Written by: Mindi Callison, Founder of Bailing Out Benji
If you have heard of puppy mills, then you have very likely heard that Missouri is the worst state in the entire country when it comes to them. Not because of the sheer number of puppy mills MO has (which is a lot; over 800 ), but how horrible they are, how many adults dogs are trapped and how many puppies are sold from puppy mills in this state to pet stores all over the country. Missouri is undoubtedly a very unsafe place to buy a puppy from and for the love of all that is dog, do NOT – I repeat DO NOT- ever order a puppy from a site that will ship a dog to you after putting your credit card in. Your purchases are likely coming from one of the over 800 mills in Missouri and are keeping the puppy mill industry alive and thriving.
Beyond the generic “Missouri has a lot of puppy mills” ideology that many advocates know to be true, we wanted to share some research-based numbers with you to show you why MO is and will likely always be the puppy mill capital of the world.
Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills
Each year the Humane Society of the United States puts out a list of the worst puppy mills in the US after reviewing thousands of inspection reports and complaints made by consumers. This report is known as the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill list. This is a painstakingly long process and requires a lot of research to narrow it down to just 100 of the worst. Would you be surprised if we told you that Missouri has topped the list every single year since 2013 when the compilation began? Many of the offenders of the HH list are repeat offenders and, you might be shocked to learn, that many of these same puppy mills are supplying pet stores with puppies. To view the lists, click here.
Missouri has appeared on the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill list over 118 times, equaling out to having 24% of the worst 500 puppy mills since 2013- and only 28 states have ever appeared on the list. On the latest 2017 HH compilation, Missouri appeared 19 times and 13 of those puppy mills were repeat offenders. Translation: USDA licensed dog breeders in Missouri are repeatedly written up for direct and non direct violations to the Animal Welfare Act, yet are allowed to keep their licenses, are allowed to keep their dogs and are allowed to keep profiting off of the suffering of so many. And, if you can believe it, the 800 puppy mills are what’s left over after the watered down Prop B passed in Missouri in 2010. Prop B forced over 3000 commercial dog breeding facilities in Missouri to shape up or leave the business. Sadly, the ones left are no better, they are just ‘okay’ enough to stay licensed.
With almost 40,000 adult breeding dogs in Missouri alone, over a half a million puppies are literally being pumped out each year- but where do they go? Certainly Nick and Jane from New York City aren’t driving all the way down to Missouri just to pick up their puppy mill puppy. So how do these horrible facilities continue to stay in business?
The Pet Store/Puppy Mill Connection
During World War 2 we saw the beginning stages of the puppy mill industry. Women needed an easy way to make money while their husbands were away at war and the farmers in the Midwest needed to find an alternate crop that would help sustain their families and their farms. While a lot of these breeders were selling to families they knew, this created a new business model for department stores and mom and pop shops. They began bringing these puppies into their stores and selling them, inspiring the ever famous song “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”. It wasn’t until 1966 that the USDA even stepped in to begin licensing and inspecting these facilities and the Animal Welfare Act was born- if this give you any indication on how old and outdated those standards are.
Fast Forward over 50 years and the dog breeding industry is still like the Wild West. Puppy Mills follow trends that the public is interested in and create new breeds based off of that. But how are they reaching their buyers? Through pet stores and online websites.
Most of you reading this live in America and what do we know about our culture? When people in our society want something, they want it now. The general public isn’t going to wait to find a reputable breeder, or wait to work with a rescue or shelter to find a dog that fits their lifestyle. Instead these people are going to puppy mill websites like “PuppyFind.com” , “NextDayPets.com” or the worst “PuppySpot.com”. These websites play off of that behavior and they will not only find the exact breed, gender and color of dog you want, but they will ship it to you, easy peasy! There is no meeting the parents, no checking out their genetic history or the facility they live in. Just a cash exchange for a living, breathing soul. Much like the pet store aspect of this industry, this anonymous exchange of puppies for money protects some of the worst puppy mills in the entire country.
Pet stores are no better. You will often hear the pet store owners say they “hand pick” their puppies to sell in the store. Translation: They look through an order form and put a check mark by the breeds/genders of dogs they want. Legitimately, that’s how they decide which puppies they are selling based off of what sells well in their store. One of the projects our volunteers work on is requesting reports from departments of Agriculture in various states to pinpoint exactly which puppy mills are selling to pet stores. To view our research in full, you can click here , however we want to show you how many horrible Missouri puppy mills are selling to pet stores all over the country. Again, this isn’t the full list, just a few examples of bad Missouri puppy mills who are selling to pet stores.
