|Dogs, cats lived in squalor
By MIKE CONWAY
Modesto BEE STAFF WRITER
(Published: Thursday, May 17, 2001)
MERCED, CA -- Deputies found more than 200 animals Wednesday morning
at a rural Merced County home that had been the subject of neighbor complaints
six months ago.
Deputies counted about 120 dogs, 50 cats, three snakes and a handful
of birds inside the home. An additional 50 dogs were found in pens and an
outlying barn on the Minturn Road property south of Le Grand.
The homeowner, Elizabeth Lindsay Thompson, 59, was arrested on a Solano
County warrant charging her with animal cruelty. She was released on $5,000
bail Wednesday afternoon.
"We expect to arrest her on charges of felony animal cruelty when she
comes back here," Merced County sheriff's detective Jim Johnson said.
Cages for the dogs were stacked throughout the four-bedroom home. In
one small bedroom, 26 cages were found, some with as many as three dogs inside.
Feces overflowed from some pens, and authorities had to ventilate the house
before they entered.
"The ammonia levels inside were twice the level considered to be healthy,"
Sgt. Tom Cavallero said.
Kristi Garrett, operations supervisor for the Merced County Animal Shelter,
said the animals received a quick examination and shots before being taken
to new lodgings. Stanislaus County animal control workers assisted in the
Some dogs went to private kennels, while others were shipped to the Clovis
The dogs were in good health, considering their environment, Garrett
said, but three had to be euthanized.
Six months ago, employees of a neighboring nut-processing plant reported
noise from dogs tunneling through the fences and an overpowering stench when
the wind shifted, Garrett said.
At the time, Thompson said she planned to obtain a kennel license, which
is required anytime a county resident has more than four dogs in one location.
"We finally decided things weren't going to get any better, so we came
back here today," Garrett said. More than 30 animal control officers and
deputies raided the home at 8 a.m.
"In some of the kennels in the back there was no way for them to get
out of their waste," she said. "One kennel had seven puppies in it. There
was no food or water in any of them."
Even though she had an idea what was going on behind the closed doors,
Garrett acknowledged, "I was more overwhelmed by what was inside than I thought
I would be."
The dogs included whippets, basenjis, borzois, great Danes, cocker spaniels
and basset hound mixes, she said.
All of the dogs will be observed to make sure they are healthy and can
socialize with people. Garrett said Thompson has 14 days to compensate the
county for its costs before the animals become county property.
"We're going to try to place in homes the ones we don't have to euthanize,"
she said. "We want to find homes for everyone."
The raid taxed the county's budget and facilities, Garrett said. "If
the public would like to donate anything, we need it," she said.
Donations can be made by calling Garrett at 209 -385-7436. Immediate
needs include money, blankets and food.
|Shelter works to gain
custody of abused dogs
Public outcry reverberates around the nation
By KATE WOODS
Pinnacle Staff Writer
Hollister shelter officials spent the past week working through the courts
to gain official ownership of 147 dogs confiscated in an alleged puppy
The work has come as shelter officials also continue to investigate
allegations of abuse against Ken Hershey Jr., accused of keeping the dogs
and puppies in inhumane conditions at his ranch on San Juan Grade Road.
"Were working as hard as we can," said Julie Carreiro, supervisor
for Hollisters animal control department. "This is the biggest
investigation weve ever done."
The dogs are now in the custody of the Hollister Animal Control, but the
shelter isnt the only agency that is involved in the investigation
of the animal cruelty case, which extends beyond state borders.
"This thing has more angles to it than a double pyramid," said District
Attorney Harry Damkar, whose office is working with other agencies in the
investigation. "A charging decision will be made very soon."
Damkar could not comment further because the investigation of the case
The news of the April 11 dog raid at the Hershey Ranch near San Juan Bautista
has resulted in an outpouring of outrage and donations from animal lovers,
dog breeders, and folks just plain disgusted by the report of alleged massive
"To me, this is a case of blatant animal cruelty," said Cynthia Cutler,
program director of the U.S. Humane Society, who participated in the raid.
The story resonated throughout the nation.
"Weve received calls from Texas, Wyoming, Merced, and a couple from
Greenfield donated $1,000," said Carreiro, who added that one call came from
a man in Australia who had read the story on The Pinnacle web site.
The story also provoked long discussions in Internet chat rooms for dog
breeders, and initiated e-mail messages expressing shock. An on-line chat
room called The Breeder Supply Forums produced comments on the Hershey raid
from one person who suspected that last weeks front-page photo depicting
a matted, feces covered poodle was staged. Hundreds of others writing on
the forum were thoroughly dismayed.
"Anyone who keeps even one animal in that condition should be in a jail
cell," one person wrote.
Another wrote, "I think it should be stipulated this guy never owns another
The local shelter was swamped with support after news reports that
sheriffs officers and animal control investigators seized 147 unlicensed
and abused dogs and puppies in what is believed to be one of the biggest
animal cruelty cases ever to occur in the county. Hershey is accused of running
an illegal, unlicensed puppy mill.
