Holding AZ Pet Stores Accountable

This is part two in our series detailing an investigation from Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji. For part one, please read all the way to the end of this article. 


Arizona law prohibits pet stores from purchasing puppies from breeders with recent and severe violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act on their record. Yet, five pet stores in Arizona called “Puppies ‘N Love” and “Animal Kingdom” have done exactly that. 

Owner Frank Mineo insisted that his pet stores “continue to scrutinize inspection reports on our breeders and make them available in our stores” in a 2017 news release

Yet, investigators with Bailing Out Benji and Animal Wellness Action have unearthed evidence to the contrary. The Mineos’ business seems to have purchased more than 220 puppies from two separate breeders cited for direct violations by Animal Care inspectors with the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 

In recent years – due to a shift in priorities at the USDA – the agency has handed out relatively few violations of any kind.  Direct violations are the most egregious type of violations, where the lives of animals are at immediate risk; and according to this Washington Post article, the trend toward not issuing citations is evident in the numbers.  In 2017, inspectors recorded 331 direction violations, and in 2018, that number had dropped more than 60 percent to just 128. So, to find two different breeders with direct violations is especially troubling given how uncommon it is.

Arizona’s state law also requires that pet stores clearly label all puppies with the breeder name, state of origin, and the USDA breeder license as well. Our investigators uncovered dozens of instances where the labeling was incorrect or incomplete, making it that much harder for the unsuspecting public to research the origins of their potential new family member.

Puppies from these dog factories have a higher incidence of illness, genetic health problems, and a lack of socialization, making them higher risk for those planning to add companion animals to their families. And that’s just the tip of this iceberg.

Federal Violations 

The Federal Animal Welfare Act stipulates that commercial enterprises that house animals be licensed and inspected by the USDA on a regular basis. The AWA requires “intermediate handler” licenses for anyone “taking custody of regulated animals in connection with transporting them on public carriers” and anyone “engaged in any business in which he receives custody of animals in connection with their transportation in commerce.”

Pet stores are exempt from this licensing requirement because pet stores are specifically “a place with the puppy, buyer, and seller all meet.”

However, in the case of this pet store franchise in Arizona, all puppies bought by this organization are shipped to a distribution center and held there, prior to shipment to the stores themselves. The puppies are confined in a truck for days on end as they travel across the country. They may stay in the distribution center for a short period of time before being sent to the stores, or they may stay longer if they are deemed unfit for purchase. Some of the puppies are sick or exhausted from travel and may need veterinary care. 

This particular distribution center is not licensed as an intermediate handler, and as such, is not subject to the routine USDA inspections it should have to ensure compliance with the Federal Animal Welfare Act.

In a second act of non-compliance with Federal law, the Mineo family also proudly proclaims that they take their puppies to nursing homes and universities for promotional purposes. There are images and videos of these stores’ activities on Facebook that detail their visits to nursing homes and colleges, allowing residents and students to interact and play with the puppies. In order to be in compliance with the federal law, this business would need an exhibitor’s license, which it currently does not have.

Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji have submitted a complaint to the USDA, requesting that the business come into compliance with the necessary licenses and be subject to USDA inspection. We will fight tooth and claw to ensure these puppies are defended and that those breaking the law are held accountable. 

Stay tuned next week to learn more about the specific enforcement problems with this Arizona law. 

Click the button below if you would like to sign up to receive alerts and calls to action regarding our investigation. 


Drafted by Lain Kahlstrom and Tina Meredith of Animal Wellness Action and  Nicole Galvan of Bailing Out Benji. 

 November 11, 2020 

For much of the past year, Animal Wellness Action and Bailing Out Benji have been working together to encourage law enforcement to take action against the largest chain of pet stores in the state of Arizona. The newspaper AZ Central highlighted our investigation in September and by October of this year, law enforcement officers entered the pet store’s establishment in order to request and inspect the records that would likely prove the stores are in violation of the state law. 

But how did we get to this point? What did it take to get a police investigation started?  Over the next four weeks, we will be laying out our investigation and highlighting the work it takes to save the lives of the pet store puppies and the parents who are still trapped back at the puppy mills.

