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… 


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!)


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

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!


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.



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.

Don’t forget to follow us on social media!

Facebook   Instagram   Twitter

Buyer Beware: Hobo K9 “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 three retail bans in Iowa and our volunteers have helped pass bans in Minnesota, Arizona and helped with the state-wide ban in California, as well. But… 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…. The “new” K9 Hobo rescue out of Britt, Iowa. Haven’t heard of them? Me either! And they are literally just a few counties over from where we are located. They don’t host adoption events, they don’t have a facility, they don’t even have a Facebook page or a website. But, do you know what they DO have? The same address as one of the country’s largest puppy mill brokering companies. That’s right! Hobo K9 rescue is JAKS puppies, they even have the same owners.

Do you know what else they have? A 501c3 license with the IRS- yep, they are also a nonprofit organization. 

FRAUD is the first word that comes to mind. The first year they filed with the IRS, they claimed less than 50,000 and that is solely because they became an official State of Iowa Business in September of 2016- so none of their reports are public. We are anxiously awaiting for their 2017 tax reports to become public, as we are certain they surpassed the $50,000 threshold. 

But why become a rescue? 

Loopholes, baby! It is all about the loopholes. Because Hobo K9 rescue is an “official” state licensed rescue AND they hold a nonprofit standing with the IRS, they can now legally sell puppies through pet stores in cities with retail bans…. Meanwhile JAKS puppies is still selling to pet stores in cities without retail bans. It’s the perfect crime. No one is going to take the time to track all of this down and expose the rescue/puppy mill- right? Wrong… Bailing Out Benji has been working on collecting all of this data since November/December of 2017 and we were actually able to work with the Chicago Tribune for a huge expose on this whole thing. Side note: one of our projects is exposing pet stores by showing exactly which puppy mills they are buying from, which is how we found this information out last year. You can view that info here

Spilling the beans.

So where is Hobo K9 selling their puppies? To several pet stores all over the country; including Illinois, New Jersey, California AND even a “shelter” in Florida. So, here’s the rub. 


Before an animal is transported out of state, a veterinarian, accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), must examine the animal for signs of “infectious, contagious or communicable disease” and, if no disease is found, sign the certificate for approval to transport.

Many breeders also sell to dealers, such as Choice Puppies (formerly known as Hunte Corporation) in Missouri, J.A.K.’s Puppies, Inc. in Iowa or Nebraskaland Pets, Inc. in Nebraska, who, in turn, re-sell the animals to pet stores throughout the United States. You will see that some of the breeders below are also dealers and buy puppies from other breeders and re-sell to pet stores.


The WORST Offender (so far) Pet Luv 8057 S Cicero Ave, Chicago, IL

According to the CVI reports that we have obtained from the Iowa Department of Agriculture, these are some of the breeders that Pet Luv has purchased from in 2014 and 2015 BEFORE Chicago enacted a retail ban stopping pet stores from selling puppy mill puppies. 

  1. Steve Kruse, Stonehenge Kennel. West Point, Iowa- 156 adult breeding dogs (down from over 800 on last inspection). Kruse runs one of the largest puppy mills in the country and sells to pet stores all over the country. He was named one of the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills  several times and has a history of violations including: Injured/Sick/New dogs (with no vet and no quarantine), extreme hairloss on dogs, open wounds, eye discharge in many dogs, abnormal eyes, matted fur, excessively chewed/worn wood in kennels, many dogs in kennels that were excessively small, no excercise plan, fecal matter mixed in with dog food. To view more information on this truly horrible puppy mill, click here
  2. Randy Stoen, Dows Iowa- 62 adult breeding dogs. Stoen is a very dangerous puppy mill owner in Iowa. Not only does he have horrible violations, but he has threatened to kill USDA inspectors that come on to his property. Some of his violations include: Threatened physical and verbal abuses to inspector. Threatened to stick needle in their neck and shoot them with a gun, No IDs on the adult dogs, Dogs had chewed holes in walls, rusty chainlink/poles/pipes, excessive feces,  medical violations including: male Japanese Chin with green mucus covering eyes, excessive matting, male cocker with neck wound and sores on nose, male golden retriever with open wound on ear from debris hitting him during a storm. Identification violations: 36 dogs with no official IDs. Housing violations including: a golden retriever in an enclosure with cattle panels that allow the dog to stick its head through the openings, excessive rusting, chewed doors with sharp edges, excessive feces build up. To view reports on the Stoen puppy mill, click here and here.
  3. J.A.Ks Puppies, Britt  Iowa-  (Broker). 97 puppies, but has had hundreds of puppies at one time before shipping them in semis to pet stores
Well if these photos don’t scream puppy mill puppies, I don’t know what else does! Thanks, PetLuv for the photos from your site 😉

But NOW , they’ve “cleaned up their act”. With this retail ban in place, they can no longer sell from horrible puppy mills anymore.. Right? Wrong. 

In 2016, only a few weeks after getting their rescue license JAKS started selling puppies to PetLuv again, only this time as HoboK9 “rescue”. That first year, they sold 27 dogs from Hobo- many of which are the same breeds as the ones sold by Stoen and Kruse that we mentioned above. 

But wait, 27 dogs doesn’t sound too bad? Maybe we are reaching… Until we continued our journey down the rabbit hole that is Hobo K9 “rescue”. 

In 2017 Hobo K9 sold 608 PUPPIES to PetLuv in Chicago. 608 puppies, that is almost 2 puppies sold a day. NO reputable rescue would ever have that many puppies in one year- nor would they let pet stores sell them, but that is besides the point. (In January and February of 2018, they have already sold almost 60 puppies to PetLuv too) . 

CHERISHED PET, also known as PARK PET- 10429 S Kedzie Ave, Chicago Illinois, 60655- Cherished Pet is also in Chicago and must adhere to their retail ban. Unfortunately, they are now buying from Hobo K9 “rescue” and can skirt that law. 

ESCONDIDO PETS-  200 E. Via Rancho Pkwy, Escondido, CA 92025

In the past, Escondido pets has admitted to buying from the Hunte Corporation. Until late 2016, the Hunte Corporation was one of the largest puppy brokers in the entire country. It was said to have sold over 100,000 puppies to pet stores each year. Hunte (now Choice Puppies) is the largest supplier of Petland stores across the United States, as well as many others. To view an undercover video taken at Hunte, click here.

Did I reuse the same photo? Oh no wait… These are more puppy mill puppies looking petrified.

