Tag: Elsa

Puppy Mills, Part Two

Part Two of this guest post from Monika.

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One of the more alarming facts surrounding the audit was a lack of enforcement against violators. Enforcement has been ineffective, particularly against the worst of the worst where little or no action against a majority of violators resulted. Of the enforcement decisions for 68 sampled violators, 71% (48) resulted in no action taken, 6%  (4) received a “Letter of Information,” 19% (13) received an Official Warning and 4% (3) resulted in Stipulation. In 2007 the AC discontinued using Letter of Information as an enforcement option. Only 20 of 68 dealers (nearly 30%) were cited for repeat violations.

States with Animal Cruelty Laws

Only 5 states have a subsequent-offense felony cruelty law (Arkansas, Idaho, North & South Dakota, Mississippi); and 5 States have a misdemeanor cruelty law (Alaska, Iowa, Nevada, Ohio, Pennsylvania, the remaining 40 states have a first-offense felony cruelty law.

We all know that puppy mills put profit over the health and well-being of the dogs but here are a few of the worst examples cited in the Audit.

Example No. 1. With 83 adult dogs, a Oklahoma breeder was sited with 20 violations during 5 inspections from April 2006 to December 2007. Lack of adequate vet care for 3 dogs hair-loss over their entire bodies and raw, irritated spots on their skins. Despite continuing violations, no enforcement actions were taken due to the agency’s lenient practices against repeat violators.

During another visit, AC cited breeder for another 11 violations (one involving a dog that had been bitten by another and left untreated for at least 7 days which resulted in the flesh around the wound rotting away to the bone! The inspector required the dog be taken to a local vet who immediately euthanized it. The case was referred to IES for investigation but only after another violation was documented. AC recommended a stipulation, yet as of early June 2009 (11 months following visit), violator had not been fined.

Example No. 2 was another OK facility with 219 adult dogs. Breeder was cited for 29 violations (including 9 repeats) during 3 inspections from February 2006 to January 2007. Yet the AC did not take enforcement action, but did request an investigation in November 2007 when another inspection revealed five dogs were found dead and other starving dogs resorted to cannibalism. When asked why dogs were not confiscated when the first dead and starving dogs were discovered, inspector cited its own regulations require violator be given opportunity to correct condition before confiscation can occur. Despite those conditions, the AC did not immediately confiscate the survivors, resulting in another 22 dogs dying before the breeder’s license was revoked and surviving dogs were rehomed within a year.

Example No. 3  involved a Ohio facility with 88 adult dogs. Breeder was cited for 23 violations including 7 repeats during 3 inspections from August 2005 to January 2008. An official warning was sent in July 2007 and in a subsequent visit in January 2008, found the same violations with another official warning sent rather than a more severe penalty. When asked by a more serious action was not taken, the regional manager indicated ‘breeder was making progress’ with a ‘reasonable opportunity’ to comply. National instructions state official warning can be sent if no other action was taken against a violator in the previous 3 years. Four months later in June 2008, breeder was cited for another 9 violations (4 repeats) yet the inspector recommended no enforcement action. Upon re-inspection 4 months later, breeder was cited for 4 more violations (including 3 repeats); AC took no enforcement action noting violator was “making credible progress.”

The USDA accompanied 19 of the 99 inspectors to observe dealer facility inspections. While many inspectors are highly committed, inspections are conducted timely and thoroughly and significant efforts are made to improve humane treatment of covered animals, it was noted that at least 6 inspectors did not correctly report direct or repeat violations. Some inspectors did not always document violations with sufficient evidence and direct violations were not reported. The Agency Guide defines a direct violation as one that “has a high potential to adversely affect the health and well-being of the animal” which include: “infestation with large numbers of ticks, fleas, or other parasites” and “excessive accumulations of fecal or other waste material to the point where odors, disease hazards, or pest control problems exist.” In such cases, a facility must be re-inspected within 45 days to ensure that the violator has taken timely actions to treat the suffering animals. By contrast, an indirect violation is one that “does not have a high potential to adversely affect the health and well-being of the animal.” Minor violations include: “inadequate records” and “surfaces not resistant to moisture.” In such cases, a re-inspection may not occur for up to a year.

Major deficiencies of the APHIS administration of the AWA cited in the Audit included:

  • AC’s enforcement process was ineffective against problematic dealers.
  • AC inspectors failed to cite or document violations properly to support enforcement actions.
  • AC inspectors failed to Cite or document violations properly to support enforcement actions.
  • APHIS’ new penalty worksheet calculated minimal penalties. Although APHIS previously agreed to revise its penalty worksheet to produce “significantly higher” penalties for violators of AWA, the agency continued to assess minimal penalties that did not deter violators. This occurred because the new worksheet allowed reductions up to 145 percent of the maximum penalty.
  • APHIS misused guidelines to lower penalties for AWA violators. In completing penalty worksheets, APHIS misused its guidelines in 32 of the 94 cases we reviewed to lower the penalties for AWA violators. Specifically, violations were inconsistently counted and applied “good faith” reductions without merit. A reduction in “no history of violations” when there was a prior history; and  arbitrarily changed the gravity of some violations and the business size. AC assessed lower penalties as an incentive to encourage violators to pay a stipulated amount rather than exercise their right to a hearing.
  • Some large breeders circumvented AWA by selling animals over the Internet. Large breeders that sell AWA-covered animals over the Internet are exempt from AC’s inspection and licensing requirements due to a loophole in AWA resulting in an increasing number of unlicensed breeders are not monitored for their animals’ overall health and humane treatment.

While the USDA does not advocate assessing maximum penalties, at a time when Congress tripled the authorized maximum penalty to “strengthen fines for violations,” actual penalties were down 20 percent less through the use of a new worksheet as compared to the one previously used.