The conditions the dogs lived in were so appalling Carreiro said it was
the worst she had ever seen. Local animal control officers had to call in
assistance from outside agencies, including the United States Humane Society,
Salinas and Monterey Animal Controls, and Santa Claras Humane
Eleven different breeds of dogs, including poodles, pomeranians, chihuahuas,
and lots of Australian cattle dogs were living in filthy cramped quarters.
Some were living in cages filled with feces, without food or water, and some
had never had human contact other than a bad one. Some had cannibalized others
to survive. Others were chained to trees.
No arrest has been made yet, but suspect Hershey filed for bankruptcy
shortly after the two-day raid, and a meeting of his creditors will take
place May 8 at the Salinas Quadrangle.
"So it sounds like we will be footing the bill for this," said Carreiro.
"Which is good because I want these dogs. I dont want him to get them
She explained that despite the generous $90,000 the Hollister City Council
put in for the care of the dogs, the money is expected to last only through
June, and disposition of the case should take longer than that.
Hershey failed to respond to a notice posted on his ranch gate that allowed
him until 5 p.m. on Monday to reclaim the dogs or they would be relinquished
to the City of Hollister, something on which Carreiro still was meeting at
press time Wednesday. Giving up the dogs, however, does not end Hersheys
involvement in the matter. He is, by law, required to pay for the care of
the dogs while they are in the citys care, but his bankruptcy move
apparently cancelled that out.
On Monday, Carreiro showed a detailed investigative report to City Attorney
Elaine Cass, then delivered it to D.A. Damkar.
One Hollister man said he had a run-in with Hershey recently over a dog.
Dave Alexander of Hollister said he was traveling last with his wife along
the San Juan Grade Road near Hersheys ranch when he noticed a dirty,
"It was horrible," Alexander said. "He wasnt afraid, but he got
into the back of the truck because there was food."
As he started toward town, Alexander said that two men chased him down
in a truck one of them being someone he now recognizes as Hershey
from a photo that ran last week in The Pinnacle. After Alexander told him
was taking the dog to the pound, Hershey told him the dog was so matted because
he used him as a sheep dog.
"He told me, If you send it down there, theyll neuter him,
I remember that," Alexander said. "They both gave us an uneasy feeling. We
were sure they had a gun and were ready for the next step."
Carreiro said that Hershey, as far as she knows, has never had a kennel
license throughout his long career of alleged dog abuse.
Hershey had been arrested in at least two other states on charges of animal
cruelty and fraudulent dog sales. In 1989, he was reported as having 30 aliases
when he was arrested in Florida and fought extradition to Santa Clara County,
where he was wanted for animal cruelty in a puppy mill. Then later in Houston,
Hershey was arrested again for cruelty to 84 dogs.
The dogs that survived and were taken away from Hershey ranch, which he
advertised as being "ranch raised" by his Wrangler Australian Cattle Dog
Co. on the Internet, seem to be doing much better than when they were first
discovered during the raid. At the Hollister shelter, they all had clean
blankets, had been bathed and groomed, were getting nutritious food, and
finally, a little TLC.
But most of the rescued dogs remain quiet and inanimate, as if shell-shocked
and untrusting of people. They look up at humans from their kennels with
wide eyes, and some will allow a pet on the head, but do not show much emotion
aside from a tepid tail wag.
"Thats not normal for an Australian cattle dog," said shelter assistant
Ann Azevedo. "They arent normally couch potatoes like this."
Azevedo has two Australian cattle dogs and knows the spunky spirit of
the breed. She worries that when it comes time to adopt the rescued ones,
people wont understand the breeds need for lots of room and
"Theyre a herding breed," said Azevedo. "Theyll herd you,
your children, even your cat."
While Hersheys failure to respond to the notice has opened the door
for eventual adoption of the abused dogs, the animals are far from ready
to be placed in homes.
"Our goal isnt just to get them out," said Carreira. "They are scared,
need leash training and socialization. We want to rehabilitate them and find
the best homes for them that we can."
Hershey not only has the bankruptcy hearing to face, but also is due in
San Benito County Court on May 3 for charges of consumer fraud. An Ohio rancher
filed a complaint that he paid Hershey for a Queensland Heeler, but never
received the dog.
Carreira believes Hershey should be jailed for his numerous abuses.
"Im really sad that the animals had to go through that, and that
hes done this over and over," she said. "But maybe this agency can
put a stop to his abuse forever."
|Thursday March 29, 2001
Animal Rescuers Make Gruesome Discovery
A recent case of animal abuse has been called the worst that they've ever
seen, according to a local animal rescue organization, and they're trying
to find out who's responsible.
An animal rescue organization is trying to save the life of a
small dog named Miracle, who's the victim of the abuse.
NewsChannel 12 spoke with animal officials about the 1-year-old
When members of Operation Peace rescued Miracle, the skin around her
neck was cut down to her windpipe. Veterinarians said that her injuries are
a result from being tied up with a Mason cord.
Lisa Shelton (pictured, below) of Operation Peace said that the dog was
tied up at a construction site on Belews Lake near the Forsyth and Guilford
Veterinarians said that Miracle was rescued in the nick of time because
the fly season is just around the corner.
"They said that it would have been very tragic," Shelton said. "There
is no way she could have survived, so they think the cords were in there
at least possibly since last fall."
