of the puppy mill industry. Pet stores won't leave their cages empty and websites won't leave their pages blank. The money you spend on your puppy goes right back to the puppy mill operator and ensures they will continue breeding and treating dogs inhumanely. If you see someone keeping puppies in poor conditions, alert your local animal control authorities instead of buying.

6. Do your part: Pledge to help stop puppy mills! Choose not to buy your next pet from a pet store or Internet site, and refuse to buy supplies from any pet store or Internet site that sells puppies.

  • Iowa's puppy mills...

    This is excellent information about the HSUS's "Horrible Hundred" list of puppy mills and the eight Iowa dog breeders that made that shameful list. Every legislator, Sheriff and County Attorney needs to read this report because sadly, there are many more that did not make the list but should have. Iowa has around 230 USDA-licensed breeders, with some of the worst offenders just a county or two way from our state capitol, where laws to protect these animals are supposed to be debated and implemented. But conservative legislators continue to drag their feet when it comes to stricter laws and regulations to ensure that lists like the "Horrible Hundred" don't ever include any "professional breeders" from Iowa.

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