Now, in October of 2017 a beautiful thing happened. The Entire State of California passed a retail ban outlawing the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores! While it won’t go into effect until January 2019, pet stores like Escondido are working quick to find their own loophole… And because JAKS had their brand new rescue license, a new team was born. Escondido now has a new relationship with someone who can walk them right through that retail ban.



In only January and February of this year, Escondido has sold 30 puppy mill puppies from Hobo K9/Jaks; which is significantly lower than the PetLuv. Please keep in mind that the pet stores in California still have another 5 months until the 2019 retail ban takes full effect and is still currently able to sell puppies from other puppy mills.

As we travel further down the rabbit hole that is JAKS puppies/Hobo K9 rescue, we also found out that they are supplying Bark Boutique & Rescue 40820 Winchester Rd Suite 2320. Temecula, California with puppies in hopes of creating a partnership before the retail ban in California takes full effect. Did we mention that the puppies being sold by JAKS/Hobo to the stores in California travel over 26 hours just to arrive from puppy mill to pet store? That time doesn’t include stops the driver makes and an overnight stay somewhere- that overnight stay doesn’t mean the dogs are let out of their kennels either. 

As we have done continued research, we have also connected Hobo/JAKS to PupsRUs 6230 Pets Ranch Road, Mira Loma California

Now we move to the East Coast…

As more and more cities are passing retail bans, two states are really leading the pack on this effort- New Jersey and Florida. So it doesn’t come as much of a surprise that these puppy mill-turned-rescue operations are sneaking into these states before the bans are everywhere. In New Jersey, we have been working alongside Alan Braslow and his team of advocates in New Jersey to shed more light on their pet store/puppy mill problem. 

Shake A Paw 2195 US-22, Union, NJ 07083 has routinely used some of the worst puppy mills in the entire country. These are facilities with hundreds of adult breeding dogs, numerous violations and many of them have even made the horrible hundred puppy mill list over the years. To say Jeff Morton, owner of Shake A Paw, isn’t picky about where his puppies are coming from is being generous. Morton makes himself present at many city council meetings around the state of New Jersey to try and dissuade councils to pass retail bans that would stop businesses like his from supporting the puppy mills that they do. He even claims to be “not for” facilities that advocates describe as puppy mills. You can view his testimony here. Shake A Paw has been buying puppies from JAKS/Hobo since 2016, mere weeks after the puppy mill decided to become a licensed “rescue” here in Iowa. 

When you find out a “humane society” is importing puppies from a puppy mill….

What is even more tragic, is when our research led us to the next offender. This business has imported over 200 purebred/designer, 8 week old puppies in 2017 alone. In order for those puppies to arrive from puppy mill to pet store  rescue, they have to travel over 21 hours in the back of a semi or a cramped van. Yes. We meant to cross out pet store. These puppies are being imported from Iowa to Florida to be sold by a “humane society” and they only accept cash or money order.

East Coast Humane Society, 503 Tamiaimi Trail, Venice, FL 34285 . We reached out to the director of ECHS, Cindy Johnson, and she never returned our emails. As you can see, in this CVI data, the box marked “sale” was checked off, implying that money exchanged hands for the purchase of these puppies. 


We have also connected Hobo K9 “rescue” to Puppies to Go- 7335 SW 8th st, Miami , Florida and Puppies and Rescues- 8961 Taft St. Pembroke Pines, Florida. As recently as February 2019, these stores are buying from fake rescues and are still supporting other puppy mills in the Midwest

Back to the source. 

As reported by the Chicago Tribune: 

(Jolene) Noethe of (JAKS/HOBO) referred questions to a spokeswoman, who did not know about Hobo’s existence until Tribune reporters called. Initially, spokeswoman Mindy Patterson (Calvary Group) told the Tribune that the public should be wary of nonprofit dog rescues because they have no federal oversight and sometimes import diseased animals from other countries.

“The ones who you are wanting to investigate are those who consider themselves quote-unquote rescues,” said Patterson, who also is president of The Cavalry Group, a Missouri-based organization that advocates for animal-related businesses. “They are unregulated (entities) for providing these animals.”

Another Cavalry spokesperson later stated that Noethe and Dolphin opened Hobo K-9 Rescue in direct response to the Chicago ordinance, but he declined to say how the puppies come into the rescue’s possession. Like most canine dealers, J.A.K.’S purchases the puppies from breeders, has a local veterinarian clear them for interstate travel and then resells them to pet stores.

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 our facebook page , 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. 

With your help, we can put an end to puppy mills! 

The cost of obtaining this CVI data can be extremely costly, if you can send a donation to help us continue our important work in exposing pet stores and puppy mills, we would greatly appreciate it!

Bailing Out Benji is 100% volunteer based, meaning that no one is reimbursed for their time or efforts. As you know, we are dedicated to raising social consciousness about various animal welfare issues, mainly puppy mills, in order to create a more informed public who can demand change.









Missouri: Puppy Mill Capital of the World

Written by: Mindi Callison, Founder of Bailing Out Benji 

If you have heard of puppy mills, then you have very likely heard that Missouri is the worst state in the entire country when it comes to them. Not because of the sheer number of puppy mills MO has (which is a lot; over 800 ), but how horrible they are, how many adults dogs are trapped and how many puppies are sold from puppy mills in this state to pet stores all over the country. Missouri is undoubtedly a very unsafe place to buy a puppy from and for the love of all that is dog, do NOT – I repeat DO NOT- ever order a puppy from a site that will ship a dog to you after putting your credit card in. Your purchases are likely coming from one of the over 800 mills in Missouri and are keeping the puppy mill industry alive and thriving. 

Beyond the generic “Missouri has a lot of puppy mills” ideology that many advocates know to be true, we wanted to share some research-based numbers with you to show you why MO is and will likely always be the puppy mill capital of the world.


Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills

Each year the Humane Society of the United States puts out a list of the worst puppy mills in the US after reviewing thousands of inspection reports and complaints made by consumers. This report is known as the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill list. This is a painstakingly long process and requires a lot of research to narrow it down to just 100 of the worst. Would you be surprised if we told you that Missouri has topped the list every single year since 2013 when the compilation began? Many of the offenders of the HH list are repeat offenders and, you might be shocked to learn, that many of these same puppy mills are supplying pet stores with puppies. To view the lists, click here. 

