What is a puppy mill?

What is a “puppy mill”?

A “puppy mill” is a breeding facility that puts the profit ahead of the welfare of the dogs (and cats rabbits and other small animals). Think of it as a factory farm for puppies.

The adult animals are bred every heat cycle until their bodies give out. They are forced to live in cramped cages their entire lives, their paws never touching the ground. These parent dogs are not always fed healthy food or clean water and they are very rarely (if ever) seen by a vet for illness or injury. 

A puppy mill can be obvious, or it can be well hidden.

What are the worst states when it comes to puppy mills?

The Midwest has the highest concentration of puppy mills, although there are other mills across the country. The Midwest is commonly referred to as “The Puppy Mill Belt”. Missouri and Iowa are the highest offenders when it comes to the sheer number of mills, but Ohio and Pennsylvania are horrible when it comes to unlicensed mills and violations. Puppy mills operations are easily hidden among agriculture buildings. 

If puppy mills are so bad, why do they exist? 

One of the most common questions we receive is, “Why are puppy mills legal”? The answer, plain and simple, is that the USDA and state agencies allow them to exist. Not every USDA licensed dog breeder runs a horrible operation. But they are all required to follow the same very lax laws the USDA set forth in the Animal Welfare Act. According to the AWA: 

-Cage size: must be 6 inches larger than the size of the dog, on all sides
-Up to 12 dogs can be housed in one cage
-Dogs never have to be let out of their cages. Breeders only need to have an exercise plan
-There is no limit to the number dogs a breeder can have—many have over 1,000
-There is no age limit for breeding dogs. If a dog is able to produce puppies for ten years, that’s how long they could be in the facility.

– The inspections are “risk based”. Meaning if there are no violations, the breeder might not see an inspector for a few years. 

The AWA does NOT cover emotional well-being. 

And there are a 115 inspectors to inspect for every single USDA facility… in the entire United States. That includes breeding facilities, factory farms, zoos, circuses, transport vehicles, testing facilities, labs and more…. 115 people to cover over 12,000 facilities.  Do you think that is enough?
For more information on the AWA, click here. 

Where are puppy mill puppies sold? 

Thousands of puppies are sold from puppy mills each year– and the general public is completely unaware of where they just got their new puppy. The breeder will “meet you half way”, so you don’t have to make the full trip, the breeder will ship the puppy on an airplane to you, or buyer doesn’t even know the purchaser because the transaction was made through a pet store. The BEST way to avoid purchasing a puppy from a puppy mill, is to adopt. But that isn’t always something the public is willing to do. So the next best way to make sure you are not buying from a puppy mill is to check out the parents, see the facility (all of it) and resist temptation from saving a puppy from a place that you deem non-reputable. You are only creating a hole for the breeder to fill with more puppies. 

Pet Store: According to the ASPCA: Breeders who sell puppies to pet stores must hold a USDA dealer license, and many states also require breeders to obtain a license to have a dog-breeding kennel. So the statistic is that 99% of puppies in pet stores are from puppy mills. They come from breeders that have enough dogs to constantly keep the cages full of puppies. And the stores will sell puppies like they would a pair of jeans, to anyone with a credit card. They don’t care where that puppy is going or how it will end up. The fact of the matter is, no reputable breeder would sell through a third party. They would want to know exactly where the puppy is going, and more often than not, they require an application and the puppies are required to come back to them if the family can not care for them any longer. 

Do you have a pet store near you? Click here to see the the paper trail between your local pet store and the puppy mills they buy from. Bailing Out Benji and our volunteers have been doing the research so we can show you exactly where those puppies came from. 

Internet: Fancy websites and Craigslist are a very easy way to sell a lot of puppies and keep people off of the property at the same time. The ASPCA and the HSUS both agree that you should never ever buy a puppy from the internet (alone). You MUST see the property where the puppies are born and raised. Anyone can design a fancy website, but you should look for these red flags. 

– If the breeder has several breeds of dogs available. 

– If they ship puppies to you

– If they offer to meet offsite. 

– If they are selling their puppies on CraigsList

– If they won’t allow you to see their property

Newspapers: Classified Ads are way that puppy mills get rid of their puppies. You would have no way of knowing what kind of breeding facility they run, because they ad is only a few sentences long. 

Dog Auctions: Dog Auctions are horrible events in which breeding dogs and puppies are sold to the highest bidder. The dogs are very rarely in good condition. The breeders selling the dogs may be going out of business, they could be getting rid of a certain breed, or they could be getting rid of the dogs that are too old. For an inside look on an auction, click here

Don’t the puppies deserve homes too? What happens to them if they don’t sell? 

This is another one of the most common questions that we are asked. The puppies always sell, because there is always someone that doesn’t know about the pet store/puppy mill connection. What will happen, and what has been happening, is that the public is becoming slowly more aware. This means that the puppies are staying longer in the stores, showing that there isn’t a high demand for them. When the puppies sit longer, the store puts them on sale and keeps dropping the price until they are sold. If they aren’t selling quickly, the store will order less for next month and *hopefully* the breeder will see that the demand is dropping and there isn’t a need for as many dogs on their property. But this all starts with YOU. YOU shouldn’t buy that puppy. 

Are there puppy mills near me? 

At Bailing Out Benji, we work tirelessly to educate about the horrors of puppy mills, without sharing the graphic photos. One way we have been successful in educating about and exposing these puppy mills is by showing YOU, the consumer, what is really in your back yard. Through the USDA website and, when easily accessible, state department of Agriculture websites, we have pinpointed and color-coded the puppy mills that are lurking in the United States. To view our puppy mill maps, click here.  You can also view our new interactive website here

To view all of our completed puppy mill maps, click on our link above

How can I help?

There are many ways you can help the dogs trapped in puppy mills. They vary from being active, to just being an advocate. 

