The Horrible 100 for 2018

New year, new list. I share this list every year and will continue to do so until we have no longer have this problem. Each year the U.S. Humane Society releases its Horrible 100 list of the worst offenders in the commercial dog breeding industry. And each year Ohio maintains its place as second worst state for breeders on this list.

The breeders on this list are the worst of the worst, like Canton, Ohio’s very own Susan Fitzgerald, a repeat offender on the list who admits to neutering puppies on her own without anesthesia. Or John J. Nisley of Loundonville, Ohio who was found guilty of selling underage and sick and injured puppies and has been known to sell over 250 puppies a year. You can read more about the Ohio breeders on this list here:

puppy mill

Squirrel is a puppy The HSUS purchased as part of an investigation into an unlicensed Ohio breeder. Susan Fitzgerald’s state commercial breeder license was revoked in 2016 for a host of severe animal care violations. Her name appeared in our 2016 and 2018 Horrible Hundred reports. Fitzgerald was even accused of neutering puppies herself without anesthesia. Yet more than two years later, Fitzgerald is still breeding puppies and selling them online and via her pet store, Whiskers, Wings and Wild Things in Canton, Ohio.
The HSUS had a veterinarian examine Squirrel and she found he had at least two conditions which will likely require surgery: an undescended testicle and a luxating patella (bad knee). These conditions could cost thousands of dollars to remedy.

Ohio has 13 puppy mills on the list, the second highest total after Missouri at 23. Although not much has changed with the breeders on this list unfortunately, one significant change this year is that many of the breeders on this list are now unidentified. Early last year the USDA removed inspection reports and other information from its website about the treatment of animals at thousands of research laboratories, zoos, dog breeding operations and other facilities.

Without this information, the US Humane Society can’t evaluate whether USDA is having an impact with its inspections and fines of those in violation of animal welfare laws. Additionally, the general public can’t research to find out if a certain breeder has been found to have violations against them. This was a definite setback in the fight against puppy mills and something that Congress or a new administration will hopefully be able to address at some point soon.

The sad fact is that one-third of the offenders on this list are repeat offenders. The US Humane Society also said in a blog post that the USDA has not revoked a single pet breeder license since the publication of the Horrible 100 list last year. In 2016 the USDA revoked at least nine puppy mill licenses for chronic noncompliance.

puppy mill dog

Jason and Ashlae Simmons of Simmons Farms in Lebanon, MO were repeatedly found with sick or injured dogs and could not prove they had received veterinary care for their issues. Despite being warned about this problem in August 2017, when inspectors returned in October, a black and white schnauzer was found with discharge in both eyes. Yet again, the licensee was unable to provide documentation regarding the eye issue or prove that they had consulted with their attending veterinarian (MO Dept of Ag/2017).
MO Dept of Ag

Many of these breeders are able to continue in business because many states, including Ohio, do not have strong enough laws on the books to shut these places down. Please check out this month’s issue of CLE Dog Magazine or read this blog to find out more about what we are trying to do in Ohio to regulate breeders better and impose harsher penalties for violations.

It can seem very discouraging to read this list year after year and feel like little has changed to make it better. There is something easy that we can all do though.  Never support a store that sells puppies and spread that word that buying a dog from a pet store or online is supporting the continued suffering of dogs at puppy mills across the country. If we cut into the profits for this industry, we can have an impact on puppy mills for good. That’s what keeps me posting this list every year, to inform just one more person that they should never buy a dog from a pet store or online.

And funny enough, while I was working on this article I got an email from Channel 19 to do an interview on the puppy mill ballot initiative and why I got involved. Here’s the clip:


Let’s Stop Puppy Mills! Step One…

If you read this blog regularly, you already know that ending the suffering of dogs in puppy mills is an important cause for me. I’ve seen the dogs that come from these mills and have heard countless horror stories from people who’ve purchased puppy mills dogs from pet stores. It is heartbreaking. There is absolutely no reason in 2017 that dogs should be bred solely for profit by people who don’t care at all about their health and safety.