Missouri has appeared on the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill list over 118 times, equaling out to having 24% of the worst 500 puppy mills since 2013- and only 28 states have ever appeared on the list. On the latest 2017 HH compilation, Missouri appeared 19 times and 13 of those puppy mills were repeat offenders. Translation: USDA licensed dog breeders in Missouri are repeatedly written up for direct and non direct violations to the Animal Welfare Act, yet are allowed to keep their licenses, are allowed to keep their dogs and are allowed to keep profiting off of the suffering of so many. And, if you can believe it, the 800 puppy mills are what’s left over after the watered down Prop B passed in Missouri in 2010. Prop B forced over 3000 commercial dog breeding facilities in Missouri to shape up or leave the business. Sadly, the ones left are no better, they are just ‘okay’ enough to stay licensed. 

With almost 40,000 adult breeding dogs in Missouri alone, over a half a million puppies are literally being pumped out each year- but where do they go? Certainly Nick and Jane from New York City aren’t driving all the way down to Missouri just to pick up their puppy mill puppy. So how do these horrible facilities continue to stay in business? 

The Pet Store/Puppy Mill Connection

During World War 2 we saw the beginning stages of the puppy mill industry. Women needed an easy way to make money while their husbands were away at war and the farmers in the Midwest needed to find an alternate crop that would help sustain their families and their farms.   While a lot of these breeders were selling to families they knew, this created a new business model for department stores and mom and pop shops. They began bringing these puppies into their stores and selling them, inspiring the ever famous song “How Much is that Doggie in the Window?”. It wasn’t until 1966 that the USDA even stepped in to begin licensing and inspecting these facilities and the Animal Welfare Act was born- if this give you any indication on how old and outdated those standards are. 

Fast Forward over 50 years and the dog breeding industry is still like the Wild West. Puppy Mills follow trends that the public is interested in and create new breeds based off of that. But how are they reaching their buyers? Through pet stores and online websites.

Most of you reading this live in America and what do we know about our culture? When people in our society want something, they want it now. The general public isn’t going to wait to find a reputable breeder, or wait to work with a rescue or shelter to find a dog that fits their lifestyle. Instead these people are going to puppy mill websites like “” , “” or the worst “”. These websites play off of that behavior and they will not only find the exact breed, gender and color of dog you want, but they will ship it to you, easy peasy! There is no meeting the parents, no checking out their genetic history or the facility they live in. Just a cash exchange for a living, breathing soul. Much like the pet store aspect of this industry, this anonymous exchange of puppies for money protects some of the worst puppy mills in the entire country. 

Pet stores are no better. You will often hear the pet store owners say they “hand pick” their puppies to sell in the store. Translation: They look through an order form and put a check mark by the breeds/genders of dogs they want. Legitimately, that’s how they decide which puppies they are selling based off of what sells well in their store. One of the projects our volunteers work on is requesting reports from departments of Agriculture in various states to pinpoint exactly which puppy mills are selling to pet stores. To view our research in full, you can click here , however we want to show you how many horrible Missouri puppy mills are selling to pet stores all over the country. Again, this isn’t the full list, just a few examples of bad Missouri puppy mills who are selling to pet stores. 

From Puppy Mill to Pet Store: 

Kim Coleman, TLC Kennels, Clinton Missouri. 193 adult breeding dogs. Very very very ill poodles with previous violations including: Puppies found entrapped in wire flooring; white dogs appeared brown due to soiling with mud and feces, Bloodied poodle found lying on her side, unable to rise; strong odors of urine and feces.  One of the repeat offenders on the Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill List. To view USDA inspection photos from this kennel,click here.

-Sells to: Beautiful Puppies in FLORIDA , Luxury Puppies in NEW YORK,  and LC pets in WISCONSIN .

Hazel Coleman, Dog N Ass Farm.  Lebanon, Missouri- 68 adult breeding dogs. Previous violations including: puppies feet passing through wire bottom flooring, matted hair, cockroaches, mice, buckets of feces, etc. To view USDA inspection photos,click here.

-Sells to: Puppy Plus in FLORIDA; American Dog Club (3 locations) in NEW YORK; Selmer’s Petland in NEW YORK

Darlene Whitman,O My Heart Kennel. Mountain Grove Missouri- 112 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: evidence of dogs getting powerwashed, use of expired medications, cold kennels. To view USDA inspection photos,click here.

-Sells to: Petland Davie in FLORIDA;   Petland Plantation in FLORIDA ; American Dog Club (3 locations), The Left Paw, Pups 4 Love, Bowwow Babies, NY breeder, Teacup Pups, Gabby Pets, Astoria Pets and Westchester Puppies in NEW YORK;  Furry Babies (4 locations) in ILLINOIS.

Elaine Wilson, Everton Missouri . 196 adult breeding dogs.

-Sells to: Puppies N Love (3 locations) in ARIZONA ; Animal Kingdom (2 locations) in ARIZONA; Trendy Pet in ARIZONA

Country Pets (Mary Foster and Cathy Griesbauer)  , Montgomery City Missouri- 281 adult breeding dogs. This breeder is one of the worst puppy mills in the country. In 2016 they were cited as being a massive puppy mill with more than 900 dogs had license for one property, but found operating second unlicensed facility.

-Sells to: Pet City (Colorado)

Judy Gray, Rothville, Missouri- 97 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: dogs with severe dental issues, wire cage bottoms so wide that the feet pass through, too small of kennels, dogs with eye issues. To view USDA inspection photos of this kennel,click here. 

-Sells to: Teacup Puppies in FLORIDA

Phil Hoover, Memphis Missouri- 364 adult breeding dogs.

-Sells to: Vanity Pups in FLORIDA; The Puppy Place in MASSACHUSETTS, Laughlin Kennel in MASSACHUSETTS; Puppies Plus in NEVADA; Petland Henderson in NEVADA; Pet City Baja in COLORADO; and Many stores in New York

Mark Landers, Promises Kept Kennels. Hartville Missouri – 224 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: dogs with blood on their necks, outdoor dogs without adequate bedding, broken wire poking into kennels, etc. To view USDA photos of this kennel,click here.

-Sells to: Petland Davie in FLORIDA;  Petland Largo in FLORIDA; TeaCup Pups in Forest Hills New York.

Jimmy Dowyle Powell, Jimmy’s Hilltop Kennels. Missouri- 68 adult breeding dogs and is one of the 2016 Horrible Hundred Puppy Mills. His violations include: Nursing mother dogs were underweight with hip and rib bones protruding; others had fleas and lesions, dogs with excessive hairless and specifically he inspection report stated that a beagle with five nursing puppies “was noted to have bony prominences, an obvious waist, and loss of muscle mass” with a body score of only 2 out of 9 (5 is ideal). There was no indication that the dog was under treatment for her condition. 

