Dog dealers raided at jet speed

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, November/December 2009:

PHILADELPHIA–Will air power trump horse-and-buggy in the
courts of law and public opinion?
Main Line Animal Rescue founder Bill Smith on October 7,
2009 bet that it will, relying on jet speed to gather evidence that
he hopes will finish the image of Pennsylvania puppy millers as
plain, simple people who are just out of step with modern times.
Amish dog breeders in Pennsylvania, Ohio, New Jersey, and
upstate New York have come to dominate the dog breeding industry in
the northeastern U.S. during the past 20 years. The Amish reputation
for producing quality handcrafted furniture, growing pesticide-free
fruit and vegetables, and managing farms that look like those of a
century ago has helped the dog breeders–but traditional commercial
dog-breeding practices were unacceptable to the humane community even
120 years ago, and are much less so in light of vastly increased
knowledge about what dogs need to become happy, healthy,
well-behaved pets.

When Smith learned that nearly 400 dogs from breeders in
heavily Amish Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, had been trucked to
an Ohio auction, recounted Philadelphia Inquirer starf writer Amy
Worden, “he saw it as a chance to call attention to animal abuse in
Pennsylvania. But because the dogs had crossed state lines, time
was working against efforts to file cruelty charges. So Smith
rounded up a private jet and flew to the Farmerstown Sale Barn in
Baltic, a village in eastern Ohio.”
Smith took along a team of Pennsylvania SPCA agents and
veterinarians. Veterinarian Cari Thomson identified Lancaster County
dogs whose condition indicated that their breeders were in violation
of Pennsylvania law–the old law, not the much stricter version
adopted in 2008 that came into full effect two days later.
The team bought 12 of the dogs.
“After the purchases, the group got back on the jet for the
45-minute flight back to the Chester County Airport with the dogs,”
Worden wrote. “They were whisked to the Pennsylvania SPCA
headquarters in Philadelphia, where the animals were examined and
documented–all within two hours of leaving Ohio.
“We got the evidence in another state and we had to establish
that the animals were in this condition at the time the people being
charged were in possession of them,” explained attorney Scott
The Pennsylvania SPCA “prepared charges against six of the 12
Lancaster County breeders who sent dogs to the auction,” wrote
“Pennsylvania kennel owners ship unwanted breeding dogs to
Ohio to be sold, usually to other breeders, because auctions are
illegal in the commonwealth,” Worden explained.
Smith believes that Pennsylvania breeders were using the
Baltic auction to dump dogs before the new state law could be
enforced. The new law allows dogs more kennel space and exercise
opportunities, and requires that they receive regular veterinary
“Of the 134 commercial dog kennels licensed by the state in
Lancaster County at the beginning of 2009,” wrote Lancaster Sunday
News associate editor Gil Smart, “14 have closed and another 33 plan
to close by the end of the year–a full 35% of the total.”
Since the beginning of 2007 the state has revoked or refused
15 kennel licenses in Lancaster County, said Jessie L. Smith,
special deputy secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of
Agriculture’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement.
But Lancaster County still has almost a third of the 294
licensed breeding kennels in Pennsylvania. Statewide, 184 dog
breeders have asked for waivers of enforcement of the new dog law,
to give them additional time to bring their facilities into
Two of the most notorious convicted puppy millers in
Pennsylvania may be running out of wiggle room to stay in
business–but not for lack of trying.
Derbe ”Skip” Eckhart, of Upper Milford Township, on
November 16, 2009 withdrew the guilty pleas he had entered on
September 22 to multiple charges filed after state officials seized
216 dogs from his Almost Heaven kennels on June 23.
Eckhart, 42, was “handcuffed and taken to prison under
$25,000 bail to await trial on animal cruelty and dog law charges,
many of which had been dropped in the previous plea deal,” wrote
Patrick Lester of the Allentown Morning Call.
Eckhart “has long been notorious in animal protection circles
because of a 20-year history of cruelty charges and other offenses,”
summarized Daniel Patrick Sheehan of the Allentown Morning Call after
one of his previous conflicts with the law in 2008.
Judge Robert L. Steinberg imposed the high bail, he said,
because Eckhart had “‘thumbed his nose at the judicial system,”
reported Lester.
In October 2009 the Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law
Enforcement revoked the kennel license of Lancaster County dog
breeders Joyce and Raymond Stoltzfus, whose license had already been
suspended for six months by court order. The Stoltzfuses appealed
the revocation. Their kennel, CC Pets, “sold more than 1,800
puppies last year,” reported Worden of the Inquirer, “putting it
among the state’s highest-volume dog sellers. The kennel, once
known as Puppy Love, has been the subject of investigations and
consumer fraud lawsuits for at least 20 years.”
Added Lancaster Intelligencer Journal staff writer Janet
Kelley, “The recent ruling stemmed from a 2005 lawsuit against the
Stoltzfuses under the state’s “puppy lemon law” for selling sick dogs
to more than 171 customers. The lawsuit ended in the largest-ever
consumer-fraud settlement in Pennsylvania. The Stoltzfuses paid a
$75,000 fine and agreed to conditions set by state Attorney General
Tom Corbett. One of those conditions was that the kennel’s
advertisements clearly state the kennel’s name. In April, Corbett
charged the kennel owners with violating that agreement after
learning that CC Pets had been running ads–more than 800 of
them–without including the name of the kennel.”
The Stoltzfuses were fined $16,000.

