The Humane Society of the United States released its 11th annual Horrible Hundred report today, drawing back the curtain to reveal the cruelty and broken enforcement system lurking behind the cute puppies that the public sees in pet stores and online. The report describes violations such as failing to provide proper care to injured and emaciated dogs, dogs and puppies exposed to extreme weather and dogs living in cramped, filthy and unsafe conditions.
The report provides a sampling of 100 problem puppy mills and puppy sellers operating in the United States, based on state and federal inspection reports. For the 11th year in a row, Missouri has the largest number of problem puppy sellers on the list (31), followed by Iowa and Ohio (13 each), Pennsylvania (eight), and Kansas and Ne
Among the most disturbing findings in this year’s report:
- At a Missouri breeder who is a repeat offender (Ellen Roberts, Rocky Top K-9s), state inspectors found an emaciated mother boxer, roaches, piles of feces and many other issues at the kennel.
- At the property of a breeder in Iowa (Steve Kruse, Stonehenge Kennel), USDA inspectors have found more than 125 ailing dogs since 2015, including dogs with bleeding wounds, crusty eyes, lameness and hair loss.
- At a self-described American Kennel Club breeder in Nebraska (Brenda Carroll, Carroll Sell Farms), inspectors found a bleeding dog and another matted with feces. Many violations have been found at the property off and on for at least a decade.
- At a facility in Missouri (Mary Smith/ Smith’s Kennel) that has sold puppies to Petland stores, inspectors found dead mice and rodent feces and some dogs had no apparent access to water.
- A breeder in Missouri (Sandra Kozlowski, Sho-Me Labradors) surrendered more than 80 dogs to the state in 2019 and 2020, but was still found keeping dogs in appalling conditions in 2022 and 2023.
- At a breeding operation in Nebraska (Clem Disterhaupt Jr., Ponca Creek Kennels), inspectors found more than 100 state violations in a single year and rated it “unacceptable.” Undercover footage captured by the HSUS in March 2023 shows the kennel remains in operation with many dogs on the property.
Many of the breeders in this report have appeared in multiple prior reports due to recurring appalling violations yet they remain in business. However, many other puppy mills from previous Horrible Hundred reports have finally closed—at least 240—since the HSUS started publishing the report in 2013.
Numerous pet stores across the country purchased puppies from dealers in this year’s report, and at least 12 of the dealers were found to have sold to Petland, the only national pet store chain in the U.S. that still sells puppies. Petland has fought laws across the country that would end the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores, claiming they only purchase from high quality breeders.
“Behind closed doors, these dogs are suffering at the hands of breeders trying to make a quick buck,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “Consumers will continue getting scammed while the animals pay the ultimate price until the U. S. Department of Agriculture gets serious about combatting puppy mills.”
Last week, the HSUS released a 15 year summary of puppy buyer complaints, linking poor conditions at puppy mills to thousands of consumers purchasing sick puppies, leading to high expenses and sometimes even death or disability for the puppy.
The public can do their part to fight puppy mills by choosing adoption when getting a dog, and by asking their lawmakers to support the Puppy Protection Act, which will require increased standards of care at federally licensed puppy breeding operations, and state and local laws that stop the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores.
- Erica Heffner