And considering that Ohio has one of the largest number of puppy mills in the country, this an issue we cannot ignore in our state. A group called Stop Puppy Mills Ohio recently formed to crack down on puppy mills in our state and is looking for volunteers to help with the cause. This grassroots organization is working on bringing a ballot measure that would regulate breeders as well as pet stores who buy from breeders to Ohio voters next November.


A little background…

Although the state passed a law in 2012 to regulate breeders, the enforcement of it has been very tough. That law requires an annual inspection of high volume breeders that sell 60 dogs and produce at least 9 litters in a single year. This 9/60 rule is very hard to enforce as many breeders can get around it by saying that they only breed 59 dogs in a year, or eight litters, to get out of being required to do an inspection. There are hundreds of facilities not being inspected because they can’t get to them based on these rules. Also although the law requires veterinary care, it doesn’t have any requirements about the number of times a dog can breed or much as far as the conditions the dogs should be living in.


The new measure

This new ballot measure puts tough requirements on breeding facilities as well as regulates the sale of dogs in the state to pet stores. Here are some of the details:

  • Establishes welfare standards for any breeder with eight or more breeding females. This threshold will be far easier for the Ohio Department of Agriculture to enforce, and will require many more puppy mills to be regulated.
  • Requires breeders to provide the animals with constant access to water, access to nutritious food at least twice daily, protections from extreme temperatures, and regular veterinary care and socialization.
  • Dogs have to have unfettered daytime access to outdoor exercise areas. Enclosures would have solid flooring (no wire flooring their paws can get stuck in), would be cleaned at least once per day. Cages also cannot be stacked or have multiple dogs crammed together in one cage.
  • Safe breeding practices, including limits on how often and how many times a dog may be bred, and genetic screening
  • Pet stores purchasing dogs would have to get their dogs from facilities that are in accordance with Ohio law and cannot purchase dogs from out-of-state facilities that do not meet the Ohio law requirements.

The requirements in this measure are important because they regulate both sides of the industry. It’s not just the commercial breeders that don’t care about the dogs they breed, it’s also the pet stores. Take a look at this paperwork that came along with Hunter (my dog whose original owner purchased him from a pet store) when I adopted him:


Yes, it actually says a “replacement puppy.” I cried the first time I read that. The people at these stores see dogs as something to be bought and sold, nothing more.

Ultimately, the goal is to make it so hard for puppy mills to operate that many will go out of business. This is an important step to ensuring that we stop the reckless breeding of dogs at these facilities and I can’t wait to take this to Ohio voters next November!

If you’re interested in volunteering to help collect signatures, or just interested in helping spread awareness, you can sign up as a volunteer here: They need people to gather signatures, write letters to the editor, make phone calls, volunteer at poll places, and more.

I am hoping to collect signatures are Spooky Pooch in Lakewood this Saturday, so let me know if you want to help, or just stop by and sign if you are there!

The Horrible Hundred 2017

Every year I share this list from the Humane Society of the Horrible 100, the worst of the worst of puppy mills in the U.S., in the hopes that maybe I can educate one more person about why no one should ever buy a puppy from a pet store. I truly believe that there are still a lot of people who do not know the horrors of the life of a puppy mill dog and that buying a pet from a pet store keeps these mills in business. And sadly, in Ohio we really need to be educated because many of the worst offenders are in our own backyard. After Missouri, Ohio is one of the states with the most puppy mills on this list.

As long as dogs are being bred purely for profit with little to no regulation, we cannot as a society support the sale of dogs online or at pet stores. We have more than enough reputable breeders in this country, not to mention the millions of dogs waiting at shelters, to make it unnecessary for anyone to ever need to go to a pet store to buy a dog.

If you have doubts about the seriousness of this issue, please review this list and look at the pictures of dogs rescued from these places. The group I volunteer with, Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue, took in a puppy mill dog last year that ended up dying from a serious health issue that the mill ignored until it was too late. This happens all to frequently as you can ask anyone who works in the rescue world.


Dogs deserve better and we have to be their voice.

