Petland Not Actually Magical Land O’ Pets

Many animal lovers know that Petland buys puppies from puppy mills and sells them in its chain stores throughout the country. Petland has recently successfully lobbied state legislatures in Ohio and Arizona to pass legislation enabling the company to do business basically as it sees fit, exempting it from any and all local ordinances designed to protect animal welfare:

When 10News reached out to Petland corporate, Mike Gonidakis, president of Citizens for Responsible Ownership, responded and said he can speak for Petland.
[…]
He said Petland works to be transparent in their practices, and only sources animals from USDA licensed breeders.

“We want our customers to have the peace of mind that we’re not coming from a puppy mill,” he said.

pants plus fire

As a reminder, the inspection records for USDA licensed breeders have been removed from public view by the Trump administration. No one can find out which USDA licensed breeders are meeting the bare bones requirements for things like cage size and veterinary care and which ones are chronic animal abusers. And to be clear, USDA licensed breeders are exactly what most Americans think of when they hear the words “puppy mill.”

rottie pups in mill usda

USDA inspector’s 2012 photo of a registered breeder’s facility.

aphis tracys jk violation-crop

Portions of a 2009 USDA federal violations report as shown on thememoryhole2.org.

Riding the wave of rampant deregulation nationwide, Petland has moved on to TN where the company convinced state legislators to write a bill favoring its business in the state:

The bill is co-sponsored by state Sen. Becky Massey (R-Knoxville):

“I personally wouldn’t buy a dog in a pet store. And I would not do anything I feel would be detrimental to dogs,” she said. “But let’s say a single mom, her kids wanted a purebred dog and she didn’t feel comfortable going to somebody’s home. You take them to a pet store and let them pick out a dog. I would want that single mom to have protections that they weren’t going to be sold a puppy mill puppy.”

Nice single mom story but again, Petland sells puppy mill puppies soooooooo….

One TN county is already looking into potential conflicts the bill’s passage could create:

“The House Bill HB0568 and companion Senate Bill  0519 currently in the Tennessee State Legislature may adversely impact current local government’s ability to enforce a law, regulation or ordinances addressing the sell and wellbeing of dogs in retail commerce in the State of Tennessee,” said Bud Armstrong, Knox County Law Director.

“Any and all state laws related to the health and cares of dogs could be affected,” he added, pointing to existing ordinances on Rabies vaccinations, animal care and keeping and bite investigations/quarantines.”

This sounds like the legislation could affect shelters and rescue groups.  And it would seem that ACOs would be unable to enforce cruelty laws against any Petland within its jurisdiction.  But I guess that’s part of the reason Petland requested the legislation.

If you live in TN, contact your state legislators and ask them to oppose the Petland bill (House Bill 0568 and Senate Bill 0519).

(Thanks Ona for the tip.)

Animal Welfare in the Age of Trump

What we know about the Trump administration’s regard for animals so far is troubling.  In the early weeks of his presidency, Trump had many government websites scrubbed of information – a clear indication that transparency is not in the game plan.  Among them was the USDA website which for many years had posted inspection reports on roughly 8000 facilities (such as puppy mills, research labs, zoos and circuses) required to treat their animals humanely under the Animal Welfare Act and the Horse Protection Act.  The searchable database allowed the public to see things like which research labs were letting monkeys die of thirst and lose body parts in fights due to negligence.  It also provided an opportunity to see which puppy mills passed USDA inspection – a low, very low, how can I say this? L O W bar – and which were repeat violators.  Several states have passed laws requiring pet stores to buy puppies only from breeders not cited for violations by the USDA.  With the inspection reports now gone, it is unclear how these pet stores, or anyone else, would find out the federal inspection history of any breeding facility.

Due to public outcry (thing I never tire of typing), the feds relented and put a “small fraction of the cache back online.”  But the most credible effort to date at holding the USDA accountable is coming from a private citizen by the name of Russ Kick.  He has set up a blog to repost the deleted documents, provide links to other sites doing the same, and ask for help from anyone who has saved any of the disappeared reports.  (Anyone wanting to support his one man effort can do so here.)