From Puppy Mill to Pet Store:
Kim Coleman, TLC Kennels, Clinton Missouri. 193 adult breeding dogs. Very very very ill poodles with previous violations including: Puppies found entrapped in wire flooring; white dogs appeared brown due to soiling with mud and feces, Bloodied poodle found lying on her side, unable to rise; strong odors of urine and feces. One of the repeat offenders on the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill List. To view USDA inspection photos from this kennel,click here.
-Sells to: Beautiful Puppies in FLORIDA
Hazel Coleman, Dog N Ass Farm. Lebanon, Missouri- 68 adult breeding dogs. Previous violations including: puppies feet passing through wire bottom flooring, matted hair, cockroaches, mice, buckets of feces, etc. To view USDA inspection photos,click here.
-Sells to: Puppy Plus in FLORIDA; American Dog Club (3 locations) in NEW YORK; Selmer’s Petland in NEW YORK
Darlene Whitman,O My Heart Kennel. Mountain Grove Missouri- 112 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: evidence of dogs getting powerwashed, use of expired medications, cold kennels. To view USDA inspection photos,click here.
-Sells to: Petland Davie in FLORIDA; Petland Plantation in FLORIDA ; American Dog Club (3 locations) in NEW YORK; Furry Babies (4 locations) in ILLINOIS.
Elaine Wilson, Everton Missouri . 196 adult breeding dogs.
-Sells to: Puppies N Love (3 locations) in ARIZONA ; Animal Kingdom (2 locations) in ARIZONA; Trendy Pet in ARIZONA
Country Pets (Mary Foster and Cathy Griesbauer) , Montgomery City Missouri- 281 adult breeding dogs. This breeder is one of the worst puppy mills in the country. In 2016 they were cited as being a massive puppy mill with more than 900 dogs had license for one property, but found operating second unlicensed facility.
-Sells to: Pet City (Colorado)
Judy Gray, Rothville, Missouri- 97 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: dogs with severe dental issues, wire cage bottoms so wide that the feet pass through, too small of kennels, dogs with eye issues. To view USDA inspection photos of this kennel,click here.
-Sells to: Teacup Puppies in FLORIDA
Phil Hoover, Memphis Missouri- 364 adult breeding dogs.
-Sells to: Vanity Pups in FLORIDA; The Puppy Place in MASSACHUSETTS, Laughlin Kennel in MASSACHUSETTS; Puppies Plus in NEVADA; Petland Henderson in NEVADA; Pet City Baja in COLORADO
Mark Landers, Promises Kept Kennels. Hartville Missouri – 224 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: dogs with blood on their necks, outdoor dogs without adequate bedding, broken wire poking into kennels, etc. To view USDA photos of this kennel,click here.
-Sells to: Petland Davie in FLORIDA and Petland Largo in FLORIDA.
Jimmy Dowyle Powell, Jimmy’s Hilltop Kennels. Missouri- 68 adult breeding dogs and is one of the 2016 Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills. His violations include: Nursing mother dogs were underweight with hip and rib bones protruding; others had fleas and lesions, dogs with excessive hairless and specifically he inspection report stated that a beagle with five nursing puppies “was noted to have bony prominences, an obvious waist, and loss of muscle mass” with a body score of only 2 out of 9 (5 is ideal). There was no indication that the dog was under treatment for her condition.
-Sells to: Puppy in the Window in ILLINOIS
This is a very small sample of all of our CVI research but it goes to show you that pet stores are enabling the neglect going on because they are making a huge profit off of the puppies they sell. You can see all of our research here.
There is no one thing that will solve the puppy mill problem, but there are many small ways we can create big change. Across the country we have seen a rise in retail bans, both on the city level as well as the state. These retail bans require that pet stores sell dogs and cats sourced from nonprofit rescues and shelters, instead of selling from commercial breeders. This is proving to be effective in combating the puppy mill industry, as the some major players on the puppy mill side are working like crazy to lobby against our efforts. We are also seeing puppy mills trying to get rescue licenses to find loopholes in such retail bans- but more on that later. Even if you store doesn’t have a store in town, it is important to approach your city council to try and get a retail ban passed. Be proactive and stop the problem before it starts!
Another successful way to combat the puppy mill industry is by talking about it! Tell your friends and family what puppy mills are and how to avoid them, write letters to the editor about puppy mills and, most importantly, don’t ever shop at pet stores that sell puppies. Every day we are voting with are money and it is vital to support the stores who aren’t enabling the puppy mill industry. Do you have a pet store in your town? You can start your own peaceful protest and educate the consumers who have no idea where those puppies really come from!
With your help, we can put an end to puppy mills!
Bailing Out Benji is 100% volunteer based, meaning that no one is reimbursed for their time or efforts. As you know, we are dedicated to raising social consciousness about various animal welfare issues, mainly puppy mills, in order to create a more informed public who can demand change. In 2016, we became a top-rated nonprofit and maintained that in 2017! in 2016 we also had a budget of less than $25,000 but were able to do BIG things!