1. If you SEE something, SAY something. If you were someone that unknowingly stumbled upon a bad breeding facility to purchase a puppy, you need to report it! You can either report it to the USDA, your state agency, your local rescue or shelter, or you can contact us and we can point you in the right direction! 

2. Be an educator. One of the best ways you can help is by educating your friends, family and coworkers. By sharing this article and making a status about where you shouldn’t buy a dog could deter someone you know! Our organization firmly believes that educating the general public will be the end to puppy mills. Join our growing list of teams and help us fight the industry through education and advocacy! 

3. Be an advocate. Look in your area for pet stores that sell puppies and educate about your local problem. Hang up flyers (we can help!) or even start a local protest (we can help with that too!) Getting the word out locally, will break the lies of the pet store and will bring more awareness about puppy mills to your community. 

4. Contact your legislators. By letting your legislators know what you care about, it tells them how to vote. You can send a quick email to your legislator and just ask them where they stand on common sense animal issues, especially puppy mills. You may be shocked to find out that not everyone is an advocate for the animals. 

5. Don’t give pet stores that sell puppies your money. By boycotting a pet store that sells puppies, you are showing them that you can’t support their business. You can even tell the owner why you are choosing not to shop at their store anymore. To view a list of pet stores across the country that are selling puppy mill dogs, click here

6. Look for a reputable breeder in your area. If you are set on buying a puppy and you haven’t checked your local rescues or shelters, then ask your local canine club about reputable breeders. Just remember to always check out their facilities! 

7. USE SOCIAL MEDIA….. Spread the Word. Use the hashtag #ShowMeTheMommy on social media to stress the importance of asking to see the parent dogs before purchasing a puppy. You can also use #EndPuppyMills and #BailingOutBenji ! 

8. Stay updated. Like our facebook page , twitter and instagram. Stay updated on how you can help in your area. Don’t forget to SHARE!  


We are a small nonprofit organization that makes big changes with very few resources. Our research is used by the leading animal welfare organizations across the country, because what we do is so unique and important.  To make a one time donation or to sign up to be a sustaining supporter to allow us to continue our various programs that expose the puppy mill industry, click the donate button below.



Iowa Puppy Mills by the Numbers


As an Iowan, I have always been proud to live in this state. The scenery is beautiful, and the people are amazing. I have always believed that there is no better place than here….

Since starting Bailing Out Benji in 2011, my eyes have been opened to the world of misery and torture in our own back yard. I had no idea that is Iowa is the SECOND WORST state in America when it comes to puppy mills, with over 250 puppy mills (and over 17,000 adult dogs trapped)! Since Bailing Out Benji was founded, the number of puppy mills in Iowa has dropped from over 400 to just over 250- which is fantastic news! But we have a long way to go… And we can’t do it without YOUR help! 

In this article, I have included a few “fast facts” about Iowa puppy mills, so you can share and help us educate! We firmly believe that through education we can put an end to this industry! 

Counties with the most puppy mills in Iowa 

Sioux County (with 28!)

Lee County (With 21!)

Davis County (with 14!)

 Lyon County (With 7!)

Worth County (With 7! )

Remember, these are just a few of  the worst counties when it comes to puppy mills… It does not mean that they are the only counties with puppy mills and it doesn’t mean these are the puppy mills with the most number of dogs. If you are curious about puppy mills in your area, please contact us


2015 Breeders with DIRECT USDA Violations.

 In 2015 alone, there were 24 USDA inspections done that included direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act. A direct violation is one that puts an animal in immediate distress (illness, open wounds, inadequate cage size, etc) 

Of those 24 inspections: 

-5 USDA licensed breeders had more than one inspection last year with direct violations on each inspection

-1 USDA licensed breeder had three inspections done and had a direct violation on each

-25 direct violations were handed out in total. 

Iowa USDA Licensed Breeders Make 2015 HSUS Horrible Hundred List

Each year, the Humane Society of the United States puts out their list of the worst puppy mill owners in the country, and each year Iowa makes the list! Sadly, in 2015 Iowa made quite the impact, with 11 puppy mills making the cut. 

Puppy mills in the following counties made the list: Calhoun, Crawford, Franklin, Johnson, Lee, Marion, Mitchell, Plymouth,Sioux, Van Buren. 

These puppy mills alone have over 903 adult dogs trapped in their facilities and they are living in some of the worst conditions in the entire country. The HSUS does a “Horrible Hundred” list each year, and Iowa is always represented. Here are the links to the 2014 and 2013. 


Iowa USDA Licensed Breeders with the Most Adult Dogs 

The top five breeders in Iowa have overwhelming amounts of dogs. Totaling over 2,000 adult breeding dogs, these facilities have numerous violations and many have made the HSUS horrible hundred list in previous years. 

Larry Albrecht- Coldwater Kennels, Butler County. Latest USDA Count- 261 adult dogs, 220 puppies. 

J. Maasen- Sioux County. Latest USDA Count- 282 adult dogs, 158 puppies. THIS BREEDER MADE THE 2015 HORRIBLE HUNDRED PUPPY MILL LIST. 

Marvin and Joanna Newswanger- Maple Tree Kennels, Chickasaw County. Latest USDA count- 331 adult dogs 

Ed VanDoorn- Squaw Creek Kennels, Mahaska CountyLatest USDA Count- 387 adult dogs, 152 puppies. 

Steve Kruse- Stonehenge Kennels, Lee County. Latest USDA count- 823 adult dogs, 584 puppiesTHIS BREEDER HAD FIVE INDIRECT VIOLATIONS ON THEIR LATEST INSPECTION. 


And Lastly, Iowa has over 10 pet stores that buy from puppy mills, but even more Iowa puppy mills shipping puppies to stores out of the state. For more information on them, please click here

Bailing Out Benji is the only organization in Iowa that actively protests these pet stores and we would LOVE your help! Ames, Cedar Rapids and Iowa City are three cities that we host protests in each weekend. If you know of a pet store in your area that sells puppies, please contact us! We would love to help you educate the citizens in your town! Remember, Pet store puppies ARE puppy mill puppies: don’t buy the lies! 

