HOLMES COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) - The FOX 8 I-TEAM is following in the footsteps of state inspectors, checking out some of the more than 400 high-volume dog breeders in the state.
We visited several high volume breeders and all but one refused to let us take a look at where the dogs were housed.
Feo Farm Kennels in Columbiana, Ohio was the exception.
Jeffrey Feo didn't know the I-TEAM would show up with cameras rolling, but he welcomed us. He says he agrees with the tougher regulations on high volume breeders that were put in place last year.
"These laws should be followed, without a doubt," Feo said. "It's the right thing to do. I love these dogs and I want the best for them."
The law is designed to improve the lives of the dogs and puppies kept by breeders. There are several rules breeders are expected to follow, including not keeping dogs in stacked cages and making sure the animals are seen by a veterinarian at least once a year.
The I-TEAM sent a public record's request to the Ohio Department of Agriculture asking for the 2019 inspection reports of high volume breeders. We wanted to find out if the breeders were following the new law that took effect in September 2018.
Some are, but many aren't.
Several are still being cited for keeping dogs in stacked cages, keeping dogs in enclosures that don't meet the minimum standards and for not making sure they receive proper medical care.
The Ohio Department of Agriculture has five inspectors that inspect the more than 400 breeders once a year. If breeders are cited for violations they are given time to fix the problem. If the violations are not corrected in a timely fashion, the breeder can face civil or criminal penalties.
But officials with the Humane Society of the United States say they can't recall any breeder losing their license, even if they have had repeat violations.
The state defines high-volume breeders as breeders that keep, house and maintain six or more breeding dogs and they sell five or more adult dogs or puppies in a year to dog brokers or pet stores. Or, they sell 40 or more dogs or puppies to the public in a year. State officials say there are currently more than 400 high-volume dog breeders in Ohio.
Corey Roscoe, the Ohio director of the Humane Society, says while she hopes the stricter laws will help dogs have better living conditions, she says the best way to stop "puppy mills" is for people to stop buying puppies online, or from breeders they have not met or screened.
"We have upgraded the care standards for the dogs in the mills, however most Ohioans, including myself, would prefer not to have any puppy mills and that is where consumers play the biggest role," Roscoe said. "We have to refuse to buy puppies from pet stores or from breeders we see online or in the newspaper that we haven't met or screened."
Several animal rescue groups stress that before anyone purchases a puppy from a breeder they should ask to look at where the animal is housed and also ask for medical records.