Then there is the Trump budget proposal.  While it is up to Congress to work out and decide upon the details, the proposal does give us insight into Trump’s vision for American families (and by family, I mean anyone who loves and shares their home with another being).  In a nutshell: bombs IN, poor people OUT.  Of the numerous proposed cuts within the budget, many will directly impact families if passed by Congress.  These include cuts to housing for low income people as well as:

And incidentally, the farmers who grow the food used in these anti-hunger programs will be negatively impacted as well.

It is estimated that approximately 65% of U.S. households have pets.  These include low income families.  If Americans who were previously relying on government assistance to help with things like baby formula, school lunches, and meals for homebound relatives are cut off from that assistance, pets will be impacted.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

Pets who provide enormous benefits to senior citizens and veterans, may end up being fed from the reduced food available to the owner (resulting in even less food for these already at-risk people), be surrendered to shelters or perhaps not even adopted in the first place.  When families suffer, pets suffer.

As the public learns about the proposed cuts to these essential family programs, they will rush to open their wallets and offer support.  Because that’s what we do.  At the same time, with so many valuable services being cut from the federal budget, competition for donation dollars will increase.  And compassion fatigue will set in.  Indeed, an insurance company recently debuted a television ad depicting a man feeling overwhelmed by so many worthy causes and issues in his community – the first of which is represented by a shelter dog.  Rescue groups can expect to work harder for every donated dollar and volunteer hour as compassionate people spread their resources far and wide.

What you can do:

  1.  Check to see if your Congressman signed this letter to Trump asking that the USDA documents be restored to the website.  If he/she did, call his/her office to say thank you and ask that the issue not be dropped.  If he/she did not sign, call and request that he/she support this effort.  Senator Cory Booker (D – NJ) has set up a petition.  (Note:  petitions are ok but phone calls are the thing.  Start making calls.  Plan to keep making them.  Every voice is needed – even quiet ones.)
  2. Call your elected representatives and tell them to reject the cruel Trump vision for American families outlined in his budget proposal. Demand that they stand up and fight for our shared values and rights of life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for all.

ASPCA’s KY Puppy Mill Rescue is Not What It Seems

Screengrab from the WAVE website

Screengrab from the WAVE website

Pulaski Co dog breeder Dennis Bradley told a local reporter with a hidden camera that he had 58 dogs on his property, at least a dozen of them under 8 weeks of age, in November 2013.  The reporter from WAVE in Kentucky filmed dozens of dogs crammed into filthy, rusted wire cages from which they were obviously never removed.  Among the breeds depicted in the video are Chihuahuas, Boston Terriers and Bloodhounds.  The reporter asks him how much for a Schnauzer puppy and is told $300 for a female and $250 for a male.  This certainly appears to be a dog breeding operation to my eyes, and a very poorly maintained one at that.

And yet:

Bradley, when contacted by the Commonwealth Journal in November, insisted his kennel wasn’t a puppy mill, but a non-profit rescue organization.

A non-rescue would seem to be the more correct answer. Has anyone seen Dennis Bradley’s 501(c)3 documents for his so-called rescue organization?  Perhaps they are on display in the bottom of a locked filing cabinet stuck in a disused lavatory with a sign on the door saying ‘Beware of the Leopard’.

The strangest aspect of the November story is that Dennis Bradley’s rescue breeding facility had already been raided by the sheriff in January 2013, at which time he was charged with animal cruelty:

Video taken by the sheriffs department shows some of Bradley’s dogs sick and near death. Two were in such bad shape they had to be put to sleep.

So why is Bradley still in business? Animal rescue groups say shutting down a puppy mill can cost up to $70,000 in shelter, food and medical expenses for the dogs they remove. Sometimes, groups like the Animal Rescue Corps will pay the cost, as it did when it broke up an alleged puppy mill in Wayne County in September.

No group stepped in to help Pulaski County financially, and investigators decided taking all 70 dogs they found on Bradley’s property would overwhelm the shelter system. So they removed the dogs in the poorest conditions and asked animal control to make sure Bradley took better care of the animals left behind.  [emphasis added]

More on the January 2013 raid:

“Upon arrival detectives discovered several dogs in pens/cages outside which were obviously sick. Several dogs suffered from having skin ailments and two appeared to be near death,” states the citation, filed by Det. Glen Bland. “Many of the dogs were living in poor conditions without proper shelter. Most pens were (too) small and were covered in mud and feces.”

Former Pulaski County Animal Shelter Director Darren Wesley would eventually remove 21 dogs from the property — some of which were euthanized after they tested positive for parvo.