The dogs in the puppy mills need YOUR help today. Help us educate your family, friends and coworkers by sharing this article! With each new person learning about puppy mills, we are one step closer to putting an end to the industry altogether! 

For more ways to help, please contact us! 

— Mindi

** All Info is Current as of October 2015 and will be updated regularly**

And don’t forget to like us on facebook !!

#ShopSmall #ShopHumane



According to American Independent Business Alliance, one of the benefits of “shopping small” is that you are Maintaining Community Character. You are holding a local business accountable for the products they are buying and selling. We praise local businesses that use fair trade items and sell products that sustain third world countries, while condemning the big box stores that promote sweatshops and child labor. So when can we hold the local pet store accountable for the puppy mills it is supporting? Because, in case you didn’t know, that is exactly what is happening.


As you may know, Bailing Out Benji is a nonprofit organization based out of Ames, Iowa and our educational outreach is praised and mirrored all over the world. The 2010 census shows that Ames had a population of almost 60,000 residents, more when you factor in all of the college students at our local Iowa State University. The motto of Ames is “Shop Ames, Grow Ames”, and with the fantastic outreach of our Main Street Cultural District, most Ames residents pride themselves on shopping small and locally. Naturally, Small Business Saturday isn’t something you mess around with in Ames.


Here’s the dilemma we face each week… Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, which is located just off of Main Street in Ames, is the “small, local business” that we protest several times a week. While our community, business owners and city leaders silently shake their heads at the store that admittedly sells puppy mill dogs, several citizens (mainly friends of the store) are horrified at the fact that someone is protesting a small, “local” business owner who is an honest, god fearing man. Sadly, the two puppy mills Dale Dyvig buys his puppies from are NOT local. Traveling over an hour to get to each facility, you will find that each breeder currently has 150 adult dogs and their recent history includes many violations for having over 500 adult dogs each. And, since the protests have begun, the store owner has backtracked and reworded his puppy source several times. First, he told customers the names of his suppliers, then they became “small family breeders”, then he called them “USDA licensed kennels” , then just “great kennels” and back to “small, local family breeders.” With all of the name changes, the store continues to use the same two puppy mills.

So, the question is… Are we ignoring this simply because the store is local? Do we allow the store owner to profit off of the suffering of animals because he isn’t a big chain like Petland?

Sadly, this is the third installment of “Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe” that the owner has opened and operated in Iowa. When business slows down, he sells the store to an employee and moves on to greener pastures. When Dale moved to Ames, he hit the jackpot! A huge, wealthy community that cares about shopping local AND college students who are missing their own animals from home. Puppies were flying out of the store faster than he could acquire them, until our organization came along and exposed the truth behind the business model of the store. Those puppies were coming from puppy mills, and the parents were left behind to suffer. For months (which turned to years), we begged Dale to go humane and offer adoptable animals in his store instead of mill dogs. All of our volunteers vowed all of our business to his store once he cut ties with the puppy mills to no avail. We are on two sides of the line, but we are standing on the right side of history.

According to SustainableConnections.Org, shopping locally Reduces Environmental Impact. Again, in the case of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, the argument can be made that the store’s business model can be negatively impacting our environment by forcing our companion animals to live in hog-confinement style cages where the fecal matter and other debris is power-washed away from the kennels, which seeps into the soil and local bodies of water. But let’s not overlook the cruelty of forcing man’s best friend to live his/her entire life in a wire kennel, exposed to the elements, with inadequate vet care and poor food. And on the other side of the coin, there are thousands of homeless animals within 100 miles of Ames that are begging for homes. Dogs, puppies, cats, kittens, rabbits, chinchillas, birds, even horses. But their lives aren’t as worthy? They don’t deserve the spotlight to find the best homes?

So, we go back to the question…. Do we continue to support a local business just because it is local? Do we turn a blind eye to the cruelty because it is easier?

That answer is on each of us, because we vote with each purchase that we make.


I will continue to shop small and support the fantastic, humane pet store in town. I spend hundreds of dollars a month there on pet food, toys, treats and everything else for my rescued pets. Both I and our volunteers spend there and shop locally because, not only do the owners take a stand against puppy mills, but they host adoption events several weekends a month and donate to local rescues and shelters.


Pet stores that sell puppies will never see a dime of my money, but they will continue to see me and animal lovers across the United States.


Every single weekend.


In front of their stores.


Until they choose to go humane or close.

This is bigger than one small store in one small town. This is taking a stand against a million dollar industry that is based on lies and cruelty. The case of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe is not special, and it is not uncommon. Local pet stores all over the country are selling puppies from pet stores and fooling the citizens in their towns into thinking that the dogs come from local breeders. DON’T BUY THE LIES. Pet store puppies ARE puppy mill puppies.


— Mindi

Founder of Bailing Out Benji



Don’t Buy The Lies- New Design Kennels

Hello, All! As you know, at Bailing Out Benji we are dedicated to helping puppy mill dogs in various ways…. One of which is by outing puppy mills and the pet stores they sell to. If you have been following our educational efforts at all, you will have seen that we have been protesting one pet store, Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, in Ames, Iowa for almost 4 years now. Dyvig’s has admitted to buying puppies from two puppy mills here in Iowa. While we have a presence in front of the store every Saturday and Sunday (with surprise weekday protests sprinkled in), we have stepped up our game for Puppy Mill Awareness Month. Our #ThirtyDaysThirtyProtests campaign is back for the month of September and we have been able to reach a lot of new people with our message. Most days, it is hard to see the direct fruits of our efforts… But other days, we are given the best “thanks”. Today is that day.

z8Bailing Out Benji receives dozens of emails and private messages every day, not to mention all of the comments of support and shares. Tonight, however, we received a very special message. A woman, who unknowingly supported a puppy mill, by purchasing from New Design Kennels. After the first puppy she purchased from NDK died after only 7 months from an intestinal disease, her boyfriend purchased a second one. For $100 off the normal price, for their inconvenience of losing the first one. Sadly, the second dog wasn’t much healthier. He had to undergo a very expensive surgery for IVDD, a genetic disorder in which trauma to the spinal cord results from hardening of the spinal disks. Because of this woman, who wishes to remain anonymous, we were given a link to the blog written by the owner of New Design Kennels, Nancy Carlson, and we are SO excited to be sharing her words with you tonight.

