Earl Light’s Corn Creek Kennel operation in Phelps County featured prominently in the Humane Society of the United States’ ninth annual “Horrible Hundred” report documenting the suffering of animals in what it calls ranchers of “puppy mill” dogs.
So did 20 other ranchers in Missouri.
The Washington, D.C.-based group published the latest report on Mondaydecrying “dogs languishing across the country in puppy mills, many of which are licensed and still in operation despite years of animal care violations”.
Violations covered in the report include those “for injured and emaciated dogs, dogs and puppies exposed to extreme weather conditions, and dogs found living in filthy conditions,” HSUS said.
For the ninth year in a row, Missouri topped the list with 21 dog breeders touted as “puppy mills.” Ohio was second, with 16. Due to the patchwork of animal welfare laws in all 50 states, it’s impossible to consider their report a list of the “worst dog breeders,” HSUS said. .
“There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, and many puppy mills are not inspected at all, so there are no verifiable records of their conditions,” the report’s writers argued.
HSUS says its report is assembled annually based on a “review” of federal and state inspection records for violations and other evidence of suffering animals, as well as a review of “consumer complaints.” and undercover images”.
What Do Missouri Dog Breeders Say?
Even so, pet breeders in Missouri have pushed back against “Horrible Hundred’s” findings.
“Ninety percent of this is all a lie,” Light of Corn Creek Kennel said Tuesday when asked about the report. “We’re state inspected, we’re USDA inspected, and we have to comply with all of that.”
Differences between state and federal animal welfare enforcement were a key theme in this year’s “Horrible Hundred” report. HSUS lamented a year-long decline in USDA inspections, roughly coinciding with the start of the Trump administration in 2017.
Now that the Biden administration is running the country, USDA enforcement could improve, a key HSUS official told the News-Leader hours after the report was released. “But that remains to be seen,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills campaign at HSUS.
States are better at animal welfare than the federal government, Goodwin said.
“State regulators are definitely doing a better job than the USDA,” Goodwin told the News-Leader shortly after HSUS released the 2021 “Horrible Hundred.”
The News-Leader contacted the USDA’s Animal Welfare Inspection Division, which did not respond to a timely request for comment.
For at least three years, according to the Humane Society report, USDA inspectors have not revoked “a single dog breeder‘s license or penalized(d) problem dog breeders under the law. on the protection of animals”.
Light’s operation is an example of this discrepancy between state and federal enforcement, HSUS claims in the opening pages of “Horrible Hundred.”
The new report says Missouri inspectors cited Light’s operation last year “for issues including kennel floors covered in feces, rusty cages, tangled dogs and more.” The USDA has not conducted an inspection since May 2019, says the ‘Horrible Hundred’, although Light told the News-Leader that he saw the USDA inspector “about a year ago ” and that he had spoken to the inspector since.
Light said that if a visiting state or federal inspector shows up at his operation, he tells them about a problem “from the get-go.”
“Look, I find stuff I don’t like and stuff like that, and I have a little farm too, so I’m busy all the time,” Light, 84, explained. “Of course I miss something from time to time, I don’t deny that.”
If an inspector shows up before Light has cleaned up for the day, he said, “they should be able to tell the difference between, excuse my French, the new (expletive deleted) and the old (expletive removed).”
Missouri inspectors cited Light’s farm in 2020 because the kennel floor was covered in feces, the cages were rusty and the dogs’ fur was matted, HSUS reported.
A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Agriculture has verified that these specific quotes were correctly reported by HSUS and that a photo of a dog in a rusty cage at Light’s farm quoted in ‘Horrible Hundred’ was authentic. .
“He does not live up to the animal care standards that Missouri has in place, especially the broken kennel that created sharp points on the top,” spokesperson Sami Jo Freeman said Tuesday. , to the News-Leader by e-mail. “Corn Creek Kennel received a violation as a result of this inspection and we continue to monitor the facility with inspections.”
