Puppy Mill Articles  &  TV Reports

--Channel 4, Pittsburgh PA report on Holmes Co Ohio Auctions, puppymills
--Amish man sentenced to prison for operating dog ‘factory’
--Pennsylvania Puppy Mills, Federal Legislation
--Pennsylvania Puppy Mills, Amish Connection
--Ohio Puppy Mills
--Cleveland Ohio Article on Pet Stores, Amish Breeders

Wisconsin Puppy Mills 1

Wisconsin Puppy Mill Dog with 2 legs rescued

May   2006
Pittsburgh's Channel 4 Undercover Report of puppymill dog auctions
Amish man sentenced to prison for operating dog ‘factory’ 
Tuesday, January 24, 2006

The Williamsport Sun-Gazette
             By Stephanie   FARR-sfarr@sungazette.com

An Amish man used to spending his days on open land at his Washington Township farm was sentenced to 30 days in County Prison Monday for operating what county Judge Nancy L. Butts called a “factory for dogs.”

Bonnets, long beards and solid-colored clothing were common dress in the courtroom when Aaron Lapp, of 848 Leisure Acres Road, Washington Township, was accompanied by more than 15 traditionally-dressed members of his community ready to act as character witnesses. Lapp was before Butts on a summary appeal of two charges of operating a kennel without a license and one charge each of possessing dogs without a license and cruelty to animals.

He was appealing the sentence handed down by District Judge C. Roger McRae in October. McRae sentenced Lapp to 145 days in prison and more than $4,500 in restitution and fines. On June 17, two SPCA humane society officers and a state dog warden went to Lapp’s farm after receiving numerous reports of animal cruelty in regards to the approximately 100 dogs he had on the premises.

Nine dogs in need of “immediate care” were taken into SPCA custody as a result of the search, humane society officer Lawrence Woltz said. Some were matted with dried feces and urine while others had rashes and skin diseases, he said. Woltz showed a video recording of the farm taken on the day of the search. It showed dogs living in cramped wire cages, kennels overflowing with feces, urine and matted hair and drinking water that was bright green in color.

Most of the cages did not have boards for the dogs to rest their feet from the wire and some dogs were chained outside with no shade, he said. ‘‘It’s pretty clear what you’re operating is a factory — for dogs,” Butts told Lapp as she pronounced sentence. “If you need to grow something to sell it, don’t grow animals, grow vegetables.

‘‘If this is the way life is over the mountain, it’s going to stop,” the judge added. “There’s a way you treat animals and this isn’t it.’’
Attorneys for both sides spent two hours Monday morning discussing a plea agreement. Lapp agreed to plead guilty to two counts of operating a kennel without a license and one count of owning dogs without a license and to pay a $200 fine on each count.

As part of the plea agreement, Lapp is to withdraw his current application to obtain a kennel license and will have 30 days to sell or give away nearly 70 dogs still in his care. Lapp also agreed, though begrudgingly, to plead guilty to cruelty to animals, with no sentencing recommendation.Mostly stoic throughout the proceedings, Lapp answered the judge’s questions with brief two- and three-word statements and had to be asked to speak up on several occasions. He neither apologized nor tried to excuse his actions, except to say he had never beaten the animals.  Butts explained that the cruelty to animal charge covered a broad range of abuses, including neglect.

Butts sentenced Lapp to spend 30 days in prison, fined him $750 and ordered him to pay $2,552 restitution to the SPCA. She allowed him 30 days to report to the prison so he can file a second appeal, if he chooses, she said.
Lapp’s pleas ended the appeal process, and Butts’ order replaced District Judge McRae previous sentence.

Public Defender Eric Linhardt, who represented Lapp, said his client’s actions did not warrant prison time and told the judge that a jail sentence would ‘‘impose a serious hardship on his family.’’ Lapp said if was to go to prison he would have to find someone else to milk the cows and take care of the farm.

Though many of Lapp’s Amish brethren were in the courtroom to testify as character witnesses, Linhardt called just one witness, Wendy Thomas, a non-Amish woman whose children regularly play at Lapp’s farm. Thomas called herself an ‘‘animal rights activist’’ and said she had worked with the SPCA to ‘‘put people in jail.’’ She said Lapp cares very deeply for his animals and was trying to cure some of the sick ones with ‘‘homeopathic’’ remedies.