One of the thousands of CVIs that Bailing Out Benji obtains that help us trace puppies as they move from puppy mill to pet store.

Pet stores around the country have been under increasing amounts of scrutiny and pressure in recent years, due to the fact that the horrors of puppy mills that supply these stores have become more widely publicized and the documentation connecting pet stores across the country to the puppy mills they source from is more readily available.  Puppy mills are essentially “dog farms” that churn out as many puppies as possible, and they’re infamous for cruel and inhumane conditions.  But, the USDA standards are minimal, and it has been uncommon for breeders to be cited for violations since early 2017.  

The situation is so dire that over 350 cities and 3 states have implemented versions of a humane ordinance that  prevents pet stores from getting their “products” from puppy mills, instead requiring that they source their animals strictly from shelters.

Arizona itself is home to a small number of puppy-selling stores, five of which are owned and operated by one family.  As the public’s knowledge and distaste for puppy mills increased, the city of Phoenix responded by passing a local ordinance to ban pet stores from selling puppies from puppy mills in 2013. Shortly afterwards, the city of Tempe followed suit and also passed an ordinance. Tucson was on track to do the same when the Arizona State Legislature, at the behest of pet store owners, intervened.

That’s right- the owners of Arizona’s largest puppy-store chain urged the State Legislature to stop the onslaught of local ordinances.. They found a friend in State Representative Don Shooter, who helped them write and introduce legislation that preempted the city ordinances- nullifying the ones that were previously passed and stopping future efforts.

Public outcry was swift and loud.  In a largely symbolic effort to appease public opposition and get this bill signed into law, pet store owners and legislators negotiated to include some provisions on the sourcing of pet store puppies. Namely, the law stipulates that pet stores cannot purchase from breeders who have direct USDA violations within the previous two years. Pet store owners are also required to maintain two years’ worth of records, and make them open to inspection by law enforcement on request.  Additionally, pet stores must accurately label each puppy with information about the breeder, including their home state and their USDA license number, if applicable. That way, a potential buyer could research the breeder themselves to ensure they were “reputable” before purchase.

That state law became effective in January of 2016 with Arizona Governor Doug Ducey stating that the intent of this law was to “strengthen penalties for pet store owners who do not take measures to ensure that the animals under their care are from a licensed, safe, sanitary, and humane place.”

What could go wrong?

The Federal Animal Welfare Act was signed into law in 1966, mandating minimal standards of care for breeding dogs. Those standards include allowing dogs to remain in their cages 24 hours a day, if the owner provides more space than the allotted  “6 inches” surrounding the dog’s body.  It is not required that the dogs are ever let outside of their cages if that cage size is met, and there is no limit on the number of years a dog can be confined and bred this way. This is man’s best friend; dogs who crave human interaction and attention, living in cages for the entirety of their lives. 

USDA inspectors are required to visit puppy mill facilities every 2-3 years to document any violations they see.  Those violations are then published on the USDA website for potential consumers to complete their own research prior to purchasing from a breeder.

However, during the early months of the Trump administration, two things happened that changed the expectations of inspectors and facility operators. 

First, USDA inspectors were directed to offer breeders more opportunities to correct deficiencies in their operations prior to being cited. Inspectors were instructed to use these occasions as “teachable moments” and allow breeders to maintain a clean license and record, despite flagrant deviations from the already minimal standards. After this change, it was documented that there were 60% fewer violations listed on reports. 

Next, in an unprecedented move, the USDA redacted much of the information on the its website, citing privacy concerns. Starting in early 2017, only a few months after Arizona’s state law went into effect, the public could no longer easily look up a breeder’s license and record.

Even with the records being taken down, Arizona’s pet store owners proudly declared they didn’t need the USDA website, because they personally visit the breeders themselves and have other avenues to ensure they do not have USDA violations on their record.  

It didn’t take long for the stores to forget the statement they made. 