Forsyth County deputies are looking for suspects.
Operation Peace said that the dog needs surgery.
"We have two couples already interested in adopting her, so we're going
to make sure that she is going to be safe and happy for the rest of her life
she deserves," Lori Smith (pictured, left) of Operation Peace said.
|Saturday March 17 12:56 AM EST
Puppy Found Hanging From Tree
A puppy was found gasping for air hanging from a tree near 13th Street
and Locust Avenue Friday afternoon.
A Milwaukee man driving by saw a group of children standing around the
tree. He stopped when he noticed the children looking at something hanging
from the tree. The puppy was hanging by a thick shoestring.
The animal was taken to the Humane Society, where he was put on an IV
and Valium because of seizures.
A Humane Society veterinarian said that the dog has brain damage, and
its prognosis is not good.
"The puppy has suffered a lot, although at this point he's really not
feeling anything," veterinarian Randal Zeman said. "It's horrible because
he's had to suffer a lot of pain."
The Humane Society is offering a $5,000 reward for information that would
lead to the arrest of those responsible for the puppy's abuse.
Contact the Milwaukee Police Department with any information on the
| Pennsylvania News
Kennel owner guilty of cruelty to animals
BANGOR - A former Washington Township woman who has been investigated
by animal protection and zoning code officials after poor conditions, dead
dogs and animal carcasses that were found on her property pleaded guilty
Friday to 27 counts of cruelty to animals.
Anna Frumina received a fine of $100 plus court costs by District Justice
An SPCA inspector and state dog warden inspected the RUSDOG kennel on
Delaware Drive on Jan. 20, 2000. They found 57 dogs living in unsanitary
conditions. They also found three dog carcasses and some deer carcasses.
According to zoning records, inspectors found garbage scattered throughout
the inside and outside of the home, while the basement contained urine- and
feces-soaked bedding. The records also say there was a urine stench on the
first floor. The building was declared "unfit for human habitation," the
Frumina surrendered her kennel license last year. By doing so, the limit
to the number of dogs she could keep dropped from 50 to 25 under state law.
But township regulations say that she could only have five.
At the time of the inspections, Frumina had been breeding rare dogs of
Russian origin. One breed was the Caucasian Ovtcharka, which is used to protect
flocks. It can weigh up to 200 pounds.
Frumina was charged with a section of the states animal cruelty
law that prohibits the ill-treatment, neglect or abandonment of an animal.
The section also forbids the withholding of a clean and adequate shelter
for an animal.
© 2001 The Express Times. Used with permission.
|Wednesday, February 21, 2001
49 dogs die in Chester County kennel fire
Kimbertal Kennels is a nationally known breeder whose customers include
former Phillies pitchers Curt Schilling and Danny Jackson.
Eleven-month-old Rex, who was rescued by a firefighter, was the only
dog who survived the fire in the rottweiler kennel. (Inquirer/Barbara
By Benjamin Wallace-Wells
KIMBERTON - Forty-seven puppies and two adult dogs, all rottweilers,
were killed today in a fast-moving fire at a Chester County kennel.
According to Robert Yarnall, the owner of the well-known Kimbertal Kennels,
in Kimberton, Chester County, the blaze began around 11:30 and quickly spread
through the building housing the rottweilers.
"I never thought this would happen," said Yarnall, who has operated the
kennel for 37 years. "Then today, it happened.
"I was in the house with my wife and she saw the smoke. I went outside
and I got within 10 feet and saw there was no way..."
The one-alarm fire was contained to one building. Other buildings on
the grounds house Dobermans and others dogs bred by the kennel.
The puppies were all about seven weeks old, Yarnall said. One adult dog
was rescued from the building.
Yarnall said three of the pups were to have been shipped to Canada tomorrow,
having been sold for $1,800 a piece, which he said was a standard price.
Kimbertal Kennels is a nationally known breeder whose customers include
former Phillies pitchers Curt Schilling and Danny Jackson.
The dogs were not insured, he said, but the building was insured for
$50,000. He also said there were no sprinklers or alarms in the building.
The cause of the fire was under investigation.
Benjamin Wallace-wells's e-mail address is
Approximately 15 million dogs and nine million cats enter shelters throughout
the US each year as strays.
Only 19% of dog owners and 3% of cat owners ever redeem their lost pets.
|"From the Leash to the Laboratory"
Medical-research institutions draw on a thriving black market in stolen
and fraudulently obtained pets
by Judith Reitman
If you're driving south on Missouri Highway 67 into Poplar Bluff, past
acres of strip malls, a sharp left at Route 53 takes you into hardscrabble
country, a place of violence and squalor in the southeastern part of the
state. I made the drive on a saunalike morning in early August, reaching
the Poplar Bluff Sale Barn around seven o'clock. Vendors had been arriving
since dawn. On most days of the week livestock sales are held in the
corrugated-tin auction barn. But Friday is Trade and Sale Day. Merchants
were setting up folding tables under colorful umbrellas on the barn's dusty
four-acre lot, across from the Gospel Rescue Mission and a dilapidated farmhouse
hemmed in by the skeletons of junked cars. Some of the merchants were hawking
homemade jams; others offered "emu juice" -- a supposedly medicinal broth
-- or shotguns. Still others were "puppy-mill" breeders selling allegedly
purebred dogs for $10 or $20 each.
