By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block
Duchess is a Havanese with a wardrobe of tiny, colorful dresses. Cooper is a senior golden retriever who still has a lot of spunk and likes to go on vacations with his family. Alis is a Weimaraner who jogs with her owner and loves to catch a ball.
These dogs are finally enjoying life, and the puppy mills from which they were rescued are no longer in operation. Before they closed, each one of those mills appeared in our annual Horrible Hundred reports identifying known problem breeders in the United States.
Stephanie Davolt-King, who adopted Duchess from Havaheart Rescue after the closing of a mill, said Duchess was in poor condition at first. The former breeding dog had ear and eye infections and needed to have 19 teeth pulled. It was also clear she had never walked on grass. Three years after her rescue, Duchess is still fearful of some people, but otherwise doing well. “She now does zoomies, demands belly rubs, and loves her clothes. We are very grateful she was saved and finally healthy,” Davolt-King said in an email.
In addition to Duchess, Cooper and Alis, more than 1,400 dogs and puppies have been rescued from puppy mills that appeared in our Horrible Hundred reports and were later permanently closed by local authorities. As we release our 10th annual report, we again draw back the curtain and reveal the true cruelty of puppy mills that the pet industry doesn’t want you to see. Breeders in the Horrible Hundred report have been found with injured and emaciated dogs, dogs and puppies exposed to extreme weather with only frozen water or moldy food, and/or dogs consigned to cramped, filthy and unsafe living conditions.
For the 10th year in a row, Missouri has the largest number of puppy sellers on the Horrible Hundred list, with 26 puppy mills in this year’s report. It is followed by Iowa (17), New York (12) and Kansas and Wisconsin (seven each). Some states, such as Ohio and Oklahoma, ranked low this year, but only because they failed to fulfill our public records requests in a timely manner, ignoring their states’ public right-to-know laws and leaving the public in the dark about whether they are making any progress to protect dogs.
Some of the most disturbing findings in this year’s report include:
- An Iowa breeder, Henry Sommers, who has now appeared six times in the Horrible Hundred reports, admitted to his U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector that he killed some unwanted dogs by injecting them in the stomach and leaving them alone in their cages to die. His veterinarian denied providing the drug Sommers used or giving approval for the procedure. Months later, it appears USDA has not fined Sommers or suspended or revoked his license. The Humane Society of the United States has urged USDA to work with local authorities on potential animal cruelty charges.
- Another Iowa breeder, Menno Gingerich (Skyline Puppies), admitted to performing a do-it-yourself procedure on a badly injured puppy with a neck wound. He admitted that he stitched the wound himself with “sewing string” and did not use anesthesia, according to the USDA report. It appears USDA has not fined him or suspended or revoked his license.
- Kansas investigators looking into a complaint found a breeder (Mary Moore/D and M Kennel) with a dead puppy on her property. The puppy was being carried in the mouth of an adult dog; when asked, Moore admitted she had tossed some dead puppies into a field that morning because she was “in a hurry.” State inspectors did not cite Moore with any violations, and USDA did not document any violations in its most recent inspection report on her facility, choosing instead to register their concerns in a “teachable moments” document.
- A self-described American Kennel Club dog breeder in Missouri, Cory Mincey (Puppy Love Kennel), sued by the Missouri attorney general in 2019 for failing to provide proper care for numerous filthy, emaciated and dying dogs, was found to be still accumulating severe violations within the past year; the state only fined her $4,500.
After a decade of publishing, it is disheartening to see that many breeders who have appeared five, six or seven times in the Horrible Hundred report due to recurring violations are still licensed and in business. But over the same period, we’ve also seen significant progress. More than 200 dealers featured in past reports appear to have shut down, and a few dozen have been criminally charged, fined or jailed. In addition, USDA has made some improvements to its animal care rules, such as requiring annual veterinary examinations and vaccinations for breeding dogs. Finally, since the first Horrible Hundred report appeared in 2013, at least 11 states and hundreds of localities have upgraded their dog breeder regulations and/or pet store laws.
Dog lovers can do their part to end cruelty at puppy mills by refusing to buy a dog from a pet store or online. Dozens of pet stores across the country purchased puppies from dealers in this year’s report. At least 11 of this year’s Horrible Hundred puppy mills were found to have recently sold animals to Petland, the only national chain in the U.S. that still sells puppies. Petland has vigorously fought laws across the country that would end the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores, falsely claiming it only purchases from high-quality breeders. In addition, many of the dealers in this report are affiliated with the American Kennel Club, which purports to be “the dog’s champion” but in fact regularly fights against laws that would protect dogs.
You can do your part by considering shelter adoption when you’re looking to add a pet to your family. If you choose not to adopt from a shelter or rescue, please follow our tips for finding a responsible source for your puppy and visit and carefully screen a breeder in person.
You can also help by asking your lawmakers to support the Puppy Protection Act, which will improve conditions at federally licensed puppy breeding operations by requiring more space for dogs, better protection from the weather, and better housing, socialization, and veterinary care.
The full Horrible Hundred report is available online at humanesociety.org/100puppymills.
Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.