‘‘I’ve seen the extraordinary measures this man goes to take care of his animals,’’ she said. ‘‘I’ve seen animals mistreated, and I feel this is an injustice here.’’  Witnesses for the prosecution viewed the situation a bit differently though. A veterinary technician who groomed one of the dogs taken from Lapp’s farm said that matting over the eyes had obscured the dog’s vision and matting of the fur on the dog’s legs and abdomen prohibited free movement.

Woltz said that the ‘‘stench was overwhelming’’ and the cages were ‘‘overflowing’’ with feces and urine.   The final witness for the prosecution was Bernadette Miller, a woman who adopted one of the Yorkshire terriers taken from Lapp’s farm by the SPCA.

‘‘It was traumatized. It was shaking, very scared. It was an empty shell. It had no personality,’’ she said of the dog’s disposition when she first brought it home. ‘‘It’s a work in progress.’’  Miller said the dog had to learn how to run, jump and play because it was never exposed to those activities before. She said that she had to take the animal to the veterinarian many times for treatment of its constant vomiting and diarrhea.

In his defense, Lapp said he received a federal license from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to operate the kennel a month before his farm was searched. But state dog warden Scott Shurer said he had told Lapp several times that he needed a state license to operate a kennel. The federal license is needed to sell animals to pet stores or out-of-state dealers, but the state license is needed for sales to the general public, he said.
News Magazine Current Events
Curbing the Puppy Trade  Sunday, Dec 4, 2005
Dog lovers are divided over new efforts to ensure that all breeders treat their pooches humanely
With its narrow, winding roads dotted with horse-drawn buggies and signs for homemade quilts, candles, jams and jellies, Pennsylvania's Amish country in Lancaster County attracts millions of tourists each year. But giant billboards along a main highway call attention to a less appealing local industry. "WELCOME TO LANCASTER ... HOME TO 100'S OF PUPPY MILLS," reads one sign. It was paid for by Last Chance for Animals, a national animal-advocacy organization that opposes commercial breeding facilities where hundreds of puppies are raised in cramped metal cages without proper food, veterinary care and often even fresh air.
Activists estimate that 200,000 puppies are bred and sold each year in Lancaster County. The public's fascination with new designer dogs like the puggle (a cross between a pug and beagle) as well as the ease of buying a dog on websites like nextdaypets.com has only increased demand. And with that has come a backlash, especially in states like Pennsylvania, Arkansas, Kansas and Missouri, where there is a high concentration of breeders. There, and even at the national level, a movement is under way to ensure that the U.S.'s most popular house pets, many of which are purchased during the holiday season, are raised in humane conditions. "No pet store will tell you that its puppies come from a puppy mill," says Ed Sayres, president of the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, "but these animals are commercially exploited to generate the highest amount of profit at the lowest possible cost."
The exact number of puppy mills is not known, since offenders often fail to register their operations with the government, as required by law. But hundreds of violations are reported each year. The horrific conditions found in some mills can cause health and behavioral defects ranging from genetic problems caused by overbreeding, such as hip dysplasia, to overaggressive play. "In order for a dog to be a normal dog, it needs to stay with its mother and littermates for a good eight to 10 weeks," says Carol Araneo-Mayer, co-founder of Adopt-A-Pet, a rescue group in Freehold, N.J. She says many puppies are separated and even sold long before they learn how to play with other animals and not to be afraid of people. Also, health problems can pile up. In May, Lancaster County residents Raymond and Joyce Stoltzfus agreed to pay some $50,000 to reimburse 171 customers who claimed the puppies they bought from the couple suffered from pneumonia, heart defects and kidney failure.
Animal-rights advocates contend that commercially bred dogs can be spared much of their misery with just the most basic improvements. "Do they have to be confined to cages 24 hours a day, bred with no limit on the number of litters and no required socialization with other dogs or with humans?" asks Josette Aramini, cofounder of the new United Against Puppy Mills group in Lancaster. The organization has worked to shutter large-scale breeders by petitioning local zoning boards to deny them permits.
But breeders say such efforts unfairly tarnish those who do treat their dogs well. Ken Brandt, a lobbyist for the Pennsylvania Professional Pet Breeders Association, complains that the activists won't be satisfied until all large breeders are shut down. "If we built the biggest kennel in the world, with carpet on the floor and a fireplace for the dogs, animal-rights people would say, 'Can't you make it bigger?'"
Such arguments don't persuade U.S. Senator Rick Santorum of Pennsylvania. Santorum, who has a German shepherd named Schatzie, has long advocated stricter animal-care laws, which regulate the basic food, shelter and air quality that wholesalers must provide for animals. He says his state's dubious distinction as the "Puppy-Mill Capital of the East" is part of what motivates him to press for change. In May, he introduced the federal Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS), which would require anyone who sells more than 25 dogs a year to comply with the same inspections as large-scale wholesalers, who are regulated by the Animal Welfare Act. Inspectors measure the size of kennels or cages and make sure the living conditions are safe, clean and climate-controlled. Under PAWS, violators could face suspensions for as much as 60 days instead of the current 21-day maximum.
Even though Santorum has widespread support for PAWS among groups like the American Veterinary Medical Association and the Humane Society, there is a rift in the vast community of dog fanciers. Some believe that even midsize dog-breeding operations need regulation, and others are worried that those breeders, who pride themselves on the quality of the dogs they raise, often in their homes, would be put out of business.
That division over PAWS is especially obvious inside the American Kennel Club (A.K.C.), which registers nearly a million purebred dogs each year. The organization officially supports the bill, but many of its member clubs do not. Sam McDonald, an A.K.C. member in Chester Springs, Pa., says he thinks the legislation is fair because "if someone has more than 25 dogs, then there needs to be someone checking out what is going on."
But Margaret Crothers, an A.K.C. member in neighboring Lancaster, who raises Labrador retrievers, says the extra paperwork and inspections would be a nuisance for the "good breeders who are very conscientious." She argues that existing puppy lemon laws in 17 states, which require sellers to refund buyers of diseased dogs, along with local anticruelty statutes, provide enough protection.
Of course, there is another way to scale down puppy mills: cut back on the demand for the dogs grown in them. Adopting dogs from local shelters--a quarter of which are purebreds--would save some of the estimated 3 million dogs that are euthanized each year, and could result in a happy outcome for all involved.
BUYER BEWARE Here's how to make sure that your new puppy is happy and healthy
SHOP AT A SHELTER Local shelters frequently have purebred dogs, like this rescued miniature pinscher, left, and ensure that all animals have had their shots and were checked by a veterinarian.
DON'T BUY ONLINE It's smart to research the type of dog you want on the Web (at a site like akc.org) But to guarantee that you're getting the pet you expect, always visit the seller directly.
CHECK THE PEDIGREE Since temperament can be inherited, ask to meet your puppy's mother and father to see what they are like. A good breeder will guarantee your purchase for life.