But the big money, one vendor told me, is in the dogs sold to suppliers
to medical-research labs. She pointed to the back lot, which was crowded
with campers, station wagons, and pickups with license plates from Missouri,
Arkansas, Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, and Tennessee. A number of the vehicles
were fitted with "dog cabs," containing six or eight dogs crammed into small
wooden crates. A red cattle trailer was packed with purebreds and mixed breeds.
Men sweating under feed caps were pulling dogs out by their legs or muzzles.
Many of the dogs were emaciated, their bellies swollen from worms or other
parasites, their coats matted with their own feces and urine. The scene was
hauntingly quiet. When a dog did bark, it was reproached with a swift kick.
Around eight-thirty a nondescript white van pulled onto the lot. The
driver -- a registered dog dealer, licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture
-- swung open the loading doors, revealing dozens of empty metal cages. About
a hundred dogs were for sale on the lot. Soon sellers were clustered around
the dealer's van. The day's trading had begun.
High-volume dealers like this one keep an inventory of 500 to 700 dogs
in their kennels at any given time. They are supposed to buy dogs only from
sellers who raised the animals themselves or bought them from "random sources"
-- people who can prove that they raised them. Although USDA regulations
call for dealers to obtain certain information from each seller, including
a description of the animal being sold, many dealers will accept simply the
seller's name, address, and signature as proof of ownership. "Hell, they
don't raise those dogs," said a grizzled coon hunter who was observing the
proceedings. "Some of them, they just pick up the dogs off the street and
sell 'em. Make good money, too."
POPLAR Bluff sits in the heart of dog-dealing country.
The Midwest's interstates and local roads are conduits for a vast network
that transports stolen dogs from virtually every state for sale at trade
days like this one. The number of dogs that go missing each year under suspicious
circumstances has been conservatively estimated by shelters and pounds,
animal-protection organizations, and veterinarians to be in the hundreds
of thousands. Puppy-mill breeders and the organizers of dog fights buy their
share, but the animals also end up as subjects in the biomedical-research
industry, which pays top dollar. Although it is impossible to know how many
dogs this is, Patricia Jensen, then a former USDA assistant secretary, testified
in 1996 that "one of the most egregious problems in research" is the
"introduction of stolen and fraudulently acquired pets into the process."
The clients who contribute to this trade include reputable medical schools
across the country, where dogs are used in cardiovascular, bone, orthopedic,
urological, burn, and dental research, in ballistics tests, in radiation
and drug studies, and for dissection in physiology labs. Although federal
law specifically prohibits the sale of stolen dogs, the agency charged with
enforcing it -- the USDA, through the Animal Care program of the Animal and Plant Health
Inspection Service (APHIS) -- has taken little
effective action. And congressional initiatives, including virtually all
attempts to pass stronger legislation, have failed.
The system for acquiring dogs for medical research is based on a complicated
hierarchy, in which accountability is diffused.
The system has remained largely the same since 1966, when Congress passed
what soon became known as the Animal
Welfare Act. The act set standards of treatment for medical-research
animals and stipulated that labs can acquire them only from dealers who have
been licensed by the Secretary of Agriculture -- a provision directly aimed
at preventing the sale of stolen pets to labs. The USDA was not eager to
assume responsibility for enforcing the act. When Congress proposed appointing
the USDA to do so, the agency tried to be relieved of the duty; in a letter
to Congress the Secretary of Agriculture suggested that an agency "more directly
concerned" with the pet-theft issue should be considered for the task. That
Any adult citizen of the United States, even a convicted felon, can acquire
a USDA license to sell dogs to research institutions. There are two kinds
of dealer licenses. Class A dealers, according to the broad terms of the
act, breed dogs for sale. When they buy from Class A dealers, institutions
have some assurance that they are buying dogs intended from the outset for
research. But many institutions buy their dogs from both Class A and Class
B dealers; the dogs sold by Class B dealers are less expensive and may offer
a broader range of research subjects. This is where most problems lie.
Class B dealers are permitted to buy dogs from unlicensed sellers, known
as "bunchers," as long as the bunchers can prove that they bred and raised
the animals on their own premises or obtained them from someone who did.
This restriction is aimed at ensuring that each dog can be traced to a legitimate
owner -- that the animals are not stolen or obtained through fraudulent means.
But for it to be enforceable dealers must keep and make available accurate
records, and bunchers must give them accurate information. In its 1998 annual
report to Congress, APHIS claimed that it was able
to trace the original owners of more than 90 percent of the dogs sold for
research. However, this number was derived by extrapolating from a very small
sample. A random selection of inspection reports pertaining to five of the
largest dealers shows that all have had record-keeping violations. Over the
years there have been dealers who have not even allowed inspectors on their
In any given year as many as forty bunchers may supply a single high-volume
dealer. For those unconcerned with the law, dogs are easy enough to come
by. Bunchers may cruise neighborhood streets, picking up any dogs they encounter.