After allowing dogs to languish in these conditions for another full year, authorities finally received assistance from the ASPCA and worked out a plea deal with the owner. Bradley pleaded guilty to one count of second degree animal cruelty. He received 24 months’ probation and surrendered all but 5 dogs, including one elderly dog. He will not be allowed to have more than 4 dogs or to re-start his breeding business during the probation period.  Does this strike anyone as a good deal that protects dogs or does it look more like the appearance of justice, suitable for framing around a full color donation plea?

The ASPCA took 43 dogs to the KY Humane Society in Louisville on Tuesday.

It’s nice that the ASPCA finally used its vast resources to help these suffering dogs but with all those donated dollars in their bank account, couldn’t they have helped sooner?  Even if they didn’t have a full team available to deploy any time within the past year, couldn’t they have sent one person and hired some local people to assist?  Or at least thrown enough cash at the problem that the county could afford to provide the needed care itself?  I notice once the ASPCA finally rolled into Pulaski Co, they moved super fast to get this plea for cash out to donors:

Screengrab from the ASPCA website

Screengrab from the ASPCA website

When a county sheriff raids a facility containing sick and dying dogs alongside newborn puppies, has video to document the inhumane conditions, provides sufficient evidence to get cruelty charges filed against the owner, but lacks the resources to help the dogs, this should be the kind of thing the multi-million dollar animal welfare groups get on yesterday – not one year later. Does it matter to anyone at the ASPCA that dozens of dogs were left living in horrible conditions in the care of someone charged with animal cruelty for an entire year for lack of resources? And then when they finally decide to show up, it’s all ASPCA logo jackets for the cameras and donation pleas and press releases – as if the ASPCA just busted this place this week.  In truth, the cruelty charge stems from the work done by the local sheriff one year ago and the dogs needed help then.

I imagine we might end up seeing these Pulaski Co dogs in a TV commercial with a Sarah McLachlan song. If and when that happens, remember they were knowingly left to suffer in tiny cages in the care of someone charged with animal cruelty for an entire year while the ASPCA closed its checkbook to Pulaski Co and counted its money.

(Thanks Karen J. for the links.)

Jasper Co Sheriff’s Office Buys Pet Store Puppy

There are not nearly enough shelter pets for everyone in the U.S. who plans to get a pet this year.  This is ok because some owners, about 1.5 million, are already set on an alternate source (a breeder usually) for the new pet they plan to get within the next year. I appreciate the fact that some people want a specific breed of puppy or kitten with a documented pedigree, a known health/behavioral history and a written performance guarantee.  For those people, I recommend they contact a breed rescue or a responsible breeder (generally someone who breeds occasional litters at home, screens the parents for health and temperament, screens potential buyers for the best possible match between pet and person, and offers a safe place for the animal to return for life, if ever it is needed).

There are about 5 million people determined to adopt the pet they will be getting this year.  Since we have an estimated 8 million pets entering shelters in this country every year, we have plenty of animals for these 5 million owners to choose from.  But there is a third group of people, about 17 million, who are planning to add a pet to the family within the next year and haven’t yet decided on a source for that animal.  We have only about 3 million shelter pets left in the total estimated population who are healthy/treatable and available for adoption.  As is plain, if we were to convince even half of these 17 million homes to adopt from a shelter, we would be coming up short by millions of animals.  So again, the fact that some people want to buy from a responsible breeder does not condemn shelter pets to death.  Shelter pets are dying because shelter directors are killing them instead of doing their jobs to get them into homes, of which there are plenty.

One of the groups that has traditionally looked to responsible breeders for their dogs is law enforcement.  But that is not always the case.  In fact the BBC recently ran a story on a shelter dog in the UK who was adopted for use as a police dog and successfully completed his basic training.  Here in the States, rescued shelter dogs have fought crime in New York, Chicago, and many other cities.

