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California Consumers Help Drive Cruel Missouri Puppy Mill Industry

Thousands of puppies shipped from Missouri to California in 2009, including from some of Missouri's worst puppy mills

SACRAMENTO, Calif. – The Humane Society of the United States has released a report exposing the extensive flow of puppies from Missouri – the puppy mill capital of the United States – to California. Some of the dealers in the report are on the HSUS’s “Dirty Dozen” list of some of the worst puppy mills in Missouri. Information about shippers, receivers and puppies detailed on state-issued health certificates sent to the California Department of Food and Agriculture shows nearly 9,000 puppies were shipped from Missouri brokers and breeders between January 2009 and December 2009 to California pet stores or directly to pet owners responding to Internet or newspaper advertisements. A conservative estimate of the retail value of these dogs approaches $9 million.

“Despite our reputation as a pet-loving culture, the evidence is in that Californians don’t yet understand the perils of buying puppies online or at pet stores. California consumers continue to provide dollars that help drive Missouri’s factory-style production of man’s best friend; in fact, many are supporting some of the most deplorable facilities in the state,” said The HSUS’ California Senior State Director Jennifer Fearing, who led the analysis. “It’s easy to fall in love with an adorable puppy displayed online or at the mall, but behind the cuteness is cruelty no pet lover could support.”

Not only does the high volume import of puppies raise concerns about Californians’ contribution to puppy mill cruelty in states like Missouri, it is a serious affront to the efforts of humane organizations and government-funded animal shelters who work tirelessly to create second chances for millions of homeless dogs every year.

“While taxpayers and generous donors expend tens of millions of dollars every year to cope with California’s abandoned and surrendered dogs, we’re doing nothing to shut off the gushing faucet of puppy mill imports,” said Steven McNall, president of Pasadena Humane Society and SPCA and current president of the State Humane Association of California.

Among the findings:

  • Of the puppies shipped to California, from Missouri during 2009, two-thirds were received by pet stores, primarily in Southern California. Most of the pet store puppies were trucked in by large-scale puppy brokers that acquire dogs from high-volume breeders throughout the Midwest. Among the top three pet stores: Chien et Chat in Brea took delivery of 985 dogs; Petland in Roseville (no longer in business) bought 866; and The Pet Pantry in Orange imported 433 puppies from Missouri alone.
  • The largest, single Missouri-based shipper is The Hunte Corporation, the country’s largest puppy broker/re-seller. Approximately 30 percent of the puppies received in California from Missouri were trucked to California pet stores by The Hunte Corporation.
  • One Missouri puppy dealer (Paul and Pollie Gingerich) found shipping at least five puppies to Californians during 2009 was cited by the USDA for 62 pages of Animal Welfare Act violations. Those allegations include: Underweight dogs seen shivering in the cold, dying puppies who had not been treated by a vet, and feces that covered 75 percent of the total outdoor floor space in some enclosures. The Gingerichs have now dropped their USDA license but remain state-licensed in Missouri.
  • Another Missouri puppy dealer (Brandi Cheney) who sold at least 19 puppies to California pet stores in 2009 is the subject of more than 500 pages of USDA enforcement records and Animal Welfare Act violations.
  • A Missouri puppy dealer (Sharlette Tidwell) who sold at least seven puppies to California pet stores in 2009 was cited by the USDA for performing invasive surgeries on her own dogs and brokered puppies without a veterinary license.
  • While the puppies were shipped from Missouri to addresses in every California county and to 76 pet stores in 17 counties, more than 70 percent of the puppies were shipped to addresses in Southern California. Nearly 2,500 (28 percent of the total) were received by Orange County pet stores and residents. Los Angeles County accounted for 2,105 puppies and San Diego for 1,011.
  • Small dog breeds are by far the most popular for pet store and online sales between Missouri and California. The top 10 breeds, which make up 40 percent of total sales, were led by Yorkshire terriers (Yorkies), 775 of whom were imported into California from Missouri in 2009.
  • So-called “designer” breeds also prove to be a real trend. Nearly 20 percent of the dogs shipped from Missouri to California in 2009 were stylized, mixed-breed dogs unrecognized by any major dog organization. “Morkies” (Maltese-Yorkshire terrier), “Puggles” (pug-beagle) and “Cockapoos” (cocker spaniel-poodle) were the three biggest selling “designer” dogs.


  • 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 website; 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.
  • The HSUS is a primary backer of a citizens’ initiative to promote more humane treatment of dogs in Missouri’s large-scale commercial puppy mills. Prop B has been certified by the Missouri Secretary of State’s office, and The Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act will appear on the November ballot in Missouri.


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

Follow The HSUS on Twitter. See our work for animals on your iPhone by searching “HumaneTV” in the App Store.

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.

Paid for by Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/YES! on Prop B, Judy Peil, Treasurer


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