Yes Virginia, there are puppy mills in Illinois and they are just as bad as the mills everyplace else. It's Puppy Mill Awareness Week as we approach Mother's Day and the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) has issued their annual list of 101 problem puppy mills that spotlight the deplorable conditions in commercial breeding operations across America. Two of the worst are here in Illinois just outside Rockford.
The HSUS problem 101 puppy mills list focused on USDA and state inspection reports of puppy mills from all 50 states. Missouri, which has the most mills in the U.S. lead the list with 22. However, the USDA pointed out that there is much more scrutiny in Missouri since the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act (Proposition B) was enacted three years ago. Other states that ranked high (or should it be low) on the list are Kansas at second with 13 mills on the list, Nebraska with 13, Arkansas with 6 and Iowa with 6.
The two puppy mills of shame in Illinois aren't suprising...both of them have been highlighted in this blog in the past for their deplorable conditions. Both the Christianson Kennels in Poplar Grove (see story) and the Lettier Kennel in Caledonia (see story) have been in the spotlight a lot thanks to the work of Rockford area group Angels 4 Animals.
- Melton Christianson euthanized five beagles instead of bringing his kennels up to code after state inspectors dinged him twice for having inadequate heat in his kennels and other violations. He was ordered to get the kennels up to code. Instead he took five dogs to a local veterinarian and had them euthanized. He is still in operation.
- The Lettier Kennels were accused of having dogs stacked in cages in a garage. This case is in the news because local advocates got videotape of her kennels and released them to the media. Kimber Lettier is accused of assaulting an inspector on her property and her case has been working through the court system in Boone County. The good news is that the dogs are now gone from her kennel...the bad news is that they've reportedly been sent to a relative's mill in Tennessee. Lettier is due back in court on June 13.
In both of these cases, the bad operations have come to light because animal lovers have suspected something wasn't right and gone out to investigate. They've taken photos and videos and released them to the media which has done a great job in Rockford of covering the puppy mill issue.
I'd like to applaud animal advocates and the media both for keeping this issue out in the public. Along with writing about the mills, the Rockford media has covered court hearings, pet store protests and county board hearings focusing on changing laws in the community.
As you look up and down the list of the HSUS 101 problem puppy mills, there are many other cases of advocates that have reported issues at local puppy mills. Unfortunately, the rules of justice turn slowly because in heavy dog breeding areas the local media turns the other way in these cases of animal abuse. In many of these areas, puppy mills have amassed long lists of violations but little has been done because the USDA isn't required turn their findings over to local authorities.
Amid the heartbreak and depressing stories of the 101 problem puppy mills, there is some other good news to report. In the past five years, 28 states have passed tougher laws regulating puppy mills. Over 40 municipalities (including Chicago and Cook County) have passed laws banning the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores. And, new USDA rules also require more federal oversight for breeders who sell on the Internet.
And, there is also good news from last year's 101 problem puppy mills - 15 of those puppy mills have closed their door. Two of them on the list - the Pratt puppy mill in Iowa and the Puppy Parlor in Lisle (see story of dogs rescued from there) - have closed their doors. I'll have more on Debra Pratt tomorrow and Wednesday as we look how two neighboring states - Iowa and Illinois - are at opposite ends of the spectrum on the puppy mill issue.
This weekend, members of The Puppy Mill Project, a Chicago-based advocacy group, will be remembering the breeding mothers left behind in these mills at their annual Mothers in the Mills benefit. Learn more about their work and the event here and purchase tickets for the event at John Barleycorns in River North here. And, if you'd like to meet some of the folks from Angels 4 Animals...rumor has it they'll be there.
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