Five Wisconsin businesses are included in the Humane Society of the United States’ fifth Horrible Hundred report on puppy breeders and puppy mills.
The report is only a sampling of problem breeders and sellers, both because some states gather no data on breeders and because the Trump administration recently removed data from the Department of Agriculture website.
In Wisconsin, the report detailed appalling conditions and mistreatment:
- Ryan Handly of designerpuppy.com and wisconsinpuppies.net in Black River Falls. The HSUS stated: Wisconsin officials reported puppies sold without vaccination records. Also, most dogs had no water and some were panting. Multiple dogs with their puppies were found in cramped wire cages that didn’t give them enough space to allow sufficient movement. Some dogs were very matted. And some walls were made of unpainted plywood and the dogs were chewing holes in the walls large enough to stick their heads through.
- Alvin Martin of Pine Hollow Farm LLC in Withee. Pine Hollow Farm — which has appeared in the report before — may be one of the largest puppy mills in the state, with more than 500 dogs and puppies counted during a USDA inspection in November 2016. About Pine Hollow, the report stated: A “listless” puppy was found unable to walk. Two dogs had eye disorders. The licensee repeatedly failed to take animals to the vet.
- Alvin Nolt of Pine Ridge Pets in Thorp. The HSUS stated: The site was repeatedly found with unsanitary conditions. The USDA in 2016 found a shih tzu with an untreated eye condition, expired medications and unsanitary and unsafe conditions. A needle was found in one enclosure housing two dogs. State inspectors found dogs with overgrown nails, dogs with missing and loose teeth and/or swollen gums and puppies on wire flooring with gaps large enough for their legs to pass through.
- John Zeiset of Lone Pine Kennels, also in Thorp. The HSUS has placed Zeiset in its annual report four times. The HSUS stated: Both state and federal inspectors found repeated problems. Limping dog and matted dogs were found in unsanitary conditions. An inspector in November 2016 reported several dogs whose nails were so long that they were curling and sticking out sideways when the dogs put weight on their paws. Also found were expired medications and unclean conditions.
- Skylar Vian of Sparta. The report stated: Overwhelming odors caused the inspector’s lungs to burn and she “felt ill within seconds.” The breeder was cited for unhealthy air quality that “had been causing extreme discomfort to the dogs.” Ammonia levels were “dangerous to the overall health and welfare of the dogs at the facility.” Documents from a re-inspection in November 2016 noted the licensee had “liquidated” many of her dogs, but the records on where they had gone were incomplete.
Trump administration removes records
The HSUS said efforts to get updated information from the U.S. Department of Agriculture on federally inspected puppy mills were severely crippled in February due to the USDA’s removal of all animal welfare inspection reports and most enforcement records from its website.
As of April 20, the USDA had restored some animal welfare records on research facilities and other types of dealers — but almost no records on pet breeding operations were restored.
On the state level, data gathering is also problematic.
Some states do not inspect puppy mills at all — such as Arkansas and Tennessee — and have scant information available.
Other states have pet breeder inspection laws, such as Oklahoma, but did not respond to open public records requests.
The information in the Horrible Hundred report, then, is a compilation of records from state inspection data and USDA records that HSUS preserved before the department removed the reports. Data also came from court records, consumer complaints, investigator visits and media reports.
Missouri had the greatest number of problem breeders and dealers in the report, with 19. In second place, Ohio, Kansas and Pennsylvania had 12 listings.
Last year, Iowa had the second highest number of dealers in the report, followed by Kansas and Ohio.
The large number of listings in certain states is at least partly due to the greater availability of records in those states.
The report also noted that brick-and-mortar puppy outlets are not the only problem.
The HSUS cited at least nine dealers selling online at puppyfind.com, which has repeatedly been linked to problem puppy mills listed in the Horrible Hundred reports.
A number of the breeders also advertised on other online outlets, including classified sites and on social media.
“This trend appears to be on the rise and is of high concern,” the HSUS stated in the report.
Steps to stop puppy mills
- Help make local pet stores puppy-friendly. The Puppy-Friendly Pet Stores initiative asks dog lovers to ask their local pet stores to refuse to sell puppies and support homeless pet adoptions.
- Report problems. The HSUS Puppy Mill Task Force tip line is available to anyone with information on a possible crime involving puppy mills. If you witnessed deplorable conditions in person and wish to file a complaint with the HSUS, call 1-877-MILL-TIP.
- Contact lawmakers at the local, state and federal levels to encourage legislation that protects dogs and prohibits puppy mills.