Buyer Beware: JAKS Puppies

©Bailing Out Benji 2019
All research and information was done by the volunteer team at Bailing Out Benji  and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!
To view the rest of our CVI data, click here. 

When it comes to the puppy mill industry, there is no shortage of “key players” in the game. You have breeders, brokers, transport companies, pet stores and online websites. In this day and age, there is no true way to know where your puppy is coming from unless you visit the facility yourself, or adopt a pet from a local rescue or shelter. 

Unfortunately, the dog breeding business is clouded in secrecy and, unless you know how to ask the right questions, you will constantly be searching for answers. One of the main projects that Bailing Out Benji focuses on is obtaining government documents that track puppies from breeder to broker to pet store, so the public has a fighting chance to do their research before they buy a puppy. In this case, we have requested those government documents, Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVIs),  on notorious dog broker, JAKS Puppies. JAKS Puppies is based out of Britt, Iowa and not only sells to pet stores all over the country, but they started one of the nation’s first sham rescue operations ;  they are being investigated by the Iowa Attorney General due to puppy laundering and they are linked to other sham rescue organizations that are being sued in the state of California

UPDATE: The Iowa Attorney General ordered JAKS Puppies to shut down their sham nonprofits and pay a fine to the state. While they are legally still allowed to sell commercially bred puppies, they are no longer allowed to label them as “rescue puppies”. 

The tricky part with the secretive puppy mill industry is that the CVIs are only needed when a puppy is crossing state lines. So the JAK’s name is on those documents when a pet store gets the puppy- and rarely the name of the actual breeder. This is where we come in!

Below you will find a list of all of the known puppy mills that JAKS buys from before they broker the puppies to pet stores from coast to coast. ( Please note: we won’t see any of the Iowa breeders that JAKS sources from, because CVIs weren’t required for the initial transfer) . So far, our research has discovered that JAKS Puppies sells to pet stores in Massachusetts,  New Jersey,  Nevada,  Pennsylvania,  New York,  Florida,  Virginia,  Kansas,  Georgia,  Texas, California,  Arizona,  Nebraska,  Missouri, and Illinois . We are still pulling records on additional states. 

Here is the latest USDA inspection report of JAKS.

Below you will find a list of the breeders and puppy mills that JAKS Puppies sourced from in 2018 and 2019 organized by state that the puppies originated in. We have also noted the number of dogs imported from each state for the year 2018, as it is the only full year we have compiled. All of this data is backed up by government health records (CVIs) 

To view our interactive website and puppy mill maps, click here.

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Illinois

  1. Mary Beth Yutzy. Liberty, Illinois- is not USDA licensed. 
  2. Larry Yoder. Oblong, Illinois- is not USDA licensed. 

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Indiana

JAKS Puppies imported 1,300 puppies from the state of Indiana in 2018 from the following facilities: 

  1. Kenny Joe Knepp, Loogootee Indiana- 122 adult breeding dogs and 101 puppies with a history of violations including: dogs with chewed up ear tips, dogs with excessive tartar build up and sunken eyes. *major supplier* 
  2. Wayne Miller, Woffer Kennels. Middlebury, Indiana- 117 adult breeding dogs and 86 puppies with a history of violations including: dogs with severe dental disease. This breeder was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2020. *major supplier*
  3. Devon Schrock, Companions Forever. Middlebury, Indiana- 72 adult breeding dogs.This breeder was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  4. Jason Knepp and Phil Stoll. Montgomery, Indiana- 58 adult breeding dogs. 
  5. Nelson Graber. Montgomery, Indiana- 18 adult breeding dogs. 
  6. Jason L Graber. Montgomery, Indiana- 8 adult breeding dogs. 
  7. Marvin Lee Knepp. Montgomery, Indiana- 36 adult breeding dogs. 
  8. Ronnie and Lovina Graber. Montgomery, Indiana- 16 adult breeding dogs. 
  9. Daniel K , Dallas, Joseph D and Anna Mae Graber. Odon, Indiana- 27 adult breeding dogs. 
  10. Richard D Wagler. Loogootee, Indiana- 26 adult breeding dogs. 
  11. Jonathan Raber.  Loogootee, Indiana- 16 adult breeding dogs.
  12. Herman Raber. Montgomery, Indiana- 28 adult breeding dogs. 
  13. Jerry S and Christine Wickey, J and C Kennels. Geneva, Indiana- 17 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier*
  14. Jacob L Schwartz. Grabill, Indiana- 9 adult breeding dogs. 
  15. Jerry Miller, Play More Kennel.  Lagrange, Indiana- 15 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier*
  16. Martin J Miller. Lagrange, Indiana- 46 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier* 
  17. John Otto. Ligonier, Indiana- 24 adult breeding dogs. *major supplier* 
  18. Edwin and Ida Mae Wagler, I & E Kennel. Loogootee, Indiana- 73 adult breeding dogs and 51 puppies. 
  19. Vernon and Kathryn Lambright, Peaceful Hollow pets AKA Clearspring Kennels. Wolcottville, Indiana- 81 adult breeding dogs and 78 puppies with a history of violations that resulted in them being named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  20. Floyd Yoder. Topeka, Indiana- 11 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier*
  21. Jerry W and Esther Wickey.  Geneva, Indiana- 5 adult breeding dogs, 24 puppies. *regular supplier* 
  22. Jerry Wingard. Goshen Indiana- 10 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier*
  23. Kenny Stoll. Montgomery, Indiana- 21 adult breeding dogs. 
  24. Joe Otto. Topeka, Indiana- 17 adult breeding dogs. 
  25. Kerry D Wittmer. Montgomery, Indiana- 7 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier*
  26. Leonard Bontrager, Family Fun Canine. Lagrange, Indiana- 26 adult breeding dogs. 
  27. Marlin Raber.  Odon, Indiana- 14 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier*
  28. Nelson R Yoder. Millersburg, Indiana- 20 adult breeding dogs and 45 puppies.  
  29. Aden Graber. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  30. Adrian Stoll. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  31. Alan Troyer. Howe, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  32. Allen Stoll. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  33. Dale Knepp. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  34. Dallas L Raber. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  35. Dan Graber. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  36. Darrell J Wagler. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  37. Daryl Raber. Shipshewana, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  38. David Glick. Middlebury, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. *regular supplier*
  39. Delbert Raber. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  40. Edwin Swartzentruber. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  41. Elmer E Raber. Odon, Indiana-is not USDA licensed.
  42. Eugene Yoder. Goshen, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  43. Faron Lehman. Goshen, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. *regular supplier*
  44. Floyd Graber. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  45. Gerald Diener and Omer Graber. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  46. Henry Stoll. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  47.  James Graber. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  48. Janice Wagler. Loogootee, Indiana-is not USDA licensed.
  49. Jason Graber. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  50. Jesse Wagler. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  51. Joas Lehman. Shipshewana, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  52. Joe Troyer. Ligonier, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. *regular supplier*
  53. John Wingard. Shipshewana, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  54. Keith D Wagler. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  55. Larry Otto. Lagrange, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  56. Leroy Wagler. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  57. Levi and Janet Wagler. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. *regular supplier*
  58. Levi Stoll. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  59. Lloyd Wagler. Odon, Indiana-is not USDA licensed.
  60. Lovina Christner. Bennington, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 

  61. Lucas Miller. Shipshewana, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  62. Marcus Lengacher. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  63. Marvin Knepp. Loogootee, Indiana- is not USDA licensed. 
  64. Nelson Schlabach. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  65. Orley Miller. Shipshewana, Indiana-  is not USDA licensed.
  66. Owen Stoll. Odon, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  67. Perry Bontrager. Lagrange, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  68. Perry K Wagler. Montgomery, Indiana-is not USDA licensed.*regular supplier*
  69. Renita Eicher. Loogootee, Indiana-is not USDA licensed.
  70. Richard Jr Frey. Topeka, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  71. Royden Graber. Montgomery, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.
  72. Wayne Slabach. Lagrange, Indiana- is not USDA licensed.

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Kansas

  1. Michelle Russell, Big Creek Kennel. Erie, Kansas –78 adult breeding dogs.
  2. Doug and Loretta Gurtler, D&L Kennels. Beattie, Kansas- 10 adult breeding dogs and 37 puppies with a history of violations including: missed Inspections, food bowls covered in bird feces, frozen water bowls covered in bird poop, outdoor dog houses covered in bird poop, No pest prevention.
  3. Mary Moore, D&M Kennel. Uniontown, Kansas- 165 adult breeding dogs and 76 puppies. 

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Minnesota

JAKS Puppies imported over 1400 puppies from the state of Minnesota in 2018 from the following facilities: 

  1. Angie McDuffee and Wanda Kretzman, Clearwater Kennel, doing business as: AJ’s Angels Inc. Cushing, Minnesota– 758 adult breeding dogs 509 puppies at their last known inspection in June 2018. On March 2, 2015, the USDA filed a complaint against Clearwater Kennels for several violations of the Animal Welfare Act.  Prior, on March 9, 2016, Clearwater Kennels (owner Wanda Kretzman) cancelled its USDA license. Also on March 9, 2016, a USDA license was granted to AJ’s Angels to operate the kennel on the same property. The owner of AJ’s Angels is the daughter-in-law of Wanda Kretzman. This facility has also been named one of the worst puppy mills in the country… twice. *major supplier*
  2. Justin Sawyer, Foot Hills Farm. Backus, Minnesota- 159 adult breeding dogs and 82 puppies. *major supplier*
  3. Jim Christian. Currie, Minnesota- 31 adult breeding dogs. *major supplier*Sherrye Swenson. Backus, Minnesota- 45 adult breeding dogs, 23 puppies. *major supplier*
  4. John and Lyle Renner, Renner’s Kennel. Detroit Lakes, Minnesota- 134 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: Excessive fecal matter, puppies too crowded in small pens, dogs with excessive hair loss, dogs with swollen paws, and many more.This facility has also been named one of the worst puppy mills in the country… twice
  5. Reuben Wee, Marshall, Minnesota- does not appear to be licensed. 
  6. Kristen Hurst. Russell, Minnesota- 29 adult breeding dogs. 
  7. Marlton and Paul De Neui, Family Addition Kennel. Clinton, Minnesota- 13 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: Admitted to only cleaning/ sanitizing kennels once a month, inspector detected severe odor smell and  cobwebs. paint flaking and  rusted wires in kennels food and water bowls have brown, oily residue, excessive fly problem.
  8. Craig and Linda Kleven, Fair View Kennels. Walnut Grove, Minnesota- 89 adult breeding dogs. 
  9. Leroy Yoder, Pleasant View Kennels. Saint Charles Minnesota- 76 adult breeding dogs, 142 puppies. 

