Data on the Decline

©Bailing Out Benji 2021

All research and information was done by the team at Bailing Out Benji  and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!

Written by Mindi Callison


The Juxtaposition Between Data and Testimony

Since 2006 advocates across the country have been working hard to pass humane ordinances in their cities, counties and states that prohibit pet stores from partnering with animal mills for puppy, kitten and sometimes rabbit sales. To date, more than 375 localities and 3 states have passed similar language with even more working on the issue in 2021. 

The pet store and commercial dog breeding industry regularly attends these council meetings and state bill hearings to defend their business practices and one of their main talking points has been that humane ordinances  “haven’t shut down a single puppy mill“. Of course, their definition of puppy mill is vastly different than the definition that advocates use.

The pet industry- which includes employees, owners and lobbyists for pet stores and commercial breeders- always testifies that they believe puppy mills are unlicensed, unregulated breeders, while advocates stick to the definition that a puppy mill is any commercial breeding facility that puts the profit over the welfare of the animals. Clearly, the two definitions are at odds with each other because the pet industry relies heavily on USDA and state licensed breeders, no matter how many breeding animals are kept onsite or how many violations the facilities have. 

Definition differences aside, the pet industry isn’t looking at licenses or data when they routinely tell policy makers that none of these humane ordinances have shut down a single puppy mill. If they did, they would be telling a different story.

Before we dig in, we do want to make an editor’s note:

Over the last decade, the public has become increasingly more aware of the puppy mill industry. More families are researching before they buy, they are avoiding puppy-selling stores, they are demanding stronger breeding/licensing laws in their own states, and they are pushing for humane ordinances. Not any one thing can point to the downfall of this industry, but the holistic approach of education, advocacy and policy is a huge part in ending the puppy mill industry once and for all.

The Data on the Decline

In 2008, the USDA issued 4228 class A licenses and 1067 class B license to companion animal breeders- 5,295 licenses total. Comparatively, in 2021 the USDA issued 2035 class A licenses and 762 class B licenses- 3,697 total. This shows a 30% decrease in active USDA licensed breeders and brokers over the last 13 years. 

While there is a small fluctuation each year in federal and state licensees, the overall trend is showing that more commercial dog and cat breeders are not only going out of business, but many of the worst puppy mills have either been shut down or downsized greatly. 

A few examples are below: 

Horrible Hundred puppy mill owner Steve Kruse (Stonehenge Kennels. West Point, Iowa 42-B-0182) had over 940 adult breeding dogs in 2014 and has downsized to 670 adult breeding dogs in 2021. Kruse routinely sells puppies to pet stores and is still in operation. 

Kimberly Coleman (TLC Kennels. Clinton, Missouri. 43-A-4973) had over 212 adult breeding dogs in 2014 and was a repeat Horrible Hundred puppy mill offender. After years of violations, public pressure and the inability to partner with many stores due to violations, Coleman auctioned off all of her animals in 2019 and closed her breeding facility.  Coleman routinely sold puppies to pet stores in California among other states. California passed a statewide ordinance that went into effect in 2019. 

Gary Felts (Black Diamond Kennels. Kingsley, Iowa. 42-A-0757) had over 276 adult breeding dogs in 2014 and had downsized to 153 adult breeding dogs in 2017. After years of Federal violations and public pressure, Felts closed his breeding facility and auctioned off all of his dogs in 2017. Felts routinely sold puppies to pet stores. 

We have also seen a decline in licensed dog brokers. As fewer stores are offering puppies and kittens for sale, the need for middle men has decreased as well.  A few of the most notable examples include: 

David Steffensmeier (Jeannie’s Gems. West Point, Iowa. 42-B-0298) routinely sold puppies and kittens to pet stores all over the country. Steffensmeier cancelled his license in 2019. 

Sham rescues Rescue Pets Iowa and Hobo K9 rescue were ordered to shut down by the Iowa Attorney General after our investigation linked them to puppy broker JAKS Puppies (Jolyn Noethe. Britt, Iowa 42-B-0271). These two entities were created to broker puppies to stores in cities and states where it was prohibited; proving that these ordinances do affect the puppy mill industry. California and Chicago were the main targets, as both passed ordinance language that prevented breeders from selling through stores.

In addition to our own findings on this decline in licensed breeders, a 2019 report from the Omaha World Herald echoed our research. According to the article:

 “Nebraska Department of Agriculture records show that half of the state’s commercial dog and cat breeders have left the business over the past seven years. The decline was particularly sharp between June 30, 2018, when there were 216 state-licensed breeders, and the same date this year, when the number was down to 138.”

Two USDA and Nebraska state licensed breeders were quoted in the article stating that they “blame rising overhead costs, laws limiting pet store sales and competition from animal rescue organizations.” Clem Disterhaupt (Sandhills Kennels. Stuart, Nebraska. 47-A-0427) also stated that “Midwest breeders were hurt by a California law that banned pet stores from selling commercially bred puppies, kittens and rabbits.”

What does the research say? 

Industry leaders also echo this trend. According to a recent report from IBIS World Dog and Pet Breeders Industry:

“The Dog and Pet Breeders industry has been subject to a moderate level of revenue volatility over the past five years. Recent efforts to regulate the industry and fight against puppy mills have contributed to strong revenue declines.”

To Read the full IBIS World report click here.

Thanks to this research and graphic below from the IBIS World Report, you can see the states with the highest concentration of puppy-selling pet stores. This falls in line with the data we have been collecting on stores.