Dogs were found chewing holes in the walls large enough to stick their heads through during a July 2016 inspection at Ryan Handly’s facility (WI Dept of Ag / July 2016). Credit WI Dept of Agriculture
Linda Lynch was found operating an unlicensed facility in Texas. Inspectors found dogs in tiny cages, piled up and surrounded by clutter. It appeared the dogs barely had enough room to turn around. The facility is now state licensed. (Texas Dept of Licensing and Regulation / November 2016). Credit TX Department of Licensing

Here are the worst puppy mills in Ohio. You can see the full list here:

Debra S. Baird, Salem, Ohio

Warned about sale of underage puppies; repeatedly failed to have records of medical exams on dogs and puppies.

Nathan & Sara Bazler, Little Puppies Online, LLC, Mount Vernon, Ohio

Puppies found in cramped, undersized cages; dealer bought puppies from unlicensed breeders.

Marvin Burkholder, Berlin Kennel, Millersburg, Ohio (REPEAT OFFENDER)

Received official warning from USDA in June 2016 for repeat veterinary issues.

Gregory Fidoe, Canfield, Ohio

Sold underage puppies and repeatedly failed to get veterinary exams as required, per state records.

Emanuel D. Keim, Baltic, Ohio

Dogs found with hair loss and skin conditions.

Sam Mast, Fresno, Ohio

Sale of underage puppies; no vet records on dogs; unsafe and unsanitary conditions.

James A. Miller, Millersburg, Ohio (REPEAT OFFENDER)

Matted dogs kept in rusty cages; dirty conditions.

John J. Nisley, Loudonville, Ohio (REPEAT OFFENDER)

Dog found with sores on ears and head; prior violations for injured and lethargic dogs.

Daniel Schlabach/Evergreen Designer LLC, Charm, Ohio (REPEAT OFFENDER)

Fire in pole barn filled with “hundreds of dogs” killed an undisclosed number of animals.

Marvin Schmucker/ Ervin Schmucker, Sugarcreek, Ohio

Repeated veterinary care deficiencies; bichon had skin lesions around her neck and on leg.

Leroy Weaver, Walhonding, Ohio

Dead puppies found decomposing in yard; severely matted dogs.

Abe R. Yoder, Millersburg, Ohio

Unsafe flooring not corrected until seven months later and multiple re-inspections; bichon with eye issue had not received surgery as directed by veterinarian.


How to Buy a Puppy

Step 1 – Do not go to a pet store

Step 2 – Go to your local shelter or

It actually is that simple – at least in my mind.

Unfortunately, many people just think it’s easier to get a puppy from a pet store. But as an educated consumer, you really should be aware of what you are contributing to when you buy a pet from a store. Purchases of pet store puppies keep the puppy mill industry going. Period. End of story. And there are so many better ways to get a puppy, it’s just not necessary. Here’s a glimpse into the life of a dog living in a puppy mill:

If you didn’t just tear up, or full on cry like I did watching that, you may want to check your pulse. Is that something you want to support?

I do understand that a lot of people want a puppy and don’t know where else to go. But contrary to popular opinion, shelters and rescue groups do get puppies. It’s not as common of course, but if you keep your eye out you can find one. A recent search on pulled up numerous Cleveland-area puppies and dogs under a year.

And unless you need a brand-spanking new eight-week-old puppy (pro tip – never buy from a breeder who wants to sell one before seven or eight weeks), getting a four, six or nine month old puppy is still getting a puppy, although slightly bigger and more developed. I adopted Hunter when he was around six months of age and I highly recommend that age. He was almost out of his chewing phase and mostly potty-trained already, but still young enough that he was cute and cuddly and could be easily trained.

My six month old puppy
My six month old puppy

And why should you get a puppy from a rescue group rather than go through a breeder or a pet store? Because 1.2 million dogs are euthanized each year because they don’t have a home, according to the ASPCA. 1.2 MILLION DOGS KILLED.

Ok, if after all of that you still HAVE TO get a certain breed of dog that you can’t find through a rescue group, you may wonder how to find a reputable breeder.  I know a few friends who have used breeders so I asked one of them for some tips on what to do and what to look for once you find one.