Puppy-selling stores make their profits by purchasing puppies from puppy mills for a few hundred dollars and then turning around to sell them at an enormous mark-up. Because of this, animal advocates knew better than to expect a turn-around in the business practices of Arizona stores. Indeed, less than 3 years later, sufficient evidence was gathered showing hundreds of puppies had entered Arizona from breeders with violations; as such, violating Arizona’s state law repeatedly. 

That brings us back to our investigation and work to encourage law enforcement to protect these dogs from the abuse of some Arizona pet stores and the puppy mills they supply from.

To date, pet store owners have not turned over their complete records to law enforcement as the law stipulates. Thankfully, the cities who are tasked with enforcing this state law, are not giving in. 

Once violations are proven, cities are entitled to collect fines at a minimum and, if enough violations are documented, the cities can force the stores to stop selling puppies from breeders altogether, sourcing solely from shelters instead.  

We are working on this enforcement issue daily and will continue to keep you update on the news.

Click the button below if you would like to sign up to receive alerts and calls to action regarding our investigation. 


And if you are able, please consider making a donation to help cover the cost of the records we are pulling for this investigation. 


If you or someone you know bought a puppy from an Arizona pet store and you would like to know more about where it was born, please fill out the contact form below. 


2020 Holiday Puppy Mill Awareness Campaign

Every Holiday Season (and all year long)  Bailing Out Benji works tirelessly to raise awareness about the pet store/puppy mill connection. This is the busiest time of year for pet stores and puppy mills, because the public makes decisions with their hearts and they don’t take the time to do the proper research. Because of this, we turn our focus to large PSAs over the Holidays. We take our message straight to the public in hopes of stopping potential puppy buyers before they give their money to a very cruel industry. 

Last year, we reached over a million people through our theater ads and billboards that we released across the country! With our ads playing before Star Wars and Frozen 2, we were able to educate many different demographics that our in-person events might have missed. 

Due to Covid, the majority of families are staying at home this Holiday season and we have, once again, had to pivot our educational efforts in order to reach people where they are at. This year we are thrilled to announce our largest campaign yet. The first of which kicked off on November 1st. 

And we couldn’t be more excited to announce it….. 

That’s right!

Our 30 second animated PSA, which you can view here, will be playing on Hulu from November 1st until December 31st. In that time, our ad will reach 1 million devices. With Hulu being one of the largest streaming services across the country, we will no doubt be reaching whole families and potential puppy-buyers with our message. 

Because of our commitment to educating in a family-friendly manner, our ad has been approved for all ages and all streaming shows. This will have a huge impact on the puppy mill industry and we are extremely excited to share the news with you all. 

To support our non-profit organization and our mission to end the cruel puppy mill industry, click the button below. All donations are tax-deductible. 


Keep your eye on our social media channels for the announcement of our next two PSAs!



Remember: Puppy mills exist because the public is funding them. 

Help us educate the public about what puppy mills are, where they are, and how they are selling to consumers

If you are interested in donating to get these ads running in your city, please use the contact form below. 

Buyer Beware: “Dogs to the “Rescue” Ohio

Two-time horrible hundred puppy mill owner starts nonprofit rescue. 

©Bailing Out Benji 2020

We all know that puppy mills are shady; really shady. Besides making a living off of the suffering of living, breathing dogs, their job is to deceive the public. No one wants to support a puppy mill. Thanks to organizations like ours, we have made their lives a little harder in both aspects. Especially when it comes to exposing their business practices to the public. 

In recent years, it has become a trend for cities and states to pass legislation banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores from commercial breeders (puppy mills). Instead, these stores must get their puppies from rescues and shelters to help the homeless animals in their communities, as opposed to aiding in the pet overpopulation problem. That sounds wonderful, right? Bailing Out Benji has helped pass countless ordinances across the country on both the city and statewide level and have helped thousands of homeless animals find their forever homes. 

Unfortunately- where there is a will, there is a way and puppy mill owners sure have the will to want to make as much money as possible, while doing as little work as possible. Now these puppy mill brokering organizations are turning into  501c3 “nonprofit”  “rescues” in order to still sell puppies in towns with retail bans and in order to deceive the public.

