Friday, March 10, 2017

The Sad Tale Of Amish Puppy Mills In Ohio & An American President In Washington

They practically leap off the page at you:  Gorgeous golden retriever puppies that can't wait to lick your face, cuddle in your arms and snooze at your feet before the fireplace when you take them home.  But all is not sweetness and light, because the people who want to sell you Pandora, Tulip, Banner and their kennel mates have a secret: They are a front for a notorious network of Amish puppy mills in Millersburg, Ohio.  And here's another secret: That may be fine with Donald Trump. 
I stumbled on MY by accident.  Or I should say they stumbled on me when a ham-handed employee of the webmaster who runs that site spammed two of my popular blog posts on the cancer epidemic in golden retrievers with advertisements for "Golden Retriever Puppies For Sale in Ohio."  When I complained, webmaster and "kennel" operator Galen Kaufmann replied with an apology.  That was unusual because most blog spam cannot be traced back to its source.
My curiosity piqued, I took a look at the website and quickly concluded that it was what is called an English front house for Amish puppy mills.   
The term, used by people trying to eradicate puppy mills, refers to the Amish habit of referring to anyone who is not Amish as "English."  An inordinate number of puppy mills are run by Amish farmers.  Because the traditional Amish lifestyle rejects modern-day conveniences like electricity and telephones, let alone the Internet, these unscrupulous businessfolk sometimes need a front through which to sell their puppies. 
These puppies often live in squalid conditions in group pens sequestered in dark corners of unheated barns with only a few people to care for a large number of animals.  Female dogs are repeatedly bred without concern for their health and wellbeing, and interbreeding is common, increasing the incidence of ailments like hip dysplasia, eye problems and fatal diseases that result in decreased longevity and huge veterinarian bills.   
The website threw up several caution flags that were indicators it was not what it so brazenly advertised itself to be, according to several knowledgeable breeders.  These indicators were that: 
An unusually large number of puppies -- a "huge number," according to one breeder -- were born during the same month, which would require a level of care typically beyond the capabilities of a small kennel.
Some of the birthdates were in January when there was snow on the ground in that part of Ohio, but photos of the puppies with their supposed mothers were taken on grassy, summer-like lawns. 
The prices for the majority of the puppies -- less than $900 for 13 of the 16 puppies on offer -- were far below what reputable breeders charge, which typically are double that amount. 
The "kennel" is not a Golden Retriever Club of America (GRCA) member nor were the puppies from American Kennel Club (AKC) parents, the gold standards for reputable breeders.   
GRCA and AKC affiliations matter because these organizations maintain registries and require certain breeding standards, while puppy mills and their fronts are not regulated. 
The "guarantee" to be signed by the buyer is unusual in that it is nullified if the buyer does not return a dog it is not satisfied with, something that buyers typically would not do for fear that the dog would be put down.
The "kennel" is located in the same 3,000-person town in which an extraordinary five of the puppy mills on the Horrible Hundred list maintained by the Human Society of America are located. 
When I contacted Galen Kauffman, he refused to comment when asked if his "kennel" was a front for puppy mills and hung up.  Click.   
Kaufmann called back a few minutes later.  He acknowledged that "we have a small network where we represent other breeders."  He acknowledged that the photographs of puppies with January birthdates shown with mothers in grassy summer settings were not the puppies currently on offer.   "We typically use the same photo," he explained. Kaufmann said that his website "needs updating,"  but had no explanation as to why his sale prices were low and there was no GRCA or AKC affiliation, let alone the coincidence of there being so many puppy mills in the same small town, and then hung up a second time.  Click.
So what about Donald Trump? 
In the wake of Trump's inauguration, government agencies whose policies could be at odds with the new president scrubbed their websites of material that might be objectionable and therefore politically taboo for a man with fringe views. 
The EPA mysteriously took down documents regarding global warming and the White House mysteriously took down links to LGBT and civil rights resources, while the Department of Agriculture mysteriously took down information detailing animal abuse, including documents on dog and horse breeders, zoos and animal research labs that had violated the Animal Welfare Act and Horse Protection Act.   
The USDA disingenuously stated that its website had been scrubbed to protect the "privacy" of these violators and now requires people to file cumbersome Freedom of Information Act request to obtain once-public information, a process that can take months or years.  After protests from animal welfare advocates, the USDA partially relented and again posted certain reports, but not those pertaining to animal breeders.   
Trump also has railed against the "FDA food police." 
He complains that the Food and Drug Administration makes things difficult for pet food manufacturers by regulating the quality of their products through purity and minimal nutrition standards.  Never mind that because of these regulations, there are pet food recalls -- about 25 in the last year alone.  Some 11 recalls involved dog foods contaminated by listeria and salmonella, and one contaminated by a euthanasia drug.   
For what it's worth, Trump is the first president since forever (Martin Van Buren, 1837-1841) to not have a dog or any other pet in the White House. 