Step 1 – Research research research

The friend I spoke with said that she did hours of research over the course of several weeks to find a good Goldendoodle breeder. The one she found through a search of breeders in Ohio had a website with tons of information that addressed most of her questions. The site also had pictures of owners and the dogs they purchased, showing her that people had been satisfied with dogs from this breeder. Of course, anything on the Internet can be faked, which leads to the next key part of buying a puppy:

Step 2 – Arrange a meeting

You should always go see where the puppy was born, meet the breeders and see where they are breeding the dogs. This is so important to make sure this isn’t actually a backyard breeder or someone who is selling to pet stores or online sites on the side. Most good breeders will require this, so if they don’t, that’s a bad sign. One question you should ask if they don’t address it on their website or through the meeting is how many litters they do per year. If they are churning out puppies every week or breeding a lot of different types of dogs, it’s probably a backyard breeder.

Also, I don’t think I should even have to mention this, but just in case – you should never agree to having a breeder ship a dog to you. This is never ok and highly traumatic for the dog.

Step 3 – Ask for references

You want to make sure this breeder has a good reputation. You should ask for references you can call to find out about other experiences people have had with this breeder. This should tell you a lot about whether this breeder has a history of selling sick dogs or generally being a bad breeder.

Step 4 – Get contact information for the Veterinarian

In addition to ensuring you have the breeder’s contact information and have spoken with them on the phone (and made sure they provided a working number) and met with them in person, you should also ask for the contact information for the Veterinarian they use. Before you purchase the puppy they should’ve received shots and seen a Vet, so you will want to verify this was done and confirm the information that was given to you about the puppy’s medical records.

If a breeder won’t agree to these things, that is a major red flag. A good breeder will always want to meet you and make sure you are a good fit for the dog and will be up front about their health history and other dogs they breed. A bad breeder will not want to do this, which shows that they are probably not breeding in the best interest of the dog and just trying to turn a profit.

Here are some good resources to begin your puppy search:

Sounds like a lot of work right? You should probably just adopt. Rescue groups do the vetting for you and find out as much as they can about the dog before adopting him or her out. And the cost is usually much less than half of the cost of getting a dog through a breeder or at a store. The truth is, all dogs take work and any dog can have health or behavioral issues, whether they come straight to you as a puppy from a breeder (puppies are the most work of all!) or if they come from a shelter or rescue group. Once you bring that dog into your life and he or she becomes a part of your family, it’s really not going to matter that he came from a shelter or rescue group. And the extra love you feel for saving that dog’s life will just make it even better.

(Side note: if you are looking for a certain breed but want to rescue, this is a good list to check out:

Repeat Offenders on the 100 Worst Puppy Mills in The U.S. list – What Can We Do?

Another year, another 100 Worst Puppy Mills In The U.S. list. I wish I didn’t have to share this list again, but until everyone out there knows what goes on in the puppy mill industry, we unfortunately will have to keep hearing these stories.

I’ve written about puppy mills here and here and here. As you can see, this is an issue I feel strongly about. I think anyone who loves dogs should feel strongly about this too. We have a responsibility to protect these animals, and so far we are not doing a great job.

I think that it’s important to keep sharing the stories of these puppy mill dogs and exposing the horrible breeders. One such story is a dog named Coal that Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue, recently took in. Coal is a 2 lb Pomeranian, only 14 weeks old. Coal is a lucky one, surrendered to COPR by one of the mills on this list (it’s located in Missouri, but the rescue group didn’t want to name them for fear they wouldn’t release other dogs to them in the future). Like many dogs from puppy mills, Coal is not healthy. He has a defective heart, a valve leading out of the heart should have collapsed and closed upon him taking his first breath, but luckily it didn’t. He recently went through heart surgery and is doing well now. (COPR is collecting donations to cover the cost of his surgery:



Stories like Coal’s are not uncommon at puppy mills. Many puppies die at birth or are sold to stores even though they have serious health conditions. As you will see from the offenses on this list, the health and safety of these animals is of little concern to these breeders.

Despite some regulations on the industry, there are still many bad breeders out there, especially in the Amish community, that are only in it to make money. Don’t get me wrong, there is a place for good breeders. These are not them. Good breeders do not sell puppies to stores or online sites. And as long as stores sell dogs for profit, we will keep seeing horrible offenders like these.