Her full blog can be read here, but we thought a point by point breakdown of her arguments was a little more fitting because, as you all know, the facts don’t lie. So here we go! “Sex, Lies, and New Design Kennel” (Screenshots have been taken directly from her blog. 


Well, let’s be real. Nancy Carlson and I have been in the room together at least three times. The first time she was auctioning off her dogs. Dogs that were missing eyes, limbs and were visibly ill. She transported them to the auction in a trailer meant for a car. It was truly one of the most horrifying experiences I have ever had. The second time, I had the pleasure of defending our puppy mill awareness PSA against her, Rob Hurd and the owner of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, Dale Dyvig. She embarrassed herself in front of a room full of businessmen by claiming that I have invisible drones that fly over her property and that I threaten to rape her in the same cages that she rapes her dogs in (her words…. because… yuck.) And the final time, Nancy was- again- at a puppy mill auction. This time, buying more dogs to breed.

Also, Bailing Out Benji started long before I ever had the pleasure of coming in contact with Nancy Carlson.


In the many years of operating the kennel, I am the ONLY person who has ever complained. Really? Can anyone name a business that has 100% customer satisfaction anywhere? Then I will consider myself very lucky that the very first person that ever bought a sick puppy from New Design Kennels (bought two) and contacted me! Sadly, this just isn’t the case, and it isn’t even believable. And I am just going to put this here Not only does Nancy Carlson operate New Design Kennels, but she runs a separate breeding website called “Illusion Japanese Chin” and even reputable breeders/ show breeders /breed enthusiasts know that something very shady is going on there. What kind of reputable breeder needs more than one name?! 


Hmmm…. Not only have I personally helped rescue dogs in horrid conditions that came straight out of puppy mills, but we have ALL seen those photos. Dogs that are completely matted, dogs that are too old, dogs with open wounds… These conditions have all been backed up by USDA inspections in which the inspectors cite these violations. Those dogs are all still breeding. Being “in the mood” doesn’t matter to animals when they are in heat. You can see some of those reports here, thanks to the 2015 Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill List


As Nancy said in her own blog earlier, ” a set of predator-drone flyover photos of our property several years ago”. The photos that Bailing Out Benji has of New Design Kennels ARE of their property, she admitted it in her own blog. Never once did we say that the cages were too small, sadly, they are more spacious than some puppy mills, but the dogs are forced to live on wire their entire lives. I will let you see those photos for yourself… And you can decide. 




So…. Again…. Do YOU think that New Design Kennels is a puppy mill? 



There ya have it, everyone! And that’s the truth! 

Join us on Facebook and stay updated on all of the work we are doing in Iowa, and beyond! 

Why Protest?

A woman protesting suffrage in 1917

As you all know, we are just under three months shy of our 4 year protest anniversary in front of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe- not to mention the three other pet stores we have volunteers standing in front of. The support that we receive from the community (and social media) is overwhelmingly positive and supportive. However, we do receive some anger directed at what we do. Especially when the store sends angry people our way. One of the frequent (personal) questions we are asked is “Why don’t you people do something better with your time?” It doesn’t matter what they are doing with their free time, they want to know why we aren’t doing more.

Protesting isn’t a new thing, nor is it going away any time soon. Since the 16th century (likely before), citizens have been documented peacefully assembling in order to raise awareness about issues that are near and dear to their hearts. Freedom, the right to vote, to end wars, to get unionized, to end animal cruelty in zoos/circuses, to raise awareness about puppy mills…. There is no end to the important causes in this world. Peaceful protests have made a lot of positive change in the history of the world. Sadly, there will always be those who disagree with the topic you are fighting for. No matter what it is. 

So I wanted to take a second and ask a few of our volunteers that question…. Why protest? Why spend your free time holding a sign in front of a pet store? Our volunteers come from all walks of life- we have vet techs, factory workers, shelter employees, retired marines,  teachers, and- actually- our most frequent protester is a retired 71 year old feisty woman! But no matter what we have going on, the plight and suffering of the dogs trapped in puppy mills weighs heavily on our hearts. So, without any more ramblings, I want you to hear it from our volunteers. Why do YOU protest?

Vicki- Why do I protest? Of course the obvious answer is that I love animals and hope to make their plight better through protest. I want to be one voice for the voiceless. No matter what you feel strongly about, protesting lets all observers know your stance on the subject. But, to be honest, there is a selfish side to protest, I feel so much better about myself now that I am protesting regularly. I’m no longer just existing for myself. I hope that I am actually making a difference in the life of an animal that is at the mercy of humans. I am not just inwardly turned… living only for myself anymore. I think many have never learned how good you feel if you do something good, an act of kindness that cannot be returned. It’s the best gift you can give yourself.

David- Ending puppy Mills is one piece of the puzzle.. it is about changing hearts and minds- bringing about a more compassionate towards all sentient beings. And ultimately ending all forms of animal cruelty.

African American protest for equal rights, 1963
African American protest for equal rights, 1963

Lori- The obvious importance of protesting is the significant role that protests have played in bringing about the necessary change throughout history. Successful protests have the power to positively influence public opinion. Every changed heart is a huge victory. What we believe at the heart level becomes our way of life, and in turn, influences others around us. For me, personally, gathering with others to protest strengthens my resolve to continue to work towards bringing about change.

