The Humane Society of the United States released its 10th annual Horrible Hundred report today, revealing thousands of dogs suffering across the country at commercial dog breeding operations known as puppy mills—many of which are still in business despite years of documented animal welfare violations. 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 10th year in a row, Missouri has the largest number of problem puppy sellers on the list (26), followed by Iowa (17), New York (12) and Kansas and Wisconsin (seven each).
Some states, like Ohio and Oklahoma, have few entries in the report this year, because they failed to respond to our public records requests in a timely manner. This apparent violation of the intent of the states’ public right-to-know laws leaves the public in the dark about conditions and whether state agencies are making efforts to protect dogs.
Among the most disturbing findings in this year’s report:
An Iowa breeder who is a repeat offender in the report (Henry Sommers) admitted to a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector that he killed some of his unwanted dogs by injecting them in the stomach and then leaving them to die in their cages. His veterinarian denied providing the drug or giving approval for this method, but the USDA did not fine Sommers or suspend or revoke his license. The HSUS has reached out to the agency to urge them to work with local authorities on potential animal cruelty charges.
Iowa breeder Menno Gingerich (Skyline Puppies) admitted to performing a do-it-yourself procedure on a badly injured puppy with a neck wound. He stated he stitched the wound himself with “sewing string” and did not use anesthesia, according to the USDA’s report. It appears the USDA did not fine Menno Gingerich or suspend or revoke his license.
Kansas investigators looking into a complaint about breeder Mary Moore (D and M Kennel) found a dead puppy being carried in the mouth of an adult dog; the breeder admitted she had tossed some dead puppies into a field that morning because she was “in a hurry.” The inspectors did not cite Moore with any violations.
A self-described American Kennel Club dog breeder in Missouri, Cory Mincey (Puppy Love Kennel), was found to be operating and accumulating severe violations even though the Missouri Attorney General sued the operation in 2019 for failing to provide proper care for numerous filthy, emaciated and dying dogs.
Missouri breeder Mary Ann Smith, who once unsuccessfully sued the HSUS for referring to her as a puppy mill owner, was once again found keeping dogs in poor conditions during at least three recent state inspections between May and December 2021. Yet the USDA, which also licenses Smith’s kennel, has not cited it with any recent violations and has not even visited the kennel in about a year.
In the decade of publishing the Horrible Hundred report, many breeders have appeared five, six or seven times due to recurring appalling violations yet they remain in business. However, some progress has been made during the last 10 years:
More than 200 dealers who have appeared in our past reports appear to have shut down, and a few dozen have been criminally charged, fined or jailed.
More than 1,400 dogs have been rescued over the past 10 years from breeders listed in the Horrible Hundred report who were later shut down by law enforcement agencies.
At least 11 states and hundreds of localities have upgraded their dog breeder or pet store laws since we published the first Horrible Hundred report in 2013.
Dozens of pet stores across the country purchased puppies from dealers in this year’s report, and at least 11 of the dealers were found to have recently 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.
“When a family visits a pet store that claims to only sell puppies from USDA-licensed breeders, they’d never expect that these breeders maintain their status despite performing DIY surgeries on puppies and failing to provide proper care to emaciated and injured dogs in filthy conditions,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “Countless families are duped into paying top dollar for a puppy they are told had the best upbringing and will be a perfect family dog, but who really came from dismal puppy mill.”
The Horrible Hundred report documents examples of many common problems at commercial breeding operations that sell to pet stores, flea markets and online.
The public can do their part by choosing shelter adoption when getting a dog, and by asking their lawmakers to support the federal Puppy Protection Act, which will increase standards of care at federally licensed puppy breeding operations.
- Kirsten Peek