I could go on, but to do so belies cold hard facts that trying to stem puppy mills is a bit like playing a ‘Whack-A-Mole.”

Bottom line, what the Audit tells us is: (1) red tape saddles agencies with convoluted regulations that are difficult to implement or monitor, due in part to (2) the sheer number of puppy mills and (3) a lack of adequate number of inspections conducted.

No doubt resources are limited but until such time as the economics of keeping puppy mills in business is reduced, they will continue to operate with impunity. The resulting advice is make sure your breeder is legit and don’t succumb to adorable puppy faces in pet shop windows.

I shudder to think how many of Elsa’s pups are out there because who easily resists puppies? It makes me wonder how many of them have genetic diseases due to poor breeding practices (in Elsa’s case epilepsy which was diagnosed just two weeks following her adoption), but other dogs seized at the same mill with her suffered from Sebaceous Adenitis (which is also most likely an autosomal recessive inherited disease), Addison’s Disease and one whose severe aggressive behavior (due to lack of socialization) was deemed so severe, he was considered unable to be rehabilitated in any way as to place him and heartbreakingly was euthanized. Bottom line, please adopt, don’t shop (or only use a reputable breeder). Only then can the sheer numbers of puppy mill facilities be reduced and heartbreaking stories like Elsa’s be stemmed.

Live, love bark! 🐾
Tails Around the Ranch

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We must spread the word far and wide that puppy mills have to be brought down by publicity and  lack of business.

Only when the last puppy mill goes out of business can we relax.

Finally, here’s a picture of a million miles from a puppy mill!

Melissa Lentz

Puppy Mills, Part One!

A guest post from Monika McDonald

If there’s one thing that raises the blood pressure of an animal lover, especially a dog lover, it’s a puppy mill.

I am very grateful for Monika to have sent me this piece, and for it to be her first guest post.

Here it is!

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Puppy Mills

By Monika McDonald

Puppy Mills…a topic that’s near and dear to my heart. Elsa, a Standard Poodle who probably lived 4 years or more in a mill, was rescued from a Northern Colorado puppy mill along with 8 other Standards (you can  read her story at the link). She was basically feral, shy but very sweet and curious and showed signs there was a lovely sweet companion beneath the matted filthy hair.

Recently I was given the opportunity to write a guest post for Paul at Learning from Dogs. Hold on to your hankies while I share some of the more disturbing facts uncovered from various sources. After much negative media coverage concerning large-scale dog dealers (i.e. breeders and brokers) failing to adequately monitor humane treatment for the animals under their care, the United States Department of Agriculture conducted an audit in 2010, some findings of which are noted below. Although Elsa was rescued through the local poodle rescue organization, I’m also featuring another group, the National Mill Dog Rescue group, headquartered in Colorado Springs, Colorado.

It is estimated there may be as many as 15,000 mills throughout the country, with a large number located in the heartland of the US. Simply put, puppy mills are dog breeding operations that put profit over the health and well-being of the dogs.

They can be a large or small operation, licensed by the USDA or unlicensed. It should be noted that in order to sell to a pet store, a breeder must be licensed, though many violate that requirement. According to the USDA, breeders…breed and raise animals on the premises whereas brokers negotiate or arrange for the purchase, sale or transport of animals in commerce. Puppy mills may house anywhere from hundreds to thousands of dogs, however smaller does not necessarily mean better.

Elsa was rescued from a very small mill with the same horrific conditions as the large ones. Puppy mills are everywhere, but a large concentration is located in the Midwest. Missouri has the largest number of puppy mills in the United States. Amish and Mennonite communities (particularly in Ohio, Indiana, and Pennsylvania) also run a large number of puppy mills.

Breeding parents spend their lives in 24-hour confinement in cages often stacked on top of each other. Protection from heat, cold, or inclement weather is rare and dogs live in filthy, unsanitary conditions receiving little or no veterinary care (some puppy mill owners often provide veterinary care without anesthesia or vet training). Female dogs are bred every heat cycle and are killed (or offered at auction) when they can no longer produce litters. Puppies are often taken from their mothers too young and can develop serious health or behavioral issues due to the conditions in which they are bred and shipped. Genetic diseases often result from the over-breeding. The bottom line is that puppy mills are all about profits. Any money spent on veterinary care, quality food, shelter, or staff to care for the dogs cuts into the profit margin.

Where are puppy mill puppies sold? Two primary sales outlets for puppies bred in  mills are pet stores, and the Internet. Nearly all puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills. Pet stores are the primary sales outlet for puppy mills and are essential for keeping puppy mills in business. Both licensed and unlicensed mills sell to pet stores with many mills selling to pet stores without the required license and not held accountable. Puppies are bred in mills and then shipped all over the country. Shipping conditions are inhumane. They can be forced to go up to 12 hours without food or water, and confined in a small space where diseases can be easily transmitted. Many puppies do not survive.

Background Info. In 1966, Congress passed Public Law 89-544, known as the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act, to regulate the humane care and handling of dogs, cats, and other laboratory animals. In 1970 the law was amended (Public Law 91-579), changing the name to Animal Welfare Act (with subsequent amendments passed in 1970, 1976, 1985, 1990, 2002, 2007, and 2008). In 2010 the USDA conducted an audit of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Animal Care unit (AC) who are responsible for enforcing the act (the “Audit)”. Data cited is compiled from that Audit.

Inspections Conducted in FYs 2006-2008

Years

2006

2007

2008

No. of Inspectors

99

101

99

No. of Inspections*

17,978

16,542

15,722

Average Inspections Per Inspector

182

164

159

* These numbers include inspections on all licensees (i.e., dealers and exhibitors) and registrants (i.e., research facilities) under AWA.
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Tomorrow I will publish Part Two of Puppy Mills.