-Sells to: Puppy in the Window in ILLINOIS

This is a very small sample of all of our CVI research but it goes to show you that pet stores are enabling the neglect going on because they are making a huge profit off of the puppies they sell. You can see all of our research here


The Solution

Thank you Puppy Mill Free US for creating this image!

There is no one thing that will solve the puppy mill problem, but there are many small ways we can create big change. Across the country we have seen a rise in retail bans, both on the city level as well as the state. These retail bans require that pet stores sell dogs and cats sourced from nonprofit rescues and shelters, instead of selling from commercial breeders. This is proving to be effective in combating the puppy mill industry, as the some major players on the puppy mill side are working like crazy to lobby against our efforts. We are also seeing puppy mills trying to get rescue licenses to find loopholes in such retail bans- but more on that later. Even if you store doesn’t have a store in town, it is important to approach your city council to try and get a retail ban passed. Be proactive and stop the problem before it starts! 

Another successful way to combat the puppy mill industry is by talking about it! Tell your friends and family what puppy mills are and how to avoid them, write letters to the editor about puppy mills and, most importantly, don’t ever shop at pet stores that sell puppies. Every day we are voting with are money and it is vital to support the stores who aren’t enabling the puppy mill industry. Do you have a pet store in your town? You can start your own peaceful protest and educate the consumers who have no idea where those puppies really come from!

For a full list of ways to get involved, click here. We also try to expose and break down the common myths and misconceptions surrounding the puppy mill industry. You can view that article here


Dog Alley- Canton, Texas

This is our NEW billboard that is right near the infamous Dog Alley in Canton, Texas.

Did you know that backyard breeders and puppy millers often sell their puppies at flea markets?  Did you know that in Canton, Texas there is an entire flea market dedicated to selling puppies, piglets, kittens, and other animals? 

Photo Credit: Animal Angels

This flea market, known as “Dog Alley”, is held the first weekend of every month during Canton Trade Days.  Breeders from Texas and surrounding states, many of them unlicensed, peddle their puppies to their customers.   Unsuspecting customers may end up purchasing a puppy with severe health conditions (the market is known to be infected by Parvo) and supporting a breeder that is neglecting and possibly abusing their dogs.

 In 2013 Humane Society of the United States performed and undercover investigation of the market and found “lethargic, underweight, and sickly-looking puppies, animals without water in the high heat, and puppies for sale who were so young that their eyes weren’t open yet.” To view this report in full, click here.  

Photo Credit: Animals’ Angels

In addition, the organization “Animals’ Angels” also did an undercover inspection of Dog Alley, in which they noted, ” Investigators noted that multiple dealers had posted signs stating “don’t let the puppies lick your fingers,” and were providing hand sanitizer to potential buyers. Upon striking up conversations with several different sellers and visitors, investigators were advised that the Trade Grounds were known to be infected with Parvo, a highly contagious viral illness.  The virus manifests itself in two different forms. The more common form is intestinal, which is characterized by vomiting, diarrhea, weight loss, and lack of appetite. The less common form is the cardiac form, which attacks the heart muscles of very young puppies, often leading to death. The virus can easily be transmitted by just touching an infected dog and then touching another dog, as well as by simply walking over contaminated soil or infected feces.” You can read that full report here

We have since been able to connect them to one large puppy mill in Iowa by tracking government health documents of puppies moving across the state. Matt and Dana Ory of Dana’s Waggin Tales in Cantril, Iowa have 133 adult breeding dogsThey are regularly sending puppies to Dog Alley during the summer months. 

Obtained by Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such

We at Bailing Out Benji are committed to exposing this to those that may want to visit the Market.  Our newest billboard is I-20, just outside of Canton.  Everyone attending the Trade Days from the Dallas/Fort Worth area will drive past and ask themselves “what are puppy mills?”

Texas also has a huge pet store problem. To view some of the pet stores and the out-of-state puppy mills they are buying from, click here.


Do you want to get more involved? Please consider sending a tax-deductible donation to help us continue our educational efforts. 



You can also follow our efforts on Facebook, or get involved with our Texas volunteer team here


I Can’t Fall Apart Yet

In 2017, Bailing Out Benji has rescued over 300 dogs from puppy mills across the Midwest. While our Iowa team typically handles the mill releases, breeders in Nebraska started reaching out as well. Our wonderful Nebraska volunteers handled these pick ups and got the dogs to their foster homes with our amazing rescue partners. Since this was their first time seeing a puppy mill up close, our team leader Dana wanted to document her experience.


I Can’t Fall Apart Yet 

©Bailing Out Benji , Dana Thelander


Dear Community,

I’ve met and interacted with demons, with humans that have no soul. With my stomach turning, heart pounding, and throat threatening to close up, I did it with a smile on my face and with commonplace chit-chat. Ears ringing and eyes attempting to take in my surroundings, but not able to fully comprehend that such a place existed, even though I know they do. Tens of thousands of them in our own backyards.

Smile. Breathe. Chat. Smile. Breathe. Chat. Lives depend on it.

I can’t fall apart yet.

If I’d met them in a restaurant, or a church I would have liked them as neighbors, as regular people, as part of my community, and it hits me that you can’t always recognize the soul-less among us. My mind continues to battle with itself trying to find the best in everyone, but knowing better. After spending years mending the broken pieces and the trails of their evil – I still can’t wrap my mind around it. I really don’t want to allow the acceptance seep into, and damage MY soul.

I can’t fall apart yet.

I pulled up the country road with my son. I pulled up the country road with my partner in a van in front of us. I pulled into the driveway, stepping out aware of the faces and jagged breathing of our tiny little army of 3. I recognize that faces have paled a bit, jaws are set, lips are formed in tight little smiles. In a cinematic moment the barking slowly seeps into my brain, increasing in volume as my consciousness allows the sound to assault me. Frantic dogs literally climbing up the chain link sides of their kennels. Eyes filled with desperation, all of them looking at me. Dozens and dozens of chain link cages.

We are standing in the middle of a HSUS Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill.

I can’t fall apart yet.

Work to be done. Get to it. Get the ones we can take loaded up. Consult how to move 3 -100 pound dogs out of a kennel that they’ve never once been out of in almost a decade. See the fear. Watch as they’re grabbed by their ears, necks and tails and strong-armed into crates in the van. No kind words. Can’t give ourselves away. No time to evaluate the ones we are loading but out of the sides of my eyes I see that there are a couple bad eyes, a crooked jaw, missing fur, an infected fly-bitten nose, a broken tail, a mama being pulled away from her pups that are being kept to be sold. We only get the older, ill and spent, all the others are being sold to other breeders. Maybe a few others will get out into rescue, but most will be sold to start their misery over in the same conditions, different location. In a different neighbors backyard. Collect the paperwork. Smile. Breathe. Chat.