Marvin Burkholder, Berlin Kennel, Millersburg, OH. (Repeat Offender)
Continued repeat violations; excessive feces.

Susan Fitzgerald, Canton, OH.
Admitted to neutering puppies without a vet and without anesthesia per news reports; unlicensed dealer sells online at and

Abe Miller, Quail Creek Kennel, LLC, Charm, OH.
Bought more than 100 puppies from unlicensed breeders; supplies puppies to Petland stores.

James A. Miller, Millersburg, OH.
“Extremely lethargic, weak” spaniel found; dogs repeatedly found without solid flooring or adequate space in violation of state requirements.

Credit: The Humane Society of the United States - Puppy Mills Campaign
Credit: The Humane Society of the United States – Puppy Mills Campaign

Merle Miller, Holmesville, OH.
Unsanitary conditions; severely matted dogs found repeatedly; many needed vet care.

John J. Nisley, Loudonville, OH.
Dogs found lethargic and in pain during state inspection had not been treated by a vet.

Atlee Shetler, Millersburg, OH.
Dogs had red, inflamed lesions.

Andy Yoder, Yoder Backroad Kennel, Millersburg, OH. (Repeat Offender)
Puppy found with severe head wound had not been treated by a vet; continued to fail to give access to USDA inspectors even after $7,714 penalty.

Owen R. Yoder, Millersburg, OH.
Failed to get veterinary care for 33 dogs with advanced dental disease, more than 6 months after being directed to have them treated.

You can read more about puppy mills here:

How can you help?

Adopt don’t shop! And spread the word. As I’ve said time and again, a lot of people still don’t know or don’t believe it’s that bad.

Also, please sign this petition to urge the USDA to improve the standard of care for dogs at commercial breeding facilities.

And if you want to adopt sweet little puppy mill rescue Coal, he will soon be neutered and up for adoption. Keep an eye on the COPR Facebook site for news about him:

Puppy Mill Action Week – Please Spread the Word

In addition to this week being National Pet Week, it’s also Puppy Mill Action Week. It’s fitting though, since anyone who has a pet that they love should want to speak out against puppy mills.

I feel compelled to keep posting about this because I know from personal experience that not everyone is informed about why you should never buy a pet from a pet store. Recently, someone I know purchased a dog from a pet store and had to put the dog down the day after he bought him because he was so sick. This is an intelligent, informed person, so this tells me the word has not spread far enough about what you are supporting when you buy from a pet store.

So why does the fact he was bought at a pet store matter? I mean, any dog can get a disease or have a genetic disorder and die at a young age. Is it really because of where they came from? The answer to this is yes. If you saw the conditions these dogs live in and how sickly the mother and father are, you’d understand how likely it is that a dog coming from this situation will be sick.


The problem with pet store dogs is that they come from puppy mills, where dogs are bred solely for profit. Ethical breeders DO NOT sell to pet stores. Ethical breeding requires a concern for the health of all of the dogs involved. Ethical breeders follow certain practices, like only breeding a dog a certain amount of times and not removing puppies from their mother until they are at least eight weeks old. Good breeders also want to screen potential owners and ensure that the dogs will go to a good home. There is no way to ensure that when a dog is sold through a pet store.

Some lowlights of life in a puppy mill:

  • No socialization. Dogs are usually kept in wire cages, packed in with many other dogs
  • Breeding dogs are bred at every opportunity and killed when they can no longer breed
  • Dogs receive little to no medical care. Breeding dogs are not screened for diseases or potential illnesses they could pass to their liter
  • Puppies are removed from their liter before the eight week mark, which often results in psychological issues including fear, anxiety and other behavioral problems

I highly recommend you take some time to read this article, discussing some of the worst puppy mills in the U.S. (of which there is estimated to be about 10,000):

Photo courtesy of ASPCA
Photo credit: ASPCA

Here is a rundown of the Ohio offenders:

Marvin Burkholder, Berlin Kennel, Millersburg, Ohio (repeat offender) – Continued repeat violations; excessive feces.