Record impoundment total
As of December 1, 2009, law enforcement agencies across the
U.S. had impounded 9,162 dogs from 93 alleged puppy millers during
the year, with a month to go. Puppy mill impoundments in a year
topped 3,000 for the first time in 2007, and soared to 8,000 in 2008.
Involved in about 1,600 impoundments since it was formed in
June 2009, the Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force on December 3 introduced
a national telephone tip line, 1-877-MILL-TIP, to collect
information about possible puppy mills that might not be known yet to
law enforcement. A project of the Humane Society of the U.S., the
Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force was funded by the estate of Kenneth and
Lillian Wilde.
The increased seizures reflect a combination of stronger laws
and better-coordinated enforcement efforts, including more active
involvement of large national organizations in helping local agencies
to cope with seizures that often bring in more dogs than the total
capacity of community pounds and shelters.
Typical divisions of labor include HSUS assisting with
investigative work, the American SPCA providing veterinarians and
forensic help, and the Best Friends Animal Society and North Shore
Animal League Amer-ica rehabilitating and rehoming the impounded
dogs, when legally cleared to do so.
Wisconsin governor Jim Doyle on December 1, 2009 signed into
law a bill that will introduce to Wisconsin a requirement that dog
breeders who sell more than 25 dogs must be licensed by the state,
and must meet care standards similar to those now in effect in
Thwarted thus far in efforts to push stricter legislation
through the Ohio General Assembly, including an end to dog auctions
such as the one that prompted Bill Smith to jet to Baltic, the
Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions on October 13, 2009 won
certification from the Ohio Ballot Board “to begin collecting 120,683
petition signatures toward a goal of putting the issue before voters
next year,” wrote Mark Niquette of the Columbus Dispatch. “If the
General Assembly fails to act within four months” of receiving the
initial 120,683 signatures, explained Niqu-ette, “the coalition
then may collect an additional 120,683 signatures to get the issue on
the November 2010 ballot.”
The Colorado legislature in February 2009 “rejected
legislation that would regulate the dog breeding industry,” recalled
Associ-ated Press writer Steven K. Paulson, but a task force
convened by Kate Anderson, administrator of the state’s Pet Animal
Care Facilities Program, “will address the regulation of issues like
cage sizes without seeking new laws,” Paulsen continued. “Anderson
said the state can use its rule-making authority instead.”
Any new rules would require approval from the Colorado
Commission of Agriculture.
Animal advocates in some regions are having to fight, both
politically and in court, to keep gains already made.
In Lincoln, Nebraska on November 10, 2009, “After hearing
howls of protest from the Nebraska Humane Society and others, the
Agriculture Committee of the Nebraska Legislature voted 7-0 to kill a
proposal that would have weakened a 2007 law requiring inspections of
dog kennels and other pet-breeding outlets every two years,”
reported Paul Hammel of the Omaha World-Herald News Service.
Introduced by state senator Tom Carlson as a budget-cutting measure,
the proposal would have required that inspections be done only in
response to complaints, as was done before 2007.
Since relatively few people have the opportunity to see
enough of commercial dog breeding facilities to be able to complain
about the conditions, inspection procedures driven only by
complaints tend to become prescriptions for non-enforcement of
In Kentucky, the Louisville Kennel Club and co-plaintiffs in
October 2009 lost a bid to have declared unconstitutional a
comprehensive dog law adopted in 2007 by the city of Louisville and
Jefferson County.
U.S. District Court Judge Charles R. Simpson, III struck
down provisions of the law requiring owners of unaltered dogs to
obtain written approval of their enclosures and mandating “permanent
forfeiture of a seized animal if the judge finds probable cause [of
inhumane treatment or other violation of the law justifying
confiscation of the animal] and the owner fails to timely post the
appropriate bond.” The legal defect in the latter provision is that
a person could be acquitted of charges and still lose his or her
Assessed Laura Allen of the Animal Law Coaltion, “Important
sections of the animal control law challenged by the Kennel Club and
upheld by the court include the prohibition of cruelty to animals;
provisions preventing animal nuisances; restrictions on tethering
animals in a cruel or neglectful manner; provisions concerning
impoundment and license revocation; restrictions on sales of
dangerous and potentially dangerous dogs; provisions granting animal
control the authority to seize animals of owners violating the
ordinance; requirements for veterinarians to report public health
information, such as vaccination records and animal bites, to the
government; and definitions of ‘dangerous dog,’ ‘potentially
dangerous dog,’ ‘proper enclosures’ for unaltered dogs, ‘nuisance,’
‘attack,’ ‘restraint,’ and ‘cruelty.'”
A potentially problematic loss, however, came on September
15, 2009 when U.S. District Judge Edward J. Lodge of Couer d’Alene,
Idaho, ruled that dogs raised by a commercial breeder may be legally
considered livestock, and may therefore be kept at kennels located
within a federally-designated Wild & Scenic River corridor.
The case originated more than 10 years earlier, according to
David Johnson of the Lewiston Morning Tribune, when the U.S. Forest
Service ordered Ron and Mary Park, of Kooskia, to relocate their
Wild River Kennels away from the Clearwater River.
Lodge in 2005 ruled that dogs could not be considered
livestock, but, wrote Johnson, “The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of
Appeals overturned Lodge, and remanded the matter back to his
“We are following the case,” Humane Society Legislative Fund
president Mike Markarian told ANIMAL PEOPLE, “since it has to do
with the definition of livestock under federal law. In general,
defining breeding dogs as livestock will further reduce the already
meager humane protections for dogs confined in large-scale puppy

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