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Missouri

JAKS Puppies imported over 3,000  puppies from the state of Missouri in 2018 from the following facilities: (we are still combing through these records) 

  1. Allen and Myra Conover, Chariton River Labradors. Greentop, Missouri- 19 adult breeding dogs. 
  2. Amos Schwartz. Princeton, Missouri- 112 adult breeding dogs and 58 puppies. Schwartz was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2013. *regular supplier*
  3. Andy and Ruby Mast, Lazy Creek Kennel. Bogard, Missouri- 36 adult breeding dogs and 37 puppies. *regular supplier* 
  4. Anna May Good, Playful Puppies. Rutledge, Missouri- 88 adult breeding dogs and 44 puppies.
  5. Annetta Shirk. Chula, Missouri- 83 adult breeding dogs. 
  6. Betty S Fetters, Fetters Furry Friends. Novinger, Missouri- 123 adult breeding dogs and 78 puppies. *major supplier*
  7. Calvin and Teresa Good, CT Kennels. Memphis, Missouri- 116 adult breeding dogs and 93 puppies. *major supplier*
  8. Catherine Mast, C&C Kennel. Bogard, Missouri- 57 adult breeding dogs and 74 puppies. On top of having a second license under Chris Mast’s name (same address) with even more dogs on their property (see below), C&C Kennel was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country, twice, due to violations. *regular supplier*
  9. Chris Mast, Shady Ridge Kennel. Bogard, Missouri- 46 adult breeding dogs and 46 puppies. Located at the same address as Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill C&C Kennel (see above). *regular supplier*
  10. Chris Gingerich, Falcon Acres. Jamesport, Missouri- 12 adult breeding dogs. 
  11. Dana Farr, A Cute Puppy. Stewartsville, Missouri- 24 adult breeding dogs. *regular supplier* 
  12. Eva Mae and Ruben Rissler, R&R Kennel. Barnett, Missouri- 83 adult breeding dogs and 24 puppies with a history of violations including: excessive feces in the kennels. *regular supplier* 
  13. Fannie and Mahlon Schrock, Schrock Family Kennel. 43 adult breeding dogs and 37 puppies. *regular supplier*
  14. Gary and Victoria Simmons. Amity, Missouri- 74 adult breeding dogs and 34 puppies. *major supplier* 
  15. Geri Higgins, Higgins Kennel. Kirksville, Missouri- 49 adult breeding dogs and 29 puppies. *major supplier*
  16. Harvey Rissler, H&B Kennels. Barnett, Missouri- 170 adult breeding dogs and 69 puppies. 
  17. Janet Sloan and Anna and Wilmer Hoover, Tailspin Kennel. Versailles, Missouri- 13 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: administering expired medications. This facility has also changed their USDA license at least 5 times. 
  18. James and Ryan Ranes, Double R Cattle Co Inc. Jamesport, Missouri- 41 adult breeding dogs and 25 puppies. 
  19. Joseph Herschberger, Windy Knoll Kennel. Spickard, Missouri- 58 adult breeding dogs and 36 puppies. *regular supplier*
  20. Junior Detweiler. Princeton, Missouri- 85 adult breeding dogs and 63 puppies. *regular supplier* 
  21. Karen Highland, Rocky Ridge Kennels. Milan, Missouri- 81 adult breeding dogs and 81 puppies. *regular supplier*
  22. Karen Hoover. Hurdland, Missouri- 13 adult breeding dogs. 
  23. Lester W Troyer. Clark, Missouri- 76 adult breeding dogs and 52 puppies. 
  24. Mabel Zimmerman, Prairie Dog Kennel. Latham, Missouri- 36 adult breeding dogs and 23 puppies. 
  25. Malinda and Raymond Yutzy and Andrew Borntrager. Princeton, Missouri- 117 adult breeding dogs and 98 puppies. *regular supplier*
  26. Mary Lou Blaine, Sunny B’s Kennel AKA Blaine’s Kennel. Greentop, Missouri- 13 adult breeding dogs. 
  27. Michael Yutzy, Shady Hollow Kennel. Jamesport, Missouri- 70 adult breeding dogs and 66 puppies. 
  28. Phillip Hoover, Show Me Puppies. Memphis, Missouri- 396 adult breeding dogs and 181 puppies.  
  29. Reuben Yutzy, Little Paw Kennels. Jamesport, Missouri- 47 adult breeding dogs and 47 puppies. 
  30. Dawn Shetler. Edina, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 
  31. Edward and Gladys Martin, Circle M Kennels. Versailles, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 
  32. John Hall. Ava, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 
  33. Joseph Hostetler. Jamesport, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 
  34. Kevin Martin. Edina, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 
  35. Leslie Brown. Marceline, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 
  36. Roman Detweiler. Princeton, Missouri- is not USDA licensed. 

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Pennsylvania

  1. Harvey H Martin. Denver, Pennsylvania- does not appear to be licensed. 

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South Dakota

  1. Calvin Kroger, Kroger Kennel. Hudson, South Dakota- 59 adult breeding dogs.
  2. Jason Riggs, DPK. Ethan, South Dakota- 23 adult breeding dogs, Down from 66 adults. This breeder has missed inspections and has been written up for having dogs with excessive tartar on teeth. Riggs was also named one of the worst puppy mills in the nation. 
  3. Joette Peterson. Freeman, South Dakota- 37 adult dogs. Peterson has been named one of the worst puppy mills in the country three separate times and has a long history of violations. 
  4. Tina Brennan, Brennan Kennels. Pukwana, South Dakota- 17 adult breeding dogs. 
  5. Shelley Bensen. Parker, South Dakota- does not appear to be licensed. 
  6. Arin Riggs. Ethan, South Dakota- does not appear to be licensed. 
  7. Brian Goehring. Lesterville, South Dakota- does not appear to be licensed. 
  8. Robert Heckenliable. Freeman, South Dakota- does not appear to be licensed. 

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Wisconsin

Due to the sheer number of licensees in some of these Amish communities, it can be extremely hard to decipher which licensee is which. So we list “unable to access records” instead of statistics, as it is very hard to determine if some of the breeders even hold a license. This is due to the fact that the USDA heavily redacts their records now. 

  1. Ammon Zimmerman, Paradise Valley Acres. Stitzer, Wisconsin- 71 adult breeding dogs. 
  2. Marvin Hochstetler. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 16 adult breeding dogs. 
  3. Ervin W Bontrager. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 56 adult breeding dogs with a long history of violations including dogs with eye illnesses, filthy kennels, matted dogs and they received an official warning from the State of Wisconsin. Bontrager was also named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  4. Jesse Miller.  Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 56 adult breeding dogs. 
  5. Andrew Miller. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 50 adult breeding dogs. 
  6. Daniel Ray Miller. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 73 adult breeding dogs. 
  7. Michael Paul Bontrager. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 26 adult breeding dogs. 
  8. Phillip Bontrager. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 36 adult breeding dogs. 
  9. Milton Bontrager. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 23 adult breeding dogs. 
  10. Jerry Otto. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 58 adult breeding dogs. 
  11. David J Nisley. Westby, Wisconsin- 157 adult breeding dogs, 121 puppies. 
  12. Titus C Yoder. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- 46 adult breeding dogs.
  13. Noah Martin. Withee, Wisconsin- 132 adult breeding dogs, 45 puppies. 
  14. Clyde Z Horst, Red Barn Kennel. Stanley, Wisconsin- 83 adult breeding dogs. 
  15. Norman Hoschetetler. Hillsboro, Wisconsin- does not appear to be licensed. 
  16. Reuben A Schrock, Premier Kennels. Westby, Wisconsin- unable to access records. 
  17. Christian Graber, Hillsboro, Wisconsin- unable to access records. 

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Ohio 

Due to the sheer number of licensees in some of these Amish communities, it can be extremely hard to decipher which licensee is which. So we list “unable to access records” instead of statistics, as it is very hard to determine if some of the breeders even hold a license. This is due to the fact that the USDA heavily redacts their records now. 

  1. Marion Miller. Fredericksburg, Ohio- 23 adult breeding dogs. 
  2. Ben J Troyer, Locust Ridge Farm. Baltic. Ohio- 45 adult breeding dogs. 
  3. Mary E Yoder. Millersburg, Ohio- 118 adult breeding dogs, 94 puppies. 
  4. Allen J and Katie Yoder. Millersburg, Ohio- 32 adult breeding dogs. 
  5. Samuel E Yoder, Pleasant Pets. Baltic, Ohio- 24 adult breeding dogs. 
  6. Aden A Yoder. Millersburg, Ohio- unable to access records. 
  7. Eli Herschberger. Fredericksburg, Ohio- unable to access records .
  8. Marlin Beachy. Loudonville, Ohio- unable to access records. 
  9. Roy L  Yoder. Millersburg, Ohio- unable to access records. 
  10. Joseph D Miller. Millersburg, Ohio- unable to access records. 
  11. Aaron Schlabach. Sugar Creek, Ohio- unable to access records. 

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Once JAKS Puppies (the broker) receives the puppies, they are then resold and transported up to 25 hours in the backs of semis and transport vans to pet stores all over the country. All before the puppy is even 9 weeks old. To view the rest of our pet store research, click here.

To put an end to this cruel industry, we must stop putting money into the pockets of the businesses that are fueling puppy mills. Don’t shop at pet stores that sell puppies and don’t buy a puppy online or through a newspaper without meeting the parents first. Please consider making a donation to our nonprofit organization to help us continue researching, exposing and fighting the puppy mill industry. 

To help us continue exposing pet stores and puppy mills, please make a tax deductible donation today.

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

#EndPuppyMills !

 

 

** To those consumers that have bought a family member from a pet store or a questionable breeder, and are wondering about their actual background -please feel free to fill out the form below with any questions or paperwork that you have and we will confidentially research the breeder your pup came from.

Buyer Beware: Petland Iowa City

©2019

All research was done by  Bailing Out Benji and must be cited. 

We don’t buy from puppy mills.”

“All of our puppies come from small, local breeders.”

“We visit every breeder we buy from.”

We have all heard these sentences come from the mouths of pet store owners and their employees. They paint this beautiful picture of puppies running by a pond and parents frolicking in the fresh, green grass… Sadly, 99% of the time that is false because the truth is that reputable breeders would never sell their puppies in pet stores. The pet store owners know it, the employees might know it- but the customer is completely in the dark. This is why we are here. Bailing Out Benji exists to provide the transparency that the puppy mills and pet stores often will not. 