Don Moore said...

When I bought my dog, very near PA Amish country, my breeder felt necessary to distinguish her operation from those - which I was unaware of. I had done research on what to look for in a breeder, but not what to avoid. I had already figured out my breeder was legit - I can't say why in 50 words - I just knew. Part of it was she had her AKC papers, and she informed me of health history of the breed and the dog I was considering. Here is the most important thing - she isn't in the business to make money, and doesn't advertise her dogs and puppies for sale. This may be counter-intuitive to the average American CONSUMER. Interesting connection to the White House and the signaling of a weakening in regulatory oversight, Shaun. Keep up the excellent work.

Unknown said...

Hello Shaun,

Warning, this comment contains way too much truth, and will most likely not last very long here.

Allow me to address your concerns. First of all, if anyone has a concern about any of our puppies, they are free to call the number listed next to that puppy, and schedule a IN-PERSON visit with the breeder to see the puppy and the parents of the puppy.

1. There are a large number of puppies, but not from one breeder. None of our breeders have more than 4 mothers, and most just have 1 or 2.

2. The photo of the mother with the grass in the photo was taken over a year ago. The puppy in the corner of the pic with its back turned was a pup from a previous litter. I'm not sure how this is misleading? The mother pictured is the mother of the pup in the gallery. If I show you a picture of my mother, but on that picture she is with another child from her previous marriage, do you only believe she's my mother if we're in the photo together?

Yes, the cute little pup running behind his mother is not the same pup as the featured pup. It was not meant to be misleading. It's simply a picture of the mother so prospective buyers can see what she looks like, with a former pup that happened to be playing next to her. I'm so glad our clients understand this.

3. Price is driven by the market. If folks wish to spend $2k+ on a dog whose lineage is full of show dogs and OFA certifications, they are free to do so. We have many happy clients who are glad to purchase a socialized, family-raised, healthy, AKC pup for less than $1k. We do not work with any puppy mills or large-scale breeders (which is where the $2,000+ puppies at the pet stores come from, for those that don't know). You never allowed a chance to respond to this because you were doing too much talking and not enough listening in our phone conversation.

4. Yes, every single parent is AKC, and every puppy is pre-registered. We don't work with any breeders who are not AKC. It clearly says "AKC" on the right of the puppy pages. You say were an award-winning investigative journalist? You never questioned this in our short phone conversation, nor did we discuss it, so these were "alternative facts" in your article. I guess award-winning investigative journalists are allowed to bear false witness?

5. Our sales agreement was drafted under legal advice. On very rare occasions, we have taken pups back and have always found someone who is willing to provide it a loving home. This is our goal. Your insinuation is a smear.

You made it sound like I hung up on you twice. The first time, I said "no" and you said, "Ok," and we mutually hung up. In our second conversation, you said you were "running out of time" (probably because the truth was becoming too overwhelming), and you basically cut me off and hung up on me. CLICK. I would've been quite willing to talk a while longer until I had fully address your concerns.

Keep up the great "investigative" journalism!


Shaun Mullen said...

Mr. Kaufmann:

Thank you for your response. Your comment will not be deleted. It is, in fact, most welcome.

Anonymous said...

Im not entirely sure what this article has anything to do with the president, but I love my golden retriever that I purchased from Galen. I actually was referring a friend to Galen who was also interested in getting a puppy and I stumbled across this ridiculous article while looking for the contact info.

Yes, puppy mills are awful and it is a problem that needs to be addressed. However, I know what to look for in a breeder (I actually helped my parents breed our goldens when I was young). I was able to meet the Amish breeder as well as the puppy's mother and the area where the pups were raised in on the farm. I also don't know how you missed the AKC labels plastered everywhere on the site, but they were. (Also verified by AKC themselves)

Anyways, I love my dog and she is wonderful and perfectly healthy. It was a pleasure working with Galen as well as the Amish family I purchased my golden from. If I didn't already have 2 golden retrievers, I would definitely work with Galen and that Amish family again.

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Unknown said...

While your site seems to provide some value when considering buying a new "addition to the family" in terms of a new dog... you as a blogger lose all credibility by blaming the weather, melting ice and the breeding of dogs on the President of the United States. I'm sure Russia doesn't allow for puppy mills and their weather is more to your liking... maybe you should your blogging skills there.
Suggestion... remove your political point of view and maybe your blog will be more useful and more importantly more credible.

Anonymous said...

I might not be staying on point here but I just have to respond, I live in this area and it is very conservative across the board. I would just say that Trump has done one "just one" good thing. He has exposed evangelicals as the shameless pious hypocrites that they have always been.

Unknown said...

Dan,I am looking for a golden retriever pup.Can you give me the name&number where you bought your dog from?

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