The Humane Society of the United States has released on Monday the annual Horrible Hundred report, which provides a sampling of problem puppy mills and puppy brokers based on state and federal inspection records, complaints from the public and undercover investigation findings.
This year’s report uncovers dogs suffering across the country in puppy mills, many of which are licensed and all of which are still in business despite years of animal care violations, including citations for injured and emaciated dogs, dogs and puppies exposed to extreme weather, and dogs found living in filthy and miserable conditions.
Some of the problem puppy mills listed in the report have not been cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for any recent violations, despite visibly poor conditions documented by HSUS undercover investigators, state inspection reports that document mistreatment by the same breeders, or complaints from consumers about sick puppies. This follows a history of increasingly weak oversight at USDA, where animal care standards were already low. Enforcement actions at USDA, which have plummeted since 2017, became even weaker due a rollback of in-person visits during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“While the USDA paused many of their in-person inspections during the pandemic, dogs were left more at risk than ever,” said John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign. “Public records and our undercover work show that Petland and other pet stores continue to buy from commercial breeding operations where dogs languish in miserable conditions.”
For the ninth year in a row, Missouri has the largest number of puppy sellers on the list (21), followed by Ohio (16), Iowa (11), and Nebraska and Pennsylvania (eight each). Because puppy mills sell to pet stores across the country and via websites, puppies from the Horrible Hundred dealers can be sold to families in every state.
Some of the most disturbing findings include:
Ohio breeder Joseph A. Miller of Horseshoe Kennel admitted he performed an invasive dental procedure on a dog instead of taking her to a veterinarian, which resulted in her dying while she struggled in his grasp. It appears Miller paid no serious penalty and is still licensed by the state and USDA.
An AKC “champion show dog” breeder in Iowa, Mary Brodersen of Mystical Cockers, who was convicted of animal neglect in 2012 after five dogs were found dead and more than 80 dogs were seized from her property, was granted a new Iowa license in 2020. She and many other dealers in the report are offering puppies for sale on PuppyFind.com.
Missouri’s Department of Agriculture recently gave a new license to a horrific breeder, Deanna Brundage, whose USDA license was revoked in 2008 after seven of her dogs were shot and killed and others were found emaciated or sick.
Kentucky breeder Sharon Richards, who was previously linked to a fire that killed 31 dogs and also pled guilty to felony charges in a different case after dogs were removed from her property in Wisconsin, is still in business and has been found with more dogs living in dismal conditions.
Creek Side Kennel in Kansas, operated by Rebecca Eiler, who provided puppies to Petland and other pet stores, was found with more than 400 dogs and cited by state inspectors for housing violations, including a trough of dog feces spilling onto the open ground; HSUS investigators photographed the kennels of other breeders who sold to Petland and documented rows of small wire cages, and one had cages so short that the dogs’ heads were touching the tops of their wire pens.
Missouri state inspectors found Earl Light’s Corn Creek Kennel in such disrepair that at least one dog was seen sticking their head through a rusty hole in the cage. Missouri cited the breeder in 2020 and 2021 for several issues, but the USDA has not cited him for any violations in several years.
Dozens of pet stores across the country, including at least 21 Petland stores, purchased puppies from dealers in this year’s report. This flies in the face of Petland’s claim that they only purchase from top quality breeders. Petland is the only national chain of pet stores that still sells puppies from commercial breeding facilities.
Many of the dealers in the report, including some who have been convicted on charges related to animal mistreatment or cruelty, were found selling on PuppyFind.com, a website that the HSUS has repeatedly linked to problem puppy mills.
Undercover investigation footage taken by HSUS investigators in summer 2020 and spring 2021 formed the basis for some of the entries in this year’s report. Many puppy mills USDA had not visited recently, or had not cited for any violations, had dogs languishing in conditions that many Americans would view as inhumane, including stacked, small cages, and dogs with no space to run or play. Members of Congress recently introduced the Puppy Protection Act, which would improve some of these conditions.
The full report is available online at humanesociety.org/100puppymills.
The Horrible Hundred report is a list of known, problematic puppy breeding and/or puppy brokering facilities. It is not a list of all puppy mills, nor is it a list of the worst puppy mills in the country.
HSUS says it provides this update annually, not as a comprehensive inventory, but as an effort to inform the public about common, recurring problems at puppy mills.