Earl Light’s Operation Corn Creek Kennel in Phelps County featured prominently in the Humane Society of the United States’ ninth annual “Horrible Hundred” report, documenting animal suffering among dog breeders in the United States. “The puppy mill”.
The same was true for 20 other ranchers in Missouri.
The Washington, DC-based band published the last report on Monday, decrying “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 by the report include those “for injured and emaciated dogs, dogs and puppies exposed to extreme weather conditions, and dogs found living in dirty conditions,” HSUS said.
For the ninth year in a row, Missouri tops the list with 21 dog breeders described as “puppy mill” operations. Ohio was the finalist, with 16. Due to the patchwork of animal welfare laws in all 50 states, it’s impossible to consider their report as 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,” argued the report’s editors.
HSUS says its report is assembled annually on the basis of a “review of federal and state inspection records for violations and other evidence of animal suffering, along with a review of” consumer complaints and images of infiltration “.
What Are Missouri Dog Breeders Saying?
Even so, Missouri animal breeders pushed back the results of “Horrible Hundred”.
âNinety percent of this is a lie,â Light said Tuesday, with Corn Creek Kennel, when asked about the report. “We are state inspected, we are USDA inspected and we have to comply with all of that.”
The differences between federal and state animal welfare measures was a key theme of this year’s “Horrible Hundred” report. HSUS has lamented a decline in USDA inspections for years, roughly coinciding with the start of the Trump administration in 2017.
Now that the Biden administration is in charge of the country, USDA enforcement could improve, a key HSUS official told the News-Leader hours after the report was released. âBut that remains to be seen,â said John Goodwin, who is the senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills campaign at HSUS.
States are more efficient at animal welfare than the federal government, Goodwin said.
âState regulators are definitely doing a better job than the USDA,â Goodwin told the News-Leader shortly after HSUS released the 2021 âHorrible Hundredâ.
The News-Leader has contacted the USDA’s Animal Welfare Inspection Division, which did not respond to a request for comment by the deadline.
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 animal welfare â.
Operation Light is one example of this discrepancy between state and federal enforcement, HSUS argues in the opening pages of “Horrible Hundred.”
The new report says Missouri inspectors cited Light’s operation last year “for issues such as dog kennel floors covered in excrement, rusting cages, tangled dogs and more.” The USDA has not done an inspection since May 2019, according to 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 ever since.
Light said if a visiting state or federal inspector showed up at his operation, he would tell them about a problem “right now.”
âLook, I find things that I don’t like and things like that, and I also have a small farm, so I’m busy all the time,â said Light, 84. “Of course I miss something every now and then, I don’t deny that.”
If an inspector shows up before Light does his cleaning for the day, he says, “they should be able to tell the difference between, excuse my French, the new (expletive removed) and the old (expletive removed).”
Missouri inspectors cited Light’s farm in 2020 because the kennel floor was covered with droppings, the cages were rusty and the dogs’ fur was matted, HSUS reported.
A spokesperson for the Missouri Department of Agriculture 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 cited in “Horrible Hundred” was genuine .
“It doesn’t live up to the animal welfare standards Missouri has in place, especially the broken kennel which created sharp points along the top,” spokesman Sami Jo Freeman said Tuesday. , to News-Leader. “Corn Creek Kennel has been convicted of 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 that Missouri inspectors “will follow up again soon.”
‘Our laws in Missouri are tougher’ than those of the federal government, says dog breeder
Cleaning problems are often exaggerated in the âHorrible Hundred,â says Ann Quinn. Like Light, she is an animal breeder from Missouri. As the News-Leader previously reported, Operation Quinn’s Dreamaker Farms is located in Niangua, and Quinn is the advertising director for the Missouri Animal Breeders Association. MPBA publishes a pet breeder directory and quarterly magazine to share its perspective, Quinn said.
Quinn referred to a recent “article” regarding a Missouri dog breeder. âThey wrote him for the dirt on the dog doors,â Quinn said. “Doesn’t (the inspector) know it’s been raining for weeks and of course there must be some dirt?”
A USDA essay is a serious problem for a dog breeder because brokers and pet stores often don’t work with a breeder who has earned a citation, Quinn said.
But Quinn’s assessment of law enforcement in Missouri versus the federal government was actually similar to that offered by Goodwin, the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills campaign manager.
âState inspectors do a better job because our laws in Missouri are tougher laws than the USDA faces,â Quinn said. “The state is appropriate, but the federal government is far from the grassroots.”
The Department of Agriculture is not the only government authority monitoring animals that are in pain. The Humane Society noted that the Office of Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt has “cracked down on some of Missouri’s most notorious repeat offenders,” citing lawsuits against three Show-Me State ranchers in recent months.
âI think this has been a positive,â said Goodwin of 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 top elected officials realize that they are taking action to at least shutting down the worst is a very good thing to do. “
A spokesperson for Attorney General Schmitt declined to comment on the report.
Goodwin said he and the Humane Society support more information sharing between government agencies on animal welfare violations. For example, he would like to see the USDA report violations to local sheriffs, he said.
“But we were just happy that the Missouri Department of Agriculture kept citing people, including people who you think would be fine with the law, if you only looked through it. ‘USDA,’ Goodwin said.
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. Petland spokeswoman Elizabeth Kunzelman said the 2021 Puppy Mill report “is full of misinformation and misrepresentation about Petland.”
âHSUS alleges that eight of the 100 listed breeders are related to Petland, and some of the suggested links are questionable and / or outdated at best,â she told News-Leader in an email Tuesday. Kunzelman added, âUnlike 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 responsible American breeders. “
Goodwin, with HSUS, was not buying it. âPetland claims to have a breeder’s promise to sign their breeders, and they claim to have all the standards,â he said. “And yet, every year we find many examples of people in ‘Horrible Hundred’ who have sold in Petland stores and come close to meeting the standards they tout to their customers.”
Missouri Animal Welfare Inspection Data
Freeman, the state Department of Agriculture spokesperson, said Missouri’s pass rate for pet breeder inspections over the past 5 years was 89%. Missouri inspectors performed approximately 2,900 inspections per year in 2019 and 2020; up from around 2,580 in 2016 and 2017, she said.
“The vast majority of Missouri licensees meet the animal care expectations set out in federal and state law,” she said.
HSUS said families who want to own a dog “can avoid contributing to this cycle of pain and grief by refusing to purchase a puppy from a pet store or on a website, or from any breeder they don’t.” have not met in person and carefully considered â. echoing advice from many other animal welfare advocates.
Contact News-Leader reporter Gregory Holman by sending an email to [email protected] Please consider subscribing to support vital local journalism.