Puppy mill raids boost lawmaker interest

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, March 2009:
The 2009 state legislative sessions in at least six states
opened with introductions of proposed anti-puppy mill bills, with
many more bill introductions reportedly pending.
Stimulating the legislative activity were some of the biggest
dog seizures from alleged puppy mills on record in Minnesota,
Missouri, North Carolina, Tennessee, and Washington–all involving
small breeds and small mixed breeds, the dogs least often available
from shelters and most in demand through pet stores and Internet pet
The Everett Animal Shelter, just half an hour by car and
ferry boat from the ANIMAL PEOPLE offices in the outer Seattle
suburbs, on February 9, 2009 took legal custody of nearly 160 dogs
who were seized on January 16 in the first of a multi-day series of
raids on sites in rural Snohomish and Skagit Counties. The raids
netted more than 600 dogs in all, most of them of small breeds and
small mixed breeds. Many were pregnant, though humane officers
said Internet reports that thousands of puppies were expected were

“The dogs’ former owners failed to meet a deadline to post
more than $72,000 worth of bonds or to petition a court to prevent
the dogs’ transfer,” reported Everett Daily Herald writer Jackson
The Everett Animal Shelter dogs were parceled out to breed
rescue groups and foster homes for further care and eventual adoption
into homes.
More dogs collected in the northwestern Washington raids
filled several other shelters. Seventy-two were bivouacked at the
Northwest Organization for Animal Help in Stanwood, doubling the
NOAH shelter population–but, in anticipation of disaster relief
needs, the shelter was built with an expansive indoor dog gymnasium
which can be rapidly transformed into emergency dog runs.
“The new arrivals are loving our large suites with comfy beds
and heated floors,” posted NOAH executive director Austin Gates. “A
few are figuring out what toys are for. We’re working on teaching
the rest. Dozens of volunteers and staff are spending time loving,
petting and brushing the dogs. It’s probably the first time in their
lives they’ve had this much human companionship.”
The Humane Society of Skagit Valley and Saving Pets One at a
Time in Burlington and Old Dog Haven in Lake Stevens also handled
large numbers of dogs. Saving Pets One at a Time estimated that
volunteers spent 700 hours on the new arrivals within the first three
days after they came.
The Washington puppy mill investigation started, according
to Holtz and Scott North of the Daily Herald, when web developer
Brandon Hatch, 34, of Kettle Falls, visited an old friend in Gold
Bar. While the friend boasted that he made $2 million a year from
selling dogs, Hatch found a house full of badly kept dogs amid
accumulated feces.
“Some dogs were in small crates. Many roamed at will. Even
the attic had been converted into a makeshift kennel,” Holtz and
North wrote. “Hatch said he knew children sometimes slept in that
home. When he saw their bed, also befouled by the dogs, he called
Child Protective Services.”
“Right is right. Wrong is wrong. And this is just plain
wrong, all of it,” Hatch told Holtz and North.
Jason D. Larsen and Serrena L. Larsen, both 37, of Gold
Bar, were each charged with six counts of first-degree felonious
animal cruelty. Their home was registered to Mary Ann Holleman,
sister of Snohomish dog breeder Renee Roske. A microchip found in
one dog identified the dog as belonging to Roske.
“Time and again since 1996, Snohomish County officials
found dozens more dogs living at Roske’s home than are allowed,”
wrote Holtz. “On one visit, officials found dogs in a dug-out
subterranean room, the entrance hidden at the back of a closet.
When sheriff’s officials visited Roske’s home the day after the Gold
Bar raid, they found 44 dogs, nearly double the maximum of 25
allowed under county law.”
The Roske investigation led to the January 21 seizure of 443
dogs from a kennel in Mount Vernon, in Skagit County, and to 10
counts each for various alleged offenses filed against property
owners Richard and Marjorie Sundberg.
Marjorie Sundberg is the mother of Renee Roske and Mary Ann Holleman.