Currently in 2021, humane pet store bills are being heard on the state level in Washington, Texas, Florida, Illinois, Pennsylvania and New York (among others). California’s state ban went into effect in 2019 and was cleaned up in 2020.  These states are the ones who are importing the most puppies from Midwest USDA commercial breeders (puppy mills) and are trying to stop this pipeline from happening. Because many of the largest commercial breeders and brokers are selling to these stores, they will have vastly fewer outlets to sell puppies through and will have to either change their business models, downsize their kennels or close. 


Throwing data and facts aside allows the pet industry to make the claim that no puppy mills are feeling the effect of these ordinances so they can plant a seed of doubt in the minds of policy makers in order to prevent humane laws from being passed. 

In order to correct that narrative, our nonprofit wanted to share our research and industry reports regarding commercial breeder licensing over the last few years. Contrary to what the pet industry is saying, puppy mills are closing down, advocacy efforts are working and the entire industry is on the decline. 

We strongly encourage advocates to keep working on humane ordinances, keep working on state bills pertaining to pet stores and continue fighting for more regulation on the commercial dog breeding industry. The trends are in our favor and the future is humane. 


©Bailing Out Benji 2021

All research and information was done by the team at Bailing Out Benji  and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!

Bailing Out Benji is a 501c3 nonprofit organization that researches and investigates the commercial dog and cat breeding industry and tracks the sale of animals as they move to pet stores and online customers.

If you would like to donate to help us continue our important work, please click on the button below. 


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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 !!

What’s in YOUR Backyard?

Want to see a puppy mill for your own eyes? 


Everyone has differing opinions of what a “puppy mill” is.

Some breeders say that it is a derogatory term, much like a racial slur. Other breeders say that the “AR”s (or Animal Rights Activists, as they refer to us) are using it as a blanket term to cover anyone that breeds and that we want to end all breeding altogether (which is false, by the way)

My own PERSONAL definition of a puppy mill is ANY breeder of any size that puts the profit of the sale over the welfare of the dogs left behind. I don’t care if you have two dogs or two hundred. If you are allowing the parent dogs to go without proper food, water, shelter, VET CARE, or socialization then YOU are a puppy mill, by my standards.

Sadly, Iowa is full of these. Even worse, the reputable breeders won’t step forward and speak out against these terrible facilities. 

According to the USDA website, Iowa has over 239 USDA Commercial dog breeding facilities…. How many of them can honestly say that they care for their dogs? As you have read, I have been to an auction where sick and injured dogs were still being bred and then sold to worse kennels to continue this terrible lifestyle. Well… It has got to stop.

If you are curious about puppy mills in your area, here is the link to the USDA website. From here, you can search for name, city, county, type of animal… You name it, and it is all public information.

I dare you to drive by one of these places in your area. Don’t stop… Don’t harass…  Just drive by. See what I see… Smell what I smell… Hear what I hear.

Put a face on the evil in your area. Draw attention to these places. Stop being complacent. 

Do you know anyone in Polk County (Iowa)? 

Do you know anyone that lives in Des Moines? 

Melving Jennings lives at 2650 NE 108th Street, Mitchellville, Iowa- A 20 minute drive from our state’s capital. Yet, it remains hidden among Iowa’s agriculture. NOT ANY MORE. Help me put Jenning’s on the map. 

Recent USDA inspection report dog counts:
11/7/11 – 67 adults/39 puppies
1/28/11 – 105 adults/41 puppies
2/10/10 – 115 adults/71 puppies

However, Denny Wiese Iowa Puppies (a breeder just down the road, in Altoona) recently closed her doors and it is rumored that the dogs were recycled into this facility. Her latest USDA report showed  161 adults/85 puppies (on 11/7/11). 

Jennings has been cited in the past for having “an excessive accumulation of feces on the wire flooring” and it affected approximately 75 dogs. 

Do you think that he can take care of 100 extra dogs? 

Did you know, you can drive right by this place and see dogs from the road? You can hear their barking from your car. 


 Here is the link again to the USDA website. Don’t wait for someone else to tell you about the breeders in your area. 

Go out and find them yourself. 

And don’t forget to  “like” us on facebook, by clicking here 


“Adopt, Don’t Shop for your next pet” 

**Note: I am not condoning any violence or action against the breeders found on the USDA website. It is meant to be an educational tool to aid in informing others about the atrocities that are happening in your own backyard. Please share the information and make complaints to the proper authorities in your area (sheriff, humane society, and department of agriculture… yes, complain to all of them)

Animal Welfare Act and the USDA


Updated 2020 © Bailing Out Benji

Actual USDA licensed and inspected breeder from Iowa 

So many people have questions about USDA licensed breeders, the people who inspect them, and why certain licensed breeders are allowed to get away with many violations without any consequence- not to mention the many problems we have with small town zoos.   The Animal Welfare Act can be difficult to interpret, and it is subjective to each inspector. 

It’s important to note exactly what inspectors are looking for when they arrive at a USDA licensed kennel. Their job is to make sure breeders are adhering to the minimum standards set forth by the Animal Welfare Act (AWA), but that is it. They can look at a facility with hundreds of dogs in small cages, desperate for human attention, and note no violations. In fact, in recent years the USDA has moved towards sharing “teachable moments” with their licensees; where they share concerns verbally and write nothing down on an official report. NOTE: Currently, when a USDA inspector utilizes the “teachable moment” policy, or ignores violations in accord with self-reporting or other recently changed policies, the inspector makes the following notation on the official inspection report: “No non-compliant items.” Then the inspector documents, either on a separate “teachable moment” document, or in his/her field notes, the specific non-compliant items discovered during the inspection. (source: MAAL) 

That’s because the AWA does nothing to ensure dogs are happy, or live a quality life. It’s not written into the regulations, and therefore is not something the USDA enforces. Here are some quick facts about the minimum standards set forth by the USDA:

-Inspections are “Risk-based,” meaning that facilities that meet a certain criteria are inspected “as seldom as once every 2 to 3 years.”
-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 . ( Please note: A dog breeding limit can be set on the state level and has been in Washington, Oregon, Virginia and Louisiana ) . 
-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.