Kristin- Puppies are adorable. Typically when people walk into a pet store, they have no intention of buying. But they see that adorable puppy and can’t say no. They impulse buy. If people knew where the mom’s and dad’s came from, I believe that there is no way in their right minds that they would buy. There are enough homeless animals that we can all find the perfect pet in a shelter or rescue. We don’t need poor quality and mass breeding. We need to save the ones that are already here.

Peaceful pet store protest
Peaceful pet store protest

Kelsey- I think that protesting is important because consumers deserve to know all of the facts before making a decision. Protesters have no financial stake in the business, so they are being honest and transparent.

Shannon- Protesting is important because you are educating others about puppy mills. I was unaware of the puppy mill problem in Iowa until I started protesting. Because it’s not in the news often, many people in this state are unaware of where pet store puppies come from. I protest to educate.

Katt- I believe protesting is an important step in educating the public because the animals we are protesting for cannot speak for themselves. As simple a step as putting easy to read writing on signs, can lead a person to go home and research puppy mills and to research the business being protested.

As for me… I think protesting is one of the most important things a person can do in their life. Not only are we exercising our rights as free citizens, while educating about a topic that we care passionately about- but we are proving that those dogs trapped in the puppy mills are no longer invisible. We stand as visible reminders every single (day/weekend/month/year) that those dogs DO exist and they are suffering. No longer are we sitting idly by, we are changing the world every day that we are out there. With every new person we educate, the puppy mill industry becomes weaker and weaker.

Everything we have said in the short interviews given are things we wish we could say every single time we are asked “Why”. Instead, most people walk off without a pause for an answer. So we tell them to have a great day and we stare straight ahead and hold our signs. Every time. 

For the dogs.

Can you join us? Even once? 

Bailing Out Benji hosts peaceful protests each weekend in

Ames, Iowa City and Cedar Rapids (Iowa). 

email: bailingoutbenji@gmail.com  for more information!

— Mindi 

Our peaceful protests in front of Dyvig's Pet Shoppe
Our peaceful protests in front of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe

Oops… We did it again!

Hundreds of Puppy Mills
Thousands of dogs
Immeasurable suffering


Check out our latest bus ad that will be circling around…. DES MOINES, Iowa!

DART buses drive all over the Des Moines area, and 20 other cities! Over 4.4 million people ride these buses each year!

The timing of the bus ad release is strategically planned for… The Iowa State Fair! Which is held each year in Des Moines and hosts over 1 million people! DART shuttles many of the visitors from their cars to the fair during this time!

This ad will run for a year and will also run when the legislators are in session! Let’s hope it sparks some interest and they start making decisions with the best interest of the animals at heart!

We are proud to have Aheinz57 Pet Rescue and Transport displayed on our ad! Not only are they a fantastic rescue, but they have helped rescue many puppy mill dogs in the last few years!


Pets Playhouse sells Puppy Mill Puppies

Pets Playhouse

151 Jacolyn Dr. NW

Cedar Rapids, Iowa 

Pet store puppies are puppies mill puppies, as the saying goes. (don’t know what a puppy mill is? click here) .  According to the ASPCA, all puppies sold in pet stores MUST come from USDA licensed breeders.


 That should not be a safety net. Anyone with a computer could easily look up the the inspection reports from these USDA licensed breeders… They just don’t. And pet stores can easily sell puppies from “reputable” breeders without the public giving it a second thought. Take Pets Playhouse for example: 

Pets Playhouse has revealed that one of their breeders to be none other than “Maple Tree Kennels” of Alta Vista, Iowa, which is run by JoAnna and Marvin Newswanger. This large scale breeder is fairly new to Iowa, coming from Pennsylvania (near Lancaster County) in 2009. If you know anything about puppy mills, then you know that Lancaster County is home to some of the worst puppy mills in the country  This breeder was actually listed on the North Penn “Puppy Mill Watch List” in 2008. Their last few inspection reports, after moving to Iowa,  have had over 330 adult dogs and around 210 puppies. These dogs are trapped in kennels with wire flooring and they are bred every heat cycle until their bodies give out. One of their recent inspection reports (pictured below) shows that the holes in the wire are spaced too far apart and the paws of the dogs easily pass through- which is dangerous- not to mention, terribly uncomfortable to live on your entire life. 

Here is their latest USDA dog count: 

In February 2017 the USDA started redacting names/addresses on forms.


The Newswangers were also written up for having a layer of hair and wood-shaving dust on the white PVC pipe on top of the kennels. According to the inspection report (also pictured below), the licensee claims that these areas are cleaned at least twice yearly. 


The puppies that Pets Playhouse sells as “happy and healthy” are born and raised in these kennels. Another recent violation showed that the puppies were being kept with the feed and bedding was stored. According to the USDA inspector, ” This does not facilitate good husbandry practices and does not protect the food and bedding from contamination”. So the puppies are raised in these conditions, sold to Pets Playhouse for less than $100 each,  and then resold for a huge profit. According to their facebook page, the store was selling bulldog puppies for $2000 each, teddy bears for $520, and also “cavapoos”, shihtzus, and “pomapoos” for over $400 a piece.

$2000 bulldog
$2000 bulldog

BUYER BEWARE: Puppies that come from conditions and places like these can wind up with genetic disorders down the road. We acknowledge that this pet store supports the community by doing a fundraiser each year for the local police station, but is that reason enough to look the other way when cruelty is involved?


The parents are truly suffering at the hands of the pet store owner, the breeder and anyone who chooses to ignore the facts. Currently, there are over 787 homeless dogs within 100 miles of Cedar Rapids and it would be fantastic if Pets Playhouse would stop selling puppies. They could help the community by helping find homes for homeless animals in need (note: the store also sells kittens). 