Take Petland Iowa City, for example. Owners Ron and Wendy Solsrud don’t just say “we don’t buy from puppy mills”, they shout it from the rooftops. Ron has a weekly spot on the local TV station KGAN, and he has done various interviews for different stations and his own youtube channel where he has made the following claims: 

“With Wendy and I owning Petland, you have boots on the ground for animal welfare- for pet’s welfare”. – Iowa City city council meeting 4/24/19 

“Wendy and I travel 1000 miles every week and that’s been for 13 years to do exactly what they are driving to do- and that is to get rid of puppy mills.” – KCRG Channel 9 video interview 

“We hear so many bad things about breeders and that kind of stuff and we just wanted to say ‘Hey, we need to be vocal about what we do and proud of it’.” – KGAN interview 

“We all want to eliminate and stop the puppy mills that are out there” – KCRG Channel 9 video interview

“I want to work with the best of the best out there.” Ron’s Petland Iowa City youtube channel. 

This all sounds great- right? A pet store owner that wants to fight puppy mills- perfect! Sadly, Ron’s actions don’t quite match up with his words. You see, puppies that are sold in pet stores are all traced through government health documents. Documents that are easily obtained from various Departments of Agriculture. Below you will find records of puppies that Petland Iowa City has purchased and sold from November 2018 to present. 

For example, this puppy was purchased at Petland on 5-17-2019. 

Obtained Exclusively by Bailing Out Benji and must be cited when shared.

As you can see this puppy was not only born at an Amish breeding facility in Utica, Minnesota (32 adult breeding dogs, 71 puppies. USDA 02-19-19 ); but it was then sold to a broker before arriving at Petland. This broker (distributor) Blue Ribbon Kennels is operated by Levi Graber, who at the time of last inspection (09-19-2018) had 148 puppies on his property. Even more troubling is the fact that Levi Graber was just investigated by the Center for Disease Control for selling sick puppies to Petland locations all over the country. According to the Humane Society of the United States,Graber was linked to the drug-resistant disease outbreak that made at least 118 people sick in 2016 and 2018. A number of the infected people became so ill that they were hospitalized. …. Meanwhile, through state-level Freedom of Information Act requests, HSUS was able to find records from the Indiana Department of Health that linked Graber’s property to the disease outbreak.”

Because of this, Levi Graber was named one of the “Horrible Hundred” puppy mills. 

Why would Petland Iowa City knowingly buy from a broker that sold puppies who were so sick, the illness passed along to humans and sent them to the hospital?

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Even more disturbingly, Petland Iowa City is linked to a transport company, Puppy Travelers, that was also in hot water for their practices. 

Obtained exclusively by Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such.

Again, not only is Skyline View LLC a huge Amish breeding facility in Minnesota (111 adult breeding dogs, 89 puppies. USDA 02-06-2019) , but the puppies were transported by a company that landed themselves on the Horrible Hundred puppy mill list because they had 24 puppies seized outside of a Florida PETLAND. According to inspectors , “the puppies were kept in crowded cages full of feces and urine without any water.” and at “one point there were up to 127 puppies inside the truck….” and also that “some of the puppies’ documentation was also altered, incomplete or missing—some didn’t have health certificates” The transport company made a statement admitting to investigators that, “they don’t clean the feces until they’re back in Missouri.”

Yet this company is one that Ron and Wendy Solsrud trust to bring healthy puppies into their location? 

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We’ve also been able to prove that Petland Iowa City has purchased puppies from another Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill- Pam Wilson, Gallatin MO. 

Obtained exclusively by Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such.

At the time of last known inspection (07-06-2018) Pam Wilson had 27 adult breeding dogs and 27 puppies, which doesn’t sound too troubling. What is most concerning, are Pam’s long list of violations. Taken from an excerpt of the 2018 Horrible Hundred puppy mill list, from the Humane Society of the United States, “In June 2017, a Missouri state inspector found nine violations at Pam Wilson’s kennel, including issues with unsafe housing, inadequate cleaning, unsafe animal handling and lack of proper veterinary care. Two separate veterinary careissues were cited, including one “direct” violation for a French bulldog puppy who had scabs and crusty areas from her neck to her midline (spine). According to the licensee, multiple other dogs had similar lesions and she had apparently “develop[ed] itchy rashes herself after handling some of the dogs.” None of these dogs had been seen by their veterinarian at the time of inspection for the issues, which could be caused by scabiesor other parasites. The inspector also noted that there was no current program of veterinary care available. Other violations noted at this inspection included a cattle prod found in one of the rooms that the licensee claimed she used to break up dog fights. The inspection report stated,“The licensee shall immediately discontinue use of any non-species appropriate training/management equipment to prevent unnecessary injury, stress, or trauma to the animals.” Other concerns noted at this inspection were about “20 exposed power outlets” accessible to the dogs and puppies in the licensee’s house, among other issues.”

But with Wendy and Ron owning Petland, I thought that we had boots on the ground for animal welfare? 

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Unfortunately, pet store owners do not have to tell you the truth about where their puppies come from until after you purchase the puppy. Neither Iowa City nor the state of Iowa have disclosure laws requiring pet stores to disclose the name of the breeder on each cage, nor does the city or state have any regulations governing the sale of puppies and kittens in retail settings. The truth is that reputable breeders do not sell their puppies in pet stores. In fact, the majority of National breed clubs’  “Codes of Ethics” prohibit their members from selling their puppies to pet stores or brokers. According to Ron’s youtube channel: “Breeders are great, but breeders will sell you one type of dog and that’s it. And they aren’t going to supply you with all of the training and that stuff.” 

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Here is the full list of the breeders we know have supplied Petland Iowa City since November 2018. 

  1. Amos Yoder, Skyline View LLC, St Charles, Minnesota- 111 adult breeding dogs, 89 puppies. Has a habit of skipping inspections
  2. Kallie and Josh Bateman, “Bateman Diversified” AKA Puppy Travelers Transport AKA Florida West Transport. Neosho, Missouri- This company transports puppies to Florida under many different names and they were recently named one of the worst puppy mills in the country due to their transport practices. In February 2018, 24 puppies were seized from a Puppy Travelers transport van outside a Petland store in Fort Myers, Florida. The puppies were found with “urine, feces and no water” in their cages, according to news sources, and many of them were sick. This transporter was named one of the worst puppy mills in the nation. To view the entire report, click here.
  3. Leroy Yoder, Pleasant View Kennels. Saint Charles Minnesota- 76 adult breeding dogs, 142 puppies. 
  4. Toby F Detweiler, Hidden Hollow Kennels. Saint Charles, Minnesota- 37 adult breeding dogs 
  5. John Henry Miller, Utica Minnesota- 45 adult breeding dogs. 
  6. Henry Yoder, Utica, Minnesota- 47 adult breeding dogs 
  7. David D Yoder Jr. Utica, Minnesota- 49 adult breeding dogs. 
  8. Leon Troyer, Jamesport Missouri- unable to access records. 
  9. Phil Hoover, Memphis Missouri- 364 adult breeding dogs.
  10. Betty Fetters, Fetters Furry Friends. Novinger, Missouri-  118 adult breeding dogs.
  11. Jonathan Detweiler, Shady Oak Frenchies. Princeton, Missouri- 27 adult breeding dogs. Under previous USDA number, Detweiler had hundreds of breeding dogs and numerous violations regarding the health of his dogs and issues with kennels. 
  12. Joseph Detweiler, Cedar View Kennel. Princeton, Missouri- 56 adult breeding dogs. 
  13. Stephen Detweiler, Princeton Missouri- unable to access records. 
  14. Reuben Yutzy, Little Paw Kennels. Jamesport, Missouri- 57 adult breeding dogs. 
  15. Samuel and Rachel Mast, Trenton Missouri- unable to access records 
  16. Devon Schlabach, Honey Locust Kennel. Princeton Missouri- 52 adult breeding dogs 
  17. Daniel Yoder, Yoder Kennel. Princeton Missouri- 65 adult breeding dogs 
  18. Dave and Janet Lovland,  Loveland Kennels. Atlanta (Macon), Missouri- unable to access records. 
  19. Pam Wilson, Gallatin Missouri- Wilson runs one of the worst puppy mills in the entire country with a history of violations including: issues with unsafe housing, inadequate cleaning, unsafe animal handling,  lack of proper veterinary care and the breeder admitting to using cattle prods on the dogs. 
  20. Ura Troyer, Countryside Kennels. Bethany Missouri- unable to access records
  21. Justin Horst, Edina Missouri- unable to access records.
  22. Ammon Herschberger, Spickard Missouri- unable to access records. 
  23. Anna Mae Good, Playful Puppies. Rutledge, Missouri- 83 adult breeding dogs. 
  24. Toby Herschberger, Spickard Missouri- unable to access records. 
  25. Jonas Hostetler, Jamesport Missouri- 11 adult breeding dogs 
  26. Andy Zook, Spickard Missouri- unable to access records. 
  27. Randall & Sheree Bonnette – Chillicothe, Missouri- 125 adult breeding dogs
  28. Audrey Reiff, Arbela Missouri- unable to access records. 
  29. Sam Schwartz, Autumn View Farm. La Plata, Missouri- 28 adult breeding dogs

Did you buy a puppy from a pet store and want to know where it came from? Fill out the form below and we can help you track down your puppy’s breeder! 

 

Is the “Amazon Culture” keeping puppy mills alive?

Written by Mindi Callison, 
Executive Director, Bailing Out Benji 
©2019
If you are not aware of what puppy mills are, 
please click here before starting this article. 

 

Is the “Amazon Culture” keeping puppy mills alive? 

Let me start by saying that Amazon does not run puppy mills, they don’t sell puppies or other animals, and they actually have a WONDERFUL program where you can shop as you normally would and they will make a donation to your favorite nonprofit ( shameless plug, click here to make Bailing Out Benji you charity of choice on Amazon!). So when I ask the question ‘Is the “Amazon Culture” keeping puppy mills alive?’ I don’t mean literally, but we will get into that more in a second.

First, let’s take a quick step back in time. 

…. too much.