Animals covered under this act are: Dogs, Cats, Monkeys (other nonhuman primate mammals), guinea pigs, hamsters, rabbits, and other warm-blooded animals that is intended for use in research, testing, or exhibition. 

Not all animals are covered by this act. Excluded animals include: Birds, Cold Blooded Animals, Fish, Rats and Mice, Amphibians, and livestock (cows, horses, pigs). 

Certain facilities are covered by the AWA, which means that these types of facilities must be USDA licensed. These include facilities that: Breed animals for commercial sale (such as puppy mills), Use animals used in research, Transport animals commercially, or Publically exhibit animals (such as zoos, aquariums)

Facilities not covered by the AWA include pet stores, farms and hobby breeders. 

Taken from the USDA website. Their calculations showing dogs only need 6 inches of space around their bodies

As noted above, the AWA does nothing to address boredom, emotional well- being or quality of life. A dog spinning in circles in a tiny cage 24-7 would not trigger a USDA violation as long as that dog appears outwardly healthy and the cage is at least 6 inches taller that the dogs’ head and 6 inches wider and longer than the dog measures from nosetip to tail BASE. This is an example of why the AWA needs to be rewritten. Emotional torture is every bit as damaging as physical torture for these dogs. The AWA requires that basic standards of care and  treatment be provided for certain animals bred and sold  for use as pets, used in biomedical research, transported  commercially, or exhibited to the public. Individuals  who operate facilities in these categories must provide  their animals with adequate care and treatment in the  areas of housing, handling, sanitation, nutrition, water,  veterinary care, and protection from extreme weather  and temperatures. Sadly, the word adequate doesn’t meet many of OUR standards.

Most commercial breeders use wire flooring on their cages so the feces and urine are able to fall through the openings. This set up is another cruel part of the industry. When people started getting smart and complaining that the wire flooring was causing further injury and deformity to the dogs, the breeders asked that the USDA refer to it as “mesh”. After many people spoke up, the USDA required the wire to be coated, as opposed to making the wire thicker. Any attempts at making changes to these regulations has been met with much resistance.  

Although Federal requirements  establish basic standards, regulated businesses are encouraged to exceed these standards. (AWA website.Most do not. Unfortunately, many USDA licensees not only have a history of violations, but they have many repeat violations with no follow-up or enforcement by the USDA. In fact, every year the Humane Society of the United States creates a “Horrible Hundred” puppy mill list, and many of the violators are repeat offenders. 

-Recent updates with the USDA 2019- 

It is also important to note that in February of 2017, the USDA removed all of their public access to USDA inspection reports in a shocking and sudden move, leaving countless animal welfare organizations in the dark on what is going on within these facilities. Several organizations are in ongoing litigation to fight for our right to obtain the records in their full, un-redacted state. This made our work a lot harder. 

Since the records have been redacted before being released for public viewing, we have seen a dramatic difference in what inspectors are reporting. In fact, the Washington Post uncovered that  the USDA’s enforcement of the AWA had virtually stopped in 2018. See photo obtained from the Washington Post Below. 

Provided by the Washington Post

In 2019, the Washington Post also provided additional research showing that “USDA inspectors documented 60 percent fewer violations at animal facilities in 2018 from the previous year.” You can view their full article here. See the photo obtained from them below. 

Obtained by the Washington Post

This is why there is a huge need for organizations like Bailing Out Benji to exist. We not only research the puppy mill industry, but we connect them to the pet stores they sell to and we have volunteers working to end this cruel industry every day. This is where we need your help! Keep talking about puppy mills and help us educate; go to your city, state and federal leaders to strengthen enforcement on a local level; and don’t hesitate to contact us if you want to get more involved with our small nonprofit! You can also view our pet store research here. 


-Recent updates with the USDA 2020- 

On the orders of Congress, the USDA was recently forced to reinstate all of their records back on the USDA website. 


Follow us on social media and get involved in the fight to #EndPuppyMills !


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Sources are the AWA website, MAAL,  Washington Post,

Reputable Breeder or Puppy Mill?

In this day and age, the term “puppy mill” is becoming a blanket term for all dog breeders.  I don’t think that this is very fair. I have met many reputable breeders in my lifetime and they don’t deserve it… But on the same token, I have seen MANY USDA licensed breeding facilities that have brought me to tears because of how they treat their animals.

So if you are coming across this page because you are looking for tips on how to spot a less than reputable breeder, I hope that this information helps…

If you are a breeder and want to leave your thoughts, please do so!

If you are offended by anything in this article, PLEASE let me know… I would consider that a red flag, in itself- but I am open to all suggestions.

Great vs Not-so-great Breeders

Taking time to consider what breed of dog you should get is very important… You need to consider temperament, size, age. But it is equally important to decide from where or whom you will be acquiring the dog. This article describes a few differences between a reputable breeder and breeders that are best avoided. These are just some generalizations and in the end you, as the consumer, have to decide whether or not the person you are acquiring the puppy from has their interests in the right place. If you are left with any questions after you read this, please feel free to leave a comment and I will get back to you!