Here is a photo of the facility… Sure. It looks nice from the outside. But can you imagine 300 dogs living inside. All day. Every day. For their entire lives? 


Sadly, Pets Playhouse isn’t the only Iowa pet store that sells puppies from puppy mills. Two of the main ones are Dyvigs Pet Shoppe in Ames, IA and Petland in Iowa City. Both have connections to mills and are being protested regularly. And here are more Iowa puppy mills that sell puppies to pet stores all over the country. 

Be the solution . 


For more information on how YOU can help dogs trapped in puppy mills, please contact us through our facebook page! 


Iowa Puppy Mills Filling Pet Store Cages Across the US

It is no secret that Iowa is one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to the number of puppy mills. We have over 220 puppy mills and we export over 100,000 puppies across state lines annually. These puppies go to other brokers (person who makes a living buying puppies and selling them at a higher price) or the puppies go straight to pet stores. The Hunte Corporation is the biggest broker in the United States, they supply  approximately 80% of pet stores with their puppies (around 85,000 sold in one year alone). The Hunte Corp is simply a company of puppy buyers, and then they resell them for a profit. In the most recent issue of the Iowa Pet Breeders Association directory, the Hunte Corporation had an advertisement that said they would give you a free bag of dog food for every puppy sold. While the Hunte Corporation is located in Missouri, their puppies supply pet stores world wide. 

Not all brokers are as big as the Hunte Corporation, and several of them are breeders as well. This is a side of the puppy mill world that the public never sees. In fact, pet stores go to great lengths in order to keep the public from ever finding out where the puppies really come from. In the latest article coming to you from Bailing Out Benji, we want to highlight some of the Iowa breeders that are filling the cages of pet stores near you. We desperately need more people to realize that Iowa puppy mills truly are a national problem. Thanks to the ASPCA and the USDA, all of the information in this article was very easy to find and organize to make easy for our readers. Please note that all hyperlinked words (blue and underlined) either lead to the facebook page or website of the breeder (for easy commenting!) or to the ASPCA site for more photos and information. Don’t hesitate to click around! 

Taken from one of the pet store’s websites. Just sickening.


Cathy Speer-  Milton, Iowa. License No. 42A1238

Supplies Petland #250 in Crystal Lake, IL and Petland #78 Rockford, IL

The puppies have to travel over 4 hours to get to the store… In a semi? In crowded vans? 

Cathy Speer has been cited repeatedly in the past for excessive waste, outdoor housing without wind or rain breaks, lack of vet care, and incomplete vet records. To read more in-depth violations and more photos from this breeder, click here. Both of these pet stores tell their customers that their puppies come from small, local breeders when in all reality the puppies are from five hours away. Sadly, the latest inspection reports show 26 adult dogs- but Cathy can’t bother to take adequate care of the animals in her care. I wonder what their customers would say if they actually saw where the puppies come from. 



Michael Knudtson, Lake Mills, Iowa.

USDA license No. 42A1149

Supplies: Petland in Joliet, Illinois

For only having 26 adult dogs on his property, Michael Knudtson is extremely neglectful to them. Years and years of inspection reports show a long list of violations. His most recent violations show dogs with open wounds, inadequate heating (36 degrees in the kennels with water bowls frozen over) Once provided water, dogs drank for almost 2 minutes. But, Petland Joliet insists they sell puppies from reputable breeders…. We know the truth now, don’t we?



CW’s Quaint Critters: Connie and Harold Johnson  Melvin, Iowa. License No. 42B0226

These poor, not even 8 week old puppies travel over 21 hours just to sit in a pet store cage. 

Supplies The Dog House in Manchester, Connecticut

The Johnsons have had several violations in the past, including not having shelter in their outdoor facilities, not having cages that are easily cleaned, buildup of filth in cages, and one of the male beagles was seen straining to defecate and passed a thick red matter. Recent inspection reports show that this breeder currently has 121 adult dogs. To see more of these photos and violations, click here:  Right on the website of “The Dog House” they say that they only work with accredited breeders to ensure that each puppy they sell will be healthy and well adjusted. They also claim to have the largest selection of breeds in the area. Check out the photos below and in the link, it is clear that they are not being honest to their customers. 



Gale and Judy Dorothy: Stockport, Iowa License No. 42A0933

Supplies Shake-A-Paw in Hicksville, New York. 

The cages at the Dorothy puppy mill have been called into question several times in recent history. Several wires can be seen poking into the cages, which poses a danger to the animals, the water can be seen as a grimy green color, and the food bowls are metal with jagged edges. (see more here). However, the pet store claims that they have established relationships with the most respected breeders across the country. Does this look very respectable? How would those customers feel if they knew that these animals weren’t being taken care of? Judy Dorothy, per the latest inspection report, shows that she only has 24 dogs and repeatedly fails to care for them. 

These puppies travel over 17 hours, just to sit in cages and wait for someone to buy them. 



Ben and June Paxton: Greenfield, Iowa. License No. 42A0238

Supplies Animal Kingdom in Bismark, North Dakota, those pet store puppies have to sit in a van or semi for over 10 hours. 

As you can see in this link and from the pictures below, the dogs live their entire lives on these wires cages. This can cause deformities in their feet and legs. You can also see that their food bowls are excessively chewed. Ben and June have 102 adult dogs that will live in these cages all day, every day for the rest of their lives. 



Brule Creek Kennel; James and Cynthia Hayes, Akron, Iowa

 USDA license # 46-B-033  (licensed in South Dakota)

Supplies: Spectrum Pets, Irvine CA; Puppy World, Greenfield WI; Best Pets, Pacifica CA; Family Pet Center, Chesapeake VA; The Pet Shop, Newark NJ; Petland, Fort Meyers FL; PetWorld Inc, Rochester NY; Bob’s Tropical Pets, Ridge NY; Pups & Pets, Santee CA; Vilaggio Family Pets, Temecula CA; The Pet Shop, Bethleham PA; Petland, Largo FL; Petland, Rome GA; Oh My Dog, Kearney GA; Russo Pets; Newport Beach CA; Petland, Dallas TX

Wow. That’s all I can say…. On puppy mill supplying over 16 pet stores with puppies. Can you imagine how many litters the parent dogs must have? And when the breeder uses photos like the ones below ON THEIR OWN WEBSITE! You know that they have zero shame in what they are doing. 


