When sheriff’s office deputies entered Tree of Life Kennels in Sumner County, Kansas, last month they were shocked at what they saw—and smelled. Dozens of dogs, including golden retrievers, French bulldogs, terriers and other breeds, were found in filthy and decrepit living conditions, many of them suffering from injuries, malnourishment and overall poor health, according to a press release. “Deputies observed three dogs with fresh traumatic injuries that did not appear to be receiving medical attention.” This was clearly no way for man’s best friend to live.

The three injured dogs were seized immediately, and a short time later, on Sept. 28, a search warrant allowed Sumner County deputies, along with the Kansas Department of Agriculture, Winfield Police Department, Cowley County Sheriff’s Office, Sedgwick County Animal Control and the Kansas Highway Patrol, to seize the remaining 65 dogs. The owner of the puppy mill, Samuel Roman, was charged with cruelty to animals, and the investigation is continuing. Several local animal placement groups stepped in to care for the seized animals, including Beauties and Beasts, Inc., Golden Belt Humane Society and Caring Hands Humane Society. The recovering dogs will be cared for in foster homes pending the outcome of the case.

Hercules, one of the dogs rescued from Tree of Life Kennels, was found in poor condition, suffering from parvovirus. He is now receiving care in a loving foster home.
Photo courtesy of Beauties and Beasts, Inc.

This story shows the power of our Stop Puppy Mills campaign, which issues an annual Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy mills. Roman’s is the 18th Horrible Hundred dog breeding operation that has closed just this year. The 18 Horrible Hundred puppy mills that have closed so far in 2022 join a list of more than 200 other puppy mills that have been listed in one or more of our prior Horrible Hundred reports and have closed, either voluntarily or otherwise, since we started releasing the annual list in 2013.

Earlier this year, another puppy mill owner, Deanna Brundage, was fined $12,000 by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, ordered to cease and desist from engaging in activities that require an Animal Welfare Act license and banned for life from obtaining a federal dog dealer license. Also in June 2022, a puppy mill in Madison, Nebraska, known as Flying High Aussies, owned by Megan Mahlin, was shut down by the county prosecutor. Mahlin allegedly served jail time for child abuse and violating zoning ordinances in relation to her puppy mill, which is now closed.

In this latest case in Kansas, Sgt. Tyler Carmichael of the sheriff’s office’s investigations section told our Animal Rescue Team he had first heard about the kennel from local advocates who complained. After seeing the poor conditions for himself, he did additional research and found out the kennel had appeared in our 2022 Horrible Hundred report on problem puppy mills. Armed with evidence from the scene and the report documenting the prior history of inhumane conditions, he obtained the warrant that resulted in the rescue. We applaud the Sumner County Sheriff’s Office and local rescue groups for stepping in as quickly as possible to bring the dogs to safety.

Creating a more humane world for dogs wouldn’t be possible without the agencies and shelter and rescue groups that investigate these operations and help rescue dogs from cruel conditions. We will continue to expose problem puppy mills in our reports until they either close their doors permanently or stop mistreating their dogs.

The public can do their part, too, by refusing to buy a dog from a website, pet store or any breeder they have not met in person. If you witness potentially illegal conditions at a puppy mill, contact your local animal care and control agency or sheriff’s office and let us know.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter@HSUSKittyBlock.