Finding the RIGHT Breeder

Sometimes finding a respectable breeder that specializes in the breed you are interested in may not be all that easy and it may be tempting to settle for the first breeder that you find. Unfortunately there are many ‘breeders’ that care little for the dogs they raise or for the customers they get. These are typically what some might call backyard breeders (BYB) or puppy mills. The term backyard breeder has different definitions to different people; the more inclusive definition might encompass anyone who breeds dogs without the goal of improving the breed and the more exclusive definition is limited to someone that breeds to make a profit. At times puppy mills or other mass breeders might try to sugar coat what they are by giving themselves appealing names such as puppy farm or professional sounding like commercial breeder but don’t let that fool you it’s all the same thing: people that breed and only care for your money.

Remember that a dog is a long term commitment; your canine companion will be with you for 12+ years, getting him should not be something that is decided overnight or in one trip to the pet store. Dogs are not an “until” pet they are a FOREVER pet… If by chance you end up getting a dog that was poorly bred and has genetic problems it will end up costing you not only financially but also emotionally and physically. When talking to the breeder, don’t be afraid to ask questions or ask for proof of claims, a reputable breeder will happily show you a pedigree when asked about it. Now let’s take a look at some things that distinguish good breeders from the bad ones.

The Reputable Breeder

A responsible or hobby breeder knows full well that breeding is not a business; it’s not a means to get some extra cash. Then one might ask: if they don’t make a profit, why do they do it? Just as the name implies, they do it because it’s a hobby, a passion. They desire to improve the breed they have taken a liking to. To do the best they can they acquire as much knowledge about their breed as is humanely possible, they literally could go on and on about the history of their breed, what it was used for, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages.

A reputable breeder will tend not to breed their dogs that are under 2 years of age; this is most likely due to the fact that one an important genetic test (OFA) cannot be preformed until the age of 2. Many will not continue breeding dogs that are over 8 years of age and usually a dog will not be bred more than 4 times in their life time. A hobby breeder doesn’t breed every time a bitch is in heat because they will only produce the amount of pups they can care, groom and socialize. If asked, these breeders can explain why a specific breeding pair was matched up, what traits they were trying to enhance or what characteristics they were trying to eliminate.

Another thing that distinguishes reputable breeders is that they take very good care of their breeding dogs and litters. They tend to raise the litters in the home to accustom them to family life. Usually the breeding female or male participates in conformation shows and competitive dog sports. While this may seem like ‘fun’ it is a critical part of assessing how well their specific dogs represent the breed and how well they perform as compared to other specimens of their breed. If the breeder doesn’t compare against other then how is she/he to know that they are producing the best? Or what needs to be improved? One will notice that a good breeder’s environment and whelping area is extra clean and that they have truly invested in specialized equipment instead of improvising and using makeshift equipment.

On average a hobby breeder will not release their puppies until the dog has 8 weeks of age and some breeders may not release them until 10 weeks of age. This is to ensure proper socialization of the pooch with the help of his littermates and mother. Because reputable breeders rely more on word of mouth and club or breed organizations, they seldom IF EVER advertise in the newspaper or with flyers. This includes craigslist! Any breeder that is finding a home for their puppies on craigslist is a BYB.  This of course isn’t to say that it’s impossible to find good breeders in the classifieds but the chances of doing so are really low. Also hobby breeders don’t rely on third parties such as pet stores or brokers to place their puppies. Remember that they have worked hard to produce these pups, if anything they’ll want to make sure they go to perfect homes.

When it comes to prospective buyers a truly honest breeder won’t be afraid to discourage you from buying a puppy or from referring you to another breeder. They will openly discuss the advantages of the breed, as well as the disadvantages.  Many also do customer screenings which is usually done through an interview and maybe even a home check. They will provide you with a contract that clearly states that you may be reimbursed for the cost of the puppy should it have genetic defects (without having to return the dog), whether or not you will have to alter the dog, and other things that protects the buyer and breeder. Respectable breeders will not usually show you the litter on the first visit or if the puppies are 5 weeks or younger; the reason being that they want to avoid bringing any illness to the pups, upsetting the mother, and they also want to prevent impulse buying or hasty emotional attachments. In due time, however, they won’t hesitate to show you the whole litter and the parent(s).

Good breeder will always provide proof of claims they make, this might be in the form of a pedigree, test results, contracts, etc. Breeders will provide you with proof of genetic testing on the puppy, the parents or most likely both. Some of the common tests breeder do are the OFA (for hips), CERF (for eyes), PennHIP (for hips), and BAER (for hearing) just to name a few. These will also be up to date, the CERF testing, for example, has to be done every year. Probably the most distinguishable aspect of a good breeder is that they stay in contact with those that they have sold their puppies to. They are more than willing to provide grooming, training, and medical advice if needed. They will also take the dog back no matter how old, if the owner can no longer take care of him.

The above mentioned characteristics are what really set apart the good breeders from the bad ones. One can usually find good breeders through breed organizations with connections with the AKC, UKC, FCI or some other reputable registry. The quickest way to find the official breed club is to Google the breed name (no misspellings) and find the link that say (Breed Name) Club of America, or something to that effect. The AKC website also has some ways to find reputable breeders that specialize in whatever breed you are looking to buy.

