Licensed dog breeder Ann Quinn keeps her interior breeding kennel warmer than 45 degrees in the winter and cooler than 85 degrees in the summer. She has an air purifier and a dehumidifier running at all times.
She said she cleans up waste twice a day and won’t let anyone near her dogs unless they are wearing hazmat booties over their shoes.
The prized red poodle puppies she breeds at the kennel net anywhere from $250 to $5,000 each.
And when she saw a News-Leader article about the Humane Society of the United States’ annual Horrible Hundred puppy mill report, Quinn did something most dog breeders wouldn’t dream of.
She invited the reporter and a photographer to visit her kennel in Niangua.
Quinn, who was not listed in the Horrible Hundred report, said she and other licensed breeders take offense to the phrase “puppy mill.”
She called the report unfair and said that many of the claims are “highly exaggerated.”
Along with breeding huskies, poodles, Goldendoodles, schnauzers and Shibas, Quinn serves as publicity director for the Missouri Pet Breeders Association.
“We don’t have a fair fight with the Humane Society (of the United States) because we don’t have the money,” Quinn said during the tour of her kennel.
The Humane Society of Southwest Missouri in Springfield is not affiliated with the Humane Society of the United States – a point Quinn made repeatedly.
To compile the Horrible Hundred report, the HSUS pulls information from federal and state inspection records and calls out a sampling of 100 “especially problematic puppy mills.”
But Quinn thinks some of the examples are misleading. She pointed to portions of the report that mention yellow discharge in dogs’ eyes. Humans, too, wake up with yellow “sleep” in their eyes, she said.
“The inspections are unannounced. These inspectors can come to your house at 7 a.m. and 7 p.m.,” Quinn said, arguing that it’s not unusual that at least one dog would have such discharge.
Quinn said that there is so much work to be done in keeping a kennel up to snuff, it wouldn’t make much difference if breeders were given 24 hours notice of the inspection.
“If you knew the amount of paperwork that goes with a license and with our puppies, on our vaccinations and our day to day examinations,” Quinn said, “you would know that in 24 hours, Superman could not turn around a kennel that was bad. Nor could you clean it all or put the gravel in or wash all your doghouses or if you had a sick dog, get it to the vet. There would be no way.”
“In most of our kennels, it would make no difference whether you came unannounced or announced,” she continued. “We (licensed dog breeders) are all vigilant. And the reason we are vigilant is these dogs and the production of their puppies make us money. If you do not take care of them, the dog doesn’t have puppies or the puppies don’t make it to eight weeks. It’s just that simple.”
MPBA President Kevin Beauchamp, who was there when the News-Leader toured Quinn’s kennel, agreed.
“The bad (breeders) will weed themselves out,” he said. ‘The substandard ones are not going to be in business six months. They can’t afford it.”
Both Beauchamp and Quinn acknowledged that there are bad dog breeding operations out there, but they say those are the unlicensed breeders who don’t have to worry about state and USDA inspections or meeting American Kennel Club regulations.
Though she has never been included in the HSUS’s Horrible Hundred report, photos of Quinn’s operation wound up on the ASPCA’s No Pet Store Puppies website. The photos were taken by USDA inspectors back in 2014 and are accompanied by notes from the inspection.
Quinn said one of those photos – of a puppy room with brown smears on white walls – is a perfect example of the “insignificant stuff that sometimes we get written up for.”
“I had scrubbed the floor and the puppies weren’t even in the enclosure,” she said. “But I hadn’t scrubbed the wall yet.”
“Those were puppy paw prints on a white barn board,” Quinn said. “The violations I had never affected my ability to sell puppies.”
Quinn said she primarily sells her puppies through a broker who then sells the dogs to pet stores.
Dreamaker Kennel in Niangua
Quinn’s dog breeding operation sits in and around her former horse barn. Quinn said she bred horses until the market tanked when slaughterhouses were banned a few years back.
When the News-Leader visited in late May, Quinn had 26 dogs inside the breeding kennel (a large room inside the barn) and about 70 dogs in kennels outside the barn.
Puppies, nursing moms and soon-to-be moms are kept indoors, where the temperature and moisture level are closely monitored.
Though Quinn would not let the News-Leader take photos of the kennels outside the barn, the reporter and photographer were allowed to look around.
She explained that she didn’t want photos taken outside because some animal rights activists are upset by the mere sight of an outside kennel, no matter how clean or big it is.
The kennels were as clean as could be expected, and all the dogs appeared healthy with food and clean water.
The outside kennels are shaded and three times larger than what the state mandates, she said, with doghouses tall enough to permit the animals to stand.
Quinn said most breeders would never allow a stranger with a camera anywhere near their operation for fear the photos would end up in the hands of animal rights activists.
Asked if she’d ever had trouble with people opposed to her dog-breeding operation, Quinn said it hasn’t happened yet.
“Your story may cause them to come after me,” she said. “It will be a threat to them for us to speak out in a story against the most Horrible Hundred list.”
“But I have a good sheriff in Webster County,” Quinn added. “They better not show up on my property.”
What the Humane Society says
Kathleen Summers is director of outreach and research for the HSUS Puppy Mills Campaign.
Summers defined the phrase “puppy mill” as “an inhumane, commercial dog-breeding facility in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”
Summers said the HSUS is not opposed to all professional dog breeders and described what the organization considers to be “responsible breeding practices.”
“Responsible dog breeders produce only a few litters a year, health-testing the parent dogs first for common inherited diseases before selecting them for their breeding program. They keep dogs in clean, spacious and humane conditions, with excellent, professional veterinary care.
“Responsible breeders don’t sell their puppies to pet stores, because they want to get to know the people who are taking home their puppies to make sure it’s the right fit for the dog and family,” Summers said in an email.
“The HSUS feels that most commercial breeding kennels do not provide the adequate amount of care and socialization that dogs require. The dogs at most commercial breeding kennels are kept in crowded conditions, often in small cages with very little room to run and play,” Summers said. “They often never see a treat or a toy, and sometimes live in small wire cages with their feet never touching grass. When the dogs can no longer turn a profit for their owner, they are often killed or abandoned. In contrast to responsible breeders, large-scale commercial kennels can rarely provide the socialization, exercise and care that dogs need.”
The News-Leader observed toys for the puppies at Quinn’s kennel. None of her animals were in small wire cages.
Quinn said when her dogs are too old to breed, she finds a home for them or puts them in a program that places the dogs with Vietnam War veterans.
(Read the original story shared by the Springfield News-Leader here.)