What’s being done to protect dogs kept in so-called puppy mills?: I-TEAM


ASHLAND COUNTY, Ohio (WJW) — The FOX 8 I-TEAM is investigating if there should be more done to protect dogs that are housed in what the Humane Society of the United States calls puppy mills.

Animal rights advocates say some of the dogs are kept in cramped cages, or cages that do not protect them from harsh weather.  They also say some of the dogs are not given proper medical care.

“We are still getting dogs from some of the mills that are in bad shape and very sick,” said Jamie Runevitch, of the Puppy Mill Rescue Team. She said her organization often gets dogs that are discarded by large volume breeders.  “They either don’t want the dogs because they are sick or they wouldn’t sell. So they want to get rid of them and often times someone will reach out to us asking if we will take it, and we do.”

Her team rescued more than a dozen dogs earlier this month.

In 2018, the I-TEAM exposed some of Ohio’s large volume dog breeders cited for violations by inspectors with the state Department of Agriculture.

Now a new report by the Humane Society of the United States calls out some of the same breeders we investigated three years ago. The Humane Society bases its report on inspections done by the state.

Judy Roberts lives across from one of those breeders in Loudonville in Ashland County.  She wonders why he can’t be shut down.

She showed us pictures she took from her property. They show the dogs kept in cages, and she does not believe they are given protection from the cold, rain, or hot sun.

According to records obtained by the I-TEAM from the state, Ohio Department of Agriculture inspectors rated the kennel “non-compliant” four times in December 2020. One of the issues was that the kennel lacked “one or more shelter structures accessible to each dog and puppy in the facility for protection from the natural elements.”

The records show the issue was fixed on the fourth inspection in January 2021.

We tried to talk to the breeder, but no one answered the door when we went to the facility.

Dr. Dennis Summers, a veterinarian with the Ohio Department of Agriculture, says inspectors don’t  look at the number of violations a breeder may have but the kinds of non-compliant issues.

“We also look if the breeder is trying to correct them,” Summers said. “It doesn’t mean there’s cause for suspension or revocation or even a civil penalty because each year you have a not fully 100 percent compliant inspection. Most of our non- compliant issues are record-keeping violations.”

The I-TEAM also asked if five state inspectors is enough to inspect the 460 large volume breeders once a year.

“If you break that down it actually it is fairly manageable for 5 people to do that,” Summers said. “They have a pretty good idea of what is  going on within their assigned district if you will.”

Corey Roscoe, with the Humane Society of the United States, said she wonders why some don’t get hit with criminal charges.

“If you and I treated our pets that way at home we could certainly be charged with a crime,” Roscoe said.

Summers says ODA inspectors to not have the ability to file criminal charges.

“It’s only administrative and its only civil,” Summer said. “But we would refer that depending on what the nature is to the county sheriff or dog warden.”

State Senator Kenny Yuko says he is pushing for a closer watch on dog breeders.

“If they don’t have enough money for inspectors, now’s the time for them to come to us and say we additional dollars and here’s why,” Yuko said.

In the eyes of the agency over breeders the system doesn’t need fixed.

Animal rights groups and neighbors of some of the breeders disagree, saying they see a need to do more for the dogs, and they will continue watch.

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