The Profit Breeder

Most breeders that are not reputable will tend to fall into two categories: backyard breeders and puppy mills. With exception of puppy mills, bybs aren’t always bad people. Half of the time they are people that don’t know that they are doing wrong and are ignorant as to the proper way to breed dogs. This of course isn’t to say that they are not a factor to the over-crowding in shelters and pounds but some of these, when taught that they are doing wrong, will try their best to become respectable breeders or stop breeding altogether. There are, of course, some that simply won’t listen and are too addicted to the money they bring in; these people are seriously looked down upon by the dog people community. According to the AKC estimates that in 1996 70% of dogs that were registered as purebreds were bred by people that bred their dogs only to later found out how expensive, exhausting and heartbreaking it was and then later decided to fix their dog.

Puppy mills on the other hand are completely greedy and should be avoided at all times. While they may not sell directly to people, they majority of puppy mills will ship their dogs off to pet stores and receive profits from whatever they sell. That is why many advocate never purchasing puppies from pet stores even though they may claim that they get their pups from reputable breeders; remember as mentioned above, good breeders don’t use third parties to place their puppies.

Puppy mills breed for money, there is no reasoning around that; however, backyard breeders produce litters for a myriad of ignorant and illogical reasons. Some of the most common reasons are listed below:

Our dog is great and if we breed him he’ll produce equally great pups.

We want puppies that are going to be just like our dog.

A(n) friend/family/acquaintance wants a dog just like ours.

Selling dogs is an easy way to bring in extra money.

We want to make back the money we spent on our dog.

All female dogs should have at least one litter to be happy/healthy/well behaved.

We can’t afford to spay her.

Our breeder wants us to breed our dog.

We want to breed our dog because he comes from champion lines.

It’s ok to breed our dog because she is AKC registered.

In some cases backyard breeder may indeed love their dogs very much, but even so they do very little to ensure that the dogs that other people are going to end up loving just as much are free of genetic problems. The majority of the time a BYB will breed their dog with any other dog of the same breed (if that) without doing any genetic testing to make sure they are a good match, it is very rare to find a bad breeder that breeds and keeps in mind conformation or improvement of the breed. And even though the chances of acquiring a dog with a health problem is higher if the dog is from an irresponsible breeder, they offer no health guarantee and are unqualified to give medical advice should problems arise. To sum it up, once the money has been exchanged, you are on your own.

The majority of backyard breeders and puppy mills have little to no knowledge on AKC standards, and they don’t make an effort to further any knowledge they may have with participation in breed clubs.  Some will have the audacity to say that AKC conformation doesn’t matter for ‘pet quality’ dogs. Pet quality dogs are usually purebred dogs that have a characteristic that would be considered a fault in a conformation show or have something that makes them unfit for showing. One should wonder why they are breeding ‘pet quality’ dogs when there are plenty of them in shelters and rescues, and also why they continue to bred pet quality dogs and not top quality. Pet quality dogs should also be sold with a “limited registration” and a contract that mandates alteration, but many ignore this and as a result more “pet quality” dogs are born.

Remember that the correct maintenance of a dog doesn’t allow for much profit, the only way that backyard breeders and puppy mills (more so the latter) is to keep dogs in poor conditions and only spend the minimum on them, simply to keep them alive until they sell. Unfortunately this poor care results in a dog with poor socialization and most likely one that will have behavioral problems or fears in the future.

In the end, it could cost you a lot more to buy from a backyard breeder or puppy mill seeing how they don’t care for health screening, you may end up with expensive vet bills and because of the poor conditions they are kept in, any behavior problems will usually need to be corrected with the help of a behaviorist which of course isn’t free. As with anything in the dog world, you get what you pay for.

Red Flags

If a breeder you know does some of the things below or holds some of those views, it may be that they are profit breeders. If you are bold enough, you can question them about why they do that or why they think that way and see if they give you a logical answer, however half the time they are most likely to get irritated with you. However you as the buyer have a right to ask as many questions as you’d like.

*The breeder insists that you two meet offsite. This is usually a sign that they don’t want you to see their kennels or whelping area. Always a good idea to ask why they want to meet offsite.

*Has no papers for purebred dogs. This is usually a sign that the litter was an accident or that they simply don’t care whatsoever about the betterment of the breed as a whole. Remember that papers are required, they are not a ‘bonus’ or an ‘extra‘.

*Use incorrect terminology such (e.g. full-blooded or teacup). The incorrect terminology should signal that either the breeder doesn’t know a thing about breeding or they are using misleading terms to make you get erroneous conclusions.

*Promotes abnormalities such as extra small (teacup) or extra big. The reason to avoid breeders that advertise extra small or extra big dogs is because the majority of the time the pups have health issues and will tend not to conform to the breed standards.

*So called breeders of designer breeds. Designer breeder are simply mixed breeds, they aren’t truly breeds. These breeders are simply breeding that which there are plenty of in shelters and rescues: mutts.

*Beware if dog is registered in anything other than the AKC, UKC, CKC (Canadian kennel club), FCI, or ANKC. There are many other mimic registries that will offer papers for just about any dog, sometimes even mixed breeds or designer breeds. These registries don’t care much for conformation and are worth very little. The above mentioned registries are non-profit, hold shows dogs sports, and fun dog health research.

*Only guarantee they provide is having been checked by the vet. Having been checked by the vet is a good thing; however a cursory check doesn’t reveal genetic problems. Never allow a ‘vet check’ to be a substitute for health testing, and make sure they have proof of the test results.

*The breeder looks down on genetic testing and says his/her dogs are problem free. This type of breeder is usually in it for the money, as they don’t want to waste money on the testing. They can’t really guarantee problem free dogs if they don’t do health tests.