The Seattle Times

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Marvin Stoltzfus, 10, is seen
with a dog on his family's farm
in Parkesburg, Pa., where
100 to 150 puppies are sold annually 
for $600 each.

Puppy farms under fire

LANCASTER, Pa. — A few scattered pumpkins dot the muddy fields where bearded men in wide-brimmed hats lead teams of shaggy plow horses tilling the soil.  It is autumn in the rolling hills of Pennsylvania's Amish country, and the fields that sustain the simple lifestyle are mostly bare.  But one crop — the most important crop to some — remains: Puppies.

"They're more expensive now because of Christmas coming up," said a bonneted young girl, who cheerfully greeted visitors to her picturesque dairy farm in Ronks last week.  She disappeared into a large red barn and emerged with three squirming puppies, each a different breed.

"That's a Boston terrier. This one is a bichon," she said, motioning to the pups still in her arms, "and this is a Yorkie. ... He's going to cost the most. You can probably have him for $1,300."  Bred for bulk and retail sale, puppies are a growing cash crop for hundreds of farmers in and around Lancaster County, where Amish and Mennonite settlers from Switzerland and Germany arrived in the early 1700s in search of religious freedom.

For farmers, a big crop of dogs can gross up to $500,000 annually, with successful operations netting six figures.  For critics, the men in the suspenders and bushy beards are masking a cruel form of factory farming behind the quaint and pure image of the Amish culture. They so badly want the kennels shut down, they have taken their fight to Congress.

"Amish country is synonymous with puppy mills, and Lancaster County is the capital of Pennsylvania puppy mills, with more than 200 kennels," said Libby Williams, founder of New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse. "Dogs ... should not be treated like chickens, penned up in coops for their entire lives just to breed."

Activists contend more than 200,000 puppies are churned out annually in and around Lancaster County. The farm where the little girl greets visitors had hundreds of older dogs secluded behind the main barn last week.  Perhaps 60 fluffy white dogs were tucked in rabbit hutches stacked a story high and several dozen feet across.

Scores of others filled dozens of pens stacked two-high on both sides of an alleyway. Some were bichons, others Malteses. All were the small, playful and popular breeds that bring the farm — known as Clearview Kennel — a steady income.

The Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement lists 243 kennels in Lancaster County, and about 50 hold federal licenses to sell litters to brokers. Hundreds more are scattered in surrounding counties.  "The vast majority of kennels, and we have about 2,500 in Pennsylvania ... go through a year without receiving citations, but there are those where we do find violations," said Mary Bender, director of the dog bureau.

Puppy Love, a kennel at the southern end of Lancaster County that sells more than 1,000 puppies a year, was labeled one of the most notorious by the state Attorney General's Office earlier this year. In a lawsuit, the state charged customers bought dogs that died within 48 hours of purchase.

The worst puppy mills, according to Williams and Humane Society investigators, pen up young females and force them to mate from their first day in heat.  That means churning out litters twice a year, maybe for up to seven years, and often with some unhealthy results, said Bob Reder, who conducted undercover puppy mill probes for the Humane Society throughout the 1990s.

"To breed a dog properly requires a medical checkup to see if the animal is healthy enough to give birth to healthy litters. That is never done by these breeders. They breed every dog, so you get sick offspring," said Pamela Shot, a Morris County, N.J., veterinarian and activist.

She cited congenital defects, such as bad hips and poor eyesight, and allergies that develop years later. Temperament problems also occur.  Two weeks ago, during the U.S. Senate subcommittee hearing on a bill introduced by two Pennsylvania senators, animal-rights advocates told horror stories about breeding operations across the county.

The legislation would add retail dog operations to the licensing and inspection authority of the federal Department of Agriculture, which already regulates wholesale dog sales.  Nancy Perry, vice president of government affairs for the Humane Society in Washington, D.C., said the "legislation has tremendous support on both sides of the aisle."

Puppies for sale: Pet shop brokers head to Holmes

T-R photos/Jim Cummings

Puppy 151 waits to go to auction at Buckeye Dog Auction as the auction is under way outside the door.

By ZACH LINT,T-R Staff Writer
November 13, 2005

BERLIN – If it weren’t for the incessant yelping of 313 dogs who were confined in stacked cages in a room closed off to the auction block, it may have appeared to an outsider as just another run-of-the-mill day at the Amish Flea Market.

In the last year-and-a-half, the Buckeye Dog Auction has grown into anything but run-of-the-mill.  Some breeds are able to fetch more than a few thousand dollars, while others can net hundreds of dollars for the seller.

The auction and the subsequent success of local breeders has convinced others to forsake Bessie for Fido. Apparently, there’s more money in dogs than cattle.

Meanwhile, Pam Maurer of New Philadelphia is outraged about the proliferation of what she calls “puppy mills” in Holmes County.  “I have sleepless nights because of it,” Maurer said last week.  “I can’t stand what’s going on, and so little can be done.

“There are legitimate breeders out there and there are others who treat them like livestock or something other than the pet or companion animal that they are meant to be.”

In a Reader’s Viewpoint published in September, Maurer pointed to the more than 400 licensed kennels in Holmes County and criticized the breeders for raising large numbers of puppies for profit in cramped, unsanitary quarters hidden from the public’s view.  But Ervin Raber of Millersburg doesn’t see it quite like that.  Raber is the co-founder of the Buckeye Dog Auction. He also runs a large kennel with about 50 breeding females and 12 male studs.

His operation has been inspected and even the president of the Holmes County Humane Society, Karole Butler, gave it high marks.  “Puppy millers – that’s a big controversy going on right now,” Raber said. “I am currently the president of the Ohio Pro Dog Breeders Assn. and in our opinion there is no such thing as a puppy mill.”

Raber said some of the opposition facing the dog breeding business comes from people who believe that every dog should be born in somebody’s kitchen and raised in their backyard.  “The thing that they understand the least is that these kennel dogs were born and raised in a kennel environment,” he said.

“They have never been a house pet, so it’s not stressful for them to be confined among 20 others and be used as breeding stock.”  Many local breeders look to the Buckeye Dog Auction as an opportunity to improve their stock and turn a quick profit.

The auction house takes in a $10 registration fee for every dog to go on the block and a 10 percent commission on the sale. Raber said mixed breeds will sell for as little as $25 while a purebred female Cavalier King Charles Spaniel might sell for more than $5,000.

“It takes a special license from the state of Ohio and we go through an auction firm for our auction license,” Raber said. “I have nothing to hide.”  Buyers can look over the dogs prior to the start of the auction and can compare registered tag numbers to the ones listed in the auction’s catalogue.