Susan Fitzgerald, Canton, Ohio – Admitted to neutering puppies without a vet and without anesthesia per news reports; unlicensed dealer sells online at and

Abe Miller, Quail Creek Kennel, LLC, Charm, Ohio – Bought more than 100 puppies from unlicensed breeders; supplies puppies to Petland stores.

James A. Miller, Millersburg, Ohio – “Extremely lethargic, weak” spaniel found; dogs repeatedly found without solid flooring or adequate space in violation of state requirements.

Merle Miller, Holmesville, Ohio – Unsanitary conditions; severely matted dogs found repeatedly; many needed vet care.

John J. Nisley, Loudonville, Ohio – Dogs found lethargic and in pain during state inspection had not been treated by a vet.

Atlee Shetler, Millersburg, Ohio – Dogs had red, inflamed lesions.

Andy Yoder, Yoder Backroad Kennel, Millersburg, Ohio (repeat offender) – Puppy found with severe head wound had not been treated by a vet; continued to fail to give access to USDA inspectors even after $7,714 penalty.

Owen R. Yoder, Millersburg, Ohio – Failed to get veterinary care for 33 dogs with advanced dental disease, more than 6 months after being directed to have them treated.

Photo Credit:

As I’ve mentioned before, my dog Hunter originally came from a pet store. I adopted him from a friend who took him in after his owner decided she didn’t want him anymore. (This is another less talked about problem with pet stores – impulse purchases. That cute little puppy in the window is hard to resist, until the person gets home and realizes how much work is involved.) Other than a surgery he had to have at eight months to repair his hip joint (most likely a genetic condition from poor breeding), I have been lucky and Hunter has been healthy.

There will always be exceptions and dogs that come from pet stores that are healthy. Maybe the situation Hunter came from wasn’t as bad as some, or maybe he is just lucky. It doesn’t really matter to me. As long as there are puppy mills still out there, buying a dog from a pet store is not ok. We can’t let so many dogs continue to suffer, bred over and over with no regard to their health, and so many dogs brought into this world only to die a short time later.

Oh – and side note. Buying a puppy online from a site like Puppy Find is just the same as supporting a puppy mill. A good breeder would never ship and sell a dog online.

Please spread the word. Unfortunately I am a little behind on the suggestions the Humane Society gave for things to do this week (, but I will start by writing a letter to the editor at the Plain Dealer today.

I would love to hear other suggestions for what we can do to stop the sale of puppies at stores in Cleveland as well.


Real Puppy Mill Stories

I’ve talked about puppy mills a couple of different times, so you all know how I feel about them. They are horrible, awful places and I can’t believe that they still exist. Sadly, the biggest reasons puppy mills still exist is because pet stores all across the country sell puppies. Although pretty much none of them would admit their dogs come from puppy mills, you can bet that they do since most breed clubs prohibit breeders from selling to pet stores.

Although I am one of the lucky ones whose adopted dog originally came from a pet store and doesn’t have serious health issues (he did have to have one expensive surgery a couple months after I adopted him that was most likely due to a genetic defect), I have heard too many stories of others who got dogs that were very sick. I’ve also seen the breeding dogs that lived at these facilities and the serious psychological, emotional and health problems they have. For every healthy dog that comes from these places, there’s likely another dog that’s very sick or damaged in some other way. This should not happen.

This issue is getting a lot of attention this week thanks to a petition going around to close the Strongsville Petland. I shared this post last night after seeing the petition go around Facebook:


Princess Prada

After sharing this post, I received a comment from another woman whose dog from Petland (the Strongsville store) had serious health issues. Meet Samantha:

samanthaFrom her owner: “This is Samantha, a “rescue” from Strongsville Petland, we lost her a month ago to bone cancer. She was bred at a puppy mill in Amish country. She had cataracts at just 2, developed glaucoma and eventually lost both eyes. She had degenerate disk disease, a heart murmur, water on her brain, and allergies, almost all of which were due to inbreeding. Most owners wouldn’t have been able to afford the extensive care she needed. When we first got her they gave us the wrong paperwork. After months of disputing their response was we could return her… Like she was a toy or piece of clothing.”