But I was disappointed to see a photo on Twitter today that appears to depict someone from the Jasper County Sheriff’s office in Missouri (that’s what the sleeve insignia looks like to me anyway) buying a puppy at a pet store.  The photo was contained in a tweet from the Hunte Corporation, “the largest distributor-wholesaler of puppies in the United States.”

hunte corp tweetjasper co sheriff

The Hunte Corporation buys puppies – not from responsible breeders, who would never allow a broker to determine where their puppies end up – but from puppy mills.  They truck the puppies, whose parents are left to suffer at the puppy mills, to pet stores all over the country.  Why a law enforcement officer would want to purchase a puppy from a pet store is a mystery to me.  The benefits that law enforcement normally receives from buying from responsible breeders – a puppy with a known pedigree whose lineage is likely to contain successful law enforcement dogs, a health and temperament guarantee and a safe place to return the puppy if the training doesn’t pan out – are all non-existent with a pet store purchase.  Furthermore, by purchasing a pet store puppy, the sheriff’s office is helping to keep puppy mills in business, which is tragic.

I hope the Jasper Co Sheriff’s office will reconsider buying pet store puppies to work with its law enforcement officers.  There are plenty of responsible breeders with puppies available and there might even be some excellent candidates sitting in the local shelter.  Law enforcement should be setting a good example for the community, not supporting animal cruelty by buying pet store puppies.

Journalism Fail: HSUS and AKC are Both Money Grabbers

As always, I want to be clear and this is why I reiterate a point made often on this blog:  No one wants to see pets suffer and die in sub-standard conditions.  It makes no difference to me whether these dogs are being warehoused for breeding in a “puppy mill” or warehoused for killing in a “shelter”.  Causing suffering and needless death for pets is wrong.  Full stop.

The American Kennel Club (AKC) has never done anything to make me believe they care one bit about dogs suffering and dying anywhere.  Neither has the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS).  And yet the two are frequently pitted against one another by reporters seeking “both sides of the story”.  Newsflash:  it’s the same story.

The Today Show website has an investigative report on AKC registered puppies and interviewed both an AKC representative and HSUS CEO Wayne Pacelle, presumably for balance:

[Wayne Pacelle] says that while most AKC-registered breeders are probably fine, they’re seeing too many bad apples, from Montana to North Carolina. In some cases, those breeders are even convicted of animal cruelty.

*fake gasp*

“Most” are probably ok but some are bad – even to the point of animal cruelty.  Gee Wayne Pacelle, have you ever heard of this system of pet killing facilities we have in our country?  They deceptively call themselves “shelters” and you know, “humane societies” when in fact they are causing pets to suffer and die.  “Most” are not fine.  In fact most are killing healthy/treatable animals – the ultimate form of animal cruelty.  And the directors of these pet killing facilities are keeping puppy mills in business.

But it’s no surprise Wayne Pacelle wouldn’t talk about that.  It’s his job to ix-nay the uth-tray in order to keep compassionate donors on the hook.  Thankfully more people are catching on every day.  A reporter for WZTV in TN ran this story yesterday:

We checked the HSUS tax records Form 990. It shows the non-profit took in over $133 million in donations last year. Of that, $6 million went to local shelters.

[…]

So what does the Humane Society spend your donations on? Primarily fundraising, advertising, legislation to protect animals, and the lobbyists to push it through.

[…]

What else does the Humane Society of the U.S. spend your donations on? $17.3 million on lobbyists between the years of 2005-2009, more than it gave to local animal shelters in that time. In a letter, half a dozen congressmen called for an IRS investigation into HSUS’ tax exempt status. Tax exempt organizations are prohibited by law from attempting to influence legislation on a large scale. In a response, the IRS confirms to a congressman that it’s investigating, but wouldn’t comment on what, if any action it may take.

The reporter states that for 3 weeks, Wayne Pacelle declined the station’s requests for an interview.

We are not all on the same team. I am for no kill which means pets suffering and dying anywhere is unacceptable to me. HSUS and AKC are both on Team Screw The Pets, Show Me The Money.

No TV? Animal Cruelty Laws Don’t Apply to You!

An Ohio farmer named Jonas Beachy has been charged with 23 counts of animal cruelty after authorities seized 52 dogs from his farm on October 1.  The dogs were allegedly severely matted, suffering from untreated injuries and living in filthy conditions.  Mr. Beachy says he cares for his dogs and they were seized due to the fact that he is Amish and there are cultural differences at play.

“We don’t have TV and we don’t listen to the news,” Beachy said. “I was not aware that I was violating any laws whatsoever,” he said.

Right.  Because TV and radio news are the main sources most Americans rely upon to make ourselves aware of laws.

