National Puppy-Laundering Scheme
We all know that puppy mills are shady; really shady. Besides making a living off of the suffering of living, breathing dogs, their job is to deceive the public. No one wants to support a puppy mill. Thanks to organizations like ours, we have made their lives a little harder in both aspects. Especially when it comes to exposing their business practices to the public.
In recent years, it has become a trend for cities and states to pass legislation banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores from commercial breeders (puppy mills). Instead, these stores must get their puppies from rescues and shelters to help the homeless animals in their communities, as opposed to aiding in the pet overpopulation problem. That sounds wonderful, right? Bailing Out Benji has helped pass countless ordinances across the country on both the city and statewide level and have helped thousands of homeless animals find their forever homes.
Unfortunately- where there is a will, there is a way and puppy mill owners sure have the will to want to make as much money as possible, while doing as little work as possible. Now these puppy mill brokering organizations are turning into 501c3 “nonprofit” “rescues” in order to still sell puppies in towns with retail bans and in order to deceive the public.
Our investigations into two sham rescues in Iowa ( Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa ) led to the Iowa Attorney General shutting them down, and our investigation into a sham Missouri rescue ( Pet Connect Rescue ) led to lawsuits and the passage of a stronger statewide bill in California. Other investigations that we have done (Dogs to the Rescue Ohio) have led to major news networks covering the story. Our work is never done, it seems, as every time we help shut down one of these fake rescues, another one pops up.
Mother Dog Rescue AKA Dog Mother Rescue Society located in Iberia, Missouri is no stranger to the sham rescue world. They have been connected to the sham rescue industry since 2018 when they were included in a Chicago Tribune expose and they continue to sell puppies to stores in cities and states that have legislation prohibiting that. Interestingly enough, Mother Dog Rescue is operated by Allison Hedgpeth, who also operates Lonewolf Kennels, a puppy brokering facility that has been recognized twice by the HSUS for being an example of one of the worst puppy mills in the country.
In 2020, Hedgpeth actually instructed all of their employees to refuse USDA inspections, which is in clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act which requires USDA visits to be unannounced. Many facilities try this tactic when they know they won’t pass inspection. By delaying the inspection, they have more time to get ready.
According to our research, Mother Dog Rescue has sold over 110 puppies and 3 adult dogs to just one Illinois pet store Pocket Puppies AKA Little Paw Animal Rescue from March 2021 to July 2021. This is the very same store that was exposed by the Chicago Tribune in 2018 for their connection to sham rescues. Pocket Puppies has since started their own sham rescue in order to skirt the 2021 Illinois law that prohibits pet stores from sourcing animals from commercial dog breeders. That means the puppies sold here are being laundered through one breeder or broker and two sham rescues before being sold to the public in a store.
-Before an animal is transported out of state, a veterinarian, accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), must examine the animal for signs of “infectious, contagious or communicable disease” and, if no disease is found, sign the certificate for approval to transport.
According to our research, more than 600 commercially bred puppies have been laundered through Mother Dog Rescue from 2019-2021 so they can be labeled as ‘rescue puppies’. Because CVIs are only required when animals cross state lines, that ‘600 puppies’ number is not exhaustive. It does not even begin to cover the Missouri breeders that are also selling through Mother Dog.
So far we have connected Mother Dog Rescue to the following breeding facilities:
- Bob Mackey operates TLC Breeds out of Sayre, Oklahoma and had 253 adult breeding dogs and 82 puppies at the time of their last USDA inspection on December 17, 2020. TLC Breeds is the main out-of-state supplier to Mother Dog Rescue with more than 480 puppies coming from this facility between 2019-2021. We also have record of Mackey selling puppies to pet stores in at least 7 different states.
- Larry Harris operates Elm Creek Kennel AKA Elm Creek Bulldogs in Keota, Oklahoma. Harris operates this facility without a USDA license, although they appear to be providing enough breeds and selling through stores so they likely require one. We have record of this facility selling frenchies, english bulldogs, and morkies to Mother Dog Rescue in 2020 and 2021. We have filed a complaint with the USDA regarding this facility.
- Mary Ferrell of Nardin (Blackwell), Oklahoma also operates a breeding facility that doesn’t hold a USDA license. Ferrell does sell yorkies through PuppyFind.com and sells the same breed to Mother Dog Rescue from 2019-2021.
- Sherri Gillum operates Lakeview Kennels out of Unionville, Missouri and had 42 adult breeding dogs and 37 puppies at the time of her March 2021 inspection. While Gillum is in Missouri, all of her puppies have Iowa CVIs and they are being signed off by the same veterinarian who oversaw one of the worst puppy mills in history.
The Nationwide Puppy Laundering Scheme has affected thousands of customers who thought that they were adopting puppies from legitimate rescues. Many lawsuits have happened in the past and even more are coming down the line. This type of operation is the definition of consumer and charity fraud.
What can you do?
If this information angers you, you can file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General and let them know about the charity and consumer fraud that is currently happening in their state.
As animal advocates, it is not only our job to continue exposing the shady practices of pet stores and puppy mills, but to continue with educating the public about how to humanely and ethically acquire a pet.
Here are few tips to avoid supporting puppy mills through pet stores.
- Is there signage in the store connecting the pet store to a rescue or shelter? Humane pet stores are proud of their rescue partners and would have flyers, business cards and signage pointing out the relationship.
- Is the rescue or shelter hosting adoption events at the store? Shelters and rescues jump on the opportunity to host adoption events where the public can meet their adoptable animals face-to-face. Legitimate rescues and shelters would be actively hosting adoption events to ensure their pets are seen and find their forever homes.
- Does the rescue or shelter have a Facebook page, website and use pet adoption websites? Legitimate rescues have all of these things. All of them! Fact checking their existence is as easy as picking up your phone and searching for them. But it is up to you to do just that.
- Is the rescue in your area? Rescues don’t ship their puppies to other states to get adopted site unseen. And if they do, they aren’t legitimate. If you are in a pet store and the puppies are being sourced from out of state- RUN, don’t walk away.
- Are there adoption contracts for the animal and are they fully vetted? Again, legitimate rescues and shelters do not send out unaltered puppies/kittens to be sold to anyone who walks in with money. They also require adoption contracts to ensure the pet is going to a forever family, with a return clause in case it doesn’t work out.
To those consumers that have bought a family member and are wondering about their actual background, please feel free to fill out the form below with any questions and information that you have and we will confidentially research the breeder your puppy came from.
This research can be extremely costly, please consider making a donation to help us continue exposing the puppy mill industry. Every dollar helps us!