Horrible Hundred report leads to closures of problem puppy mills in states, spurs new laws in states, localities

For the last eight years, we have published the annual Horrible Hundred report listing 100 problem puppy mills in the United States. We do this to raise awareness about and fight a deep-seated problem of irresponsible and greedy commercial dog sellers who mistreat the animals they profit from, often failing to provide them with basic needs like sanitary living conditions, food, water and veterinary care.

Over the years, our findings have translated into tangible change for animals. Many terrible dealers have been closed down following closer scrutiny by authorities and the glare of the media spotlight. Localities and states have worked to change or introduce laws to fight puppy mills. And the report has helped us channel complaints from consumers who bought sick or dying dogs from mills listed in our report to the proper authorities, ensuring justice is done for the pets.

That’s why we have continued to bring out this report despite serious challenges. Between 2017 and 2019, a U.S. Department of Agriculture blackout of Animal Welfare Act records under the Trump administration made it close to impossible for our researchers to find complete and unaltered information on puppy mills. Our researchers used state inspection records and partially redacted USDA documents to identify problem mills and continued to bring the report out, although we couldn’t identify all mills by name.

This year, after the USDA finally restored those records online, we were once again able to publish the Horrible Hundred report with the full identities of all 100 puppy mills. The report was covered by dozens of local media outlets, and we are already hearing from enforcement agencies in several states that are taking a closer look at some of the puppy mills listed. Following are a few of the successes spurred by this and other recent Horrible Hundred reports:

  • On June 2, Whitewater became the first city in Wisconsin to pass a humane pet store ordinance ending the sale of puppies in pet stores. Wisconsin had eight dealers in the Horrible Hundred report, including one very close to Whitewater, and local residents testified about their concerns regarding bringing even more puppy mill puppies into Wisconsin through pet stores, when the state already has a documented puppy mill problem.
  • Spurred by a local puppy mill’s coverage in our Horrible Hundred report, Will County, Illinois, is now re-examining its laws and is considering new policies to more effectively combat puppy mill cruelty. The report exposed that a puppy mill linked to many complaints and poor conditions is still operating without any penalties because local laws are so minimal.
  • Just days after the report’s release, Missouri’s attorney general moved to close down one of the puppy mills in the report. This was the fifth puppy mill from one of our recent reports that the Missouri attorney general has taken to court.
  • A California bill, Bella’s law (named after a sick puppy mill corgi who was bred in a puppy mill and advertised as a “rescue dog” in a California pet store) passed the California Assembly this week and now moves to the state Senate. The bill would stop the sale of puppy mill puppies in California pet stores once and for all by strengthening the current law to stop the sale of puppies disguised as rescues. Part of those deliberations referenced problems with a fake rescue called Hobo K9 Rescue, a puppy mill front that we exposed in our 2019 Horrible Hundred report and that was recently shut down by Iowa’s attorney general.
  • Cornerstone Farms in Curryville, Missouri, which was in five of our Horrible Hundred reports, was shut down recently. We helped turn the spotlight on the terrible abuses of animals in this mill, along with reports in local media, Rolling Stone magazine, and in the book, “The Doggie in the Window,” by Rory Kress. Another mill in Missouri, Heritage Farms, listed in our report also closed down.
  • Circle M Kennel and Susquehanna Valley Kennel in Pennsylvania, both listed in the 2019 report, had their licenses revoked.
  • In Georgia, James Godfrey/ Godfrey Chow Kennel, also listed in the 2019 report, closed after a court determined he had renewed his license under false pretenses.
  • Florida’s attorney general recently filed a lawsuit against an Orlando-area Petland store for selling sick and dying puppies from puppy mills. We have helped turn the spotlight on Petland, the only national pet store chain that still sells puppies, through eight undercover investigations, and we’ve exposed through our Horrible Hundred reports for many years that Petland sources puppies from puppy mills. In this year’s report too, we found that several of the dealers in the report sold to Petland stores, including one who sold to five different Petland stores in Florida.

The Horrible Hundred also serves as a valuable tool for animal advocates around the country to press for long-term change by putting solid evidence in their hands about problem puppy mills in their area, and mills that sell to pet stores in their localities. For instance, Missouri has topped the report for every year it’s been published, and animal advocates in the state used evidence of the state’s persisting problem with puppy mills in our report this year to fight and defeat bad bills designed to weaken current animal protection laws and make it harder to remove dogs and other pet animals from suspected abusers.

Despite all the progress made, we have a long way to go before we end our nation’s puppy mill problem. Often, because so many mills operate under the radar, authorities are not even aware of them, making it even harder to penalize these enterprises. The coronavirus crisis has also slowed down the court system in many states, delaying justice in animal abuse cases. And as we’ve been reporting, the USDA’s shrinking enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act, the law designed to ensure enterprises like puppy mills are caring for their animals, under the Trump administration has made it easier for bad actors to escape penalties.

But we are watching, and we will not stop. It is only with constant vigilance by each one of us that this problem can be rooted out for good. We thank you for standing by our side by spreading awareness about the problems of buying dogs from questionable sources like pet stores and the Internet, and for bringing your complaints to us as we push forward in the fight against puppy mills.

To learn more about taking action against puppy mills, download our free guide.

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