They may obtain unclaimed dogs from veterinary clinics by offering to find
homes for them, and may answer "free to good home" ads placed by owners trying
to find someone to care for dogs they can no longer keep. Often a buncher
answering such an ad brings along a child, in order to create a convincing
picture of a welcoming home.
The price structure that has evolved puts certain breeds particularly
at risk. The most valuable dogs are Labrador retrievers, German shepherds
and shepherd mixes, Dalmatians, spaniels, golden retrievers, hounds, and
border collies. Sometimes called "serum dogs," owing to backwoods folklore
that a serum made from the blood of these dogs could cure cancer, they are
prized by labs because they have large chests, which make them preferred
subjects for cardiovascular research. Labs will pay a dealer as much as $800
apiece for them (the dealer has paid the buncher about $25 apiece). Serum
dogs are generally guaranteed to remain alive for seven to ten days after
purchase. Less-desirable breeds and mixes are sold by the pound, as "junk
dogs" (usually guaranteed to live for a week) or "acute dogs" (guaranteed
for only forty-eight hours).
AN Hannes, the sheriff of Cedar County, Iowa, dreads the spring. "That's
when pet thieves come around," he says. The peak dog-stealing season extends
through summer, with thefts occurring in state after state throughout the
South and the Midwest. In August of 1998, during the Iowa State Fair, in
Des Moines, some 350 dogs from the area were reported missing. Last summer
an animal-welfare society in southeastern Missouri got calls about more than
200 missing dogs. Two years ago in Carroll County, Mississippi, several enraged
hunters drove into a buncher's encampment, where they found their missing
hounds; the hunters rammed the buncher's fence with their trucks and seized
their dogs. Other Mississippi residents have found their dogs chained in
bunchers' and dealers' kennels and at local trade days. "If you have a pet
missing, the Ripley Trade and Sale Day is a good place to look," says Pete
Samples, a criminal investigator with the police department of Ripley, in
northern Mississippi, where one of the largest dog-trading events in the
country is held. Last January more than 120 large purebred dogs were reported
missing in southwestern Michigan. Vans purporting to represent an
"animal-management service" had been seen cruising neighborhoods there. Similar
vans have been associated with missing-pet episodes in Maryland and
APHIS has broad authority to stop such thefts,
by requiring dog dealers to comply with the law. It can assess and collect
hefty fines and notify the sheriff's office about animals that are believed
to be stolen. The agency is required by law to inspect and monitor kennels
to ensure that the animals have been legally acquired. It is responsible
for requesting the prosecution of any dealer who has stolen and sold a dog
to a research facility, and is empowered to bring an injunction against any
dealer it believes to be trading in stolen pets. However, the agency has
taken few productive measures to halt the abuses. "We cannot be the on-site
police," says Ron DeHaven, the deputy administrator of
APHIS. "We can't be at every facility every day to
make sure they are adhering to the regulations." It is difficult to prove
that animals have been obtained through theft or fraud, DeHaven argues; the
agency can usually prove only that dealers are keeping inaccurate or improper
In those instances when APHIS has gone after a
dealer for record-keeping violations (a process that can take years, during
which time the dealer may remain in business), it has generally reduced the
penalties outlined by law, holding closed-door administrative hearings and
allowing the dealers to stipulate to fines that are just a small fraction
of what the Animal Welfare Act permits.
In a handful of instances APHIS has gathered enough
proof of theft or so-called theft by deception to have dealers brought to
criminal court. Even court-ordered penalties have typically not been severe.
A case in point: APHIS placed an Oregon dealer, Betty
Davis, and her husband under surveillance for fourteen months starting in
December of 1994. During that time the couple sold ninety dogs to Cedars-Sinai
Medical Center, in Los Angeles, the University of Southern California, and
the Los Angeles VA Medical Center. APHIS did not request
a restraining order against the Davises, however. DeHaven told me that when
the research institutions learned of the investigation, they "immediately
ceased buying animals from [the Davises], so in essence [their] business
stopped early in that two-year period." But court records show that the Davises
continued buying and selling dogs until February of 1996, when the surveillance
ended. Federal prosecutors subsequently filed charges. The Davises were indicted
on eight counts, including defrauding the government and conspiring to obtain
dogs through misrepresentation and deception -- from "free to good home"
ads and veterinary clinics and off the streets. The matter was settled last
year by a plea bargain, in which Betty Davis pleaded guilty to one misdemeanor
count of conspiracy. The remaining counts of the indictment were dropped.
The Davises were sentenced to just four to six months of detention in their
own home. They were fined a total of $379.31-$354.31 to reimburse one research
facility for returning some animals, and $25 for conspiracy.
A look at how APHIS handles dealer violations of
all types may be instructive. "I have seen many instances where
APHIS program officials are dismissing violation cases
without the benefit of any investigation," one senior investigator, complaining
of an "erosion of enforcement" within the agency, wrote in an internal memo
in 1995. According to a 1995 report by the Office of the Inspector General,
which oversees USDA practices, the fines collected by the agency during the
previous year were no more than $300 per facility -- minimal amounts considering
that many dealers report gross incomes of hundreds of thousands of dollars
a year. Dealers view these fines as a "cost of doing business," the OIG
concluded. "If we are talking about a small business and we are not putting
them out of business, then any monetary penalties that we impose limit their
ability to provide adequate care to the animals," DeHaven says.
