Puppy Mills Remain Prevalent in Wisconsin

Courtesy of HSUS WI

Clark County has the second largest concentration of problem puppy mills in Wisconsin

Marshfield (OnFocus) – Each year, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) Horrible Hundred report lists problem puppy breeders and sellers in the United States, published annually to warn consumers about common problems at puppy mills. In Wisconsin, puppy mills are still prevalent.

“This year, eight egregious Wisconsin breeders were highlighted in our annual Horrible Hundred report, which identifies known, problematic puppy breeding and/or puppy brokering facilities across the nation,” said Megan Nicholson, HSUS Wisconsin State Director. “We provide this update annually, not as a comprehensive inventory, but as an effort to inform the public about common, recurring problems at puppy mills.”

Documented problems include sick, underweight or injured dogs; unsanitary conditions that spread disease; inadequate food or water; and a lack of proper shelter from the heat and cold. At the Wisconsin facilities that made the list this year, violations included matted fur, unsanitary conditions, puppies presumed to have frozen to death and repeat violations of untreated injuries and illness. Find more details in the state specific report for Wisconsin.

Wisconsin employs three inspectors to oversee the Wisconsin Dog Sellers Program which has just under 300 registered dog sellers and close to 150 animal shelters/rescue groups.

“Clark County has the second largest concentration of problem puppy mills in Wisconsin as seen on this map from Bailing Out Benji,” said Nicholson. “Currently, eighteen breeders are registered with WI DATCP’s dog sellers program (see page six).  These are breeders who sell 25 or more dogs a year from more than 3 litters.  Many of these breeders have multiple females used solely for birthing puppies.”

Puppy Mill in WI. Photo courtesy HSUS WI

She added that in Eau Claire County, another breeder has made the Horrible Hundred report twice.

“David Kurtz has had several violations over the years,” she said. “In December 2019, he had 96 adult breeding dogs and 46 puppies on his property.  HSUS records show Kurtz sold to at least six pet stores in New York in 2019 (bulldogs, pugs, maltese and yorkie crosses). Many puppy mills utilize dog brokers to transport their puppies across the U.S. to pet stores. Often times, these young puppies are locked in tiny cages and offered no reprieve until they reach their final destination which could take days.”

Earlier this year, a key development improved the transparency of puppy mill oversight at the USDA when in February 2020, at the direction of Congress, the USDA’s three-year data purge came to an end. The agency was thereafter required to restore full animal welfare inspection reports online, including critical details such as the names and license numbers of breeders and dealers.

This was done so that Americans can know which puppy sellers may not be complying with the Animal Welfare Act regulations and in particular, whether the USDA is properly and consistently enforcing the Animal Welfare Act against non-compliant breeders, according to the report.

The HSUS also won a lawsuit in 2019, cementing that USDA is legally required to release the substance of inspection reports to the public when requested, as well as photographs and other records documenting potential animal welfare violations. For the first time in several years, the 2020 Horrible Hundred is able to report on whether the agency has taken any action against specific named puppy sellers.

Nicholson added that there are ways people can help locally. For example, earlier this month the Common Council of Whitewater passed the first Humane Pet Store ordinance in Wisconsin which effectively bans the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores.

“We are extremely proud of Whitewater,” she said. “Residents, local businesses and area rescues and shelters came together to proactively protect their community from puppy-selling pet stores and their predatory lending practices. Pet stores that sell puppies often source them for puppy mills. The good citizens of Whitewater have made it clear that they do not support the cruel puppy mill industry and we hope that more localities follow their lead.”

“Contact me via email if you’d like your city to pass a Humane Pet Store ordinance,” she added. “It’s a great way to participate in local politics, educate community members about cruel puppy mills and protect citizens from the predatory lending practices many of these stores are known for.”

When adding a puppy to the family, Nicholson encourages everyone to do their research and follow these tips:

  • Adopt from a local shelter or rescue group.
  • Never buy a puppy from a pet store!
  • Evaluate your lifestyle.  Do you want a high energy dog to go running with or are you looking for furry friend who’d prefer to hang out and watch Netflix?
  • If you prefer to buy from a breeder, make sure they are a responsible breeder.  A responsible breeder typically has an extensive interview process.  They encourage buyers to meet them onsite to see the parents and meet the puppies.  They don’t ship puppies or sell to pet stores. They breed sparingly and specialize in only one or two breeds and don’t always have puppies available.  Many have a waiting list and don’t always have puppies available. They’re often actively involved with local, state and national breed clubs that specialize in their specific breed. A responsible breeder will not sell puppies in a parking lot. They never put profit over the well-being of their dogs.

Visit the Stop Puppy Mills Campaign page to learn the truth about Puppy Mills. Ask a local pet store to join the puppy-free pet store initiative.  A template invitation and pledge can be found here.

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Breanna Butler
Author: Breanna Butler

Breanna Butler is an award-winning multimedia producer born and raised in Central Wisconsin. She enjoys exploring and writing about the community. She lives in Marshfield with her husband and furry family.