*Breeders that charge more for females or males, or those that are registered or have a pedigree. Why should a breeder be charging you more for different gender or for papers that are required to be there? That’s right, they shouldn’t. Ask and see if they give a good reason but for the most part they won’t. Once again, remember papers are requirements not a bonus. Also remember that the AKC doesn’t screen the dogs they register, so papers are not a proof of quality.

*Beware of breeders whose contract requires you to breed. Good breeders know that breeding is a serious commitments and one that requires money, they wouldn’t impose this responsibility on you unless you really wanted it.

*Breeders who constantly switch from one breed to another depending on which is popular. These are very likely to be in it for the money. They want to produce whatever there is a demand for; these breeders are treating breeding as if it were a profit business which it is not. A good breeder will have one or two breeds which they truly desire to improve.

*Red flag breeders with a USDA license. Those with this license are most likely mass breeders and produce too many dogs to provide care for either when they are in their care and when they’ve been placed.

*Use makeshift accommodations. Makeshift accommodations show that they most likely don’t want to spend their precious profits on the purchase of quality equipment.

*Unwilling to show entire litter or parent(s). This shows that there might be something to hide, such as an illness in other littermates or behavior problems in the parent. If the breeder doesn’t want to show you the parents and yet claims that the pups are purebred it might be that they might not be pure bred.

While I am a strong advocate for adopting instead of shopping for pets, I know that some people insist on buying. If that is the case, PLEASE do your research and remember: There are breed rescues all over that are dedicated to rescuing animals from bad homes or bad situations. You can find them all on . You can search for any breed, age, or size of dog- and only rescues and shelters are allowed to use it. 

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Information from K9 Domain

Century Farm Puppies (Grundy Center, Iowa)

Century Farm Puppies

Rex and Debbie Meyers

Phone: 319-824-3214

Cell Phone: 319-415-8009

Grundy Center, Iowa

“One woman said she didn’t know how happy the puppy would be losing it’s lake front condo and moving to Beverly Hills!”

             Rex and Debbie Meyers once told me that their puppies are shipped all over the country, mainly to Las Vegas and New Hampshire. It got me thinking… Those people must be using the internet to contact this facility! So, in honor of Century Farm Puppies brand new website, I am creating this post! I will be comparing their claims with actual reports from the USDA inspectors that visited this puppy mill. If you are stumbling upon this site because you are searching for the actual Century Farm Puppies webpage, I implore you to continue reading. Read this post in this entirety. I am about to show you behind the curtain… Behind the beautiful webpage with the adorable puppies. I am going to show you how the USDA inspectors view this “top kennel in Iowa” (*editor note, that is a self-made claim by Rex and Debbie.) First, I want to share with you, an email that we have from Deb Meyers– PROVING that the dogs are not raised in the home. 


          The claims that you will read come straight from their website and they are the same that every other commercial dog breeder uses:

Big farm,  lots of land to run,  happy,  healthy,  USDA inspected…

The information that I will use will come from three sources: Century Farm Puppies, Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, and the USDA inspection reports .

Example of a Sundowner building. There are 3 of them crammed into one building at this facility


” We have 200 acres and a Lake for the puppies to explore” (from the website) 

Rex and Debbie said that they have an outdoor pen and the puppies are only allowed to play in it. When I was on their property, they put all of the puppies in this circular gate that was no bigger than a child’s swimming pool.  They had old lawn chairs that the puppies were able to climb around and play on. Debbie told me that she gets these at garage sales or on the side of the road… ** I should mention that the adult dogs are never allowed to leave their cages. They aren’t taken out unless it is time for the “veterinarian” to visit, and most of them time they still remain in their tiny cages.

“USDA is extremely picky, they do not allow any cobwebs, fly specks, hair, etc…” (from their website) The info below is from their USDA reports. 

“Our adults have inside/outside runs with heating and air conditioning, automatic feeder/water and automatic doors.” (from their website) The info below is from the USDA reports


Debbie said that the only protection against the elements (weather) are flaps that come down or doors that close. She said that there was no air or heat for the parent dogs.

“Our puppies are very well cared for and spoiled…” (again, from their website) and below is the USDA reports

**Editors note: When I was there, Rex offered me bad advice when it came to heart guard. He said that you can just buy the medicine for the biggest breed and then just split it among several dogs (or among several months). This CAN NOT happen. Those heart guard pills don’t have the medication spread evenly throughout the pill. One dog may get no dose, while the other gets an overdose. PLEASE be careful and do not listen to his bad advice!


         I have personally been to this facility twice and have personally seen many of these violations (and much more). Thankfully, I was able to rescue a “retired” King Charles Cavalier, who had a dropped uterus during her last pregnancy. She was only three (ish) years old and the genetic defects were already showing. She was diagnosed (after visiting a real vet for the first time in her life) with luxating patellas- a genetic disorder that was passed to each puppy she had. Sadly, she isn’t the only sick adult dog there. She is the only one we could remove from that horrendous situation.

        Since Century Farm only uses the APR registry, they don’t have to screen for genetic defects… Not to mention, the USDA requires that a vet only checks out the dogs once a year. The whole situation is very unhealthy for the adult dogs.

I refer to this facility as a “puppy mill”, because they worry more about quantity and not quality. Small time, family operations do not have almost 600 dogs on their property. Here are a few of the most recent dog numbers at Century Farm puppies (from the USDA) 






      These are the reasons why we are picketing at Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe in Ames, Iowa. It is very important that Dale Dyvig not be associated with any breeder (especially this family)! Please contact him and express your concerns… Ask Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe to have adoptable pets, as opposed to commercially bred dogs!