Apparently Mr. Beachy sees no problem with a dog living in this condition.  Because TV!

Screengrab from the NBC 4 website showing one of the dogs seized from Jonas Beachy.

Mr. Beachy says that he has since read the applicable OH laws and determined that he “did not violate any laws”. His first court appearance is scheduled for November 27.

Directors of Pet Killing Facilities Keep Puppy Mills in Business

There are not nearly enough shelter pets for everyone in the U.S. who plans to get a pet this year.  This is ok because some owners, about 1.5 million, are already set on an alternate source (a breeder usually) for the new pet they plan to get within the next year.  Of course many, about 5 million, are determined to adopt the pet they will be getting this year.  Since we have an estimated 8 million pets entering shelters in this country every year, we have plenty of animals for these 5 million owners to choose from.  But there is a third group of people, about 17 million,  who are planning to add a pet to the family within the next year and are open to the possibility of adopting from a shelter as a source for that animal.  We have only about 3 million shelter pets left in the total estimated population who are healthy/treatable and available for adoption.  As is plain, if we were to convince even half of these 17 million homes to adopt from a shelter, we would be coming up short by millions of animals.  Even if we adjust our estimates (to allow for a tough economic situation) and suppose that there are a million more pets being taken in by shelters this year and a million less homes intending to add a new pet, we still wouldn’t have enough shelter pets for even half of those open to adoption.

So why are an estimated 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets being killed each year?  Obviously there are more than enough homes for them so that is not the answer.  Are we failing to get the message out to enough of the target market that shelter pets are good and adoption is a positive experience?  I don’t think so.  While marketing is an ongoing effort, I believe we’ve done well in this area – definitely well enough to convince at least 3 million people who were already open to the idea of adoption anyway.

The short answer is this:  The reason 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets are going into the dumpster each year instead of home with people who want them is because shelter directors are killing them instead of doing their jobs.

The longer explanation is multifaceted and involves the entire community:

1.  Shelter staff and volunteers drive the public away by blaming them for various mythical crimes such as failure to neuter and pet overpopulation.  People are further driven away when they know the facility kills animals and every pet they look at might be taken to the kill room if they don’t adopt him.  It’s too overwhelming for compassionate people to enter this kind of environment.  And of course no establishment is going to attract customers if the service is lousy, the place stinks and/or the merchandise is displayed in the equivalent of a dungeon.

2.  Shelters and rescue groups turn down applicants they deem unfit for pet ownership.  While I support having adopters providing a picture ID and a completed adoption application so they can be checked for prior animal cruelty convictions, I find it objectionable to deny adopters for such reasons as having a job, not having a fence, having children, or being unable to pay a $350 adoption fee.  It is not possible to determine the quality of life a pet will have by using an arbitrary list of criteria such as is commonly used by many shelters and rescues.  There are responsible pet owners who will never lose a pet regardless of fence quality, type or lack thereof just as there are responsible pet owners who will lose a pet regardless of fence status.  Similarly, there are irresponsible pet owners who work outside the home just as there are irresponsible pet owners who work at home or are unemployed.  By refusing to let pets go home with the people who want them, shelters and rescues are keeping cages occupied that could otherwise be freed up to save the next pet in need.

Recently I heard a teenage girl being interviewed on a TV show.  She said she practiced Satanism.  When asked why, she responded, “Because it’s the only religion that accepts everyone.”  Setting aside my own religious views, I have to admit she makes a good point.  No one wants to be harshly judged or rejected.  And as with religion, pet owners have the freedom to choose where they will get their pets.  You know what groups in the pet world “accept everyone”?  Pet stores.  Irresponsible breeders.  People giving away dogs and cats online or in parking lots.  The people being turned away by shelters and rescues will get pets from somewhere, probably a source that does not provide continuing education and assistance, and they will likely move into the group who will never be open to pet adoption.  Win?  For whom?

3.  Shelters don’t allow adopters to see, touch and fall in love with their pets.  Some shelters are never open to the public for adoptions, others are only open when most people work.  Some facilities only allow visitors to see a portion of the animals there and/or don’t allow adopters to touch the pets.  All, some or none of the animals may be posted online for adopters to see using good, adequate, or horrible photos.  Every shelter, especially those in low traffic locations, should be bringing animals to daily offsite adoption events in high traffic areas but many hold no offsite adoptions whatsoever.  The bottom line:  If people can’t see the animals, how will anyone be able to save them?

