Going undercover at a puppy mill....
"When we were first contacted by WTMJ-4 to assist with their undercover story, I didn't know what to expect. I really didn't know if we'd get to see anything, and I certainly wasn't prepared for what we did find. We stopped at a farm that had a reputation for selling puppies. I was stunned at many of the things we found. First, the home was absolutely beautiful. It was a rather new home, and had gorgeous landscaping including a huge pond and many plantings. We went to the door and inquired about puppies for sale. The lady who answered the door said she didn't have any puppies who were old enough to be sold. We asked if perhaps we could see some of the puppies she had in order to be put on the list for the next litters coming.
She rather reluctantly went to the shed to show us a puppy or two. We were asked to wait at the front of the building while she went in the back. She reappeared with two Shit zu mix puppies, stating that she was 'just going to sell them today'. They were $250 each. We asked if there were any other puppies available. She went into the back room again and returned with two Cocker/Bichon mixed puppies. They were $200 each. We were told they were eight weeks old. My heart began to break.
We asked if we could see the puppies' parents. We were told to wait outside and she would bring them out for us to see. She brought out a Cocker and then a Bichon, separately, for us to see. Were they the parents? I didn't feel confident I was being told the truth. We had gone to the puppy mill with the intent of purchasing a puppy and getting the transaction on tape. So we returned to look at the puppies again.
The tiny little Cocker/Bichon mix was really getting to me. The little thing could barely stand up, and it's back legs were so underdeveloped that it couldn't walk. There was a lot of drainage from it's left eye, so it obviously was suffering from an eye infection. I held the puppy, and that sealed the deal. That little puppy was getting out of there. However, we were determined to get more information. We asked if we could see where the puppies were being raised, as we wished to know that they were being raised in healthy conditions. The lady refused, stating that her 'USDA Inspector' had told her never to let the public in where her dogs were kept. Yup, this place is USDA licensed. We responded that we certainly understood and that was OK. However, I could not buy a puppy when I could not see it's previous home.
As I began to put my $200 back into my purse, the lady seemed to quickly change her mind and we were permitted to see the next room where the puppies were kept. God help them, the puppies were living in horrible conditions I could never have imagined. There were rows and rows of wooden boxes, approximately 2' square each, in this room. Each box was solid wood. And each contained a litter of puppies. There was a lightbulb in the top of the box with a dimmer switch that was used to provide heat. The puppies never saw daylight, never walked outside of that box, and had nothing else to look at except four walls and a ceiling of solid wood. They were living in little wooden coffins. That explained why my poor little puppy couldn't stand up. It wasn't getting enough exercise to develop it's muscles properly. I was stunned.
We decided to push further and askd to see where the parents were kept. This didn't seem to go anywhere until the money disappeared again. We were told she would show us the room, as long as we only stepped inside the doorway and no further. OK, we're in. This room was the puppy mill experience I was more prepared for. There were rows and rows of wire cages. Each cage was about 2 X 3' and contained 2-4 adults dogs. The cages were elevated on a wooden platform with sawdust underneath. That way any urine or fecal matter could just drop through the wire to the floor below. The dogs were living in those cages and standing on that wire 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. She said they got out for exercise every few days. Really? I doubted it. There were hundreds of dogs there. I had already observed her outside dog kennel area which was quite small. Unless she was out there cleaning up doggie doo-doo 24/7, the dogs were not getting outside for exercise. There was no evidence to support what she was telling us.
We went back inside to purchase our puppy. I was given an index card with all of the puppy's information. There had a been a puppy vaccination and worming done. The puppy's date of birth was 3/1/07. We were purchasing the puppy on 4/9/07. The puppy was five weeks old, not the eight weeks we had been told. It was far too young to have been taken away from it's mother and litter mates. My heart broke a little more. I was told I had a seven-day health guarantee on the puppy. It was up to me to take it to a vet and have it examined. If anything was found to be wrong, I had only 7 days to bring it back. She completed a "Record of Disposition of Dogs and Cats" form with her name and address and mine. I gave her my $200 in cash. There was no record of the price I had paid. And there was no sales tax paid on the sale. We took our little puppy and left the puppy mill.
The reporter who had filmed the transaction suggested that a good name for the puppy would be "Rocky", as he sure had to be a fighter to get out of that place. As he was so tiny and scared, it somehow just really seemed to fit. So Rocky came home to CCHS.
I am still brought to tears by what we saw that day. The splendor and luxury of that home was amazing. And it was at a Mennonite residence. I'm still trying to reconcile what I had always perceived as a quiet, non-imposing, deeply religious group of people with a puppy mill business. I guess assumptions are always dangerous. After all, this group of people that I believed had always shunned progress had a fax machine in their puppy barn. All I know is that no animal should ever be living in these conditions. The puppies are being transported to pet stores where they are sold to unsuspecting families, who are being set up for heartache and very expensive vet bills.
My favorite quote is by Mahatma Gandhi: 'The Greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.' We should be ashamed of what's happening right here in central Wisconsin. We have absolutely got to do something to stop this misery!"
Director of Administrative Services
Clark County Humane Society