In the 1940’s, 50’s and 60’s it was extremely common to see puppies for sale in every department store you walked into, such as Macy’s, Sears, Younkers, etc. Patti Page’s famous song “How Much is That Doggie in the Window?”  takes us back to that simple time whenever it plays in a commercial or on the oldie’s station. This was literally how people got puppies back in the day. You walked into the mall and to your local department store and saw those playful puppies in the window.  As the years and decades slipped by, the dog breeding industry became extremely prolific, especially in the midwest. The USDA stepped in to start licensing breeders that were breeding dogs in a commercial fashion (without providing education on how to do so) , and suddenly mom and pop pet stores started popping up everywhere. These stores promoted the impulse buying of puppies; families who might not have been ready for a puppy or the energy of a specific breed left the store with a new furry family member. If you are reading this then you know, this still happens EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. in almost every single state. However, we have something now that they didn’t have in the 40’s. 

The internet. 

Now you can order literally anything on the internet. You want a sweater? Done. You need a stack of textbooks before your college classes start? Easy peasy! You want to order your groceries and have them delivered so you don’t have to interact with people? Got it! And best of all, with Amazon Prime, YOU CAN GET ALL OF THESE ITEMS IN TWO DAYS OR LESS. That is service! Shopping for items has never been easier and we can find anything we want online. The times have changed in ways that we never could have expected 80 years ago.

Don’t be Veruca Salt, wait until you find the right dog for your lifestyle.

Unfortunately, because when we want something we can get it in two days or less, our society has become EXTREMELY impatient and this directly correlates to the rise of puppy mill industry. As the public becomes more aware of the puppy mill connection to pet stores, they are becoming weary of buying puppies in stores (although it still happens) and that awareness is truly a wonderful thing. With thousands of rescues and shelters across the country who have truly amazing dogs and cats that need homes, it really makes sense for members of the general public to adopt a pet. But how does this culture of online shopping correlate to puppy mills? 

 In the last two decades we have seen a huge trend in online sales of puppies and you might be shocked to learn that it wasn’t until 2014 that the USDA finally closed a loophole in their Animal Welfare Act that required breeders who sold puppies online to hold a USDA license and be inspected, as any other commercial breeder selling to the public would be. Can you believe it? Before 2014, the internet was like the wild, wild west of puppy mill sales!

Now these websites have started evolving, while a puppy mill might still operate their own kennel website, they have also started advertising their puppies on websites like: NextDayPets , PuppySpot , Lancaster Puppies, Greenfield Puppies, and PuppyFind (to name a few). These websites act as brokers, where the consumer can search for any breed of dog they want and have it shipped to them as soon as they want it. They often aren’t even told the name of their breeder until AFTER the transaction is complete, they are also rarely given information about the parent dogs, and they are never given consultation to find the right dog for their lifestyle. 

Unfortunately, what these websites are doing is feeding into the impulsiveness of our society and supporting some of the worst puppy mills in the nation. Consumers are seeing cute dogs on Facebook (ahem, “pomsky”),  googling them and buying one without really giving any thought to how the dog will fit into their lifestyle. These same people who need a dog and they need it NOW are often unwilling to look for that breed at local rescues and shelters, and they are even less likely to be put on a waiting list for a responsible breeder to have a planned litter.  

RED FLAG- if a breeder has a “shopping cart” on their website and you can literally pick a puppy, pay and have it delivered to you all in the same day, it is not a safe place to buy from. 

As a society, we need to take a minute to breathe and contemplate our purchases before we hit ‘buy now’- especially when it comes to other sentient beings, like puppies. These little puppies grow up to be dogs, and those dogs have the capacity to live 15-20 years. Before anyone buys OR adopts, we need to make sure that we are committed to those creatures through thick and thin. 

Note: All animals can (and are) milled. Cats, rabbits, hamsters, chinchillas, rats, birds, ferrets (and more) are inhumanely bred in large scale commercials facilities to supply pet stores. This article pertains to ‘pocket pets’ as well.

#ShowMeTheMommy !

The BEST way to avoid puppy mills is to, first, always consider adoption. Petfinder.com and AdoptAPet.com are two websites that rescues and shelters use to promote their adoptable animals. Unlike the puppy mill brokering sites, you can’t order a puppy through the site. You can search for any breed of dog near you, see pictures and then find out which rescue they are through and find more information out about their adoption process. If you absolutely can’t find a single dog available in a rescue or shelter, here are a few ways to look for and find a reputable breeder. 

Please note: While we wish every single person in the country would adopt an animal in need, we know that would never happen. At Bailing Out Benji we believe that there are responsible breeders who are NOT puppy mills. Whether or not you agree with breeding, we can hopefully agree that not all breeders are puppy mills. We ALWAYS advocate for adoption first, and that will never change. 

How to find a reputable breeder: 

  1. Start knowing that this will take TIME. You wouldn’t buy a home without researching the neighborhood, checking out local schools and making sure it has been inspected. The same goes for buying a dog. 
  2. AVOID BUYING PUPPIES IN PET STORES. Responsible breeders never sell to pet stores. 
  3. Look at your lifestyle and figure out what breed of dog fits your family. Do you need a couch potato? A running buddy? These are all things to discuss before ever bringing an animal into your home. 
  4. Get a referral. Your local veterinarian is a good place to start, as are your local breed specific rescues and breed clubs. 
  5. Always, always, always, visit the parents of your puppy. Reputable breeders will welcome you to be a part of the family, and will want you to be matched with the right puppy for your family and lifestyle.
  6. Reputable breeders will always take their dogs back if it doesn’t work out. 

For a full checklist of things to look for, check out the HSUS’ Responsible Breeder Checklist here. 

Please remember, that no mater how you obtain a new pet, please make sure that you are choosing the RIGHT pet for your family. Dog, cat, rabbit, chinchilla, whatever… Do your research, maybe foster first to see if you are ready, and then make sure that you are committing to that pet for its entire life. 

 

To learn more about the puppy mill industry:

What is a puppy mill?

The pet store/ puppy mill connection

Puppy mills in your state

Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization based out of Iowa, with teams all over the country. We are working tirelessly to eradicate the puppy mill industry and put an end to the pet store/puppy mill pipeline. Will you join us in our mission to end puppy mills once and for all? 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Buyer Beware: Predatory Pet Leasing

©Bailing Out Benji 2020

Imagine walking into a pet store just to look at the animals with your family and an employee immediately offers for you to hold a puppy. You start snuggling this sweet pup and look around at the dozens of other puppies for sale in cages on the wall. Something doesn’t feel right, but your kids are literally crying to make this pup a part of your family. When you ask how much it would cost to take this French Bulldog home, the sticker shock of $3000 sends you reeling. There is no way you can afford to pay that for a puppy, knowing that you will also have to buy food, toys and a bed- all on top of vet care. As you explain to your children that this puppy costs way too much, the employee immediately offers you a credit card. You hesitate, knowing that your credit isn’t the greatest, but she runs your information anyway. As you imagined, your request for a credit card was denied. On top of the embarrassment of being turned down for a credit card, your children have already named the puppy and you know there is no way you can leave the store without it. What do you do?!  (… besides run away and adopt a dog instead…) The employee then tells you about another option. For a low monthly fee, you can take the dog home today!

All you have to do is sign a contract agreeing to pay the minimum amount each month and your new family member is all yours – – – or is it? 

Example of Petland offering predatory leasing

Pet Leasing is the latest craze (scam) that is sweeping pet stores across the nation. Families who can’t outright afford to buy a dog, and don’t have good enough credit for a credit card are signing high-interest leasing agreements and damaging their credit even more. The fine print on many of these contracts includes a high interest rate, a balloon payment at the end for you to actually purchase the dog, and if you miss a payment, your fluffy family member can be repossessed. Yes… Repossessed. Like a car. None of this is verbally explained to the customers, instead it is hidden in the fine print of the long contract that the family signs in a hurry. Did we mention that you still have to pay off the dog in full even if you return it, it gets sick and dies or if it runs away?!  This pet leasing practice is extremely controversial, because the families are under the assumption that they are taking out a loan for the dog when in all reality they are LEASING the pet. They don’t actually own the dog until all payments and the balloon payment are made on time and in full. While the paperwork is done within the retail pet store, the lease goes through a third-party leasing company. 

Credit lending services such as WAGS lending, Credova lending, My Pet Funding, Easy Pay, and Lending USA are just a few of the lending companies that partner with pet stores in order to scam the public into easily buying puppy mill puppies. You can see through their websites, that some of these companies will lend up to $35,000 to one family with an interest rate of 30%. According to ScamFinance, the company Easy Pay offers loans with the interest rate averaging between 129% and 200%. Can you imagine the sheer amount of debt that is being racked up by these companies who are preying on unsuspecting animal lovers? Combined, LendingUSA and the Petland Credit card have over 1,145 complaints issued through the Better Business Bureau alone in the last 3 years. 

While, yes, those customers should absolutely read the fine print before they sign anything, we are ALL guilty of signing our rights away at some time or another. I’m looking at YOU  “Yes, I have read the terms and agreements before proceeding” . The fault truly lies within the pet stores that are playing on the emotions of the customers. While every Petland location offers leasing and lending on top of their private credit cards, you might be surprised to learn that many local “mom and pop” pet stores also offer third party lending as an option to take a puppy home today. To view which pet stores near you are selling puppies, check out our interactive puppy mill map. 

 

Real contract from Petland Iowa City

So what is being done to combat this? 

On top of many cities and states that are outright banning the retail sale of commercially bred dogs and cats, several localities are also stepping up to ban predatory lending as well. California, New York, Nevada and Washington have all enacted some kind of law that would prevent predatory pet leasing from pet stores and breeders. Other states, like Texas, have had legislation introduced but they didn’t make it through the legislative funnel. Both the HSUS and the ASPCA are warning the public about this issue; as are the Federal Trade Commission and the Better Business BureauThe AKC even made a statement against pet leasing, although they have no problem allowing their registered dogs to be sold in pet stores or bred in puppy mills. 

As animal advocates, it is our job to make sure that our city council members and state legislators are aware of this issue and are taking the proper steps to make sure local citizens don’t fall prey to pet leasing practices. Send an email and share this article TODAY to help us create a better world for animals and people everywhere. If those that represent us aren’t aware of the problem, they can’t fix it. Help us educate today! 

Here are a few articles regarding families that have been targeted by predatory pet lending: 

Colorado

New Jersey

New York

 

Written by: Mindi Callison,

Executive Director, Founder of Bailing Out Benji

 

To learn more about the puppy mill industry: 

What is a puppy mill? 

The pet store/ puppy mill connection 

Puppy mills in your state 

 

Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization based out of Iowa, with teams all over the country. We are working tirelessly to eradicate the puppy mill industry and put an end to the pet store/puppy mill pipeline. Will you join us in our mission to end puppy mills once and for all? 