In its 1998 report to Congress, APHIS boasted that
its "stringent enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act" had helped to reduce
the number of Class B dealers selling dogs for research from 104 in 1993
to thirty-three in 1998 (there are currently twenty-eight). Just as relevant,
though, is the number of bunchers supplying these dealers -- a statistic
the report does not give. However, in 1996 Michael Dunn, an assistant secretary
for marketing at the USDA, told Congress that during the previous year the
agency had searched for as many as 1,800 suppliers who were providing dogs
to dealers, then forty in number. Furthermore, although there is a regulation
that limits to twenty-four the number of dogs a buncher can sell each year,
this is easy to get around. If dealers identify bunchers as "employees,"
those bunchers can legally obtain as many dogs for those dealers as their
trucks can carry.
The USDA's leniency may reflect long-standing allegiances.
APHIS has historically regarded institutions and their
suppliers as its constituency. A 1995 Animal Care newsletter stated, "We
exist to support our clients," referring to animal-welfare licensees. Top
APHIS officials frequently go directly from the service
to employment in the medical-research industry. For instance, James Glosser,
the administrator of APHIS from 1988 to 1991, was
subsequently hired as the assistant dean of veterinary medicine at the University
of California at Davis. Conflicts of interest exist at lower levels of the
agency as well. One former APHIS veterinarian told
me, "Some inspectors talk about getting into dog dealing as good business
when they retire." Others don't wait for retirement: at least two inspectors
have themselves run breeding operations -- in one case a substandard one
-- even while employed by APHIS to monitor kennels
Conscientious inspectors can't count on the agency's support. Some
enforcement officers who have been relocated believe they were moved because
of their zeal. Others -- for example, Marshall Smith, a former enforcement
officer, who worked for the agency for almost twenty years -- tell of being
ostracized for seeking punitive action against dealers.
Legislative action to halt pet trafficking has so far failed. In 1988
Senator Wendell Ford, of Kentucky, whose son's hound had been stolen, introduced
the Pet Theft Act, which was intended to prohibit dealers from buying dogs
and cats at trade days and increased the penalties for repeated pet theft
violations. The act was defeated, owing in large part to opposition from
the USDA and the National
Association for Biomedical Research, a powerful lobbying organization,
which argued that the bill would "inhibit research."
In October of 1993 Representatives George Brown and Charlie Rose, of
California, sent a petition to the USDA, co-signed by twenty-seven of their
colleagues, accusing the agency of "dereliction [of] duty" in the face of
"evidence ... that USDA licensed animal dealers routinely buy and sell stolen
family pets."In 1996 Representative John Fox, of Pennsylvania, introduced
the Family Pet Protection Act, but this, too, was vigorously opposed by the
NABR. In January of 1997 Representative Charles Canady, of Florida, introduced
the Pet Safety and Protection Act, which was aimed at eliminating the entire
random-source category. That bill did not make it out of committee; Canady
reintroduced it last year.
In response to congressional outcries the USDA mounted a series of stolen-dog
task forces. Their investigations resulted in little action. Two inspectors
from a 1990 task force told me that when they examined the records of the
leading midwestern dealers, they discovered rampant fraud. Dealers were listing
suppliers who had long been dead, who did not exist, or who were obtaining
animals from "free to good home" ads. The inspectors outlined these abuses
in their reports. But instead of fining the dealers and revoking their licenses,
the agency concluded that there was no evidence of pet theft and offered
to license a large number of area bunchers as dealers. As for trade days,
the agency deemed that they could be markets for "individuals desiring a
In 1993, on the heels of the Brown-Rose petition, the USDA initiated
another task force. According to Marshall Smith, the task force was quietly
disbanded, with no action having been taken, even though there was indisputable
evidence that dealers were falsifying records and breaking the law. The USDA
commissioned yet another task force in 1994. This time dealers were not even
questioned about their sources. Smith, who participated in several task forces,
speaks of the agency's "selective enforcement-case after case against
dealers dismissed, and violators relicensed with barely a slap on the wrist."
He describes the agency as having a "profound disdain for the Animal Welfare
Act, for the public, and for Congress." The USDA "provides a safe haven
for criminals," Smith says.
The USDA and APHIS repeatedly point to their "concerted
efforts" to address pet theft. For example, in a statement issued last February
13, in honor of Pet Theft Awareness Day, Michael Dunn spoke of the agency's
firm stand on pet theft and its "significant progress in stopping the trafficking
in stolen animals." The agency argues that its enforcement abilities, however,
are limited by inadequate staff and funds. It maintains that most stolen
dogs go to puppy-mill breeders or dog-fight organizers and that the likelihood
of a stolen pet's being used in research is "remote." Nonetheless, the
APHIS Web site advises pet owners whose animals are
missing to get in touch with animal dealers and research facilities in their
area -- an implicit acknowledgment that pets may end up there.