Of course you never know a dog will be totally healthy no matter where you get him or her from, but when one has that many health issues, it’s definitely not normal.

Another issue many puppy mill dogs face is extreme fear and social issues. Rescue groups take in many of these dogs and have a hard time placing them in homes due to the fact they haven’t been socialized and are usually very fearful of people. Take for instance this cutie, Buttons, who reminds me of my pup Roscoe. Buttons is up for adoption with Central Ohio Pom Rescue. Because of her fear issues, Buttons can only be placed in a certain type of home – a very quiet, peaceful home with no children. Although Buttons will gain more confidence over time because dogs are resilient, it’s a long road for dogs like her. (Find out more info on Buttons here:


There is no reason this should happen. We have to take a stand for the dogs that aren’t given a fair shot at a healthy, happy life.

You can sign the Petland Strongsville petition here:

And find out more about puppy mills and what you can do to help here:

Spread the Word: Today is No Pet Store Puppies Day!

Today is National No Pet Store Puppies Day, a chance to educate anyone who may not know yet about the horrors of puppy mills and where the dogs at pet stores come from. The ASPCA estimates that there are between 6,000 and 10,000 commercial breeding facilities, or puppy mills, in the United States. Here’s a quick primer from the ASPCA on puppy mills in case you need a refresher:

  • Dogs in puppy mills are typically housed in tiny, overcrowded cages in unsanitary conditions, without proper veterinary care or adequate access to food and water
  • Many live out their entire lives without ever experiencing human affection.
  • Female breeding dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no time between litters for their bodies to recover

cages Puppy mills are an issue that I care deeply about, as my dog Hunter was purchased at a pet store by his previous owner. Although I have been lucky he is a healthy dog, he had some issues in his first year that most likely came from poor breeding. It breaks my heart to think of the conditions he may have come from, and most of all, what sort of horrible life his mother must’ve had. If you have some time on your hands, watch this Oprah special from a couple of years ago to see firsthand the conditions at some puppy mills in the U.S. (or at least the first 10 minutes or so):

The first step to stop puppy mills is to encourage pet stores to stop selling puppies, and not shop at the ones that do. Once pet stores start losing business because they sell puppies, it should hopefully put pressure on them to stop selling them. Here is a list of stores that don’t sell puppies to give your support to: You can also visit for more information on what is going on to stop the sale of puppies at pet stores and take the pledge to not buy from stores that sell puppies: And please, spread the word! Once you’ve take the pledge, share with your friends on Facebook. You may just reach someone who might not know about puppy mills. I truly believe that if more people knew the conditions these dogs come from, they would never buy a dog from a pet store. There are so many wonderful dogs to adopt (like these pups below)! Please consider giving one of those dogs a home and encourage others to do so as well.

Find out more info on the dogs above at:

Ohio Breeders on Horrible 100 List

Puppy mills are an issue that I care deeply about, so when I saw Sidewalk Dog‘s post about The Horrible 100 list of the worst puppy mills in the U.S., I had to check it to see if any Ohio breeders made the list. Unfortunately (but not to my surprise) Ohio did make the list with three different breeders.  According to the ASPCA, Ohio has one of the largest number of puppy mills in the country, after Pennsylvania, Missouri and New York.

Only 16 states had breeders on this list, so it’s definitely not a good list to be on. The breeders on this list are the worst of the worst. The report found conditions at these breeders such as  puppies on the verge of dying, dogs with gaping wounds or infections, dogs living in freezing conditions with only solid ice to drink, and many other horrible, inhumane conditions no animal should have to endure.

Here are the Ohio breeders on the list:

Marvin Burkholder, Berlin Kennel, Millersburg, OH  – An inspector found that Burkholder had sold at least two litters of underage puppies, one litter of dogs was only 46 days old. Puppies are required to be at least 8 weeks before being sold, as taking them away from their mother at this young age can lead to problems with their immune system as well as behavioral issues. The conditions at his kennel were also found to be unsanitary and several dogs had health issues.dog2

Alvin Hershberger, A&E Kennels, Sugarcreek, OH – Dogs with this breeder were found left outside in 19 degree weather with only a plastic barrel for shelter, which some of the dogs couldn’t even fit into. Dogs were also found severely underweight and sick. His USDA license was revoked in February so he couldn’t sell to pet stores or online, but he was still able to sell to the public through his state license.