I can’t fall apart yet.

The vans are loaded with terrorized animals. Get out. Pull away. Fast, but not too fast. When you’re running from the devil you have to be cool about it. Don’t give yourself away. Don’t think about the ones left behind. Throat closing up, eyes blur and yet I don’t cry.

I can’t fall apart yet.

Look into the back to eyes wide, panting and pacing, small whimpers. Now come the first kind words they’ve ever heard- unrecognizable to these precious souls. We drive only so far as to feel safe and make sure there is nobody around. Recollect ourselves and start to evaluate what needs to be addressed immediately. Take pictures for the people at the other end waiting to collect them into loving arms. We get each dog fresh water, knowing that we hadn’t seen any in their kennels. Making sure each one of them has a fresh, clean blanket in the crate. They don’t know what they are but these are the first steps. Kind words, fresh water, comfortable accommodations for the long drive out of hell. Texts and phone calls, ETA’s confirmed. Hand-offs begin. More driving. I see the tension and devastation in my son’s eyes and yet he continues on. Although he is an adult I contemplate that he is still too young to face this kind of evil in our own backyard – but pray his generation will be the one to end these horrors. I know we cannot rescue our way out of this national obscenity, but he will go forward and educate his circle.

I can’t fall apart yet.

My son and I arrive home after dark with one passenger left and we welcome her into our home until she can be transported to her new foster family. A family that is willing to take in a dog that has lived in a Midwestern outdoor, gravel bottomed kennel for 8 years and been bred almost to death. It takes incredibly patient and loving people to rehab a mill dog and guide them through their journey getting healthy, learning to trust and be a dog. These are the people I surround myself with. People with amazing, bright shining souls.

Our house guest is the one that the miller chuckled with a smile and said “Yep, that ones in heat and he’s been goin’ at her hard for a week. She even went down in the back yesterday and could hardly walk. She’s full for ya.” I felt such an immediate compassion and love for this sweet girl, so…

I can’t fall apart yet.

The next days are filled with foster conversations, additional transport planning, vet reports, illness reports, evaluations, next steps and fundraising. Getting a mill dog to their best level of health is not a quick nor inexpensive trip to the vet. Spays, neuters, dentals which usually mean the loss of most of their teeth, antibiotics for infections, salves for skin conditions, too often surgeries performed by specialists.  

I spent hours and days with my girl cutting out mats, mats that limited her mobility and held infection and filth tight up against her skin. I did the best I could and then called in the professionals to do the final trimming and help with her first bath. Trying to find a food that she would eat, letting her hide but showing her that she didn’t need to. Introducing her to grass. Introducing her to a leash and coaxing her to walk because she really had no idea what I wanted from her. The distrust in her eyes was heartbreaking.

Smile. Breathe. Kind words. Kind hands.

And then I have to let her go. To the foster family who will be another lesson in love and trust.

I have to use this sadness, anger and disgust to fuel my days and nights. Turn it onto itself until it comes out as love and passion. To educate one more person.

I can’t fall apart yet…

…because within days of sending my sweet girl to continue her journey to her happily ever after, the message comes in from another breeder…

“I have ten more you can have. But they need gone by Friday.”


Amish Connection to Puppy Mills

According to USLegal.Com , the legal definition of the term “puppy mill” is: a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects. You can view a longer definition here.

Puppy Mills are terrible, and legal, businesses that operate in almost every state in the country (as well as several other countries in the world). The industry itself preys on the public to buy that cute pet store puppy, or buy the latest designer dog- while ignoring advice to see the parents and how they are living without purchasing. #ShowMeTheMommy is a phrase that our nonprofit coined in hopes of reaching more people who are looking at buying puppies from pet stores, websites that ship directly to you, or newspaper ads. These are the most common ways for puppy mills to sell their puppies to the public.  Sadly, the adult breeding dogs left behind at the puppy mills are viewed as livestock and are treated with the bare minimum of care. These adult dogs are never let out of their cages, they receive little-to-no veterinary care, and (unless they are rescued) they will die in the very cages they lived their lives in. To read more on why puppy mills are legal, click here.

While certain states are dubbed “the worst in the nation” when it comes to puppy mills, we want to take a closer look at the pockets of puppy mills within those states- specifically- those puppy mills that are owned and operated by the Amish. Thanks to the USDA, state agencies and our research team, we are able to show you why animal advocates often claim that Amish Puppy Mills are worst than most, break down where they are most common across the country, and connect those dots to some of the worst puppy mills in the country.



When we started researching this article, we wanted to see where the highest concentration of Amish families reside, and we were met with some very unsurprising (to us) statistics. Pennsylvania, Ohio and Indiana have large amounts of Amish…. As well as some of the largest and most prolific puppy mills in the country.

According to the USDA website and our research team, the top 10 states with the most puppy mills include: Missouri (over 800) , Ohio (over 430) , Oklahoma (over 280), Iowa (over 260) , Indiana (over 200) , Kansas (over 165), Texas (over 136), and Wisconsin, Nebraska and Pennsylvania (each with over 100) . As you can see from the list above, 6 of the worst states for puppy mills also hit the top 10 for the sheer number of Amish members. This is not to say that every Amish family runs a puppy mill, NOR are we trying to prove that Amish run the only puppy mills in the country (that is far from true). We are trying to shed light on the fact that Amish DO run puppy mills.

According to the USDA list of licensees, over 98% of Ohio’s puppy mills are run by the Amish, 97% of Indiana’s are Amish and 63% of Pennsylvania puppy mills also run by Amish. This is a drastic difference from Iowa (22% Amish run) and Missouri (17% Amish run), who both have larger pockets of Amish colonies, but have more puppy mills operated by non-Amish families.

 Earlier this year, our volunteer research team created puppy mill maps for some of the worst states in the country, you can view those here. When looking into the highest concentrated areas of Amish colonies, you can see a huge correlation between puppy mills and Amish. The counties listed in the photo above are circled in the graphic below.

You can see that there is a direct correlation between Amish colonies and the number of puppy mills within each state. The circled counties are NOT the only counties with high concentrations of Amish colonies, just the ones listed as the largest communities based on church districts. 