Southern cases

While investigators worked to unravel the interlocking
Washington cases, and volunteers worked to rehabilitate the rescued
dogs, a similar case broke in Wayne County, North Carolina. Two
hundred eighty-three dogs, many of them pregnant, were impounded at
the Wayne County Fairgrounds.
“Most have horrible dental disease,” veterinarian Lisa Dixon
told Marlon A. Walker of Associated press. “Most are losing their
teeth, or have teeth that need to be removed.”
Alleged puppy miller Virginia Thornton eventually surrendered
the dogs to Wayne County Animal Control director Justin Scally, who
had reportedly been seeking to find a way to evacuate Thornton
Kennels since December 2007. Scally in turn signed the dogs over to
the Humane Society of the U.S.
HSUS called animal welfare societies from across the country,
reported Catharin Shepard of the Goldsboro News-Argus. As soon as
the dogs were cleared for transport, Shepard wrote, the
organizations “pulled their vans and trucks onto the fairgrounds
gravel and started loading up.”
As in the Washington cases, most of the dogs are expected to
easily find adoptive homes–after weeks or months of costly
veterinary care and behavioral rehabilitation.
PetSmart Charities provided an air-conditioned vehicle to
help move the dogs, and sent 16 tons of supplies to the scene,
worth about $60,000, spokesperson Kimberly Noetzel told ANIMAL
As the Thornton Kennels dogs began their journey to new
homes, American SPCA and American Humane Association staff prepared
to transfer about 250 small breed dogs removed from a Tennessee puppy
mill to regional humane societies for adoption placement. The dogs
were seized on February 11, 2009 after a five-month investigation by
the White County Humane Society and White County sheriff Oddie Shoupe.
“It’s doubtful any of these dogs have ever been walked on a
leash. Many have never been outdoors,” said ASPCA director of field
operations Jeff Eyre.
Related criminal charges were reportedly pending.
Midwest busts
Also on February 11, 2009, the Humane Society of Missouri
impounded 93 Yorkshire terriers and two cockatiels from an
unlicensed kennel near Springfield.
The illegal kennel was reportedly only four years old, but
Humane Society of Missouri anti-cruelty task force director Tim
Rickey told Leah Thorsen of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch that the dogs
there were in the “most horrible conditions I’ve ever seen,”
including paw injuries that Rickey attributed to dogs living in cages
with wire mesh bottoms.
Meanwhile, illustrating the difficulty of making charges
pertaining to alleged puppy milling stick under existing laws, Otter
Tail County, Minnesota district court judge Waldemar Senyk on
January 28, 2009 dismissed five of nine charges of animal cruelty,
torture and practicing veterinary medicine without a licence that had
been pending against Pick of the Litter Kennels owner Kathy Jo Bauck,
52. Bauck, of New York Mills, was to be tried by jury on the
remaining charges, beginning on February 10, 2009. Bauck was
charged after a six-week undercover investigation by the Companion
Animal Protection Society, of Boston, whose agent worked for Pick
of the Litter Kennels incognito.
“The details of the case are difficult to read: allegations
of puppies ripped in pieces from their mother’s womb, and of dogs,
even pregnant, submerged in insecticide baths. One of the charges
against Bauck is ‘torture,’ a gross misdemeanor,” wrote Tad Vezner
of the St. Paul Pioneer Press.
“In May 2008,” Vezner recalled, “Bauck pleaded guilty to [a
prior charge of] practicing veterinary medicine without a license, a
misdemeanor. Her USDA-licensed facility, according to the agency’s
latest report in 2006, then housed 1,326 dogs. But her last two
USDA inspection reports, supplied by her attorney and dated July and
September 2008, showed no noncompliance.”