Black Diamond Kennel; Gary Felts, Kingsley, Iowa

USDA License No. 42A0757

Supplies: Petland Kennesaw, Georgia

As always, Petland claims to use “reputable breeders”… Sadly, in the case of Petland Kennesaw, they chose one of the HSUS Horrible 100 worst puppy mills in the United States. Not even just one of the worst mills in Iowa. Nope, Gary Felts operates one of the worst puppy mills in the entire country. With years and years of violations, his dogs live their entire lives in the worst conditions without ever knowing proper vet care or the kindness of a human. After being born and raised in cruelty and filth, the puppies must travel over 15 hours just to sit in cages in the pet store. 



High Point Country Kennel: Noah and Lashell Thomas, Garden Grove, IA License No. 42A1454

Supplies Petland in Hollywood, Florida 

The photos below and the photos that the ASPCA received from the USDA inspection reports show that several of their dogs have excessively long nails, which hinders their ability to walk correctly. As you can see, these dogs are also forced to live on these wire floors their entire lives which, as we said before, can cause permanent injury to their feet and legs. The latest USDA reports are showing that they have 58 adult dogs on their property.  The store won’t ever admit that they chose a breeder like this, instead they claim on their website that “Petland puppies must meet standards before they can become Petland puppies.” 

After leaving one of the worst puppy mills in Iowa, the puppies have to endure a 22 hour trip, only to sit in a pet store cage. 



Northwest Kennel- Leonard Stover: Sheldon, Iowa. License No. 42B0186

Supplies Pet Ranch AKA Four Paws and a Tail in Minneapolis, Minnesota (A three hour trip for the puppies) 

If you haven’t yet, I implore you to click on this link and see all of the matted dogs. Leonard Stover has been sited several times for not grooming his animals. If you are unaware, mats can be very painful, dirty and can hide wounds. The pet store claims that the customers can be sure that they are receiving puppies “from a quality location”, these photos tell another story. Not only does he breed cats, he has over 114 adult dogs on his property. 



Mary Yoder: Bloomfield, Iowa. License No. 42B0283

Supplies:  American Breeders in Mohegan Lake, NY,  Laughlin Kennels in Oxford, MA,  NY Pet Club in Flushing, NY, U.S. Pets in Astoria, NY (At least an 18 hour trip for the puppies) 

Mary Yoder’s kennels are spotless, in fact they look almost sterile. She has over 400 adult dogs living in these cages all day, every day for the rest of their lives. This is where we run into problems with the definition of puppy mills. Some people will look at this breeder and think that spotless equals reputable. Others look at these kennels and see a very bleak life for the dogs. Yes, the cages appear clean, but is that the trade of for affection and exercise? Here is the link to the ASPCA site. 

Yoder has supplied puppies to  Petland Kennesaw. While they claim to use reputable breeders, Yoder has been cited over the years for various animal welfare violations. Her most recent inspection this year noted lack of protection from the elements (it was judged to be 14 degrees Fahrenheit that night) and a beagle and Boston terrier were noted to be shivering and lacking bedding. It was also noted that there was a lack of appropriate record keeping of USDA records on the dogs. Time and time again, these pet stores and puppy mill owners are failing the dogs… Why? Because the money is just too sweet to care about the well-being of animals. 




Brad Grotewold: in Lake Mills, Iowa. License No. 42A0119

Supplies:  Steve’s Wonderful World of Pets in Buffalo, NY, Petland #199 in Saint Paul, MN, Petland Robinson in Pittsburgh, PA, Alsip Nursery in Frankfort, IL, Petland in Las Vegas NV, Petland Kennesaw GA and The Perfect Pup inc. in Saint Charles, IL

Brad Grotewold sells to at least five pet stores, all of them claim to sell the best puppies. Steve’s Wonderful World of Pets goes as far to claim to have the “only source of screened quality bred puppies in WNY”. As you can see below and in this link, Brad has had numerous violations that were directly affecting the welfare of his animals. Excessive feces, rusty cages and feeders, excessive accumulation of feces, and cages with dirt build up. On the Petland website it states that they “start that process by selecting only the highest quality, healthy pets for our stores”. I wonder if their customers would agree with that statement? The Petland Robinson in Pittsburgh claims to help homeless animals, all while supporting this breeder. The Kicker? Brad Grotewold has over 369 adult breeding adults trapped in his facility. 

After leaving one of the worst puppy mills in Iowa, many of the puppies won’t survive their 18+ hour drive to the pet store. 



Laura Groeneweg: Rock Valley, IA. License No. 42A1296

Supplies: A Place for Pets in Seattle Washington

Laura Groeneweg’s puppies travel over 1700 miles to get to this Seattle based pet store. The store stands behind their puppies in saying that, “Our puppies come from good, caring, reliable people. The parents and puppies are well taken care of.” Sadly, the inspection reports beg to differ. According to this link and past inspection reports their breeder has been in trouble for using expired medications on their adult dogs, the adult dogs are in cages that do not meet space requirements, the puppies feet are too small and pass through the wire flooring, and there is an excessive build-up of feces. If only the customers could really see the hell that these dogs are going through on a daily basis, maybe then they wouldn’t buy the “cute” puppy in the pet store. With all of these violations, Laura only has 34 adult breeding dogs on her property. 



