REGIONAL—Two dog breeding companies in N’West Iowa don’t think they deserve to be listed in the Humane Society of the United States’ 2020 “Horrible Hundred” report.
The Dog House Etc. of Sheldon and Shaggy Hill Farm of the Sioux Center were included in the annual report, which identifies what the Humane Society considers to be problematic puppy mills in the country.
“It’s obviously a huge sore point for us because we’ve invested the last 20, almost 22 years in this facility,” said Laura Stover, owner of The Dog House with her husband, Leonard.
“Not to mention previous years having a good breeding program and learning how to raise healthy dogs and raising healthy dogs and raising dogs that are socialized and ready to come into people’s homes.”
A US Department of Agriculture inspector cited The Dog House Etc. with violations for unsafe floors and dirty conditions during an inspection in August, according to the report.
“They were fixed right away, and the inspectors know it,” Stover said.
“But they can’t change this report, and they can’t make another report and say it’s been fixed. They can not. Every time someone walks into my facility, your dogs are healthy, they’re happy, they’re friendly, the puppies are wonderful. They are so clean, it doesn’t smell. It’s clean. That’s what they always say. They can’t write it.
During the last USDA inspection of the kennel in January, the inspector noted repeated issues, such as wire floors deemed unsafe.
“Four litters, totaling 26 pups, were observed walking on the plastic wire floor with openings. The vinyl wire floor openings were approximately 1 inch by 1 inch. The puppies’ paws would fit through the openings as they walked. This could potentially harm the puppies and affect their gait,” according to the inspector’s report.
Stover said the inspector stayed about 10 minutes watching the puppies, and when a foot fell, it was documented.
“Then the HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) comes in and sees what the USDA has written – and the USDA also has to put in exactly what clause of the kennel regulations, it’s a whole book and they have to write exactly which clause was wrong – then it makes it feel even worse because it has to be that way,” Stover said.
She noted that the flooring has since been replaced to follow USDA guidelines.
Stover explained that other issues — such as chewed feeders or broken wires — can also end up in the inspector’s report, although they are easily and sometimes immediately fixed.
“What they say isn’t even what guys actually write,” she said. “They make it look awful, and it’s not. We have top notch ventilation, we clean every day. Our puppies are healthy, they get checked out. Our vet is here on site every day. two weeks, and it’s basically speed dial for me.
Stover also noted that the kennel has never had a dog registered for a health violation and has had several generations of families who have purchased dogs from the facility.
“We just come to work, love to be here, take care of our animals, enjoy our animals, love putting healthy puppies in people’s arms and making them smile and giving them joy.”
Phyllis Hooyer, owner of Shaggy Hill Farm with her husband, Bruce, also agrees that inspections don’t always tell the whole story when it comes to dog breeding businesses.
The Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship inspected the Hooyers’ business – which breeds Maltese dogs – in August.
“It’s actually a bit misleading because it looks bad because we acquired these dogs a few years ago and invited the state to help us comply,” Phyllis Hooyer said.
“We knew we had to fix a lot of things, but we wanted their help to do it so we could get a license. Writing every little thing like that really made us look bad because nobody knew the whole story.
One of the major issues the inspector pointed out in the report was that the facility had too many dogs and not enough room for them to exercise.
Hooyer explained that at the time of this inspection, she and her husband had been working on building a new kennel to provide more space for the dogs.
“They were a bit crowded, but that’s why we put up this other kennel,” she said. “They have great races. It was something that had been fixed, and it was something we were working on at the time.
She didn’t know the exact number of dogs at Shaggy Hill Farm, but said she and her husband were also downsizing the facility. Since about a third of the dogs are older dogs, the Hooyers plan to take care of them for the rest of their lives.
“That doesn’t mean we’re raising an X number,” Hooyer said.
Another issue noted in the state inspector’s report was that there were no distemper or rabies vaccination records for adult dogs.
Hooyer explained that the dogs had been vaccinated, but the records weren’t formatted as they should be. Instead of having one page per dog with a sticker certifying their vaccination, the Hooyers had all the dogs’ vaccination records on one page.
This issue, along with the cleanliness issues that were noted during the inspection, have since been corrected.
The state inspector returned to Shaggy Hill Farm in September and twice in November to check on the Hooyers’ progress.
After the final inspection on November 27, Shaggy Hill Farm was found to be in compliance, with the inspector noting that nearly all of the dogs were up to date with vaccinations and that the facility and animals were clean.
“We’re licensed and my dogs are healthy,” Hooyer said. “Our local vet comes to check, and we haven’t had any health issues.”