Now let’s move on to the violations that occur at Amish puppy mills. 

Earlier this year (February 2017) the USDA took down all of it’s public inspection reports citing privacy reasons, in a move since dubbed the #USDABlackout . What the USDA and it’s licensees weren’t banking on is that organizations like ours saved reports and kept documentation of the puppy mills in the country. This is why we at Bailing Out Benji are able to continue our educational efforts by linking pet stores to the puppy mills they use, while including dog counts and violations as we find them. You can view the pet store side of the issue here

Based on USDA inspection reports, the Humane Society of the United States creates the “Horrible Hundred Puppy Mill” list. These lists are created after reading through thousands of inspection reports and finding out the worst of the worst, so to speak.  You can review those records here: 2017 , 2016 , 2015 , 2014 , 2013 . As you read the list of names and violations, you will see many repeat offenders- and you will also see many Amish names. Yoder, Troyer, Borntrager, Hershberger, Raber .

To partner with that, you can see actual USDA photos from the ASCPA website. We have made the searches for each offending state easy:  Ohio , Pennsylvania , Indiana . You can access the site directly by clicking here and doing your own searches by state to view more. Please note, there is no option to just click “Amish” puppy mills, but you will see that more Amish names show up in the states with a higher Amish population because of the severity of violations they have incurred. Sadly, the number of violations a USDA licensee receives does not equate to it being shut down. As you can see below, one of the Borntrager families has had violation after violation since at least 2010, but the USDA still let them keep their USDA license ( the breeders voluntarily gave up their license recently). To view more on this particular case, click here.


Here are a few examples of Amish puppy mills who not only have violations and a lot of adult breeding dogs, but are selling to pet stores all over the country. 

  1. David and Esther Troyer, Clark Missouri. Selling to American Dog Club in New York-
    They have:  53 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: using dirty needles to give medicine,  filthy kennels, filthy enclosures, excessive matting, open wounds, and the list keeps going. To view USDA photos and read more violations,
    click here.
  2. Marvin and Joanna Newswanger, Maple Tree Kennels. Selling to Pet’s Playhouse in Iowa and American Dog Club in New York.
    331 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including: cages with holes in wire flooring that are too wide and paws/bodies fall through, top of enclosures covered in hair and wood shaving dust (breeder reported that area is cleaned twice a year), and an ‘abundance of litters’ caused puppies to be housed in feed/bedding storage areas. To learn more about this breeder,
    click here:
  3. Jonathan Yutzy, Bloomfield Iowa. Sells to Petland in Iowa.
     73 adult breeding dogs with severe violations including: Performs tail docking and dew claw removal on his own- no vet, having dogs with missing eyes, cloudy eyes, horrible teeth and missing teeth. To view USDA photos of this kennel, click here.
  4. Perry and Mattie Bontrager,  Cedar Hill Kennel, Dalton Wisconsin. Sells to Petland in Iowa.
    131 adult breeding dogs with a history of violations including dogs with cloudy eyes that had not been treated by a vet. To view USDA photos of this breeder,
    click here.
  5. William Kurtz, Augusta Wisconsin. Sells to Petland in Iowa.
    58 breeding adults. Horrible Hundred 2016 – Filthy conditions, severely matted dogs, and excessive feces; fined $3,089 by Wisconsin Department of Agriculture due to noncompliance.To view USDA photos from this kennel,
    click here.
  6. David D Yoder Jr., Utica Minnesota- 40 adult breeding dogs. Sells to Puppy World in Wisconsin.
    HOWEVER. David Yoder Senior (Windy Acres Kennels) recently cancelled his USDA license that was on the same property. David Yoder Senior had several violations including: so much feces in kennels the dogs couldn’t walk without stepping in it (this included kennels with moms and puppies), no exercise plan for the dogs in the kennels, dogs with missing ears (and no vet care), and notes of dogs dying in dog fights. David Yoder Jr is breeding the same dogs, in the same kennels at the same address. 

This is just a small sampling of puppy mills (Amish and not) who sell to pet stores. To view a list by state of which pet stores are buying from puppy mills, click here. 

In 2017 Bailing Out Benji has pulled over 300 dogs from puppy mills. These dogs were legally surrendered to us by each mill because the breeders didn’t want to spend the money on veterinary care or euthanasia. A lot of our dogs are coming from the Amish, so we have firsthand experience in how they treat their animals, how they vet their animals (they don’t) and how they handle them while pulling them from cages (rough). While we don’t want to put this all on this Amish community, as there are PLENTY of  other religions that are just as guilty of owning and supporting the puppy mill industry, we hope that this helps clear the air on whether or not Amish run puppy mills. 


To learn more about who we are and what we do, please visit us on Facebook.

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 !  





1,000 Hours, Looking Back on 5 Years

I don’t even know what to say…. 5 years ago was our very first protest in front of Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe. It was my first protest ever. I was scared as hell and had no idea what to firstexpect. It was chilly, it was spitting rain and we were not sure what would happen. We had a larger group join us, as we did quite often back then and we (of course) faced a lot of anger from Dale, the store owner by way of shouting and threats to sue us.Bailing Out Benjiwas only 6 months old, but our passion was truly ignited that day.

In 2011, when these protests first began, Dale Dyvig was quoted by a local newspaper saying that “We are trying to get along the best we can,”  (due to the protester’s presence) and  “I’m not sure what they want, but I get to be the victim.”. To this day, Dyvig stands by his choice to use Century Farm Puppies and New Design Kennels as their puppy supplier- even though they have a history of having hundreds of dogs on their property and a history of violations. This is the third pet store that Dyvig has owned, while buying from the same two puppy mills, and he still doesn’t see that the parent dogs are the victims– which is why we are still there.  The breeders each currently have over 150 dogs on their property (which has dropped down from over 450 dogs in recent years).

Fast forward five years and we have been in front of this particular lolastore for over 1,000 hours in the last five years (that is 60,000 minutes!!)- not to mention the other two Iowa protests and the protests across the country we helped inspire and coach. Our organization put up the first puppy mill PSAs in Iowa (on three bus ads), we have an ongoing puppy mill billboard just blocks from Dyvig’s AND we have two big things coming to Texas soon. We have also seen the number of puppy mills in Iowa go from over 450 to just over 220 in the last 5 years. This is, in large part, due to increased public awareness about the puppy mill industry! 

