According to USLegal.Com , the legal definition of the term “puppy mill” is: a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects. You can view a longer definition here.
Puppy Mills are terrible, and legal, businesses that operate in almost every state in the country (as well as several other countries in the world). The industry itself preys on the public to buy that cute pet store puppy, or buy the latest designer dog- while ignoring advice to see the parents and how they are living without purchasing. #ShowMeTheMommy is a phrase that our nonprofit coined in hopes of reaching more people who are looking at buying puppies from pet stores, websites that ship directly to you, or newspaper ads. These are the most common ways for puppy mills to sell their puppies to the public. Sadly, the adult breeding dogs left behind at the puppy mills are viewed as livestock and are treated with the bare minimum of care. These adult dogs are never let out of their cages, they receive little-to-no veterinary care, and (unless they are rescued) they will die in the very cages they lived their lives in. To read more on why puppy mills are legal, click here.
While certain states are dubbed “the worst in the nation” when it comes to puppy mills, we want to take a closer look at the pockets of puppy mills within those states- specifically- those puppy mills that are owned and operated by the Amish. Thanks to the USDA, state agencies and our research team, we are able to show you why animal advocates often claim that Amish Puppy Mills are worst than most, break down where they are most common across the country, and connect those dots to some of the worst puppy mills in the country.
When we started researching this article, we wanted to see where the highest concentration of Amish families reside, and we were met with some very unsurprising (to us) statistics. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana have large amounts of Amish…. As well as some of the largest and most prolific puppy mills in the country.
According to the USDA website and our research team, the top 10 states with the most puppy mills include: Missouri (over 800) , Ohio (over 430) , Oklahoma (over 280), Iowa (over 260) , Indiana (over 200) , Kansas (over 165), Texas (over 136), and Wisconsin, Nebraska and Pennsylvania (each with over 100) . As you can see from the list above, 6 of the worst states for puppy mills also hit the top 10 for the sheer number of Amish members. This is not to say that every Amish family runs a puppy mill, NOR are we trying to prove that Amish run the only puppy mills in the country (that is far from true). We are trying to shed light on the fact that Amish DO run puppy mills.
According to the USDA list of licensees, over 98% of Ohio’s puppy mills are run by the Amish, 97% of Indiana’s are Amish and 63% of Pennsylvania puppy mills also run by Amish. This is a drastic difference from Iowa (22% Amish run) and Missouri (17% Amish run), who both have larger pockets of Amish colonies, but have more puppy mills operated by non-Amish families.
Earlier this year, our volunteer research team created puppy mill maps for some of the worst states in the country, you can view those here. When looking into the highest concentrated areas of Amish colonies, you can see a huge correlation between puppy mills and Amish. The counties listed in the photo above are circled in the graphic below.
You can see that there is a direct correlation between Amish colonies and the number of puppy mills within each state. The circled counties are NOT the only counties with high concentrations of Amish colonies, just the ones listed as the largest communities based on church districts.
Now let’s move on to the violations that occur at Amish puppy mills.
Earlier this year (February 2017) the USDA took down all of it’s public inspection reports citing privacy reasons, in a move since dubbed the #USDABlackout . What the USDA and it’s licensees weren’t banking on is that organizations like ours saved reports and kept documentation of the puppy mills in the country. This is why we at Bailing Out Benji are able to continue our educational efforts by linking pet stores to the puppy mills they use, while including dog counts and violations as we find them. You can view the pet store side of the issue here.
Based on USDA inspection reports, the Humane Society of the United States creates the “Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill” list. These lists are created after reading through thousands of inspection reports and finding out the worst of the worst, so to speak. You can review those records here: 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014 , 2013 . As you read the list of names and violations, you will see many repeat offenders- and you will also see many Amish names. Yoder, Troyer, Borntrager, Hershberger, Raber .
To partner with that, you can see actual USDA photos from the ASCPA website. We have made the searches for each offending state easy: Ohio , Pennsylvania , Indiana . You can access the site directly by clicking here and doing your own searches by state to view more. Please note, there is no option to just click “Amish” puppy mills, but you will see that more Amish names show up in the states with a higher Amish population because of the severity of violations they have incurred. Sadly, the number of violations a USDA licensee receives does not equate to it being shut down. As you can see below, one of the Borntrager families has had violation after violation since at least 2010, but the USDA still let them keep their USDA license ( the breeders voluntarily gave up their license recently). To view more on this particular case, click here.
Here are a few examples of Amish puppy mills who not only have violations and a lot of adult breeding dogs, but are selling to pet stores all over the country.
- David and Esther Troyer, Clark Missouri. Selling to American Dog Club in New York-
They have: 53 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: using dirty needles to give medicine, filthy kennels, filthy enclosures, excessive matting, open wounds, and the list keeps going. To view USDA photos and read more violations, click here.
- Marvin and Joanna Newswanger, Maple Tree Kennels. Selling to Pet’s Playhouse in Iowa and American Dog Club in New York.
331 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: cages with holes in wire flooring that are too wide and paws/bodies fall through, top of enclosures covered in hair and wood shaving dust (breeder reported that area is cleaned twice a year), and an ‘abundance of litters’ caused puppies to be housed in feed/bedding storage areas. To learn more about this breeder, click here:
- Jonathan Yutzy, Bloomfield Iowa. Sells to Petland in Iowa.
73 adult breeding dogs with severe violations including: Performs tail docking and dew claw removal on his own- no vet, having dogs with missing eyes, cloudy eyes, horrible teeth and missing teeth. To view USDA photos of this kennel, click here.
- Perry and Mattie Bontrager, Cedar Hill Kennel, Dalton Wisconsin. Sells to Petland in Iowa.
131 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including dogs with cloudy eyes that had not been treated by a vet. To view USDA photos of this breeder, click here.
- William Kurtz, Augusta Wisconsin. Sells to Petland in Iowa.
58 breeding adults. Horrible Hundred 2016 – Filthy conditions, severely matted dogs, and excessive feces; fined $3,089 by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture due to noncompliance.To view USDA photos from this kennel, click here.
- David D Yoder Jr., Utica Minnesota- 40 adult breeding dogs. Sells to Puppy World in Wisconsin.
HOWEVER. David Yoder Senior (Windy Acres Kennels) recently cancelled his USDA license that was on the same property. David Yoder Senior had several violations including: so much feces in kennels the dogs couldn’t walk without stepping in it (this included kennels with moms and puppies), no exercise plan for the dogs in the kennels, dogs with missing ears (and no vet care), and notes of dogs dying in dog fights. David Yoder Jr is breeding the same dogs, in the same kennels at the same address.
This is just a small sampling of puppy mills (Amish and not) who sell to pet stores. To view a list by state of which pet stores are buying from puppy mills, click here.
In 2017 Bailing Out Benji has pulled over 300 dogs from puppy mills. These dogs were legally surrendered to us by each mill because the breeders didn’t want to spend the money on veterinary care or euthanasia. A lot of our dogs are coming from the Amish, so we have firsthand experience in how they treat their animals, how they vet their animals (they don’t) and how they handle them while pulling them from cages (rough). While we don’t want to put this all on this Amish community, as there are PLENTY of other religions that are just as guilty of owning and supporting the puppy mill industry, we hope that this helps clear the air on whether or not Amish run puppy mills.
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Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization based out of Iowa, with teams all over the country. We are working tirelessly to eradicate the puppy mill industry and put an end to the pet store/puppy mill pipeline. Will you join us in our mission to end puppy mills once and for all?
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