Are research institutions aware that they may be
buying former pets? Dogs bearing tattoos and subcutaneous microchips --
unmistakable forms of identification -- were found in the kennel supplying
the Universities of Iowa and Michigan. "I worry about the sources all the
time, but we rely on enforcement by the USDA and on the integrity of the
dealer," says John Harkness, who oversees the animals used in teaching at
Mississippi State University. Harkness told me that he has tried tracing
the origins of some of the university lab's dogs from dealers' records, "but
it gets very murky." John Young, a lab-animal veterinarian at Cedars-Sinai,
has also tried tracing the origins of animals he has bought. He says that
he was given false information by Class B dealers and their bunchers, however,
and that his lab was a "victim" of dealers who were obtaining animals through
illegal means. As a result, Cedars-Sinai stopped buying from Class B dealers
Other lab directors I spoke with readily acknowledged the poor health
of the dogs they buy (several described receiving sick, dying, and dead dogs
from suppliers to whom they nonetheless remain loyal), but were less forthcoming
on the topic of pet theft. Some admitted knowing of record-keeping violations
on the part of their dealers, but they appear to turn a blind eye, regarding
the problem as a matter solely for the USDA. For example, the University
of Missouri's primary dog dealer has a history of record-keeping violations
that is documented both in APHIS inspection reports
and in court records. But Leroy Anthony, the manager of the school's animal
laboratory, says, "He's still in business, so he's doing something right."
Ron Banks, the lab-animal veterinarian at the University of Colorado Health
Science Center, told me that although he reviews inspection reports for suppliers
who are new to the university and for those who have had violations, the
overall responsibility lies elsewhere. "I worry about every part" of the
system, he says, "but we have to rely on the USDA."
Institutions can afford to do business with dealers whose practices may
be questionable: no laboratory has ever faced legal action for buying stolen
pets. Some institutions have gone to court rather than reveal the sources
of their animals. The State University of New York lost a two-year legal
battle in 1998, when the New York Court of Appeals ordered it to disclose
its records to a public-interest group.
The National Association for Biomedical Research maintains that pet theft
is a "myth" and "an enduring falsehood," and continues to battle against
restraints on dealers. The
site states that animal-rights activists use the "illusion that there
is a demand by researchers for stolen pets" to generate "opposition to animal
research in general." Pets that have disappeared, the group contends, are
far more likely to have wandered off than to have been stolen. As for cases
in which lab animals are obtained through "free to good home" ads, the Web
site points out that "even in those instances the pets were turned over
voluntarily -- they were not being stolen from owners who wanted to keep
them." The site acknowledges that there have been "rare cases"in which family
pets have ended up in research laboratories, but argues that USDA-mandated
holding periods for pounds and dealers ensure that owners have adequate time
to find a pet before it is sold for research.
By about 9:00 A.M. in Poplar Bluff the dealer was slamming shut his loading
doors, muffling the barking of the dogs now crammed within. Only a few scraggly
dogs remained on the lot. One buncher was preparing to haul his leftover
dogs across the state, to an auction in Joplin. One was going to dump his
dogs by the side of the road. Another talked about shooting his. Some of
the small dogs were consigned to a "bait bin" on the lot, to be sold as live
bait in organized dog fights. By ten o'clock the back lot was deserted --
a patch of dust under a flat sky. Several boys were combing the ground for
coins and cigarette butts. But there was little to salvage: just a couple
of dog collars attached to a metal chain.
Judith Reitman is the author of several books, including
for Profit (1993) and
Copyright © 2000 by The Atlantic Monthly Company. All rights
Monthly; July 2000; From the Leash to the Laboratory - 00.07 Volume
|What Tourists Don't See in Amish Country
by Bill Dolinger
A Reproduction of an article that appeared in Action Line, Fall 1994,
pages 24 & 25
When you think of the Amish culture, chances are you bring to mind pastoral
visions of a peaceful, reclusive people who have cast aside technology. The
Amish life-style is perceived as one that mandates followers to strictly
refrain from modern conveniences, but many Amish farmers have recently embraced
one of the most cynical of modern phenomenon, the "puppy mill."
For years, the problem of puppy mills has been well-documented with public
awareness being raised on the facilities in Midwestern states such as Missouri
and Kansas. However, the number of puppy mills in Pennsylvania has grown
exponentially in the past decade, with the highest concentration located
in the heart of Amish-country. In 1991, Lancaster County records show a total
of 41 USDA Class-A licensed dealers. The following year saw an additional
27 dealers registered in this Amish region.
Friends of Animals recently sent an investigative team into the field
to visit these facilities and to interview several eyewitnesses and humane
officers in an effort to research Pennsylvania's puppy mills. To the frustration
of humane officers, the puppy mill circuit has become increasingly removed
from public view.