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

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

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

 

 

 

Buyer Beware: Pet Connect Rescue

We all know that puppy mills are shady; really shady. Besides making a living off of the suffering of living, breathing dogs; their #1 job is to deceive the public. Thanks to organizations like ours, we have made their lives a little harder in both aspects. Especially when it comes to exposing their shady business practices to the public. 

In recent years, it has become a trend for cities (and now states) to pass legislation banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores from commercial breeders (ahem… puppy mills). Instead, these stores must get their puppies from rescues and shelters to help the homeless animals in their communities instead of aiding in the pet overpopulation problem. That sounds WONDERFUL, right? Bailing Out Benji has helped pass bans 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 “nonprofit”  “rescues” in order to still sell puppies in towns with retail bans. 

Case and Point…

“Pet Rescue Connect”…  “Pet Connect Rescue” or is it “Ark Rescue” … Or is it “Goldee Rescue” … Or their real business “Rothman Enterprises”. All of the addresses listed above, except for one, are PO Boxes in various cities, but all are owned by Alysia Rothman and her partner Ray Rothman. 

Don’t forget about the pet store they own in Connecticut.

**BEFORE WE GO ANY FURTHER… Our findings about this sham operation out of Missouri are NOT the same PetConnect Rescue out of Maryland or The Pet Connect in Kansas. The organizations have zero affiliation with each other, although their names appear to be similar. **

Through our research we have found that “Pet Connect Rescue” out of Missouri is selling hundreds of puppies to pet stores in California since January 1, 2019. That is when the California statewide retail ban took effect and the stores were legally only able to source puppies from legitimate rescues and shelters. Between the government documents that we obtained and the volunteers we have going into the stores to check cage tags, we have record of Pet Rescue Connect selling to: 

Puppy Kisses: 128 Federal Rd, Danbury, CT 06811

Mutts at Mainplace: 2800 North Main St #1032, Santa Ana California

Villagio Family Pets: 41493 Margarita Rd G-103, Temecula, CA 92591

The Fancy Puppy: 530 Hidden Valley Pkwy #102, Corona, CA 92879

Hello Puppies: 41125 Winchester Rd B6, Temecula, CA 92591

Broadway Puppies: 840 N Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025

National City Puppy: 1430 E Plaza Blvd E, National City, CA 91950

Town Puppies: 28274 Old Town Front St, Temecula, CA 92590

Palm Desert Puppies: 44825 San Pablo Ave, Palm Desert, CA 92260

The Puppy Patch: 3030 Plaza Bonita Rd Ste 2465, National City, CA 91950

Bark Avenue (Formerly Escondido Pets): 200 E Via Rancho Parkway, Escondido CA

Our research has also helped numerous news stations expose the sham rescue operations, and we are also suing a chain of pet stores and other sham rescues in another part of California. 

This “rescue” also obtained their nonprofit status through the IRS. And is officially a 501c3, as of January 2018. 

But where is Pet Connect Rescue getting hundreds of puppies in order to supply so many pet stores? Legitimate rescue organizations wouldn’t have that many 8 week old purebred and “designer” puppies available for sale. Nor would they have to transport them over 25 hours to a pet store in order to find them homes.

Among the many business connections we have found on Alysia and Ray Rothman, we have connected them to another USDA dog brokerDavid Steffensmeier from West Point,  Iowa. Because of the 2017 USDA Blackout we are unable to access his current dog count and records, however he is related to Mark and Gina Steffensmeier of Salem, Iowa. Mark Steffensmeier has a history of violations including:  dogs living in dark, concrete buildings with a history of violations including: spider webs all over, chewed walls and doors of dog houses, tarter buildup on teeth, red gums, dogs with cloudy eyes. They were also named one of the top 100 worst puppy mills in the country. To view inspection photos, click here

We also have records that show the Rothman’s business “Pet Connect Rescue” is sourcing their puppies from another sham rescue operation called Rescue Pets Iowa , who is involved in not just one but two lawsuits in what is now being referred to as a “National Puppy Laundering Scheme”. And, as you can see below, the veterinarian signing off on the health certificates coming from “Rescue Pets Iowa” is one of the horrible hundred puppy mills. 

And lastly, we have records of where the Rothman-owned Connecticut pet store, Puppy Kisses, is sourcing their puppies fromYou won’t be surprised to hear that many of those breeders have been named the worst puppy mills in the country and have a long list of violations. 

So what can be done? Now that the public has been told through legislation in these towns that puppies in pet stores CAN’T come from puppy mills, the general consensus is that it is safe to walk in and “adopt” a puppy- and that is what the pet store is banking on. 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? 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.  

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

To support our research and our efforts to expose the puppy mill industry, click the button above.

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

Buyer Beware- “Rescue” Pets Iowa

We all know that puppy mills are shady; really shady. Besides making a living off of the suffering of living, breathing dogs; their #1 job is to deceive the public. Thanks to organizations like ours, we have made their lives a little harder in both aspects. Especially when it comes to exposing their shady business practices to the public. 

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

Case and Point…. “Rescue” Pets Iowa: 1617 S Milner St, Ottumwa Iowa. 

This “rescue” seemed to pop up out of nowhere in the last few weeks. Advocates in Iowa have not heard of them, but they  are already selling puppies to pet stores in cities and states that have retail bans. Those puppies are being sold for upwards of $4000 a piece in pet stores in California! Thanks to a California news station, this connection was made public.  This new “rescue” doesn’t host adoption events, they don’t have a facility – –  they don’t even have a Facebook page or a website! In addition, Rescue Pets Iowa isn’t even currently licensed as a rescue in Iowa, nor are they a registered 501c3 with the IRS.This is another fake rescue created by the puppy mill industry to circumvent the laws that are being passed across the nation. We have documents showing that Rescue Pets Iowa has sold almost 1000 puppies to California since November of 2018, an entire month before they got a business license. 

What do we know so far? 

Rescue Pets Iowa just filed as an Iowa business at the end of December 2018, mere weeks before the California retail ban went into effect. They registered their Iowa business as a nonprofit, but have yet to obtain their nonprofit status federally from the IRS.

As we started looking into who is operating this new rescue, we weren’t surprised to learn that the only active officer, Russell Kirk, sells puppies on facebook and recently worked for a dog breeding company that sells “Pet Industry Software” and touts “Our company does everything but clean your kennels and vaccinate your puppies”. As you can see, that was a family business. 

We have also been able to connect the owner of Rescue Pets Iowa to the owners of the puppy mill broker and other fake rescue “Hobo K9 Rescue” as acquaintances- even though their facilities are 200 miles apart. Before the 2019 California retail ban went into effect, Hobo K9 “rescue” was one of the sole suppliers to CA pet stores.  Once they were outed by us and the Chicago Tribune, they have gone relatively silent but have now helped this new fake rescue come to fruition. As you can see in the CVI above, Jolyn Noethe, owner of Hobo K9 and JAKS puppies is signing off on the documents for Rescue Pets Iowa, instead of Russell Kirk. It is also important to note that the veterinarian who is signing off on the health of the puppies, AG Beukelman,  has been named one of the worst puppy mills in the nation. 

Where is “Rescue” Pets Iowa selling puppies? 

We have been able to connect “Rescue” Pets Iowa to another fake rescue in California, “Bark Adoptions” located at 33120 Nancy Lane, Menifee California. Rescue Pets has shipped hundreds of puppies over 2,000 miles across the country to be sold to Bark Adoptions. Bark Adoptions, in turn, is selling the puppies to pet stores all over California. A few of those pet stores include: 

Escondido Pets: 200 E Via Rancho Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92025 , which has since closed and become Bark Ave at the same address. 

Broadway Puppies: 840 N Broadway, Escondido, CA 92025

Temecula Puppies 4 Less: 31285 Temecula Pkwy #180, Temecula, CA 92592

Animal Kingdom Pet Store:  1675 W Grand Ave, Grover Beach, CA 93433

Animal Kingdom Pet Store: 146 Town Center E, Santa Maria, CA 93454

Animal Kingdom Pet Shop: 651 Dolliver St, Pismo Beach, CA 93449

Bark Boutique: Temecula Mall 40820 Winchester Rd #2000, Temecula, CA 92591

The puppies are changing hands an insane amount of times, just so the public can’t see the truth behind what is going on.

From Puppy Mill —>  Rescue Pets Iowa—> 2,000 mile transport —>  Bark Adoptions —> Pet store cage —> to the unsuspecting consumer.

All before these puppies are 10 weeks old. Unfortunately, the parent dogs are suffering back at puppy mills in the Midwest. 

Rescue Pets Iowa is now involved in two lawsuits because of their shady practices. One lawsuit is in California, and the other is in their home state of Iowa. In Iowa, that lawsuit was brought on by the Iowa Attorney General. 

So what can be done? Now that the public has been told through legislation in these towns that puppies in pet stores CAN’T come from puppy mills, the general consensus is that it is safe to walk in and “adopt” a puppy- and that is what the pet store is banking on. 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? 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.  

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

If you have any questions regarding the research done within this article, or you want to know more about where your puppy came from, please send us an email and we will get back to you. 

Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization. Collecting these government documents can be costly. Please consider making a donation to help us continue our efforts today! 

To help us continue exposing pet stores and puppy mills, please make a tax deductible donation today.

Buyer Beware: Dog Broker Crittersville Enterprises

When it comes to the puppy mill industry, there is no shortage of “key players” in the game. You have breeders, brokers, transport companies, pet stores and online websites. In this day and age, there is no true way to know where your puppy is coming from unless you visit the facility yourself, or adopt a pet from a local rescue or shelter. 

Unfortunately, the dog breeding business is clouded in secrecy and, unless you know how to ask the right questions, you will constantly be searching for answers. One of the main focuses that Bailing Out Benji has is obtaining government documents that track puppies from breeder to broker to pet store, so the public has a fighting chance to do their research before they buy a puppy. In this case, we have requested those government documents, Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVIs),  on notorious dog broker, Crittersville Enterprises LLC. Crittersville currently sells to pet stores in Colorado and Massachusetts, and likely many others. The tricky part with the secretive puppy mill industry is that the CVIs are only needed when a puppy is crossing state lines. So Crittersville’s name is on those documents when a pet store gets the puppy- not the actual breeder. This is where we come in! Below you will find a list of all of the known puppy mills that Crittersville Enterprises buys from before they broker the puppies to pet stores from coast to coast. 

