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HOLMES COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) – The FOX 8 I-Team has found the number of high volume dog breeders registering with the state soaring.

Hundreds of large volume dog breeders are now in Ohio, the numbers confirmed this month by the Commercial Dog Breeding Advisory Board.

In 2018, there were 290 high volume dog breeders licensed in Ohio. In 2019, 418. Now there are over 600 large volume dog breeders in the state.

Maureen Jordan, a volunteer with G.R.I.N., a Golden Retriever rescue group, says she is surprised the number has doubled in less than five years.

“It’s pretty sad, it kind of really upsets me to know what’s happening in these places.” Jordan said.

For years the I-Team has put a spotlight on some large volume breeders raising dogs in what animal rights groups call horrific conditions.

We found dozens of high volume dog breeders located in Holmes County. We tried to visit many of those breeders that have been cited by the state for non-compliance issues. None of the breeders would show us where the dogs were kept, and most asked us to leave.

State inspectors keep an eye on dog breeders. But the I-Team has found the state has just five inspectors for over 600 breeders.

“Just five inspectors,” said Roseanne Moss. “How can they really be expected to keep a close watch on large breeders.”

Moss has adopted dogs that came from some of the large volume breeders. She explained many of the dogs rescued from so-called puppy mills have health issues. She said one dog she adopted had internal medical issues and another a deformed leg.

“She had her leg amputated, now she just lives without a front leg,” Moss said. “I believe these kind of conditions are not hereditary I think it’s over breading and over breeding.”

The Ohio Department of Agriculture oversees dog breeders. Dr. Dennis Summers, Chief of the Division of Animal Health for the ODA, says he believes there are enough inspectors to get to every licensed breeder every year. He says inspectors look to see if dogs are being kept in deplorable conditions or not getting medical treatment.

“For the most part we get our annual inspections done,” Summers said. “The law only requires one time per year.”

Year after year the Humane Society of the United States puts together a list called the Horrible Hundred. Ohio has ranked near the top for problem dog breeders nationwide for several years. So officials with HSUS are not convinced the state can monitor all the breeders with five inspectors.

“I think it makes it very difficult for the state, to be able to understand what is going on, on the ground with all these high volume dog breeders and to make sure all the puppies and dogs are cared for adequately,” said Mark Finneran of HSUS.

For now, rescue groups try to save one dog at a time. Volunteers are stunned at the soaring number of breeders and wonder how many more dogs might be trapped in so-called puppy mills.

“I’m shocked,” Jordan said. “It makes me angry, but I think even more, it makes me sad.”