Our investigations into two sham rescues in Iowa ( Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa ) led to the Iowa Attorney General shutting them down, and our investigation into a sham Missouri rescue ( Pet Connect Rescue ) led to lawsuits and the passage of a stronger statewide bill in California. Our work is never done, it seems, as every time we help shut down one of these fake rescues, another one pops up. 

Meet the IRS nonprofit “Dogs to the Rescue” Ohio owned by Nathan and Sara Bazler, as well as Opal Mustain. 

Provided by the IRS

Provided by the State of Ohio


Provided by the State of Ohio 


“Dogs to the Rescue” doesn’t have a website, a Facebook page, they aren’t on Petfinder and they don’t appear to be doing rescue work publicly.

Interestingly enough, they have the same address and owners as the two-time Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill  “Little Puppies Online” , owned by Nathan and Sara Bazler. The Bazlers also operate “Florida Puppies Online” , “Maryland Puppies Online” and “Georgia Puppies Online” . All are online websites that sell countless puppies to the public, while also offering a storefront location in some states. 


Provided by the USDA


Pulled from each of their websites


In both 2017 and 2020, Little Puppies Online and Florida Puppies online were each named one of the worst puppy mills in the country due to violations on the local, state and Federal level. According to information obtained by the HSUS from the Department of Animal Services in Collier County, Florida;

“As of early March 2020, at least 14 puppies had died at the Florida Puppies Online operation in 2019 and early 2020 alone, and the total number of puppies who died between 2017 and early March 2020 was at least 26. Some of the causes of death listed in the records were parvovirus, parasites, hypoglycemia and respiratory infections.”

 From January 1, 2019 to September 15, 2020 records that we obtained from the Ohio Department of Agriculture show that over 1,160 puppies left this address and went to out-of-state sellers and buyers. This number does not include Ohio citizens that purchased puppies from any of these sites. The Bazler’s currently hold a USDA broker license ( 31-B-0174 ) , an Ohio broker license ( CB000649 ) and an Ohio rescue license (  CB002A5A ) . Their current USDA dog count is reflected below. 


Their two most recent inspection reports had identical violations that show the facility neglected to provide the additional 6inches of space around the body of the dog that the USDA requires.



In the case of the other sham rescues, they were selling puppies to pet stores in cities that had humane ordinances, in order to try and skirt the local legislation. It appears that the Bazlers are using their nonprofit rescue status to sell ‘damaged’ puppies through their own for-profit businesses.  

As of September 25, 2020 , they appear to have two ‘rescue’ puppies on their website. 

Photo taken from their website on 9/25/2020

Photo taken from their website on 9/25/2020

Photo taken from their website on 9/25/2020

Photo taken from their website on 9/25/2020


It is unclear at this time how many of their commercially bred puppies are being labeled as rescues in their own stores and on websites. 

At the time of this article being published, all of the entities listed have been reported to the IRS and the Attorney Generals in each of their states by Bailing Out Benji. Their associated business licenses can be found below. 

IRS: Dogs to the Rescue. 83-1133240

USDA: Little Puppies Online. 31-B00174

OHIO: Little Puppies Online: CB000649 and Dogs to the Rescue CB002A5A

MARYLAND: Maryland Puppies Online/Little Puppies Online: Z18311266

FLORIDA: Little Puppies Online/Florida Puppies Online: 26-4532307

GEORGIA: Little Puppies Online/Georgia Puppies Online: 19140419


As animal advocates, it is not only our job to continue exposing the shady practices of pet stores and puppy mills, but to continue with educating the public about how to humanely and ethically acquire a pet. 

Here are few tips to avoid supporting puppy mills through pet stores. 