Freeman said Corn Creek Kennel was inspected in August 2020, October 2020 and January 2021 and Missouri inspectors “will follow up again soon.”
‘Our laws in Missouri are tougher’ than the feds, dog breeder says
Cleaning issues are often exaggerated in the “Horrible Hundred”, claims Ann Quinn. Like Light, she is a pet raiser from Missouri. As the News-Leader previously reported, Quinn’s Dreamaker Farms is located in Nianguaand Quinn is publicity director for the Missouri Pet Breeders Association. MPBA publishes a directory of pet breeders and a quarterly magazine to share its views, Quinn said.
Quinn referenced a recent “write” about a Missouri dog breeder. “They wrote to him about the dirt on the dog doors,” Quinn said. “Doesn’t (the inspector) know that it’s been raining for weeks and of course there must be dirt around it?”
A USDA write-up is a serious problem for a dog breeder because brokers and pet stores often don’t work with a breeder who has obtained a citation, Quinn said.
But Quinn’s assessment of Missouri’s enforcement versus the federal government’s was actually similar to that offered by Goodwin, the campaign manager for the Humane Society Stop Puppy Mills.
“State inspectors are doing a better job because our laws in Missouri are tougher laws than the USDA has to deal with,” Quinn said. “The state is appropriate, but the feds are way off base.”
The Ministry of Agriculture is not the only government authority watching over suffering animals. The Humane Society noted that Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt’s office has “cracked down on some of (Missouri’s) most notorious repeat offenders,” citing lawsuits filed against three Show-Me State breeders in recent months.
“I think that was a glimmer of hope,” said Goodwin of the Humane Society. “Missouri has always been at the center of the puppy mill world, with a large number of puppy mills in Missouri…when some of the state’s most senior elected officials realize that taking action to at least shutting down the worst is a very good popular thing to do.”
A spokesperson for Attorney General Schmitt declined to comment on this report.
Goodwin said he and the Humane Society are more supportive of information sharing between government agencies about animal welfare violations. For example, he would like to see the USDA report violations to local sheriffs, he said.
“But we’re just glad the Missouri Department of Agriculture has continued to cite people, including people you think would be fine with the law, if you just consulted the USDA. “, said Goodwin.
Petland stores criticized
The Humane Society report also criticized Petland stores for selling dogs from some of the “Horrible Hundred” breeders, including those in Missouri. A Petland spokeswoman, Elizabeth Kunzelman, said the 2021 Puppy Mill Report “is full of misinformation and misrepresentations about Petland.”
“HSUS alleges that eight of the 100 listed breeders are linked to Petland, and some of the suggested links are questionable and/or outdated at best,” she told the News-Leader in an email Tuesday. Kunzelman added, “Unlike HSUS, at Petland we visit breeders and work with them on their continuing education programs. At Petland, we care about where American families will get their next pet and we support breeders. Responsible American Breeders.”
Goodwin, with HSUS, wasn’t buying it. “Petland claims to have a Breeder Pledge that they have their breeders sign, and they claim to have all the standards,” he said. “And yet every year we find many examples of people among the ‘Horrible Hundred’, who have sold at Petland stores and who don’t come close to meeting the standards they tout to their customers.”
Missouri Animal Welfare Inspection Data
Freeman, the state Department of Agriculture spokesman, said Missouri’s pass rate for pet breeder inspections over the past 5 years was 89%. Missouri inspectors conducted approximately 2,900 inspections per year in 2019 and 2020; down from around 2,580 in 2016 and 2017, she said.
“The vast majority of Missouri licensees meet animal care expectations outlined in state and federal laws,” she said.
The HSUS said families looking to get a dog “can avoid contributing to this cycle of pain and heartache by refusing to purchase a puppy from a pet store or website, or from any breeder they don’t know.” ‘have not met in person and carefully selected’. echoing the advice of many other animal welfare advocates.
Contact News-Leader Reporter Gregory Holman by emailing [email protected] Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.