“Every animal is vet-inspected on premises and anything AKC (American Kennel Club) -registered also is inspected at the time,” Raber said. “We have four eyeballs watching us from every direction to make sure we do things right.”

The auction at Berlin came about after Raber and his son made several trips to a similar one in Missouri when they began their breeding business. Breeders from New York, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin and Indiana frequent the auction since Raber started it at Berlin nearly two years ago.

The upcoming two-day auction starting Nov. 25 promises to be one of Raber’s largest of the year.  “We usually sell 150 top dogs on Friday and another 250 on Saturday,” Raber said. “The top dogs have to have all their shots and meet some stricter requirements.”

Raber said he tries to hold about 10 auctions per year.  The auction group and OPDBA sponsor seminars for area breeders to learn how to improve kennel conditions and breed quality. One lecture featured a friend of Raber’s who houses more than 2,000 dogs in his Missouri kennel.  “We have a representative from the Hunt Corp., biggest broker in the states, coming to be introduced to breeders,” Raber said of an upcoming seminar on Nov. 17.

“We need to keep new blood pumped in as it grows and we need new avenues for it.”  Raber said the meeting should expose bigger and better business opportunities for area breeders.  “That’s the hub of the business – to produce puppies and sell them at 8 weeks old to brokers or pet shops,” he said.  Raber said he likes dealing with pet shop brokers.

“It’s a cut and dry thing,” he said. “They give you a check and you never hear back from them.  “It’s not a thing where Tammy Johnson’s dog in Cleveland got a heart murmur and wants you to pay for it. If there is a problem with a pup we do have to replace it.”

Raber and his colleagues do fear backlash from animal rights groups.  “There were situations that needed help and we’ve cleared a lot of that up already in the last two years,” Raber said. “The days of stacking cages on top of one another and having feces fall to the lower dogs are gone.”

Other breeders who attended Raber’s auction in mid-October said they feared fanatical “rescue groups” and didn’t want to go on the record.  “In the past, not so much here, but in Pennsylvania and Missouri and some areas, (rescue groups) have taken dogs and been real nasty,” Raber said.

“That’s the reason I run the auction through a post office box in Walnut Creek.”  Holmes County Dog Warden Joe Patterson said complaints about puppy breeders are down this year and credited an agent from the U.S. Department of Agriculture for helping to inspect kennels over the last two years.

“I don’t care much about what people think in our county, but if it wasn’t for this agent we’d be in worse shape than we are now,” he said, adding that he used to get frequent complaint calls from tourists who saw what they thought was mistreatment of an animal when they went on a tour of an Amish farm.

But over the last year, Patterson said the number of complaint calls has dropped off despite the spike in the number of kennel licenses.  “These kennel operators are getting to the point where they know how to go out around the public eye,” he said. “They have the pet store people come directly to them to buy whatever dogs they need at their pet stores.”

Patterson said he’s even heard of cases where the Internet is starting to be used by local breeders.  Holmes County Humane Society President Karole Butler said she’s seen enough to be concerned.  “The community knows little of the problem in this county,” Butler said. “We actually get more e-mails from tourists who come and see signs and pet shops with the ‘Amish puppies for sale.’”

She said Ohio only has two USDA kennel inspectors.  Butler said when she tells local residents that there are more than 400 kennels scattered throughout Holmes County, they are astonished.  “It is a well hidden practice and you only see the cute little puppy side of it,” she said.  Tuscarawas County Dog Warden Karen Slough can relate.  “If they’re just cranking out the puppies and that’s how they’re mistreating them, there’s not much we can do,” Slough said. “Sometimes what’s legal and what’s ethical is not always the same thing.”

There is no limit on the number of dogs a kennel can have and there are loose requirements on how cages must be maintained.  “The law addresses food, water and shelter, but there are degrees of abuse and neglect,” she said.


wkyc.comnews that's more local Cleveland Ohio

Pet Store Problem: A Carl Monday Investigation

Reported by Carl Monday          May 25, 2005

CLEVELAND -- They’re beloved household pets that become part of the fabric of daily family life, but why are many dogs getting sick, even dying just days after their purchase from local pet shops?

  • Puppy mills in Amish country supply Cleveland-area stories

    Mika Williams’ new puppy is being treated for kennel cough at a private vet just days after buying the dog for her daughter at the Adriatic Pet Store in Collinwood.   This comes after the store’s owner says their vet gave the puppy a clean bill of health.   “He performed an X-ray and [its lungs were] completely clear,” said owner Linda Beltowski.