  1. Is there signage in the store connecting the pet store to a rescue or shelter?  Humane pet stores are proud of their rescue partners and would have flyers, business cards and signage pointing out the relationship. 
  2. Is the rescue or shelter hosting adoption events at the store? Shelters and rescues jump on the opportunity to host adoption events where the public can meet their adoptable animals face-to-face. Legitimate rescues and shelters would be actively hosting adoption events to ensure their pets are seen and find their forever homes.
  3. Does the rescue or shelter have a Facebook page, website and use pet adoption websites? Legitimate rescues have all of these things. All of them! Fact checking their existence is as easy as picking up your phone and searching for them. But it is up to you to do just that. 
  4. Is the rescue in your area? Rescues don’t ship their puppies to other states to get adopted site unseen. And if they do, they aren’t legitimate. If you are in a pet store and the puppies are being sourced from out of state- RUN, don’t walk away. 
  5. Are there adoption contracts for the animal and are they fully vetted? Again, legitimate rescues and shelters do not send out unaltered puppies/kittens to be sold to anyone who walks in with money. They also require adoption contracts to ensure the pet is going to a forever family, with a return clause in case it doesn’t work out.


©Bailing Out Benji 2020

Bailing Out Benji is 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.

To make a donation or learn about other ways to support our efforts, click the image above
To receive action alerts and updates on our efforts, click the image above

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



Contact us using the form below if you have any questions regarding the research of this article, if you unknowingly bought a “Dogs to the Rescue Ohio” puppy, or if you want to know more about where the puppy you purchased came from. 

Arizona Pet Store Chain Has Little Regard for State & Federal Laws

©Bailing Out Benji 2020

Drafted by Nicole Galvan

After a years-long investigation, Bailing Out Benji (BOB) and our partners at Animal Wellness Action (AWA) requested that the Tempe Police Department and the Tucson Police Department to investigate allegations that local pet stores known as “Puppies N’ Love” and “Animal Kingdom” are purchasing puppies from certain breeders in violation of Arizona state law.

You can read the in-depth investigative report done by Arizona Central News here. 

In 2016, Arizona Governor Doug Ducey signed SB1248 into law in an ill-fated attempt to stop pet stores from obtaining puppies from some of the worst puppy mills in the country, while simultaneously taking away the ability for Arizona cities to ban the sale of puppy mill dogs at the local level. The law stipulated that pet stores were not to buy dogs from breeders who have received direct violations of Animal Welfare Act in the last two years.

Arizona State Law Violations

Through a public records request to Arizona’s Department of Agriculture, the Iowa Department of Agriculture and the Missouri Department of Agriculture, Bailing Out Benji obtained health records from 2017 to early 2020, which connect Arizona pet stores to the breeders they source from.  The records uncovered that more than 250 puppies from out-of-state breeders with direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act were shipped to the named pet stores during that timeframe, and re-sold to the public. 

    • Sugarfork Kennels: received a direct violation of the Animal Welfare Act in Oct 2017.  For the following two years, Puppies N love and Animal Kingdom pet stores imported approximately 250 puppies from this breeding facility. 

    • Wilbur Byler: received a direct violation in October 2019.  Since that time, at least 10 puppies have arrived in Arizona for resale.

The state law also provides that pet stores must list the name and license number of the breeder on each cage and in any electronic marketing, so that the public may research the breeders themselves.  The pet stores do not comply fully with this legal standard either.  BOB and AWA have documented instances of missing and incorrect information on cages, making it nearly impossible for buyers to receive the appropriate information about where their puppy came from.

This pet store chain had the Arizona state pet store laws written just for themselves and they lobby for them to stay in place every single year – yet they couldn’t even follow the laws that they helped write and pass for themselves. The scary thing is that other pet stores in other states are lobbying to copy this law – to preempt cities from banning these deplorable business practices outright. Not only has this law been incredibly difficult to get enforced, but it obviously didn’t deter these pet stores from getting puppies from puppy mills who commit egregious levels of abuse to the animals in which they make money off of.

Federal Animal Welfare Act Violations

In conducting research on the puppy mills used by this pet store chain, we also discovered that they are transporting the puppies from the puppy mills and brokers in the Midwest directly to a distribution center location, which is owned by Valley Pet/CPI in Phoenix.  

