The Humane Society of the United States issued its annual Horrible Hundred report, identifying what it calls “puppy mills” across the country, though the operators of local kennels object to their placement on the list.
Blanche Plute, 70, has operated her kennel on Coleman Road in Cecil Township for 45 years. Online records dating to 2006 show her kennel has been in compliance with state rules and regulations.
The kennel failed an inspection on Dec. 26, 2018, due to rusted metal enclosures, floor drains clogged with food, a strong smell of ammonia, and dirty food and water bowls.
Plute failed another inspection on Feb. 21 for similar reasons and received warnings for both inspections, but did not receive a citation. She was found to be back in compliance following an April 3 inspection.
Despite an otherwise long history of compliance, the two failed inspections were enough for the Humane Society to deem Plute’s kennel one of the “Horrible Hundred.”
“I didn’t appreciate it at all,” Plute said. “I’ve been a licensed kennel for 45 years. I am not a puppy mill … They’re going to be lucky if I don’t get a lawyer.”
Plute said the reason for the failed inspections was that her husband had broken his hip and was in the hospital, which prevented them from doing work necessary to pass inspection.
“They came the day after Christmas. My husband wasn’t released. It was a tough go. The dogs all were in A1 shape,” Plute said.
The Humane Society’s report also names the Mapleridge Kennel in Dilliner, Greene County.
Mapleridge Kennel is operated by Richard Garrison, and failed an inspection on Dec. 14, 2018, due to rusted kennels, urine-soaked bedding and “excessive amounts” of excreta in outdoor runs. Garrison received a citation for the violations.
Like Plute’s kennel, Mapleridge has an otherwise long record of compliance, and had fixed the issues by a Jan. 28 inspection.
“I wasn’t around,” Garrison said of the failed inspection. “I had to run that day. The dog wardens came and there was poop on the ground. They came back and they checked and we passed. We really don’t have any problems.”
The failed inspection also led Garrison to make changes at the kennel, such as changing the bedding and placing rubber pads on the floor.
Shannon Powers, the press secretary for the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture, said some of the issues found at these two kennels, such as maintenance and water violations, are common.
“Dogs can mangle enclosure fencing, wood gets chewed or scratched, pipes get rusted, etc. We have tough standards, and even a good kennel can fail an inspection,” Powers said in response to emailed questions.
The Horrible Hundred report identified 12 Pennsylvania kennels with issues, and says this places it among the states with the most “puppy mills.”
“However, it’s important to note that HSUS researchers are unable to get local inspection records from states that don’t have kennel inspection laws, so states that have solid kennel inspection programs often have more dealers in the report,” the report states.
The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) rates Pennsylvania as having some of the strongest dog laws in the country, which includes mandatory inspections for new facilities and strong standards for those inspections.
The state Department of Agriculture, which enforces these laws, also makes all inspection reports available through its website.
Because of this, the Horrible Hundred report can offer a “skewed vision,” according to John Goodwin, the senior director of the Humane Society’s Stop Puppy Mills campaign.
“Pennsylvania dog law is very transparent and they’re better about enforcement,” Goodwin said.
The Horrible Hundred report notes that states such as Arkansas, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee have few kennels named in the report because of a lack of documentation.
For the Department of Agriculture, the Humane Society’s report is evidence the agency is doing its job.
“The report ‘urges government oversight agencies to live up to their enforcement obligations.’ It demonstrates that we have been doing exactly that, by citing 12 problem kennels and taking action to ensure that they improve their practices or have their licenses revoked,” Powers said.
Goodwin said he wishes the department’s federal counterpart, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), would follow its lead.
He criticized the USDA as “failing to have robust, good enforcement,” and for not taking action against kennels with issues.
“The USDA is going in, giving puppy mills a clean bill of health, and state officials are going in and finding a lot of problems,” Goodwin said.
Though Goodwin suggests that people wanting a dog adopt from a shelter, he said there are steps they can take to ensure they are buying from an ethical, humane kennel or breeder.
“No. 1, meet the breeder in person. Meet the mother dog, see where the mother dog lives. That way you know the quality of the person you’re dealing with,” Goodwin said.
He also warned against buying a puppy through a website, sight unseen.
“Otherwise, there’s a good chance you’re going to be supporting a puppy mill,” Goodwin said.