Letter to the Editor: Our continuing puppy mill tragedy

Joel Freedman

In May, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released its “The Horrible Hundred 2021” report of many of the worst problem dog breeders and sellers in the United States (accessible online).  Dog breeding facilities, aka puppy mills, in this report include:

• A & L Kennels, operated by Alvin Shirk in Dundee: During a January 2021 inspection by state inspectors, this puppy mill was rated “non-compliant critical” due to the sale of a dog without a rabies vaccine. Other problems at A&L Kennels, where about 100 dogs and puppies were counted, included the sale of at least three underage puppies, and missing medical records on one dog. A & L Kennels was also cited in November 2018 for refusing an inspection.

Until last year, A & L Kennels was also USDA-licensed. In December 2017, the kennel was cited by the USDA for inadequate veterinary care, including a puppy with an untreated injured leg, and some unacceptable metal wire floors that were peeling. The kennel had 181 dogs at that inspection. Several years before that, USDA inspectors cited A & L Kennels for rodent infestations; a Boston terrier with an eye injury; a Yorkie limping with raw flesh on the paw; a Jack Russell puppy with bite wounds; an underweight nursing Westie who had no food at the time of inspection, who, when provided with food during the inspection, ate for several minutes; an emaciated dachshund with “obvious and prominent” skeletal structure showing; matted dogs and dirty conditions; puppies kept on wire mesh floors, which according to HSUS, “is an entrapment and injury risk.”

A & L Kennels passed a follow-up state inspection in March 2021 but HSUS still has concerns “about its ability to stay in compliance due to its history.”

• Shady Lane Kennel, operated by Marvin Martin Hoover in Penn Yan. During an October 8, 2020 state inspection, “proof of valid rabies vaccination was missing for 9 dogs — all adults were missing a valid health exam — at least 6 pups were sold without health problems being properly noted on information statements.” 

• Seneca River Kennels (previously K & J Kennels) operated by Joyce Martin in Waterloo: This facility failed three state inspections in 2020 for problems that included a pregnant Basset Hound with an untreated swollen eye, decrepit housing, urine odor and underage puppy sales.

Pending in Congress, the Puppy Protection Act (H.R. 2442) would strengthen standards at commercial dog breeding facilities regarding food, water, veterinary care and proper housing, and would ban cage stacking and wired or gridded flooring. Another bill, the Welfare of Our Friends (WOOF) Act (H.R. 1002), would prohibit the issuance or renewal of licenses to dog dealers and exhibitors who are not in compliance with the law, as well as breeders whose licenses have been revoked or suspended. These bills, along with several other animal welfare measures that are endorsed by the bipartisan Congressional Animal Protection Caucus, remain stalled in committee.

Several months ago I wrote to President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, and House Speaker Nancy Pelosi urging them to take a leadership role in advancing these bills and making prevention of cruelty to animals a more pressing issue. To date, no response. During the Trump administration, I sent similar letters to President Donald Trump and to Republican congressional leaders. I received no response from them either. 

I believe most Americans, Democrats and Republicans, liberals and conservatives, would support a greater effort to overcome the deprivation and unnecessary suffering of countless numbers of sentient beings who desperately need our compassion and protection.

Abraham Lincoln said, “I am in favor of animal rights as well as human rights. That is the way of a whole human being.” I wholeheartedly agree. I just wish the powers-that-be nowadays would by their words and actions adopt such a mindset, and that they would become mindful of the words of a man named Henry Drummond – “I shall pass through this world but once. Any good, therefore, that I can do, or any kindness that I can show to any being, let me do it now.  Let me not defer or neglect it, for I shall not pass this way again.”