As it turns out, Crittersville is also not picky about where they obtain their puppies for resale. In fact, Crittersville sources puppies from puppy mills that have been named the worst in the nation no fewer than 15 times. Below you will find the breeders that Crittersville sourced from in 2017 and 2018 (that we know of). 

  1. Robin Fedders, Fedders Farm. Sioux Center, Iowa- 12 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including (from 2015): Injured dogs unseen by vets, broken metal poking into kennels, holes in concrete full of water.
  2. Linda and Marv Mulder, Limi Je M Kennel. Boyden, Iowa- 25 adult breeding dogs.
  3. Stan, Bethany and Linda Korver. Orange City, Iowa – 14 adult breeding dogs. 
  4. Lora and Loren Kooiman, Riverview Kennels. Doon, Iowa- 11 adult breeding dogs. Riverview Kennels was also named one of the worst puppy mills in the entire nation. 
  5. Jean Gortmaker, Gortmakers Acres.  St Lawrence, South Dakota- 59 adult breeding dogs. 
  6. Bob and Charlene Fischer- Goodwin, South Dakota- 18 adult breeding dogs 
  7. Cindy Hubers, Da Pa Kli Kennels. Harrison, South Dakota- 137 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: Dogs with eye issues, dogs needing vet care without having it provided,dogs with green mucus covering eyes, dogs with severe matting with feces stuck in fur and dogs with missing fur and open wounds. Hubers was also named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  8. Bonnie Versteeg, Platte South Dakota- 83 adult breeding dogs. 
  9. Cal and Karen Veurink, Dakota Kennels.  Harrison, South Dakota- 50 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: numerous dogs with severe dental disease; dogs with extremely long toenails; dogs with eye injuries, face injuries and injuries to their bodies/paws. 
  10. Bev Nydam Varilek.  Stickney, South Dakota-77 adult breeding dogs. 
  11. Robert Engbrecht. Marion, South Dakota- unable to access records.
  12. Doug Kroger. Beresford, South Dakota- 28 adult breeding dogs. 
  13. Keith Jensen. Freeman, South Dakota- 30 adult breeding dogs. 
  14. Jared Feldhaus. Howard, South Dakota- 13 adult breeding dogs. 
  15. Carla Pederson, Pederson Farms. Freeman, South Dakota- 27 adult breeding dogs. 
  16. Faye and Kelley Degen, Prairie Wind Kennels.  Parkston, South Dakota- 23 adult breeding dogs.
  17. Tina Brennan, Brennan Kennels. Pukwana, South Dakota- 19 adult breeding dogs. 
  18. Jennifer Johnson. Corsica, South Dakota- 29 adult breeding dogs, missed first and only inspection. 
  19. Kathy Zomer, Kathy’s Kountry Kennel. Corsica, South Dakota- 69 adult breeding dogs
  20. Travis and Kara Zomer. Tabor, South Dakota- 18 adult breeding dogs. 
  21. Elvina Johnson,  Johnson Kennels. Plankinton, South Dakota- 20 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: No vet had visited the facility in three years; dogs had “thick yellow-green discharge” from eyes; dogs with ulcerated skin lesions; and puppies housed in poor conditions. Johnson was also named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  22. Nancy Ogle, Irene South Dakota- 51 adult breeding dogs (down from 85) and close to 100 puppies on site, with a history of violations including: missed inspections,  filthy kennel conditions, dogs in need of veterinary care, dogs with eye issues, dogs with dental disease, and excessive brown grime in kennels. Ogle was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2017. 
  23. Joette Peterson. Freeman, South Dakota- 31 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: dogs with open wounds and flies buzzing around them; dogs with no food and water; and dogs living in the cold with no protection from the elements. Peterson was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2018 , 2017 , and 2016. 
  24. Shelli Kershner, Walnut Creek Kennel. Rush, Center Kansas- 171 adult breeding dogs (down from 201 adults) with 96 puppies on the property. Kershner has a long history of violations including: missing inspections, failure to provide adequate veterinary care, failure to provide safe housing for dogs, dogs with eyes crusted shut, dogs with excessively long toenails, and dogs with dental disease. Kershner was given an Official Warning from the USDA and was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  25. Rita Schroeder. Great Bend, Kansas- 11 adult breeding dogs. 
  26. Lori and Curtis Slate, Slate Kennels. Jewell, Kansas- 23 adult breeding dogs.
  27. Clair and Susan Carlisle, S&C Farms. Coldwater, Kansas- 40 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including outdoor dogs with no windbreaks as protection from the elements. 
  28. Bill and Jodi File. Beloit, Kansas- 15 adult breeding dogs and a history of violations (from 2016) including: dogs with no identification; broken concrete runs with excessive feces and debris filling in the holes; and general excessive amount of feces. 
  29. Jeanne Becker. Osborne, Kansas- 71 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations (from 2017) including: dog with severe dental disease that had not been seen by a vet; medications in facility without veterinarian directions. 
  30. Jacky ( Jacqueline) Roesener.  Mcdonald, Kansas- 100 adult breeding dogs. To View USDA photos of this kennel, click here
  31. Doug and Loretta Gurtler, D&L Kennels. Beattie, Kansas- 12 dogs (down from 25) with a history of violations (from 2016) including: missed Inspections: food bowls covered in bird feces, frozen water bowls covered in bird poop, outdoor dog houses covered in bird poop, No pest prevention.
  32. Challen and Mike Ramsey, Triple R Kennels. Randall, Kansas- 11 adult breeding dogs.
  33. Marcia Smith, Smith Puppies. St. John, Kansas- 27 adult breeding dogs.
  34. Rebecca Eiler, Creekside Kennel. Oberlin, Kansas- 365 adult breeding dogs and 166 puppies on the premises. Eiler also runs a puppy mill in Nebraska that was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  35. Roxanne Castens. Ludell, Kansas- 33 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: dogs so thin you could see hips and spine, giving dogs “cocktail” of medications without directions from a vet, and for not having an adequate veterinary program . Castens received a fine from the USDA for not allowing an inspector on the property. Castens was also named one of the worst puppy mills in 2015 and 2014
  36. Zola and Steve Price, Laverne Vet Hospital.  Laverne, Oklahoma-  118 adult breeding dogs (down from 287 dogs)
  37. Debra Tignor, Quail Court Kennel. Sayre, Oklahoma- 53 adult breeding dogs. 
  38. Steve and Carol Haley, Haley Kennels. Sayre, Oklahoma- 112 adult breeding dogs. 
  39. Mark and Ray Range. D&B Kennel.  Arnett, Oklahoma- unable to access current dog count, but has a long history of violations and was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2016, 2015, and 2014
  40. Louann Gillespi, Lu’s Little Poodle Place.  Rosston, Oklahoma- 13 adult breeding dogs. 

Once the broker receives the puppies, they are then resold and transported to pet stores all over the country. All before the puppy is even 9 weeks old. To view the rest of our pet store research, click here. 

To put an end to this cruel industry, we must stop putting money into the pockets of the businesses that are fueling puppy mills. Don’t shop at pet stores that sell puppies and don’t buy a puppy online or through a newspaper without meeting the parents first. 

 

To help us continue exposing pet stores and puppy mills, please make a tax deductible donation today.

** To those consumers that have bought a family member from a pet store or a questionable breeder, and are wondering about their actual background -please feel free to fill out the form below with any questions or paperwork that you have and we will confidentially research the breeder your pup came from.

 

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

 

Buyer Beware: Dog Broker Becky Busboom

When it comes to the puppy mill industry, there is no shortage of “key players” in the game. You have breeders, brokers, transport companies, pet stores and online websites. In this day and age, there is no true way to know where your puppy is coming from unless you visit the facility yourself, or adopt a pet from a local rescue or shelter. 

Unfortunately, the dog breeding business is clouded in secrecy and, unless you know how to ask the right questions, you will constantly be searching for answers. One of the main focuses that Bailing Out Benji has is obtaining government documents that track puppies from breeder to broker to pet store, so the public has a fighting chance to do their research before they buy a puppy. In this case, we have requested those government documents, Certificates of Veterinary Inspection (CVIs),  on notorious dog broker, Becky Busboom. Becky runs a brokering company out of Dannebrog, Nebraska and sells to pet stores all over the country including (but not limited to); Colorado, Iowa, Massachusetts, Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New York, Florida, and  Virginia. The tricky part with the secretive puppy mill industry is that the CVIs are only needed when a puppy is crossing state lines. So Busboom’s name is on those documents when a pet store gets the puppy- not the actual breeder. This is where we come in! Below you will find a list of all of the known puppy mills that Becky Busboom buys from before she brokers the puppies to pet stores from coast to coast. 

I do want to note that Busboom is no reputable person herself. In fact, she was given a violation by the USDA for giving pig medications to puppies in her care, even though that clearly goes against the limited regulations of the Animal Welfare Act.

As it turns out, Busboom is also not picky about where she obtains her puppies for resale. In fact, Busboom sources puppies from puppy mills that have been named the worst in the nation no fewer than 8 times. Below you will find the breeders that Busboom sourced from in 2017 and 2018 (that we know of) 

