Indiana puppy mill added to list of country's worst offenders



A dog breeder in Loogootee, Indiana, made the Horrible Hundred list of some of the worst puppy mills in the country, which was released by the Humane Society of the United States last month.

John and Rosanna Raber were the only listing for Indiana and were included because of a failed inspection by the United States Department of Agriculture, who found nine underweight puppies and dogs who had open lacerations that were so deep muscle tissue was exposed.

The Rabers were inspected by the USDA on Oct. 5, 2016, and found with many dogs and puppies that were in need of veterinary care, according to the USDA’s inspection notes.

Nine boxer puppies were “very thin in appearance, with their ribs showing” and eight of them had runny noses.

The Rabers said they had been trying to treat the animals, but according to the inspection there had been no contact with a veterinarian.

In addition, the USDA also reported finding two adult boxers with multiple open lacerations. One of them had wounds so deep that muscle tissue was exposed and the other had large areas of swollen tissue.

“That’s pretty extreme,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Stop Puppy Mills campaign for the Humane Society of the United States. “A lot of facilities get in for things that are bad, but that’s just excessive. That’s shocking that dogs would be in that condition.”

The Rabers claimed the two adult boxers had been in a fight and they had treated the wounds with an herbal, topical treatment.

None of the adult boxers or puppies had been treated by a veterinarian for their illnesses or injuries, according to the report.

The USDA completes inspections of licensed breeders about once a year. If the conditions are not improved, breeders can have their licenses suspended or revoked. 

The Humane Society of the United States has released their Horrible Hundred list for five years, and Indiana has made the list every time.

Last year another breeder in Loogootee, Kevin Wittmer, was added to the list because an inspector found three mastiffs with protruding hipbones and others with severe injuries to their faces.

Indiana had one listing in 2015 and two in 2014. The first year for the Horrible Hundred list was Indiana’s worst, with six puppy mills making the list. Indiana was tied for fifth place for the highest number of puppy mills on the list that year.

Missouri is the top state for puppy mills every year, and Goodwin said the Midwest is the top region for irresponsible breeding in the country.

Goodwin said this is because of what he calls the “original sin” of puppy mills. In the post-World War II era, farms in the Midwest were struggling to make ends meet. The USDA came to states like Missouri, Ohio, Iowa, Indiana, Pennsylvania and other Midwest states and suggested the farmers use their land to breed and raise animals.

The infrastructure took off and created a manufacturing-type system of raising as many dogs as possible to sell for the highest price possible.

“When they’re trying to make as much money as possible with these puppies, they aren’t going to be willing to get them the care they need,” Goodwin said.

Goodwin said what was most shocking to him was the already low standards breeders have to adhere to in most states across the country.

In Indiana, commercial breeders are required to register with the State Board of Animal Health. A commercial breeder is defined as a person who maintains more than 20 unaltered female dogs that are at least 12 months of age.

The only required standards for care are that the dog cannot be housed in a cage with a wire floor, the cage has to allow for “reasonable movement” by the dog and the breeder has to provide every dog with a reasonable opportunity for exercise outside of a cage at least one time per day.

Breeders with fewer than 20 dogs are not required to register with the state and there are no limits on the number of dogs a commercial breeder can sell each year or keep for breeding.

“What kind of industry do we have when people can’t meet these sort of regulations?” Goodwin said.

The Humane Society of the United States has submitted a rule-making petition to the USDA to increase the standards of care for breeders across the country, but Goodwin said they have received no reply.

Next year’s Horrible Hundred list will be harder for the Humane Society because the USDA removed their animal welfare inspection reports from their website Feb. 3. These reports are the major source for the list’s information.

Besides the Humane Society's Horrible Hundred List, other organizations use the inspection reports to bring lawsuits against puppy mills and use the information to avoid taking dogs from these breeders. Seven states — Virginia, Connecticut, New Jersey, Louisiana, Maryland, Arizona, and Ohio — prohibit stores from selling animals from puppy mills. Without the reports, these laws are unenforceable, Goodwin said. 

The Humane Society will be forced to submit a Freedom of Information Act for the inspection reports, which will only prolong the process, Goodwin said.

“The USDA has engaged in an action that is going to protect the worst puppy mills in the country,” he said. “The losers are the dogs in puppy mills and consumers. If someone’s going to buy a $3,000 puppy, they deserve to know if its mother was raised in a good facility.”

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