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They Adopted…

Jennifer Aniston chooses to adopt

Ryan Gosling and his rescued friend George


Katherine Heigl is a HUGE animal advocate

Alyssa Milano believes in “Adopt, Don’t Shop”

Oprah loves adopted animals too
Kaley Cuoco and adopted friend 🙂

  Joss Stone only adopts


Selena Gomez and Justin Bieber adopted a rescue dog
Taylor Swift just adopted a furry friend 




Charlize Theron and her adopted dog

You can find your next

family member here.

Emma Stone and longtime boyfriend, Andrew Garfield decided to add a furry friend to their family 🙂 They went to their local shelter and picked out a sweet dog!



Josh Hutcherson from “The Hunger Games” adopted a new furry friend too. “Driver” is a special needs pitbull with only a few toes and had to undergo femur surgery.

Cat (Small Animal) Mills: The Awful Truth

Any animal can be milled!

That is a truth that not everyone realizes. Sugar Gliders, Rats, Chinchillas, rabbits,  foxes, Ferrets and kittens. Any animal that you see in a pet store has (more than likely) been milled. 

Thankfully, there has been some (not enough) media attention surrounding puppy  mills. Most everyone has at least heard the term or seen a picture and realizes that it isn’t a good thing. But sadly, any animal that is sold in pet stores is usually milled. Just think about it- pet stores are always able to have more than enough of the animals listed  to sell to anyone that walks in their door. And why is that?  Since there is a demand, there will be an industry.

There will always be  “farmers” that make sure there are more than enough rats, hamsters and chinchillas to keep the cages in the pet stores full. But because no rodentmillone is speaking out against these types of mills, breeders are able to switch which species they are breeding rather easily. Many former puppy mill breeders have switched, and now breed a multitude of cats to public (and private) organizations. Much like the puppy mill industry, the breeder has absolutely no concern for the health of the animals, the conditions they live in, or the fate of the animals leaving the property.

Kitty mills are just another example of humanity’s “supreme reign” over the animal kingdom. We have the power to torture for profit, so we do. Most people don’t even think that kitty mills are that prevalent in this day and age because of the high number of cats in shelters. However, it is a huge problem.

According to the Humane Society of the United States, most cats are adopted “casually”. About 48% of human owned cats are taken in as strays, or found by someone who gives the kitten or cat to a friend, or is adopted directly from a rescue league. A much smaller percentage, 14%, adopts their cats from shelters, especially kill shelters. The remaining percentage goes directly to either breeders or pet stores. However, with all this kitty purchasing going on, 71% of all cats or kittens that find themselves in the unfortunate position of being in a shelter are euthanized before forever homes can be found. Only one out of every five kittens and cats are destined to live in one home for their lifetime. Most cats find themselves abandoned or left on the shelter doorstep when they are either too much responsibility or lose their cute little kitten appeal.

But it’s not just dogs and cats…. Again, every animal can (and is) milled. There are thousands of small animal mills in the United States, with millions of rats, mice, chinchillas and rabbits who are suffering for their short lives. These pets are not only sold to pet stores, but they are sold to testing facilities and bred at colleges for “scientific purposes”. Where do we draw the line? 

According to the HSUS:
There are Shocking Conditions in Small Animal Mills

Commercial pet dealers who breed or sell most warm-blooded animals to pet stores are required to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But The HSUS’ review of USDA inspection reports reveals that many of these breeders are guilty of repeated violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act for crowded and dirty conditions.

Inspection reports from 2004-2006 reveal Animal Welfare Act violations that include:

  • a cattery full of expired medications, which could leave the kittens exposed to deadly diseases
  • a small-animal dealer with over 2,000 hamsters and other small pets inside cages that had reportedly not been cleaned in weeks; sick hamsters being treated without a veterinary consult; holes in the facility walls, and accumulation of dust, cobwebs, and rodent droppings throughout the facility
  • a small-animal breeder with “dead hamsters found in different enclosures housing other hamsters,” as well as “green algae” growing in some of the animals’ water bottles
  • 11 guinea pigs housed inside a small tub only large enough for four
  • a ferret and chinchillas without enough room in their cages to stand up
  • rabbits in overcrowded enclosures less than 9 inches tall

But what can we do? As a group that is actively fighting puppy mills, we have a hard enough time getting people to care about dogs living their entire lives in cages… Letalone  getting people to care about rats. But education is so important. Getting the word out about ALL types of animal mills and raising awareness about the conditions in which these beating hearts are forced to live. 

So, we already know that pet overpopulation is a big problem in this country, and many other countries. But are there  really small animals in shelters waiting to be adopted? YES! There are! Please check or . Any animal that can be purchased, is usually dumped on local shelters, rescues or craigslist. So please, the next time you are looking to add ANY pet to your family, consider adoption first! 


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“Don’t Shop, Adopt!”

Designer Dogs = Expensive Mutts

Cavachons, Dorkies, Yorkipoos, Buggles, Goldendoodles, Cockapoos, Bowzers, Porkies, Baskimos, Puggles.

What do they all have in common?  

They are all mutts… Really really really expensive mutts. By slapping the “designer dog” label on them, unscrupulous dog breeders and puppy mills are able to sell them at outrageous prices so the consumer feels like they are getting something “special” and “new”. When really, they are getting a high-priced mutt, that more than likely isn’t recognized by the AKC.