  1. AG Beukelman, J Michaels Kennels. Sioux Center, Iowa- 95 adult breeding dogs, with a history of violations including: excessively rusted cages, wires broken and poking into kennels, build up of dirt/grime, excessively chewed bowls, dogs withuntreated eye problems, and dead mice found floating in dogs’ drinking waterAlthough Beukelman is a veterinarian himself, he is known as one of the worst puppy mills in the country. 
  2. Julie Nelson, Nelson Farms. Fairfield, Iowa- 75 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: very sick Shih-tzus, not having a veterinarian on site for over a
    year, and having severely chewed/jagged water bowls
  3. Dave Ruter, Sioux Center, Iowa- 55 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: Excessively rusty doors/cages, filthy kennels, excessively chewedwalls, unsafe kennels. 
  4. Gary and Elaine Vande Weerd, Vande Weerd Kennels. Sioux Center, Iowa- 27 adult breeding dogs. 
  5. Gary Felts, Black Diamond Kennel. Kingsley, Iowa- 183 adult breeding dogs (before he auctioned them all off) with a long history of violations including:  dogs noted with eye issues,  excessively rusty kennels/cages, metal feeders/waterers that are rusted, exposed screws in kennels, excessively chewed wood, standing water in buildings, no wind/rain break, excessive feces in whelping rooms, “Records on hand” not completed, severely rusted pens, excessively chewed pens, dust/dirt/debris/grime buildup in pens, sharp points in all of the kennels, big holes in the floors (dogs legs are passing through, even bodies). The USDA put him on a 3 year probation in 2016, and  Felts was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2017, 2016, 2015 and 2013
  6. Helen and Scott Ketelsen,  Hull Iowa- 129 adult breeding dogs
  7. Tara Hansen, Doon Iowa- unable to access records. 
  8. Pam Habbinga, Habbinga Kennels.  Boyden, Iowa- 111 adult breeding dogs with violations including: cracked cement in kennels that cannot be cleaned or sanitized
  9. Tabitha Bakker, Hawarden Iowa- unable to access records. 
  10. Heidi or Megan Johnston, Murray Iowa- unable to access records. 
  11. Judy and Steve Thiesse, TZ Kennel. Mitchell, South Dakota- 21 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: Rusted wire and tin poking into dog kennels and run areas. 
  12. Nancy Ogle, Irene South Dakota- 51 adult breeding dogs (down from 85) and close to 100 puppies on site, with a history of violations including: missed inspections,  filthy kennel conditions, dogs in need of veterinary care, dogs with eye issues, dogs with dental disease, and excessive brown grime in kennels. Ogle was named one of the worst puppy mills in the country in 2017. 
  13. Pat Crabtree, Crabtree Kennels. Saint Francis, Kansas- 195 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: not having puppies vaccinated for dangerous diseases, dogs with severe dental disease, dogs with eye issues, dogs with ear infections and wounds on their body. Crabtree was also named one of the worst puppy mills in 2015 and 2014 and has a history of changing her license number to hide from her violations. 
  14. Cindy Sherlock, Furry Friends Kennel. St Francis, Kansas- 40 adult breeding dogs. 
  15. Tom Vaassen, Lancaster Wisconsin- 22 adult breeding dogs. 
  16. Jeanna Johnston, Coalgate Oklahoma- unable to access dog records. 

 

Once the broker receives the puppies, they are then resold and transported to pet stores all over the country. All before the puppy is even 9 weeks old. To view the rest of our pet store research, click here. 

To put an end to this cruel industry, we must stop putting money into the pockets of the businesses that are fueling puppy mills. Don’t shop at pet stores that sell puppies and don’t buy a puppy online or through a newspaper without meeting the parents first. 

To help us continue exposing pet stores and puppy mills, please make a tax deductible donation today.

 

** To those consumers that have bought a family member from a pet store or a questionable breeder, and are wondering about their actual background -please feel free to fill out the form below with any questions or paperwork that you have and we will confidentially research the breeder your pup came from.

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

 

 

 

Dogs Not Drama

Written by Mindi Callison, the Founder and Executive Director of Bailing Out Benji based on her presentation regarding bullying and harassment. 

©Bailing Out Benji 2019

Personal blogs are harder to write than almost anything. On a daily basis I channel all of my energy into educating about puppy mills, pet stores and the cloud of secrecy that follows every facet of the industry; but when it comes to opening up and writing about your personal experiences to the world, you feel as though your heart is exposed. But if you have ever been bullied or harassed in the animal welfare world, I hope that you continue reading this and will find comfort in the fact that you are not alone.  As personal as this is for me, I have to share. Because  this message needs to be heard.

Are you ready? 

Do you want to hear the one sentence that will change everything? 

It’s only three words… 

DOGS NOT DRAMA. 

That’s it. Right there. Mic drop. 

If you are involved in animal rescue for the right reasons, then this phrase will ring true to you. We are here for the dogs. We educate for the dogs; we rescue for the dogs; we live and breathe for the animals that we save. Sadly, in this same industry, we have way too many people who create and feed on drama; the negative; the “bashers”. Those people are energy vampires and they literally suck the life out of you, but more on that later.

The big question is: How can you properly run an efficient organization when there is so much negativity within the industry? 

Our last protest in front of Dyvig’s in Ames

I am no stranger to bullying and harassment within the animal rescue industry. I founded Bailing Out Benji 7.5 years ago when I was only 21. Some of the advocates who came before me were thrilled to have a young, passionate person to add more wind to their sails. I was protesting pet stores each weekend and exposing puppy mills and their connection to pet stores during the week- all while holding down a full time job. Many people praised the work that our team was doing and the energy we were bringing to a stagnant industry. But then there were the other people… The bullies. In my case, these bullies were the same 4-6 people who thought that there was no room for someone like me in this industry. They pointed out that other groups were around first, that I was “too young”, and that they “started animal rescue” here and I needed to learn my place. It wasn’t just their words though. These people actively tried to tear down my organization. 

Minor things happened here and there, but in 2013 is when it really got bad. These people, who will never be named, had decided that I was the devil incarnate and could do nothing good. Ever. Prior to 2013, Bailing Out Benji was mainly a blog and protesting/educational group. We had just started to file the paperwork to become a nonprofit organization, but we mainly kept to ourselves and just wanted to make a difference for the puppy mill dogs. All of that changed when a local business wanted to host a fundraiser for us. This was the first time EVER we were going to do a fundraiser and I was thrilled! Our makeshift board had already decided we were going to get puppy mill awareness bus ads in our town, to educate the college students about the dangers of buying puppies in pet stores. This fundraising opportunity was the kickstart we needed to get our idea off of the ground! The grooming salon was going to offer dog baths and nail trims, while we also held a yard sale with some raffle items and snacks. It was going to be a low-key, fun event. 

Keyword: was

A week before our fundraiser is when the harassment really amped up. The ring leader of the bullies had several people call the doggie daycare owner and demand she cancel. After several days of angry calls, the owner decided to cancel our event due to harassment and threats to boycott her business. And that was that. Our first real fundraiser was cancelled, because a few people couldn’t see the greater good. Thankfully, an angel donor helped us pay for the bus ads in full, after I had to embarrassingly admit on social media how and why our fundraiser was cancelled.  I am happy to say that our bus ad ran on two buses for 6.5 years, until there was no longer a pet store selling puppies in our town. 

Our bus ad

That is the moment when I realized that I was too wrapped up in the negativity of others to understand that what they were doing spoke volumes about THEM and nothing about me. Now I am a little older, a lot wiser and smart enough to know when to block people out of my life. Bailing Out Benji has grown from a small group in Iowa, to a national grassroots, nonprofit organization that has educated millions of people about the puppy mill industry. Yes, the same people still pop up from time to time, but they can no longer affect my peace and mental health.

It is because of them, that I wanted to reach out to all of you.  Bullying runs rampant in the animal welfare world and it has got to stop. While my experiences are very specific, that doesn’t mean bullying amongst animal advocates doesn’t happen on the daily. Social Media can single handedly ruin lives, and that is something many of you have been the target of. But how do we fix it? How do we as an industry evolve to leave the drama behind? I don’t have the magic answer, but I do have some ways we can cut it down. 

First- let’s talk about “Energy Vampires”.

“An energy vampire is somebody who literally zaps your energy dry,” Judith Orloff, MD, a psychiatrist on the University of California-Los Angeles Psychiatric Clinical Faculty, told NBC News. “What energy vampires all have in common is they “feed on” (or manipulate) people who will give them air space and open ears.”  Unsurprisingly those most often targeted are the sensitive, compassionate, always-see-the-good-in-people types of people, Orloff says.

Energy Vampires are toxic, dramatic and draining. These are the people who never have a nice word to say about others; people that tear down friends and peers; and people who bring unnecessary drama into situations.  I am here to tell you that you do not have to put up with them in your life. Your self worth, your mental health and your VALUE are more important than any relationship. 

In my case, that “block” button on Facebook worked wonders. While I had already unfriended the bullies, they would still creep back up in my newsfeed because of mutual friends. I was finding myself getting quietly angry at those mutual friends because they were interacting with people who literally made my life hell and took my mental health to some very dangerous places. But once I gave myself the permission to block those people out of my life, the pressure in my chest was gone. I had finally taken my first step in making my mental health a priority. What happens next is almost magical. 

This is when you find the time to be your best self. Once you have eliminated the vampires and bullies, you can focus on the truly important things. This was when Bailing Out Benji was able to grow to it’s truest form. I was able to forget the 5 angry voices and focus instead on the lives we were changing nationwide. I can tell you firsthand that it is impossible to see your potential and reach it, while you are firmly anchored to those that constantly drag you down. 

Stronger Together 

 If you follow Bailing Out Benji on any form of social media, you will see that we are constantly tagging other rescues, shelters and organizations that we have partnered with on some project or another. This is the sign of a great organization. Because great organizations see the importance of working together for a common goal. This does not mean you have to agree with everything that others do, but instead it is an acknowledgment that together you are making the world a better place for the animals and that is no place for micromanaging how others run their day to day. 

Unfortunately, the very nature of our industry is competition. We are competing for adoptions, for donors, for volunteers, for grants. This is our biggest mountain to climb as advocates, but we can’t let it be our biggest sinkhole. The public wants to see organizations lifting each other up and that will end up generating more goodwill amongst your donors and supporters. They don’t want to see rescue leaders bashing others. Now, there is always a time and place to talk about issues- especially when the safety of animals are at stake- but by remembering to rise above the day-to-day drama, you will find that success is imminent. 

I always say that the animal welfare industry is like Thanksgiving Dinner at your grandma’s house. Every single year, the same people will be sitting around the table. Local shelters, rescues and advocacy organizations are in this for the long haul and won’t be going anywhere anytime soon. So, here we all are, sitting at the same Thanksgiving table year after year. Do you think we are all going to agree on everything? Absolutely not. Do you think that one person is going to talk more than everyone else? Absolutely yes. But that dinner is going to go a lot better and cause less stress if we treat each other with kindness, compassion and participate in HEALTHY discussion. If you can’t bring anything to the table this year, that is okay. Take a break, but remember the importance of friendships, alliances and coalitions. 

My reasons for everything I do. The heartbeats at my feet and the souls that keep me going every single day. (all rescues!)

DOGS. NOT. DRAMA 

I coined this phrase a few years ago, when I was trying to seem stronger than I actually was. Of course, I care about all animals, but DND is catchy and a pretty fun hashtag.  It was a phrase I repeated to myself daily and later it became my mantra. 

I am a voice for the animals. I am here to make sure they have the exposure and protection they need. I am NOT here to be a sponge for drama, bullying and harassment in any form. If you are still reading, this needs to be YOUR mantra too. You are a strong advocate for the animals and you are here to make sure the animals have every chance they can get. It is up to you to keep the focus on the animals and the core values of your organization. 