Over the years our “fight” against this local pet store has moved away from the sidewalk into the courthouse, so to speak. While there has never been a lawsuit against Bailing Out Benji or its volunteers (because everything we say is 100% backed up with facts), Dale Dyvig has tried at least twice to prevent us from doing our civic duty. The first came in February of 2014, just 4 months after our first two puppy mill PSAs became live here in Ames. It turns out, Dale had been contacting the CyRide (Bus) board every month in hopes of getting our ad removed because he claimed it “directly targeted his store”. After so much harassment, the board finally voted to have the issue put on the agenda for their next meeting. A few volunteers and I stated our case as to why we chose to have our ad here in Ames and why we worded it the way we did. If you aren’t familiar with our bus ad, here it is: 


After 3 hours of debate and discussion, we were allowed to keep our bus ads up! It wasn’t because we were “right” however… It was because Dyvig let two puppy mill owners speak for him and they were less than professional. Nancy Carlson of New Design Kennels actually accused us of having invisible drones flying over her property daily (which prompted a snicker from all of the businessmen on the CyRide board) and Rob Hurd, mill owner who had his license revoked and was given a hefty fine, accused us of being political activists who want to end all animal ownership. Hurd also said he would go right down to the bus barn right then and “fix” our sign for the bus company, which caused several board members to tell him to calm down and they reminded him that vandalism is a serious crime. After that circus and all of our examples of other ads put up across the country (animal related and non), we were allowed to keep our bus ads going! And, to this day, you will see them rolling across town on two huge buses! 

The second (third and fourth…) time Dale Dyvig tried to drastically change what we do and how we do it is when he citycouncilrequeststarted a petition to the city council to inflict harsh regulations on protesting. He literally had a few hundred friends, family and customers sign a petition asking the city council to make us protesting his store illegal. When he presented his petition to the Ames City Council, he had insane regulations including: no out of state protesters (later changed to them needing their own permit), signs had to be small, no umbrellas, no dogs, no children under 18 (later changed it to 10), and he wanted us to have to pay for a monthly permit. This made the news, and once it was time for the city council to hear the case, they voted unanimously to uphold the first amendment and not look into this issue any further. 

So yes, a lot has happened in the last five years between us and Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe… But what he fails to see is that this issue has always been bigger than him versus us.  Our volunteers work tirelessly every single day to raise awareness about the puppy mill industry, not just this one pet store. 


Moving past the store, the last 5 years have been a whirlwind for Bailing Out Benji. Here are a few of the “highlights”. 

Perhaps the biggest thing to have happened to us over the last 5 years is being  featured in the Dog by Dog documentary, which is set to come out everywhere in early 2017. From being filmed, to being lucky enough to travel with the documentary crew and bring this film to almost 10,000 people in various screenings across the country, we have helped groups from all over the country find their voice and start peaceful protests of their own! 

This year, itself, was also crazy! I was chosen as a 2016Advocate We Loveby the Humane Society of the United States.  I was also invited to be the guest speaker at the “2016 Nebraska Humane Lobby Day.” A few months later, Bailing Out Benji was named one of the top 5 organizationsin the entire country who is fighting puppy mills.

On top of all of this, our website has reached (and educated) almost 400,000 people to date, our social media accounts reach thousands of people daily, we educate thousands of people a year in front of the store and we mailed out hundreds of packages of educational materials to people across the country to want to educate in their home towns. That’s not too shabby for a group that is entirely volunteer based- not to mention us all having day jobs.

Wait- Did I mention that Bailing Out Benji now has volunteer teams in Texas and in Nebraska, too? We are so honored to have had volunteers reach out and ask us to help them educate in their state. This has resulted in dozens of educational events in both states and hundreds of people learning about puppy mills and their connection to pet stores! 

I mean it when I (always) say that Bailing Out Benji has the best volunteers. Whether it is -40 degrees, 110 degrees or anywhere in between, our amazing men and women don’t hesitate to grab a sign, set up an educational table, hop in the car to save dogs, or spend hours doing puppy mill research. Every single life we have touched has made a ripple effect of education that can never be felt. So, when people say “Wow, you have been protesting Dyvig’s for five years and they are still open?!”, I smile and just say “Yeah”.

Because this is bigger than Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe.

 it’s bigger than Ames, Iowa.

We won’t stop until we have taken down the whole puppy mill industry. One pet store and one puppy mill at time.

Thank you all for your love and support over the years. Whether you are a volunteer, donor or silent supporter, thank you so much for keeping this small nonprofit afloat. 💙

(This picture is from my very first protest on Black Friday, 2011 )


— Mindi Callison, Founder of Bailing Out Benji 


If you don’t already, please follow us on Facebook, Instagram and Twitter!

“The Dog Lover” – My Unsolicited Movie Review

I am a dog lover. I adopt dogs. I rescue dogs. I transport dogs. I protest puppy mills that sell puppy mill puppies. I research and write articles about puppy mills and pet stores they sell to. And, yes, I have been to several puppy mills and dog auctions.. So when I heard about this movie, “The Dog Lover”, formerly known as “The Wrong Side of Right” , I knew I had to watch it. Not because I would agree with the film, but because I needed to say what the “other side” was trying to push onto the general public. The other side, being the large-scale commercial dog breeding side. I don’t know how much of a “movie review” this will be, as me pointing out the blatant mistruths that have been strategically placed throughout this “touching” film.  Let’s start by sharing the official movie trailer and the IMDB synopsis of the film, in case you haven’t heard of it.


Sara Gold is a rising star at the United Animal Protection Agency (UAPA), a major animal rights organization that conducts animal rescues and lobbies for better animal welfare laws. Handpicked for a major assignment, Sara goes undercover as a college intern to infiltrate a suspected “puppy mill” run by the enigmatic Daniel Holloway.

– Written by ESX Entertainment

From here on out, THERE ARE SPOILERS for anyone who hasn’t seen the film. 


Before I really get into the absurdity of this movie, I want to point out two HUGE red flags that tear down the validity of the claims. The biggest draw to this film is that it is “based on a true story”, it even says so right at the beginning of the film; which definitely tugs at the heartstrings as you watch and feel sorry for a man losing everything he (well… his dogs) has worked for. The breeder that this film is based off of, Dan Christensen, even says the film is about 95% accurate…. But he is only referring to the last act of the film (his words). The rest was made up for the audience (my words). This is proven at the end of the film when the filmmakers put this at the end of the credits.

“The events and characters depicted in this motion picture are fictitious and any similarity to actual persons, living or dead, is purely coincidental.  (sorry for the blurriness, I took a photo of my TV when I saw this and laughed)

Again… This was at the very end of the film. Buried way after the credits, in hope that no one sticks around to see that. But, it does protect them from a lawsuit from anyone associated with the case. 