Nick and Tiffany Menne: Lime Springs, Iowa. License No. 42A1398

Supplies:  American Breeders in Danbury, CT and Puppy Experience – LI Puppy in Riverhead, NY

The Pet Store in Danbury, American Breeders states  that their “breeders have been personally selected to provide you with the best registered purebred and hybrid puppies you can find.” As you can see below and in this link,  this is one of the breeders that they personally selected. Nick and Tiffany Menne in Lime Springs, Iowa have had numerous USDA violations including excessive accumulation of dog waste (pictured below), dogs in outdoor enclosures with no shelter (pictured below), and several dogs with excessively long toe nails. You can see more photos and violations here. I wonder if American Breeders would proudly show these photos in their store, next to their guarantee of “personally selected breeders” or if The LI Puppy Experience would showcase this side of the “BEST BREEDERS WHICH OUR REPUTATION RELIES ON (taken from their website)”

.  Instead, these 209 adult breeding dogs get to eat, sleep and walk around in their own feces day after day for the rest of their lives. 



Jan Budden: Maurice, Iowa. License No. 42A1413

Supplies: We Love Pets, Media, Pennsylvania

With recent inspection reports showing over 66 adult dogs and a LONG list of violations (including use of expired medications, cages having excessive feces, cages have build up of dark brown liquid and previous violations including:  dogs requiring immediate vet care and use of expired medications), it makes us wonder why a pet store would purchase puppies from a place like this. It is clear that the adult dogs are not being cared for. Sadly, profit is the only thing that matters. So the puppies endure a 19+ hour ride, only to be sold to the first person who whips out their credit card. 



As you can see, there is a huge problem with the breeders that these pet stores are choosing to get their puppies from. There are several pet stores in Iowa that choose to get their puppies from places just like these (you can read about Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe and the mill that has 150 dogs trapped here and Critter nation and how they get their dogs from two huge puppy mills here). Also, Petland in Iowa City and Pet’s Playhouse in Cedar Rapids are knowingly purchasing puppies from Iowa puppy mills. Remember, Pet store puppies ARE puppy mill puppies– don’t buy the lies. 

Either these pet stores don’t know (highly unlikely) or they don’t care because business is booming. When are they going to be held accountable for the lies they are pushing on the public? We will add to this list as we come across more pet store/puppy mill connections. To read more about Iowa puppy mills by the numbers, please click here! 

Thank you for reading our Article, and please head over to our Facebook page and “like” us! 

** UPDATE*** Since this article published, a few pet stores have chosen to go HUMANE and only offer rescued animals– Alsip Nursery in Illinois (both of their locations!!) and A Place for Pets in Washington!

Home for the HOWL-idays

Most of you reading this are already at your limit with animals that you are caring for, yet we are inundated every day with homeless animals (whether you see them at your rescue/shelter or all over Facebook). It seems as though we can never do enough. Well, today I am going to CHALLENGE you to do something that would give an animal a new “leash” on life. 


This might not be an option at every shelter or rescue, but the idea behind this is that we can maybe bring some attention to those less adoptable animals in the shelter. I was sitting at home last night, looking at all of the animals in need and I knew that I had to do something.  Later on this week, I will reveal that animals that I have chosen for this challenge, but I can tell you right now that they are all black labs that are easily overlooked within the shelter system. When making your choice, pick an animal that might be overlooked– a senior, a certain breed, a special needs animal– some precious soul that might just need a chance. The idea behind this is that the shelter or rescue will be “on board” with this, will promote the animal as having a sponsored fee, and this might arouse the attention of a family. ALL REGULAR APPLICATION PROCESSES WOULD STILL APPLY. This is by no means giving an animal a home for “free”, just another way of donating to the shelter and connecting with an animal at the same time. Shelters and rescues have very reasonable rates, but sponsoring an animal would bring it out of the shadows and into the limelight. 

Once you have chosen your animal and have sponsored the adoption fee, please post the link on our facebook page and we will share the animal AND the rescue/shelter with our fans. If you are on Facebook or Twitter please share  #HomeForTheHOWLidays with your friends/family/coworkers. You never know how many success tails might come of this. 

DO YOU THINK WE CAN SPONSOR 100 ADOPTIONS BEFORE CHRISTMAS?! Let the challenge begin! #HomeForTheHOWLidays at Bailing Out Benji( don’t forget to like us!) 

Needing other ideas to help your local shelter or rescue that doesn’t involve money? Click here

Iowa’s First Puppy Mill Awareness Billboard

What weighs 12 tons, is seen by tens of thousands of people a day, and is carrying Iowa’s first Puppy Mill billboard? 

ames 10-17-13 046

That’s right! The Cyride! All summer long the volunteers at Bailing Out Benji have been raising money to purchase Iowa’s first Puppy Mill Awareness Billboard and PSA!

This sign will be seen by the 33,000 students enrolled at Iowa State University, as well as the more than 30,000 Ames, Iowa residents. With 35% of the ISU students coming from other states, not to mention all of the international students who will be reading this message– this has the ability to be seen around the world. We are hoping that this ad will catch some wandering eyes and will educate them about where NOT to get their puppies. 

Our ad has hit the city of Ames today, October 18, 2013 and will run for an entire year on two different buses. A close up of the ad shows our message (as you can see below). As you know, one of our passions at Bailing Out Benji is to educate the consumer about the pet store, puppy mill connection. We believe that if there is no longer a demand for puppies, then the supply will dwindle down. This ad is up and running just in time for the busiest period of the year for puppy mill and store owners…. The holidays. It is no secret that more puppies are purchased as gifts between November and the end of December. Can you help us end that? Spread the word that pet store puppies are puppy mill puppies. 


Wondering who that cute yorkie is in the PSA? Her name is Scarlett Sunshine and she survived 5 years in a puppy mill. She and her pack have dedicated their lives to educating about puppy mills and we couldn’t think of a better way to honor her memory. I want to thank everyone that helped with this!

Please, head over to our facebook page and let us know your thoughts!! Would you like to see one of these ads in your neck of the woods?