4.  Shelters are killing animals based upon arbitrary criteria such as breed, coat color, heartworm status, age, weight and number of days spent in the facility.  By assuming for example that people don’t want Pitbulls, or that there are too many tuxedo cats on the adoption floor already and therefore marking these pets for killing, they are unavailable to be adopted by people who want them.  It sounds obvious, I know.

Somewhere out there right now, I imagine there is an adopter looking for a tuxedo cat because he wants to adopt a kitty and he happens to fancy tuxedo cats.  There are plenty available in shelters so no problem, right?  Let’s say this adopter only wants to adopt a pet he meets in person and feels a special connection with.  So he visits his local municipal shelter.  They do in fact have two tuxedo cats but he doesn’t make that connection with either.  In the kill room however, they have just killed a tuxedo cat (for being one too many) who happened to be a very vocal pet.  The adopter’s last cat was also a talker and in fact, had he met this one, he would have likely felt that special connection he was hoping for and adopted him.

My point being that shelter directors have no way of knowing which particular animal will cause an adopter to fall in love.  By operating on the assumption that they do know, they are preventing pets from being matched up with the people who want them.  Contrary to the belief of shelter directors who kill based upon arbitrary criteria such as coat color, adopters are not looking for any pet whose fur is of a particular color – they are looking for an individual pet that appeals to them in a unique way.  The more pets available for adopters to meet, the greater the likelihood they will find that special animal they want to take home.

You know how this owner will be able to meet lots of tuxedo cats?  By visiting every pet store in the county.  And the more he meets, the greater the chance he will fall in love with one.

5.  Shelter directors see killing as an option for controlling the population.  If a compassionate director committed to saving animals’ lives was put into place at every pet killing facility, killing healthy/treatable pets would not be an option.  Instead, the director, staff and volunteers would have to work their tails off to get animals out the door alive by any responsible means.  This is what the directors, staff and volunteers at open admission no kill shelters do every day.  It’s hard work that requires dedication, creativity and flexibility but it is the only ethical approach toward shelter population control.

By killing the approximately 3 million healthy/treatable shelter pets that an estimated 17 million people planning to get a new pet are open to adopting, shelter directors are driving those 17 million people to other sources.  Pet stores (supplied primarily by puppy mills) and profit driven breeders stay in business because there is a reliable market for their products.  As long as there is a profit to be made, these undesirable sources for pets will remain plentiful.  Killing healthy/treatable shelter pets ensures that puppy mills will continue to meet the demand for pets that shelters are not.  If shelter directors would do their jobs and start getting every healthy/treatable pet in their care out alive, the demand for pets from alternative sources would be reduced.  Put into simple terms, if shelters really want people to adopt, they need to let them.

Remind me again how the so-called irresponsible public is to blame for shelter pet killing?

Discussion: Will New Rule Help Puppy Mill Dogs?

A change proposed to the Animal Welfare Act will affect dog breeders who sell via the internet.  Breeders who own more than 4 intact bitches would be required to open their breeding facilities, which in many cases is a person’s home, to the public or to USDA inspectors.

Do you think this proposed rule will protect puppy mill dogs?  How do you feel about opening your home to strangers who contact you online about a puppy?  Remember Bobbie Jo Stinnett?

USDA Grim Reaper Inspector on the Job

Dear Cruel MoFos of the World,

My outrage-o-meter is seriously overloaded.  Like the needle is shaking in the red zone and little puffs of smoke are seeping out accompanied by the occasional spark.

Please knock it off.

Seneca Co, NY:  A puppy miller with a disturbing track record of problematic USDA inspection reports (pdf) was told by a USDA inspector at the June 29th inspection to address the issue of Brucellosis in his kennel.  When the inspector came back on July 15, the puppy miller, David Yoder, informed the inspector he had indeed dealt with the contagious disease situation:  by putting his dogs, 5-6 at a time, into a whelping box, Rube Goldberg’d into a gas chamber via an exhaust pipe and a 3 horse power farm engine.  He couldn’t stay to monitor what level of suffering the dogs endured while being gassed because, you know – there were fumes and stuff and the puppy miller got a headache.  So Mr. Yoder left them to die in view of the main kennel dogs who also suffered from the fumes.  He came back after a bit to remove the bodies and put the next batch in for killing.  In all, Mr. Yoder killed 78 dogs and 15 puppies in this manner.