Instead of transporting the puppies directly to each pet store location, they are transporting them to their corporate property at 2001 N. Black Canyon Highway in Phoenix.  Here’s a sample of just one of the hundreds of Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVI), required for transport. These documents show that their puppies are coming from their respective puppy mill breeders and brokers and going to this one central distribution center:  

This location is not a pet store.  It is an industrial-type building and it is not open to the public. Former employees have come forward to tell us that the puppies are transported here, “cleaned-up,” and then sent to their respective pet store locations in the Phoenix metro area and Tucson.  Bailing Out Benji has hundreds of documents, covering 3 years of this company’s operation, showing that all of the puppies are going to this location when they enter the state and the state veterinarian’s office, via email, informed us that they are not able to find any Certificate of Veterinary Inspection (CVI) transport documents that show puppies going directly to the individual pet store locations.  

As an organization we regularly investigate pet stores and puppy mills across the country, and we have found this to be the only pet store chain in the United States that is operating a puppy distribution center like this – to our knowledge.  Every pet store we have investigated to date, has their puppies transported from the puppy mills and brokers directly to the pet store locations – even if one person or one company owns several stores.

The reason that other pet stores do not operate this type of distribution center may be that it is likely in violation of the Animal Welfare Act.  The USDA requires that “anyone taking custody of regulated animals in connection with transporting them on public carriers must be registered as an intermediate handler.  This requirement covers boarding kennels that take responsibility for shipping animals or receiving them after or during shipment.” USDA Guideline for Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act

We have also caught this pet store chain violating the Animal Welfare Act by exhibiting animals without a license.  The most up to date USDA Guideline for Licensing and Registration Under the Animal Welfare Act defines the following for “Exempt Businesses”:

 “Retail Pet Stores—Anyone whose entire business consists of selling certain pet-type animals (such as dogs, cats, rabbits, hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, and domesticated ferrets) to pet owners in person, at a place where the seller, buyer, and animal are physically present, is exempt. However, if as part of your business you exhibit animals, you are not considered a retail pet store and may have to be licensed as an exhibitor. For example, you are not considered a retail pet store if you take animals outside the store for teaching or promotion or if you set up a petting display, sell wild or exotic animals, or sell regulated animals to other retailers, research institutions, exhibitors, or other animal dealers. You need to be licensed as an exhibitor if you display a monkey or other wild animal inside the store. Exemptions for retail pet stores are on an all-or-nothing basis. If you qualify for exemption, none of your business is regulated or inspected. If you do not qualify as a retail pet store and do not qualify for any other exemption, you are a full-fledged dealer, and all your regulated animals are inspected.”

Here are photos of an event they held on March 2018, where they exhibited animals at Arizona State University in Tempe:

We also obtained a document, created by the owners of Companions Pets, Inc., and their lawyers, in which they admitted to exhibiting animals by saying “we bring our puppies to nursing homes to visit residents.”

This is document that was given to state lawmakers by the pet store chain’s lobbyists in August 2019 as well as a social media post where they admit to exhibiting animals at nursing homes.

Bailing Out Benji an Animal Wellness Action have filed complaints with the USDA about these Animal Welfare Act Violations, but the USDA has yet to respond to our complaints.

We are hopeful that the USDA as well as the local agencies in Tucson and Tempe tasked with enforcing the state pet store laws will follow through with their investigations.



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.

To make a donation or learn about other ways to support our efforts, click the image above
To receive action alerts and updates on our efforts, click the image above


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


Miles for the Mill Dogs Virtual 5k

Welcome to the First Annual “Miles for the Mill Dogs Virtual 5k”



Whether you walk, jog or run we invite you to join us for our first ever virtual 5k benefitting Bailing Out Benji and our fight against the cruel puppy mill industry!

Lace up those shoes, grab that leash and hit the ground running with your best friend. You can walk in your neighborhood, run on your favorite trail or leisurely stroll through your local park!

Each registrant will receive a special 5k medal and has the option to receive an event shirt for an additional donation! 100% of the proceeds raised will go towards helping the puppy mill dogs!

Special prizes will be mailed to select racers who post their run on social media and use the hashtags #MilesForTheMillDogs and #BailingOutBenji . Don’t forget to wear your favorite Bailing Out Benji shirt when you race!


For questions or concerns, email our event chair Sara Yassin: syassin@bailingoutbenji.com

You can also RSVP to our Facebook Event to receive updates on the 5k! 


Click to register



To receive action alerts and updates on our efforts, click the image above

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