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December 21, 2010

The HSUS Responds to Death of 1,200 Dogs from Kansas Puppy Mill

Stronger laws needed to prevent puppy mill cruelty

The Associated Press reported last week that an estimated 1,200 dogs from a notorious Kansas puppy mill were euthanized by a state agency. A severe outbreak of the highly contagious and often fatal distemper virus was reportedly discovered at the Oberlin, Kan., facility after sick puppies from the facility were sold to customers of at least two Wyoming pet stores.

The facility, owned by Jeff Fortin, has a history of Animal Welfare Act violations that had been documented by both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the state Board of Animal Health since at least 2008.

“Distemper outbreaks of this magnitude indicate a facility with inadequate sanitation and veterinary care,” said Susan Krebsbach, DVM, veterinary consultant for The Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Dogs can be protected from distemper through vaccination, and the disease can be inactivated by commonly used disinfectants.”

“Long before this recent outbreak, The Humane Society of the United States contacted officials about longstanding problems with this facility,” said Kathleen Summers, manager of the puppy mills campaign for The HSUS. “We expressed our concerns to the USDA that certain animals should have been confiscated and a potential cruelty case reported to local authorities, and we encouraged state authorities to shut down the kennel. But conditions at the kennel were allowed to fester, and now more than a thousand dogs are dead.”

Fortin’s kennel has used several business names, including Triple C, Beaver Creek Kennel and Best Pets Kennel. Violations on Jeff Fortin’s June 2010 USDA inspection report included filthy conditions, housing in disrepair, failure to provide proper shelter from the elements, rodent infestation, and accumulations of mouse droppings at the facility. Violations documented by the state animal health department include filthy water receptacles, “excessive saturation of feces,” and urine ammonia fumes that the inspector said “burned my eyes.”

Fortin was cited by federal inspectors in March 2010 for inadequate veterinary care, including dogs who were limping, underweight or injured and had not been seen by a vet. These suffering animals included a dog with a prolapsed uterus and a female poodle who “appeared to be very weak and wobbly on her legs and had to be assisted to stand,” according to the USDA inspector.

Fortin has also owned several pet stores in Colorado.

Stronger laws in Kansas could have prevented this tragedy. The outdated law governing commercial dog breeding facilities in Kansas does not require regular veterinary exams for dogs and allows unlimited numbers of dogs to be warehoused in stacked, wire-floored cages, which lead to unsanitary conditions, overcrowding and disease.

Puppy Mill Facts

  • Over the past three years, 16 states have passed new laws to crack down on puppy mill cruelty, including Kansas’s neighbors, Oklahoma and Missouri.
  • The HSUS recommends never purchasing a puppy from a pet store or Internet site, or from any breeder one has not carefully screened in person.
  • Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care; live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction; and are confined inside cramped wire-floored cages for life. There is little regard for the dogs' health or any existing genetic conditions that may be passed on to the puppies.
  • Breeding dogs at puppy mills must endure constant breeding cycles and are typically confined for years on end, without ever becoming part of a family.
  • Reputable breeders never sell puppies over the Internet or through a pet store and will insist on meeting the family who will be purchasing the dog.

To learn more about puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills. The HSUS’ Puppy Buyers Guide is available at humanesociety.org/puppy.  

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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

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