Some even tell buyers that these new “breeds” like yorkiepoos, buggles or  jugs will be recognized by the AKC some day very soon. But people in the market for a new puppy  need to realize that a cute name doesn’t turn a mongrel into a  purebred. If you fall for the hype, you could pay more for a mutt than you would  for a registered, guaranteed purebred.

Creating a New Breed Using Existing Dog Breeds

Ever heard of a Chusky? Yeah, me neither, not until I started doing research for this article. According to many sites, I own an expensive “designer dog”. My beautiful dog Zeppelin is a 100% purebred Chusky (sarcasm very much intended) and I got him for the low, low sale price of $0.  Had his previous, abusive owners known that, they wouldn’t have surrendered him into my care at no cost! This beautiful Chow-Husky mix is absolutely one of a kind, and he is just that… One of a kind. Which is why most designer breeds haven’t been accepted by the AKC. When two purebred dogs are put together, you don’t always know what is going to come out the other end. You can’t know which traits it is going to get! It is like breeding two people. You can’t possibly know if it is going to get dad’s work ethic, or mom’s artistic abilities.

Doodles are another hot, new breed — except they aren’t a breed, either. They are  a mix of Poodles and Labradors or Golden Retrievers. Most doodles you see for  sale are just first generation crosses of retriever to Poodle. They are mixed  breeds! There is a puppy mill owner in Altoona, Iowa that will sell you a “GoldenDoodle” for $400, while the shelter down the road will adopt it to the right family for less than $100.

Another fun fact: The “oodles” of Poodle mixes like yorkiepoos, pekapoos, schnoodles (and so on)  have absolutely no breeding standards, no club, no standardized breeding records, and no plan  for the future–which means no AKC acceptance letters for these doggies. So what is the point? Why go to a pet store and spend $1000 on a designer mutt, when you can go to your local shelter or and find something that is just as adorable, SO much cheaper, and that is going home with all (or most) of its vet work done?

Here is my thought for the day… If rescues and shelters started putting these designer labels on their dogs, would they be adopted more quickly? I am really curious about what you think!

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And as I always say… “Don’t Shop, Adopt!”  

Want to know More? Read it here:

Shelter dogs aren’t broken!.

How much is that doggie in the window?.

Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe, Ames, Iowa… A store NOTORIOUS for selling Puppy Mill puppies.

Dog Auctions

Dog auctions are a painful and despicable fact of life here in the Midwest, maybe not Iowa as much– but definitely our neighbors to the south. As I am sure you have all realized by now, the importance of educating as many people as I can about animal-related issues is my passion.  Dog auctions are certainly no different. They go on almost every weekend… Thousands of dogs are switching from owner to owner, never knowing the love that they deserve.  I recently went to an Iowa dog auction, please read my story here …. 



How many of you haven’t ever heard of dog auctions? Let me give you this scoop!  

Picture this…

Large rooms filled ceiling high with wire cages, stuffed full of dogs whose sole purpose in life  to make puppies.  I say “was” because by the time the dogs are brought to these auctions, they are unwanted by the owner for various reasons. The term for this is “cull”. These “culls”, more often than not, can’t even breed well anymore. Each dog is identified with a number tattooed on the inside of the ear, or the inner thigh. They are almost all purebreds of  every breed and the ever so popular “designer dog”. I should tell you that it is usually impossible to tell which breed it is because of the terrible health conditions. The fur is always grown out and matted, filled with ticks and clumps of blood. Not to mention the fact that the nails are so long the dogs can barely walk. The saddest part about all of this is, the rooms are usually so quiet because the dogs are too terrified to move, let alone bark. This is the first time a lot of them have ever been out of their usual cages. It all sounds like fiction, doesn’t it?

But what can we do to change this? The people who visit these types of auctions aren’t your run of the mill (no pun intended) dog customer. These are the other puppy mill owners that are either looking to get some new blood lines into their stock or the local rescues that go in to try and save as many as dogs as possible.

 Here are a few of my suggestions:

1. Boycott puppy mills.  This means never ever  ever buying a puppy from a pet store or from a website. If you want a dog, please please please go to your local shelter or rescue. They have so many dogs that need loving FURever homes! And so much of the public doesn’t even realize that over 35% of dogs in the shelters are purebred. Don’t believe me?! Try it… Go to and search for a breed, I am certain you will find just what you are looking for.

2. Talk to your veterinarian and let he/she know how you feel about dog auctions and puppy mills. Try to encourage him or her to take a public stance against them.  In my experience, the vets that are near these mills know exactly what is going on, and they almost always turn a blind eye to it. Each USDA breeder must have a veterinarian that looks over their dogs once a year… That means that with the 300+ puppy mills in this state, there are that many veterinarians on their payroll… Sad, isn’t it?

3. Share this blog with your friends… Share it on facebook, twitter, email it to your coworkers, link it to your blog– I don’t care! It is just so important that we reach as many people as possible with this message. I can talk and talk all day long, but I am almost always preaching to the choir. Until we can get our neighbors, coworkers, and friends to realize that buying a dog is bad for everyone then we all fail.

As always, comments are welcomed and appreciated. Please, if you have ever been to a dog auction, share your story. You can remain nameless, but it is just one more way for people to see that these things DO happen.

Horrible video that shows exactly what I am talking about… If we don’t stop these atrocities, who will?!


Teach your children how to behave with animals. Adopt a pet.
Don’t go buy one. Please. That’s a sin. Let’s get these puppy mills out of