Forrest Lucas… Yes, the owner/founder of Lucas Oil

If that doesn’t take away at least a little bit of the credibility, then this will. The executive producer of this film, Forrest Lucas, has made it a point to attack animal lovers and at every turn. In fact, he even founded the hate organization “Protect the Harvest” to fight any type of common-sense animal legislation that comes up. Here is a snippet of his resume: 

  • In 2010 Forrest Lucas spent hundreds of thousands of dollars to bankroll the opposition to Proposition B in Missouri, which voters approved to set common-sense standards for the care of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding operations (their statement against Prop B can be found here). Lucas then supported an effort in the Missouri legislature to weaken and repeal parts of the voter-approved measure, before it even had a chance to take effect.
  • In 2012, Forrest Lucas spent more than a quarter-million dollars opposing Measure 5 in North Dakota, which sought to establish felony-level penalties for malicious cruelty to dogs, cats and horses.
  • In 2013, Protect the Harvest lobbied against a local ordinance in Harrison County, Indiana, to promote the spaying and neutering of pets and help reduce pet overpopulation, and in Crawford County, Indiana, to provide adequate shelter for dogs and protect them from the elements.

To put it lightly, Forrest Lucas is NO friend to the animals. Which is why he was happy to help create a film that would spread confusion and misinformation among the general public. In an interview seen here, Forrest admits that he will be putting out a movie like this every 2-3 months now that “The Dog Lover” has officially been released. Four other movies are ready and the sixth one is almost finished being written. The next one, Running Wild, stars Sharon Stone and is about horses. I can’t wait to see what underlying agenda that movie has in store. 

Now we can move on to “The Dog Lover” and just how far it strays from the truth. Again, Major spoilers coming your way if you haven’t seen the film (although I recommend still reading).

The story that very loosely inspired this film, originated in Turner County, South Dakota, where 172 of  Dan Christensen’s hunting dogs were seized in 2009. During her search on August 27, Rosey Quinn (then current director of the Second Chance Rescue Center) said she saw dogs who were sick with Parvo and intestinal parasites and the conditions they were living in were “deplorable”. This prompted a warrant and the seizure of all of the animals.  Animal cruelty charges were later dropped after a judge determined that Quinn misled a judge to get the search and seizure warrant. 

The seizure of the dogs and the fact that he was allowed to get them back is where the similarities of this film and the true story end. Even down to the number of dogs (movie claims 100, real breeder had 172). 

Movie Photo: Sara Gold inside one of the breeding buildings that houses over 100 adult dogs. The film strongly pushes the fact that “100 dogs isn’t a puppy mill”.

The film paints a picture of the United Animal Protection Agency (a knock off version of the Humane Society of the United States) and how they encourage a young woman to be an undercover intern at this dog breeding facility. Her job is to go on the property to get as much evidence as she can in order to save the dogs from the puppy mill, including hidden cameras. This never happened. Dan Christensen never took on interns. While two undercover volunteers did come to his property  and take photos while they were “looking to buy a puppy”, that is where the story ends. There was no intern living on his property, and there was no love story between his son and an HSUS representative. This fake story line creates the entire movie. Sara Gold, the intern, struggles between what she feels is wrong vs right; she struggles with her new found love; and, at the end, she fights with her employers because they took her undercover footage and manipulated it to tell the story they wanted. Again, none of this ever happened, but it sure makes for a good movie and it creates a distrust between the public and organizations that help educate about and rescue dogs from puppy mills.

Back to Dan Christensen claiming this film was 95% accurate in the last chunk of the film… Now even that is a stretch. In the movie, Holloway (owner of the puppy mill) punches a UAPA member during the raid, he suffers a heart attack when seeing the “awful” conditions that his dogs are living in upon getting into rescue, and he faces a jury trial to deem whether or not the dogs were abused and neglected. None of this ever happened. Are you seeing a recurring theme here? Not much of this film is “based on a true story”. Now back to real life: 

Dan Christensen never went to trial, however there  were motion hearings over the course of several days that focused on the validity of the search and seizure warrant. While there was limited evidence, there was no jury; No one from the HSUS took the stand, and neither did Christensen. The only similarity between real life and film was that the warrant was thrown out and all charges were dropped because Quinn  the judge ruled that Quinn misled him  about the evidence used to obtain it. 

I want it to be stated more clearly…. These dogs were returned to the breeder because the warrant wasn’t obtained correctly NOT because the animals were being cared for and Christensen deserved them back. At the end of the article, I will post photos from Christensen’s puppy mill. They aren’t pretty, and I want to give our readers a chance to read the full article without fear of seeing them. 

The overall message of the film is “Learn the truth, investigate before you donate”, that phrase even pops up on the screen as the movie ends.  It isn’t hard to tell when you are watching “The Dog Lover” who the enemy is supposed to be. Protect the Harvest, who routinely attacks the HSUS in real life, created this propaganda film to attack them and other animal welfare organizations on the silver screen. Over and over again the UAPA employees and high-up executives are constantly talking about money, getting raises/promotions and openly discuss tinkering with footage to advance the case. This glaring attack makes it very easy to ignore the fact that Holloway (film) had over 100 dogs living in cages on their property, getting human contact twice a day when they are being fed. It is easy to see that the filmmakers are trying to subconsciously get the public to realize that large-scale dog breeding operations are humane.

So, there you have it. My unsolicited movie review in 1700 words. I hope this helped you realize that not every film that says “based on a true story” is, in fact, true. 

— Mindi Callison

Founder/President of Bailing Out Benji

An organization that works tirelessly to educate about puppy mills and rescue animals from all walks of life. 

——————- If you don’t want to see photos from ———————-

——————- the actual puppy mill, stop reading here. ——————–

A personal note from Mindi:

I want to end this article by saying that not all dog breeders are puppy mills. This is a fact that is hard for some people to accept. While you may not agree with breeding in general (which is your right),  a small, reputable breeder is a far cry from a puppy mill. And this is something that we must remember as animal advocates. There will always be members of the general public who insist on buying a puppy. It is our job to not only show them some adorable adoptable animals, but to  educate them on how to avoid purchasing from puppy mills. Demand #ShowMeTheMommy when buying, visit the facility, meet the parents, NEVER buy a puppy in a pet store and absolutely do not ever agree to meet a breeder offsite or have them ship to you. 

Here are photos taken the day of the raid on the Dan Christensen property. What do you think? Is he a reputable breeder like the film would have you believe?