So I am cruising around looking at different websites and surveying USDA inspection reports for dog breeders. A website here has a list of breeders in a few southern states along with their inspection reports. I guess Tulsa World ranked the worst dealers and breeders in Oklahoma and provides you with the “winners.” I look through the list and I see that there are other states on the list and they are not all just from Oklahoma. I see some from Arkansas, Kansas, Minnesota, etc. Then it catches my eye. I see my hometown.
My little hometown where I lived from 6th grade on up. Now mind you the 6th grade was a huge time in my life as I had a big transition with new schools, new friends and new surroundings, BUT I also got my one and only childhood gift I had wanted since I could speak: I finally got my “collie dog.” I didn’t seem to have this obsession with Lassie or Timmy but I always knew I wanted a collie even in the Arkansas heat. I didn’t care about all her fur and grooming her…I would do it daily. I just wanted my collie and now I finally had her. She was loyal and protected me to the very end. I remember when I first started middle school in the middle of a semester she would be the one who I came home to each afternoon and explained my problems. She listened. I was not an animal rights activist but loved animals even though my father and mother were both hunters.
So I see my hometown and OBVIOUSLY look at the name. And I immediately recognize it. I know the family. I have met the entire family. I have been at the families house. I had a HUGE crush on their son. I saw one of the family members less than a year ago. I am horrified, mortified and pissed all at the same time. How could I have not known?
I remember driving up the gravel drive way and getting out of my car and thinking that it was a bit smelly and I couldn’t believe all the dogs that were barking. It was soooooo loud. People, I was probably 22-24 years old. I am 30 now. I was college educated. I should have known, but I didn’t. I had no clue what those houses were behind their house. I didn’t know they were breeding dogs in them. I truly think I believed that they were greenhouses or something.
I went into the house and met the family and I distinctly remember meeting a few dogs. I thought it was adorable how the little dog (I can’t remember for the life of me what breed it was) sitting on the mother’s lap and chest the whole time she was in her chair. I find it rather odd how one can form an animal-human bond with one animal and completely disregard the others and sell them off like livestock. I found the following in their USDA reports.
2003: “There was an accumulation of hair and waste on the exterior of most of the enclosures. All animal areas must be kept clean and must be sanitized every two weeks. The outside and inside of all kennels need a thorough cleaning. This affects 161 animals.” 2003: “The openings of the wire floor from the whelping building were too large which allowed the puppies’ feet to pass through. If a suspended floor is used, it must be constructed of metal and the strands must be at least 1/8 inch in diameter (9 gauge) or coated with a material such as plastic or fiberglass. The floor must be replaced with a wire with smaller openings, a smaller opening wire must be placed on top of the existing wire, or the puppies must be kept inside on the solid floor.”
2003: “Animal Inventory: Adult dogs = 161, puppies = 49.”
This could have very easily been the year that I visited the house
2004: “Most of the food receptacles were dirty. There is dust/grime on the bottom interior surface of the feeders and on the metal ledge. The food receptacles must be cleaned frequently enough to provide uncontaminated, wholesome food. They must also be sanitized at least every two weeks.”
2004: “Animal inventory: Adult dogs = 39, puppies = 14.”
2005: “At least six animals were not identified.”
2005: “There were two enclosures that had feces in the sheltered portion. Another two enclosures had an excessive accumulation of hair in the shelters. Three of the wooden shelters had a white substance covering the wood at the junction of the floor and walls. Animal areas inside of housing facilities must be kept clean to ensure the health and well-being of the animals. These areas must be cleaned more frequently and sanitized every two weeks.”
2005: “Three of the enclosures had wire flooring where the coating was not present. All wire less than 9 gauge must be coated with a material such as plastic or fiberglass.”
2005: “Animal Inventory: Adult dogs = 44, puppies = 18.”
So, in summary:
1. The kennels were dirty and not cleaned appropriately
2. They were on chicken wire which hurts their paws
3. There were hair and feces all over the place
4. The dogs feet were falling through the bottom of the cages in the whelping kennel. I am sure this was fantastic for the pregnant mom and her new babies.
So what am I trying to even get at here? Land, the plane right? I lived in puppy mill country and had no idea that I had stepped straight onto puppy mill property. I smelled it. I heard it. I looked directly at a Sundowner. I just thought that they liked having 3 dogs in the house and one of the dogs had pups. They lived in a rural part of the town so I can easily see how they got away with it with no noise violations.
I distinctly remember the guy bringing in a few puppies for me and my best friend to hold. They were absolutely adorable and I wanted one so badly but felt nothing but loyalty towards my collie. I now remember that the whole family tried to push a puppy on both of us. But we both already had dogs. I actually thought they were going to give us a puppy but now realize that we were nothing but a potential sale for them.
So, when people say things like, “People are now educated on puppy mills. They know better than to buy from pet stores. They know what they are buying” I cannot agree. I don’t know how many people I speak to on a weekly basis about puppy/cat mills and the dangers of buying in a pet store. I literally scare the hell out of them as I don’t want them to make the same mistake I did.
I don’t regret buying Zoey for a second. I have learned my lesson and will continue to educate and advocate on her behalf by telling her story to others. Hopefully with her we can reach others.