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Commit a Puppy Mill Crime – You’ll Do the Time

The Humane Society of the United States

The Humane Society of the United States applauds judges and prosecutors across the country who are cracking down on puppy mills. Increasingly, owners and operators of the cruel, large-scale puppy producing factories are being held accountable when they commit animal abuse and neglect. This trend has developed after several states adopted laws to protect dogs confined in puppy mills. 

Dogs from puppy mills are mass produced solely for profit and are sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog's health, genetic history or welfare. The HSUS has assisted in rescuing animals from more than 16 puppy mills nationwide in the past 10 months, rescuing more than 3,000 dogs and puppies from deplorable, inhumane conditions. These dogs are finally free from the years of abuse they needlessly endured.


  • Emmaus, Pa. – In September, Derbe "Skip" Eckhart, the owner of Almost Heaven Kennel, pleaded guilty to numerous charges, including two counts of animal cruelty. He also pleaded guilty to one count of failing to remove 216 dogs from his former kennel after his operating license expired. In June, The HSUS, along with state and local law enforcement, removed 216 dogs from filthy, overcrowded conditions at the Almost Heaven Kennel. Eckhart's sentencing is scheduled for Nov. 16, when he could receive up to three years in prison and fines up to $7,500.
  • Stuarts Draft, Va. – In September, puppy mill operator Kyle Brydge pleaded guilty to 70  counts of animal cruelty and 32 other charges after The HSUS and local authorities removed nearly 100 neglected dogs from his Oak Leaf Kennel. The dogs were found living in their own excrement and suffering from malnourishment and neglect.

Brydge was ordered to pay more than $10,000 to a local animal shelter to compensate for the housing and care of the rescued dogs. He was also banned from keeping or breeding companion animals for at least two years.

  • Wayne County, N.C. – In August, Virginia Thornton was found guilty on 12 counts of animal cruelty and was banned from breeding dogs. The HSUS and Wayne County Animal Control officials rescued 283 dogs from Thorton's Kennels in February.

Some of the dogs suffered from severe matting of their fur and injuries sustained as a result of embedded chain collars. Many of the dogs had tumors, or had to have their teeth or eyes removed due to severe, untreated infections.

  • Carroll County, Va. – In July, Lanzie "Junior" Horton was convicted of animal neglect and other charges. Due to these charges and a previous animal related conviction, Horton is no longer permitted to operate a breeding business in Virginia. In late 2007, following a HSUS investigation of unlicensed puppy mills, The HSUS assisted local animal control authorities in removing more than 800 dogs from Horton's Pups. That case led to a 2008 law in Virginia limiting puppy mill operators to 50 adult dogs.
  • New York Mills, Minn. - In March, Kathy Jo Bauck, owner of Puppies on Wheels and Pick of the Litter Kennels, was found guilty of three counts of animal torture and one count of animal cruelty. In September, the U. S. Department of Agriculture moved to revoke her federal license after years of Animal Welfare Act violations, as well as multiple state convictions. During 2008 and 2009 investigations into her kennels, The HSUS linked Bauck's facility to several franchises of Petland, Inc., the nation's largest retailer of puppies.

In addition to these cases, puppy mill operators in Maine, Tennessee and Arkansas will also be going to court to face animal cruelty charges in the coming months.

"We are grateful to public officials who are taking these cases seriously," said Stephanie Shain, senior director of the puppy mills campaign for The HSUS. "Unfortunately, there are still thousands of puppy mills throughout the country where dogs continue to suffer lifelong confinement in squalid cages. We urge consumers to adopt pets from animal shelters instead of fueling the demand for puppies raised in these horrendous conditions."

Puppy Mill Facts

  • Dogs at puppy mills often receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction and are confined inside cramped cages for life. They are bred as often as possible and then destroyed or discarded once they can no longer produce puppies. 
  • Consumers should never buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site; instead visit an animal shelter, breed rescue or screen a breeder's facility in person. 
  • The HSUS estimates that 2 million to 4 million puppy mill puppies are sold each year in the United States.
  • Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia passed laws in 2008, and Arizona, Indiana, Oregon, Pennsylvania, Tennessee and Washington State have passed laws this year to crack down on abusive puppy mills.

How to avoid buying a puppy mill puppy: humanesociety.org/puppy. To learn more about puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills.


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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty — On the web at humanesociety.org.