Andy Yoder, Yoder Backroad Kennel, Millersburg, OH – Several dead puppies were found spread out on the grounds, with no explanation as to how they died. Other dogs were in severe need of veterinary care, including one dog who had a severely embedded collar that could not be removed.

It’s hard for me to read, let alone, write about this stuff, so I spared you some of the gorier details. I think we all by now know that you should NEVER buy from a pet store, as this is where those dogs come from, but I know that people still do buy from breeders so it’s important to be educated. Some of these horrible breeders do attempt to sell these dogs online, so you really need to know what you’re getting into and do your research before getting your dog from a breeder online.

Marilyn’s Voice, a local rescue group that takes in many puppy mill dogs, has a great article about finding a reputable breeder:

Some key takeaways from that article:

  • Search the Internet for breed clubs near you – NOT breeders near you
  • Attend a dog show
  • Ask local dog groomers, boarding facilities or other pet service providers
  • Know that a reputable breeder will never sell dogs through a pet store or in any other way that doesn’t allow interaction with buyers to ensure that the puppies are a good match for the families
  • Don’t ever buy a dog without personally visiting where he or she was born and raised.

If you don’t need a specific breed for the pedigree or whatever the case, my advice would be to ADOPT. And even if you are looking for a specific breed, there is probably a rescue group that specializes in that breed. Just to name a few in Ohio: Central Ohio Pomeranian Rescue, Ohio Valley Pembroke Welsh Corgi Club, Ohio Fuzzy Paws Shi Tzu Rescue, Adopt a Husky Ohio, Greyhound Adoption of Ohio. Many times you can get puppies from these rescue groups as well, so it’s not just older dogs available for adoption.

Let’s hope soon this won’t even be an issue. Last year, the state of Ohio passed stricter laws regarding puppy mills, requiring high volume breeders to get a license and abide by certain standards of care. And, Goddard’s Law, a bill named after Dick Goddard that will make animal cruelty a felony, overwhelming passed the House and should hopefully get approved by the Senate sometime soon.

Also, visit: or for more information on what you can do.

Cleveland APL Rescue 33 Shih Tzus

Another day, another puppy mill story. I can’t wait for the day when I don’t hear stories like this because we’ve finally outlawed one of the worst forms of cruelty to animals.

The Cleveland APL just rescued 33 Shih Tzus, 24 dogs and 9 puppies, from a hoarding/breeding situation at a home in Parma Heights. The pictures of these dogs are horrifying. The matting is so severe on one of them that it caused him to dislocate his shoulder and cut off circulation to his paw, which will now have to be amputated. The horribly matted dogs were likely used just for breeding puppies that they could then sell.

Cleveland is one of the most dog friendly cities around, so the outpouring of help has already been incredible. I saw multiple groomers reach out on Facebook offering to help groom when the APL posted about them last night. Beyond just the grooming though, the APL is going to need a lot more help. Many of dogs have other health issues and all of them will need to be spayed or neutered. Donations can be made to help with the high vet bills for these dogs here:

Seeing this again in the span of just a couple of months in our own backyard is really upsetting. We all need to rally together to ban the sale of dogs at pet stores and make sure that there are stronger penalties for animal cruelty cases such as this one and the Geauga County case. If dogs aren’t able to be sold to stores, puppy mills will not be necessary. Several cities have already banned the sale of dogs and cats at pet stores and I really want Cleveland, and Ohio, to follow suit. Ohio currently has the most puppy mills in the country, so we really need to take a stand here to make a significant impact.

I’m planning to write a letter to my representatives, but I’d love to hear more ideas about how we can take a stand here in Ohio. Best Friends Animal Society has great resources on their site for contacting legislators:

Will you join me?

(photos courtesy of the Cleveland APL website)