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USDA Fails to Crack Down on Puppy Mills

Megan Lynch
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Photo/The Humane Society of the United States

Photo/The Humane Society of the United States

CBS St. Louis (con't)

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ST. LOUIS, Mo. (KMOX) — You’ve heard plenty in recent days about the state battle over Missouri’s massive dog breeding industry.

In the meantime, KMOX News has been tracking federal oversight of some of those same facilities.

KMOX has only been through a portion of the United States Department of Agriculture inspection reports available, but here’s what we’ve found so far.

Some kennels haven’t had a visit from federal inspectors in more than a year.

Others have had inspections in recent months, but those reviews have flagged serious problems ranging from dogs exposed to extreme temperatures, to animals so matted they couldn’t walk or defecate.

The USDA says it can’t tell us when inspectors will go back — they don’t want to give breeders advance notice.

Then there are other, more glaring cases — repeated violations — documentation of sick animals and unhealthy conditions. Despite multiple inspections problems persist.

One of those sites is listed at the top of the Humane Society’s recent report on what it calls “Missouri’s Dirty Dozen.”

S&S Family Puppies in Milan has had problems year after year. They’ve even been fined thousands of dollars by the USDA.

The last inspection in November revealed dogs in need of veterinary care, as well as inadequate, dirty or hazardous cages and shelters.

KMOX News asked the USDA’s David Sacks, what the agency’s going to do next. “We’re going to continue to monitor them as a facility that’s had difficulties in the past,” says Sacks, who adds the next steps could be more inspections, a formal warning letter, or a formal investigation to pursue possible fines, license suspension or license revocation.

Another operation highlighted by the Humane Society is Mar-Don Kennel in Chillicothe. Mar-Don has a history of repeated problems — sick and wounded animals denied treatment, animals left outside in harsh conditions with little shelter, dogs living in their own waste.

Last summer federal inspectors found more problems, but when they attempted to follow up in October and December, the owner denied them access. “We tried to conduct an inspection on March 2nd, and the licensee refused and surrendered her license,” says David Sacks. KMOX asked him, what about the dogs and puppies on site? “When that happens those animals are still the property of the licensee, so I wouldn’t want to speculate as to what’s going to happen to them.” Sacks says the USDA has no law enforcement authority to confiscate dogs and puppies. According to the Humane Society, the owner is still licensed by the state of Missouri.

Another example of a breeder with repeat violations is Norma Linville in Norborne, Missouri. Last August, federal inspectors found a dead dog in a cage with other animals, along with filth and feces pooled in water in other enclosures. Inspectors have been back three more times, just this February finding sick puppies and dogs — another dog with matted fur over 40-percent of its body. “Certainly this is a facility that’s on our radar screen,” says Sacks.

And Sacks adds inspectors went back again less than a week later, but that report hasn’t been publicly released. Sacks says depending on what the review found, this is another kennel that could face a repeat inspector, a formal warning letter, or the agency might launch a formal investigation.

An investigation by the USDA Inspector General last spring revealed lapses in the federal dog breeding inspection program — kennels given chance after chance despite evidence that animals were neglected or suffering. The agency’s website now lists new “mechanisms” put in place to trigger follow-up and enforcement.

Inspection reports are also available on-line. Click here for the report.

Copyright KMOX Radio

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