Legislative response

The discrepancy between the USDA reports and the
documentation introduced as evidence against Bauck, collected by the
Companion Animal Protection Society within the same time frame,
brought to legislative notice that Minnesota has some of the biggest
dog breeding kennels in the U.S., but no state-level oversight of
the industry.
Two bills to establish state-level oversight of dog breeding
have been introduced. A bill by state senator Don Betzold, endorsed
by many humane societies, would require annual inspections of any
kennel with six or more breeding females, plus certification by the
Minnesota Board of Animal Health. A breeder-backed bill by state
senator Steve Dille “would require no mandatory inspections. Breeders
would be required to register with a local agency every four years,
and inspections would be complaint-based, unless a county decided
otherwise,” Vezner wrote.
Most of the pending state bills emphasize introducing
state-level registration and inspection, with widely varied
thresholds for application.
Data abstracted by ANIMAL PEOPLE from 28 puppy mill cases
prosecuted in the first four months of 2008 found that about 60% had
fewer than 50 dogs including puppies, and were essentially “backyard
breeders.” Another 20% had fewer than 50 adult dogs. Only 20% were
operating at the level at which breeder-supported bills would
typically take effect.
Bills to introduce state-level inspection are usually opposed
by breeders for allegedly introducing redundancy–and state-level
inspection requirements introduced decades ago in several states were
in effect dismantled by amendments that allowed USDA inspections to
substitute for actually being inspected by state agencies.
A bill pushed in Illinois by the American SPCA “would cap the
number of breeding dogs a breeder can own at 20 and ban anyone
convicted of cruelty from obtaining a breeding license,” summarized
Eric Naing of the Springfield State Journal-Register. “The measure
would require breeders to keep dogs in well-heated and cooled
facilities with ample cage space, access to outdoor areas and
non-wire flooring,” all requirements pursued by the humane community
for more than 70 years–and, Naing added, “Breeder licensing would
switch to the state Department of Financial and Professional
Regulation from the Department of Agriculture.”
The latter provision alone might have been enough to doom the
bill. Dog breeders and agribusiness have been politically allied
against proposed puppy mill regulation for more than 50 years since
the early 20th century, when the typical dog breeder was a farmer
who bred hunting dogs as a sideline.
The alliance of dog breeders and agribusiness has so far
succeeded in keeping the responsibility for puppy mill law
enforcement under the jurisdiction of state agriculture departments
and the USDA.
However, since the November 2008 passage of Proposition Two
in California by 63% of the voters, some commentators in trade
journals and on web sites have suggested that the alliance of puppy
millers and factory farmers may have become counter-productive.
Noting how convincingly California voters rejected factory-style pig
and poultry farming, some dog breeders would prefer to avoid being
associated with intensive confinement pig and poultry operations,
while some farm lobbyists would prefer to avoid having to defend
puppy mills while seeking to escape more stringent regulation of pig
and poultry husbandry.
Despite the cracks in solidarity, any move in any state to
move any branch of animal husbandry out from under agriculture
department control is still certain to meet vehement opposition from
the major organizations representing breeders of every species.
Nebraska state senator Cap Dierks, DVM, on January 21,
2009 introduced a bill that would take a different approach. Instead
of requiring inspection of facilities, the Dierks bill would require
pet stores and breeders to provide veterinary certification of each
individual dog or cat they sell.
Not deemed likely to pass, the Dierks bill would harmonize
the requirements for selling dogs and cats in the U.S. with the
standards of most other nations for importing dogs and cats.
The U.S. dog and cat import requirements are weak compared to
global norms, as demonstrated by an August 2008 case in which 30
sick and dehydrated puppies from a South Korean breeder were
intercepted at Los Angeles International Airport. The puppies had
been flown to the U.S. with falsified health certificates. Twenty of
the 30 were euthanized as irrecoverably ill. Only five Maltese and
five Yorkshire terriers survived.
“This triggered recognition that we have a serious problem
with animals coming in from overseas,” said Los Angeles Department of
Animal Services general manager Ed Boks told Los Angeles Daily News
staff writer Simone Schramm-Trimm. “LAX, the Border Patrol, and
other agencies helped us make the case,” Boks continued, “that the
U.S. is the only country in the world that allows a free flow of
animals over its borders without veterinary checks.”
The U.S. has recently introduced a requirement that puppies
imported for resale must be at least six months of age.
The South Korean-born puppies were auctioned by the Los
Angeles Department of Animal Services in December 2008. Losing
bidders were encouraged to take home other shelter animals.
“All 10 of the purebred puppy-mill survivors got new homes,”
wrote Schramm-Trimm, “as did 52 other pets. Animal Services raised
more than $20,000 and got its message out: Adopt, don’t shop.”

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