OK, now we come to the really outrageous part.  (You didn’t think that was it already I hope?)  The USDA inspector typed up the report noting “This method of euthanasia should not be used again”, and mentioned that the remaining dogs had so much shit piled up in their cages, it wasn’t falling through the mesh floor anymore.  The report was filed and tra-la-la, business as usualUntil:

Mary Anne Kowalski, a board member of the Seneca County SPCA, said she was not aware of anyone from the USDA reporting what she believes is a clear case of animal cruelty to local authorities.

[…]

Kowalski, who discovered the report of the gassing on the USDA website while updating her files [on September 13], said she was stunned at what she read. “I just lost it,” she said.

Kowalski said she reported the incident to the sheriff and district attorney in the hope that cruelty charges will be brought against Yoder.

Mr. Yoder’s wife commented to an area newspaper:

Barbara Yoder said today that USDA inspectors had urged them earlier to euthanize their dogs because they had contracted brucellosis, a bacterial disease that can also be passed to humans.

She said the USDA inspector “scolded” them for not having put the dogs down sooner.

Cruelty charges for the Yoders?  Perhaps (investigation pending).  For the USDA inspector?  *tumbleweed*  *howling wolf*

Convicted Puppymiller Not Having a Heavenly Time in the Slammer

Pennsylvania:  I’m not going to attempt to cover all the details of the case against Almost Heaven Kennels which resulted in the owner, Derbe “Skip” Eckhart, being sentenced to 6 to 23 months in jail on cruelty and related charges this year.  Bill White of the Morning Call has been covering the story for years.  I plucked some details from a couple of his columns to give you a taste of Almost Heaven.

A whistleblower who worked at the kennel for several years explained that Mr. Eckhart instructed her to sell puppies, no matter what she had to do to make the sale.  She went along with this practice of lying to customers, knowing it was wrong, because she says she wanted to get as many dogs as possible “out of that hellhole”.

The scheme basically went like this:  A customer would make an inquiry for a certain breed and/or age puppy and she would fill it, regardless of whether the kennel had the type of puppy requested.  She would make up birthdates to make older pups seem younger, fabricate breeds to match the customer’s request, and then start writing in phony vaccination and deworming dates on a false veterinary record.  The customer would plunk down the selling price (roughly $1000) and off they go with the exact puppy they were looking for.  If any potential buyers attempted to perform due diligence and ask to see the parents of the puppy, she was prepared:

She said she would keep a fake mother and father dog cleaned up and available — friendly dogs she had obedience-trained — to show prospective buyers. “It was always a lie,” she said. “The whole thing was a lie.”

The rest of the 800 animals reportedly lived in appalling filth.  Mr. Eckhart was ordered by the court at one point to stop accumulating dogs – an order he violated – and even tried changing the name of the kennel and listing his assistant as the owner on the website.

At trial, Mr. Eckhart’s attorney had an answer for everything.  The kennels were filthy because authorities had locked Mr. Eckhart’s employees out during the raid, preventing them from cleaning.  The dogs in the worst shape at the time of the seizure were rescues who had arrived only days before.  Basically, Mr. Eckhart is a hero who just can’t say no to helping any dog in need.  He’s guilty of having too big a heart.

They jury, on the other hand, found Mr. Eckhart guilty of cruelty and failure to comply with the cease and desist order.  He began serving his sentence in May.  On day four, Mr. Eckhart assaulted a prison guard.  His lawyer has an explanation for that, too:  His client was detoxing from all the prescription drugs he’d been taking.  In fact, Mr. Eckhart doesn’t even remember what happened, seeing as he was in such a fog and all.

Now, after serving just a few months of his sentence, Mr. Eckhart wants out.  He feels he should get probation, his sentence was too harsh, blah blah blah.  The judge is set to make a ruling on the request in future.  If denied, Mr. Eckhart will seek release on bail, pending an appeal of his conviction.

Mr. Eckhart’s attorney described him at trial thusly:

”He’s the last bastion of hope for animals that have nowhere to go.”

*sniff*

I’ll be interested to see if the judge decides to keep the Bastion in prison.

Thank you to Heather H. for alerting me to this story.