These facilities are designed to mass-produce litters of puppies to be
sold to pet stores or puppy-brokers. The focus is on profit, with the welfare
of the animals given little or no consideration. Puppy mills typically confine
large numbers of dogs in rows of overcrowded pens. The floors are constructed
of wiring, to allow feces and urine to drop to the ground below. This can
cause discomfort, and can allow an animal's paws to drop through the
Many puppy mills show an alarming level of unsanitary conditions. Feces
and urine is left to accumulate beneath the cages, producing strong odor
and providing a breeding ground for bacteria and diseases. Another frequent
observation is the lack of proper food and water. Our investigators noted
several water bowls that had been allowed to freeze into solid blocks of
TRAGEDIES WAITING TO HAPPEN
In a complaint to the USDA regarding conditions at a Lancaster County
puppy mill operated by Ivan Stolzfus, the witness states that "(We) witnessed
a female Akita urinating. There was a remarkable concentration of blood in
her urine." The complaint continues, "In addition, the darkest Chow (gender
unknown) had open sores on his/her body with the meanest being on the left
front paw. Overall the facility was in disgusting condition with feces
accumulated under the cages, overturned water bowls, and dogs gone psychotic
from their severe confinement."
The Amish have stated that they raise dogs using the same methods that
they would use for "any other livestock." In addition to the abuses committed
upon the animals, unforeseen anguish awaits the unwitting accomplices to
this horror show--the pet store customers. The Pennsylvania puppy mills sell
puppies in stores located in several northeastern states. The puppies being
shuffled through this circuit are "tragedies waiting to happen." To understand
the high rate of serious health problems and the behavioral and temperament
complications seen in puppy-mill offspring, one needs to consider the
irresponsibility of puppy mill breeding programs.
Considered nothing more than puppy-producing machines, the "breeding
stock" are forced to have litters at an early age, and kept continually pregnant.
Typically they are killed when no longer able to produce a sizable litter.
With a limited "breeding stock," inbreeding leads to serious physical and
psychological problems in the offspring. Unsanitary conditions and lack of
proper veterinary care can lead to rampant disease.
Dotsie Keith of York County, Penn., has been documenting the medical
and psychological problems in these animals through a consumer complaint
form circulated to veterinarians in the Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Delaware
area. In conjunction with the Pennsylvania SPCA, Keith is hoping to aid in
the passage of a bill, S.B. 447, the Dog Purchaser's Protection Act, introduced
by Pennsylvania state Senator Stewart Greenleaf. The bill is similar to
legislation that has already been passed in 10 other states.
The common policy is to replace the sick puppy, treating the animal more
like a defective toaster than a new family member. If Senator Greenleaf's
bill is passed, the seller will become responsible for the veterinary bills
on any puppy purchased that was found to have physical or psychological
complications. Pet stores would no longer find it profitable to deal with
puppy mills, and the puppy mills themselves could be held responsible for
disastrous breeding policies.
A multitude of problems have been documented through the Pennsylvania
SPCA. Several complaints were filed regarding the health of animals purchased
from Joyce Stolzfus, operator of "Puppy Love" in Lancaster Country. The list
of problems include deformed jaws, hip dysplasia, retina disease, defective
kidneys, chronic diarrhea, kennel cough and worms. One purchaser stated,
"The puppy had spells where he seemed to almost go berserk racing back and
forth from one corner of a room to another."
Another "Puppy Love" customer related the following incident regarding
the return of a puppy suffering from "serious kennel cough and worms": "The
sick puppy was put back outside in a chicken coop. Weather was bitter cold,
during the January ice storm."
The Amish puppy mill operators have increased efforts to restrict their
facilities from public view. In a frustrating legal "Catch 22," state anticruelty
enforcers cannot inspect a kennel without the owner's permission or a warrant.
To obtain the warrant, the officer must show probable cause. (Given the "puppy
factory" mentality of the industry, the fact that the operation exists should
be considered probable cause for abuse.)
The puppy mill operators have been less than hospitable toward inquisitive
visitors. On one occasion, our investigator was being shown puppies by an
Amish woman. He observed over 100 dogs crammed into tiny cages. After he
looked though a window into a barn full of dogs, he was sprayed in the face
On another occasion, "Puppy Love" operator Joyce Stolzfus accosted our
investigators while her son wielded a baseball bat. (Charges were filed with
the Pennsylvania State Police, resulting in a guilty plea by Mrs. Stolzfus
and a $96.00 fine.) The Amish puppy industry is terrified that the public
is going to discover their shameful secret. Please help Friends of Animals
in our efforts to end this disgrace.
- Bill Dollinger
TEN WORST EXCUSES TO NOT SPAY OR NEUTER A PET:
1. Just one litter and we'll have fluffy spayed.
(Studies show that virtually the entire pet overpopulation stems from
the "just one litter" mentality)
2. My dog doesn't run loose so he doesn't need
to be fixed.
(Murphy's law says otherwise)
3. We always find homes for the puppies.
(And that means an equal number of puppies at the pound will be killed)
4. I want the children to witness the miracle of
(Then watch Animal Planet or the Discovery Channel)
5. My dog is so wonderful and unique, there should
be more of her.
(The shelters are full of wonderful and unique dogs, most of whom have
a few days to live)
6. It's not natural.
(There hasn't been anything "natural" about dogs since we domesticated
them thousands over years ago and took control of their training &
7. I just couldn't look my dog in the eye if I
had him castrated.
(Watch it, you're anthromorphising)
8. A female dog should have at least one litter
for medical reasons.
(Medically, factually and ethically indefensible)
9. Neutering my dog will make him fat &
(Too much food and too little exercise make a dog fat & lazy)
10. Fixing my pet will change its
Much Is That Doggie In the Window