    “We were expecting a healthy dog that was going to be chasing my daughter around … who’s going to be able to feel lots of love, but we’re catering to a very sick puppy,” Williams said.   Adriatic’s own papers show the store bought the dog from a licensed breeder in Amish country - in Tuscarawas County.

    The picturesque, rolling countryside belies what our undercover cameras found there … puppy mills, housing stacks of tiny, cramped cages and unsanitary conditions.   Deborah Howard, the director of the Denver-based Companion Animal Protection Society, explained, “more than 90 per cent of the puppies in pet stores come from what we call puppy mills.” Adriatic claims its part of the ten percent that doesn’t patronize puppy mills.

    “We go to our private breeders,” said Beltowski. “We don’t do puppy mills or anything like that.”   But, the Animal Protective League says many breeders are puppy mills in sheep’s’ clothing.  “I think anybody who is breeding a dog and selling puppies to a pet shop is a puppy mill,” said APL Director Dori Villalon.   Curtis Beachy is a private breeder in the heart of Amish country.

    “Do you sell at all to pet shops?” he was asked. “Some of the males,” he replied. “Females I don’t.”   Beachy sold a puppy to Adriatic - who in turn, sold it to Jennifer Kabat for $1,200.  “He was infested with fleas and parasites and I just felt that’s completely unacceptable,” Kabat said.   Beachy’s kennels are unlicensed and not subjected to USDA inspections. On the day we pulled a surprise visit, we found what appeared to be clean and sanitary conditions.

    That can’t be said for other puppy mills in Ohio’s Amish country.   “This is the first time that we have investigated in Ohio and we found unbelievable squalor,” Howard said.   Recently, the Companion Animal Protection Society (CAPS) sent an undercover investigator into Ohio’s Amish puppy mills.   “They were pretty appalling,” Howard said. “We saw some very sick animals … a lot of fecal accumulation, rusty cages, insufficient food and water.”   CAPS also paid a visit to Adriatic Pets in Cleveland.

    It didn’t take long for the puppy cop from CAPS to spot a problem. They asked to see a pug.  “[There’s lot of puppy mills in Amish country … Do you buy any down there?” Beltowski was asked. “No, I usually don’t,” she replied. “I go there. I see the conditions.”

    But, here’s where the pug in question came from. CAPS says in their opinion, there’s no doubt: the Millersburg kennel, USDA licensed, is a puppy mill.   “He had cleaning violations,” one person said. “I know there were some food violations.”  CAPS also sent a board member and licensed vet Dr. Don Allen into Adriatic Pets.

    “There are two puppies in there that had spots on their head,” Dr. Allen said. “The girl said that was ring worm and she also said it’s not contagious. Well I beg to differ. Ring worm is highly contagious.”   Allen says Adriatic was generally clean, but says as long as you buy a dog from any pet store, you’re taking a chance.

    “There’s no other source for pet stores to get their puppies from other than from puppy mills,” Dr. Allen said. “It’s plain and simple.”  Emilee Mullary bought her son a dog at Adriatic.   “It was like a child we had for a short amount of time,’ she said. “I was the one who was picking him up from the hospital.”

    The dog died within days.   “We talked to some customers - they say, ‘yea, we bought a pet, looked fine in the cage, took it home -it died,’” Beltowski said. “What happened,” she was asked. “That’s highly unusual and must be some underlying reason for that,” she replied.   But Leslie Sinclair says it happened to her.

    “They did not care that my daughter was hurt,” Sinclair said. “They didn’t care that my daughter was upset. They didn’t care that the dog was lying there dying.”

    Attorney Patricia Kidd, who represents several Adriatic customers, wants to know. - and so does the APL.

    “For those folks who do go to the pet store and feel sorry for the dog and buy it … you’re perpetuating this problem,” Dori of the APL said. “You have to walk away.”

    The owner of Adriatic Pets says they sell about 125 dogs a month.  She says they’re bound to get a few complaints of sick dogs and will exchange any sick dog for a new one.   The store says it has many repeat customers.

    So what can be done to better police pet stores that do buy their dogs from puppy mills? Frankly, not much - the APL, for all the good it does, has no real enforcement powers.

    And the health dept. can inspect a store, but they’re looking more for human health concerns, not animal. USDA inspectors have what’s called the "Animal Rights Act" at their disposal, but we’re told it’s seldom enforced.Others say many puppy mills have cleaned up their act and our better than they were, even just a few years ago.