Dogs Not Drama is our daily reminder that, while it is easy to fall into the gossip train and talk about others, it isn’t conducive to who you are or what you want your organization to look like to the outside world. Imagine that every facebook message you send, every text, every sentence could wind up in the hands of a journalist. Is that how you want the entire world to view you? Likely not. Venting does have its place, but rise above the gossip and remember that you are here for the animals. You will be better off for it! 

You are not alone

At the end of the day, it is so important to find your people, your cheerleaders. Look for the ones that have always had your back no matter what and thank them. Your core group will be the ones who help you get through anything, and will take up any extra slack that you need when taking time for yourself. I couldn’t have survived the summer of 2013 without my core people. I was ready to give up Bailing Out Benji and give up my life because I couldn’t see my own worth clearly enough through the constant bullying. As suffocatingly alone as it might feel, you are never truly alone. Rely on your board members, staff, volunteers and friends/family. They want to make sure you are successful, so the animals can succeed too. 

I know a lot of this is easier said than done, and it absolutely takes practice. I am by no means following my own advice 100% of the time. But remember, the biggest change starts with you. Sit down and find out what is truly important in your life, what are those core values that will follow you throughout your life and throughout your organization. For Bailing Out Benji, we were founded on the basis of kindness and compassion. That is how I live my life and how I lead my volunteers. When you lead by example, the right people will follow you. 

My tips for surviving in an “on demand” world

Burnout is extremely high in the animal rescue, shelter and advocacy world. When you are engulfed in the industry, it is hard to remember to take care of yourself. For the sake of the animals and the cause, please remember the importance of rest. 

  1. Unplug- Being on demand 24/7 is impossible and is the biggest reasons for compassion fatigue. I am still guilty of this. You need to make sure you have time for yourself and your family. Vow to turn your phone off by a certain time each night (and follow through). I also suggest making sure you at least have one full day off each week, I would say two full days but, let’s be real, the animal welfare world doesn’t work that way. 
  2. Give yourself permission to not respond right awayWhen I first started Bailing Out Benji, I answered every message, text and email within a few minutes. I wanted to ensure that we were always helping/educating/working to keep our reputation up. After growing from a small team of 5 protesters, to a national nonprofit with hundreds of volunteers, this wasn’t sustainable. You have to give yourself permission to prioritize your time and respond to things accordingly. Set hours for yourself to respond; decide what is urgent and what can wait; and don’t forget to….. 
  3. Delegate, delegate, delegate. If you know me personally, you know this is my biggest flaw. I take on so many tasks and literally bury myself in them until they are complete; often neglecting my own family and mental health. When applicable, delegate. Have someone answer emails or calls as they come in; find someone to help you run the social media pages for your organization; find new volunteers to help with shelter cleaning; or find someone to file that paperwork for you. Your time is just as important as everyone else’s and if you need help… ASK! 
  4. Find what works for you to relax. For some people, talking to a professional will help with their depression or anxiety; others rely on journaling or another outlet to express themselves; and some take it to the mats and relax with yoga. Find whatever works for you in order to help your mental health and stick with it. 
  5. NEVER READ THE COMMENTS. Did your rescue or shelter make the news? Did you get recognition for your work? Don’t read the comments on public pages. Just don’t. Internet trolls are a real thing and you will only remember the hateful comments from people who aren’t worth your time. Trust me on this one. 
  6. Take a Vacation, Staycation or just a really long nap. In order to be the best person you can be, you HAVE to take care of #1. Look at your schedule and find those special moments that you can breathe and take a break. Unapologetically. Take. The. Break. 
  7. Celebrate the wins. All of them. More times than I can count, I have been told I can’t be proud of the organization that I have built…. Let me tell you right now, that is a load of BS. While ego should be minimized in the rescue world, you are 100% able to celebrate the good that is going on around your organization. Celebrate yourself, celebrate the organization, the volunteers and ALL of your combined successes. In an increasingly negative world, we have to see the positive or you will lose your mind. 
  8. Don’t compare your organization to others. We all have different opinions, perspectives and connections that help dictate everything we do; including fundraisers, animals saved, opportunities, etc. By constantly looking to the side to see what everyone else is doing, it is impossible to look ahead to ensure that your organization is on the right track. Don’t underestimate the power of writing your organization’s goals down, creating a plan for the next year or five years and get to work!
  9. Don’t be afraid to seek professional help. The suicide rate among veterinarians and shelter/rescue workers are extremely high. Reaching out for help is NOT a sign of weakness and you should absolutely talk to professionals if you are feeling like harming yourself. 

For more tips and advice on how to handle compassion fatigue, please click here. For those that are having thoughts of self harm, please reach out to the National Suicide Prevention Hotline at 1-800-273-8255 . 

———————

For all of you out there reading this who feel like they just can’t take it anymore: I see you; I hear you; because I am you. Take a break, take a deep breath and remember, the animals need you in this world.

– Mindi Callison

Executive Director, Founder of Bailing Out Benji 

www.bailingoutbenji.com

To contact Mindi regarding this article or to inquire about her coming to you to speak to your organization about “Dogs not Drama” or her work in fighting puppy mills, fill out the form below. 

 

Don’t forget to follow our puppy mill awareness efforts on Facebook , Twitter and Instagram

_________________________

Bailing Out Benji is a small nonprofit organization and is able to continue our work because of amazing donors like you!
Donate

 

Children’s Gifts for Budding Animal Rescuers

Do you know a child who LOVES animals? Do you want to nurture those interests?

Well Bailing Out Benji researched a few fun children’s toys for the budding animal rescuer in your life! Scroll down to see a list of toys and where you can purchase them! 

Shopping on Amazon?

Be sure to start at Smile.Amazon.Com and support Bailing Out Benji every time you shop! Prime users still receive those benefits. 

 __________________________________

Rescue Runts: “Adopt Me, Love Me, Groom Me!” . Safe for Ages 3+ 

Under $20 

Varieties Include: Husky, Shepherd, Spaniel and Spotty. To view and order, click here.

 

 

 

Barbie Animal Rescuer Doll and Playset. Barbie loves animals so she’s setting up a rescue center where they live to give them care!

 

Under $30 

To view and order, click here.   

 

Scruff-A-Luvs Mystery Rescue Pet. Find us Scruffy, Make us Fluffy!

Find out if you have a dog, cat or rabbit after you wash, dry and groom your rescue pet

Under $20: Available in several colors and animals 

 

To view and order, click here.

 

Dalmatian Vet Kit: Portable animal clinic: a toy carrying case with all the veterinarian toys an aspiring veterinarian need.

 

Under $25 

To view and order, click here.

 

 

Doc McStuffins Rescue Kit: It’s Doc McStuffins to the pet rescue! the newest theme on the acclaimed Disney Junior series, Doc McStuffins, is pet rescue! with the new Doc McStuffins pet rescue mobile, kids can race to save the pets of mcstuffins ville – just like Doc! 

Under $40 

To view and order, click here.

 

LEGO Friends Heartlake City Pet Center: Build a 2-level pet center with pet shop, vet clinic and grooming parlor, plus and grooming van

 

Under $60 

To view and order, click here.

 

Operation ResCute: Each Book & Stuffed Animal Set Bought Helps to Rescue A Dog!!!! The Story of Hudson is the third book in the newly launched Operation ResCUTE series. The BOOK, based on the true story of a real life rescue dog ,comes in a gift set along with a STUFFED ANIMAL and Operation ResCUTE sticker.

Under $25: with several dog breeds available.

To view and order, click here.

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BOOKS: 

Animal Rescue: This is a book in which you become a rescue hero. Simply turn the transparent page and rescue the animals! It’s fun, it’s simple, and it’s a gentle introduction to the  importance of animal welfare. To view and order, click here. 

Deputy Paws and the Puppy Mill Cause: Follow one young pup’s heart felt call to action empowered by the dark shadows his past…a must read for animal lovers of all ages. Capture the enthusiastic spirit of Deputy Paws as he ventures out beyond the confines of his past. To view and order, click here

Buddy Unchained: Buddy Unchained is a deeply moving look at a dog abandoned and adopted. The story is simple yet of vast importance, and at the end we want nothing more than to make sure that all the Buddys of the world are loved and cared for like this patient, easy-to-please pup.To view and order, click here

Maggie’s Second Chance: Maggie, a pregnant lab mix, is left behind in her people’s deserted house. Discovered by the realtor, Maggie is brought to the pound where her puppies are born. To view and order, click here

A Home for Dakota: After rescue, Dog No. 241 finds herself in a warm, secure foster home, with a woman named Emma who names her Dakota. To view and order, click here.

Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary: Libby Finds Vegan Sanctuary is the story of how a turkey inspires compassion and ultimately, finds safety. To view and order, click here.

We All Love: This is a book for tender-hearted kids who want to live a compassionate lifestyle. It explores the earliest stages of empathy where we learn to recognize the things we have in common. To view and order, click here .

 

Riley Carson and the Cherokee Caves: Riley Carson is just an average kid…or so she thinks. Days before starting middle school, Riley’s beloved dog dies in her arms and this tragedy impacts her more than she can imagine. As Riley and her friends, Finn Murphy and Eve Rycroft, navigate the world of middle school, they stumble across something more daunting…dogs in their town are being mistreated. The kids must find out what is happening before another dog is hurt. From paranormal activity to legends of Cherokee gold, Riley, Finn, and Eve are about to begin the adventure of a lifetime!

A must-read for dog lovers! This fun adventure story aims to change the world for animals. To view and order, click here.

Riley Carson and the Quest for Justice: Can a girl and her friends save a dog on death row? Dog-lover Riley Carson wishes she could spend her free time training her new rescue dog and exploring secret and possibly haunted tunnels with her best friend Finn. But, when their town passes a law banning pit bulls, Riley, Finn, and their friend Eve must take action! To view and order, click here.

ASPCA Pet Rescue Club Series: Welcome to the Pet Rescue Club! Zach’s mom has a new patient—a giant dog named Maxi who has been helping her owner train for a marathon. Maxi’s knees can’t handle all that running and now she needs an expensive operation! Time for the kids in the Pet Rescue Club to help! Together they find a way to help Maxi. To view and Order, click here. There are several books in the series! 

Please remember, puppies and kitties are a lot of work and are a lifetime commitment. Please don’t support the puppy mill industry by purchasing a pet in a pet store. To learn more about puppy mills and their connection to pet stores, click here.

 

Bailing Out Benji is a 501c3 organization that works to expose the puppy mill industry through research and data. We have volunteers all over the country that educate about the cruel industry, while also working to save dogs from a life of misery. If you would like to make a donation in honor of someone you love or a beloved pet that has passed away, please click here.

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