To buy or not to buy–that is the question in dealing with puppy millers
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, July/August 2008:
MILWAUKEE–Southern Wisconsin ClearChannel radio stations on
August 20, 2008 unleashed 14 hours of “Beaglemania” broadcast from
the Wisconsin Humane Society to help Wisconsin Humane find adopters
for the first 300 of more than 1,100 dogs acquired from the former
Puppy Haven Kennel in Markesan.
Wisconsin Humane bought Puppy Haven from breeder Wallace
Havens in July 2008 for an undisclosed sum that WHS board member Tony
Enea told Jackie Loohavis-Bennett of the Milwaukee Journal was
“pennies on the dollar.”
Selling about 3,000 dogs a year at peak, Puppy Haven owner
Wallace Havens was suspended and fined by the American Kennel Club in
2006 for record keeping and care violations.
“I’m ready to retire,” Havens said.
The Puppy Haven buy-out might have been controversial just a
few years ago. The humane community has traditionally believed that
puppy millers cannot be bought out of business, and that paying
breeders to quit may encourage others to start puppy mills with the
hope that animal rescuers will help them recoup their losses if sales
But humane societies in communities with successful
sterilization programs and low shelter killing rates are often
scrambling now to find enough puppies and purebreds to meet adopter
demand–and to keep breeders from reclaiming market share that has
shifted to rescue groups since the PetSmart and Petco chains began
giving humane societies, no matter how small, the chance to offer
animals for adoption from attractive, convenient, heavily
The changing economics of adoption helped to make aggressive
bidders of Southern Comfort Maltese Rescue, the North Shore Animal
League America, and the Humane Educational Society of Chattanooga at
the April 2006 probate auction that settled the estate of the late
Katherine Culberson, of Cartersville, Georgia. Other breeders who
hoped to buy some of Culberson’s dogs were shut out.
The Best Friends Animal Society increased the ante in October
2007, using an undercover intermediary to buy Dogwood Kennels from
Ivan Schmucker Jr., of Byrnes Chapel, Virginia. Best Friends
acquired 178 dogs–and appeared to put Schmucker out of the dog
business, six months after a fire at Dogwood Kennels killed 167 dogs.
“Fairly often, we get requests from folks who want us to
help ‘rescue’ animals from puppy mills by buying the animals. Our
policy has always been to advise against it,” Best Friends chief
executive Paul Berry told ANIMAL PEOPLE after the Dogwood Kennels
deal. Beyond not wanting to reward malefactors, Best Friends is as
aware as any other humane society of the risk of potentially becoming
a target for extortion.
On the other hand, no one wants to see more cases like that
of Elmer and Ammon Zimmerman of E&A Kennel and A&J Kennel, next door
to each other in Kutztown, Pennsyl-vania. “After receiving a poor
inspection report on July 24,” wrote Harrisburg bureau reporter Amy
Worden of the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Elmer Zimmerman shot his 70
small-breed dogs and threw them onto a compost pile, according to
officials with the state Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement. His brother
Ammon shot 10 dogs at about the same time, they said.”
“This act disgusted and shocked citizens all over the
commonwealth,” commented Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell. Rendell
has for months urged the Pennsylvania legislature to pass a bill that
would double the minimum floor space for dog breeding cages,
prohibit stacking cages on top of other cages, require solid
flooring, require that dogs receive outdoor exercise and regular
veterinary checks, and allow only veterinarians to kill dogs kept by
“If that bill had been in effect, it’s more than likely that
those 80 dogs would be in rescue societies awaiting adoption,”
Rendell told Associated Press.
“Every humane society in the state would have taken those
dogs,” agreed Pennsylvania SPCA chief executive Howard Nelson.
Ammon Zimmerman told Worden that killing the dogs was “none
of your business,” but Elmer Zimmerman apologized to some of the
attendees at an August 15 vigil for the dogs, Associated Press said.
A more typical outcome of law enforcement efforts against
alleged puppy mills is the protracted saga of Pennsylvania dog
breeders Joyce and Raymond Stoltzfus, of Lancaster County.
“The focus of legal action dating back almost two decades,”
recalled Worden, the Stoltzfus operation is “one of the largest dog
sellers in the state,” and as of mid-August 2008 was subject of an
investigation by the Pennsylvania attorney general’s office into
allegations that the Stoltzfuses have violated a 2005 court order “to
identify their kennel in all classified advertising either by name or
as a licensed kennel,” Worden wrote.
“The agreement settled the largest Pennsylvania consumer
fraud case involving pet sales,” said Worden. “The provision was
included so that consumers could fully research the kennel, which
has a history of selling sick dogs and misrepresenting them as
healthy. An Inquirer review found that scores of classified ads
placed with The Inquirer and at least four other newspapers and
Internet sites failed to identify the business. The Stoltzfuses
could face penalties of up to $5,000 per violation. In The Inquirer
alone, the fines could exceed $200,000,” Worden added.
The Inquirer quit accepting the Stoltzfuses’ ads upon
learning that they did not meet the requirements of the court order,
The 2005 court order was supposed to have ended litigation
that began in 1997 when then-Pennsylvania attorney general Mike
Fisher filed an injunction seeking to close the Stoltzfuses’ breeding
business. An ensuing series of lawsuits and countersuits produced
the 2005 settlement, requiring the Stoltzfuses to pay $75,000 in
costs and restitution to 171 consumers who had bought sick dogs–but
they continued to sell more than 2,000 puppies per year, and the
Pennsylvania attorney general’s office received another 58 complaints
about their kennel in the next two and a half years, Worden wrote.
In theory, buying Joyce and Raymond Stoltzfus out of the
dog business might have cost less than all the legal work. But in
view of their determination to continue breeding dogs, an attempted
buyout might merely have recapitalized them to set up elsewhere.
Stoltzfus is a common name in Lancaster County. In
unrelated cases before local courts in February 2008, dog breeder
Emanuel Stoltzfus was fined and put on probation in for allegedly
neglecting 24 dogs, while district justice Isaac Stoltzfus fined
breeder John E. Esh of Ronks $300 for multiple violations of the
Pennsylvania dog law that Governor Rendell hopes to stiffen.