Despite setback, puppy mill foes fight on

Posted April 16, 2015

— Munson the English bulldog obsessively licks his feet every night at bedtime. Owner Lida Hayes says old habits die hard.

Lida and her husband, David Hayes, from Winston-Salem, adopted Munson in 2012 after he was rescued during a puppy mill bust in Stokes County. He was in horrendous shape: sick, filthy, underweight, with ear and skin infections and emaciated feet.

“He could hardly put his feet down from standing in urine and feces. The acid from the urine had just eaten his feet up,” Lida Hayes said Thursday. “He was in a cage with numerous other dogs, just like sardines packed in together. It was terrible. That’s just the only word for it.”

At first, she said, he was afraid of walking on grass, and he wouldn’t eat food from a bowl – it had to be strewn on the floor.

“He was used to eating food right beside his feces,” she remembered. “He was used for breeding, and that’s it.”

The puppy mill Munson was rescued from is already back in business. According to state Humane Society spokeswoman Kim Alboum, the breeder was given a two-year suspended sentence.

“To think this is open now and operating again after a slap on the wrist – if they even got that – is sickening to my stomach,” Lida Hayes said.

A bill that would have kept the breeder shut down, however, is off the table for the session.

Rep. Jason Saine, R-Lincoln, had filed House Bill 159, a large commercial dog breeder bill that would have required breeders to be registered and inspected, with standards for sanitation and housing. Any breeder found guilty of cruelty or neglect would not be allowed a license in the future. The bill also would have moved the oversight agency – the Division of Animal Welfare – from the Department of Agriculture & Consumer Services into the Department of Public Safety.

However, at a news conference Thursday, Saine said the tougher bill has met some resistance.

"So, in the spirit of compromise, we have put forward the commercial dog breeder language that passed the House 101-14 in 2013," he said. "We can move this issue forward and hopefully pass a bill that will make a difference.

"Despite our efforts over the last two years, North Carolina continues to be a magnet for some of the worst puppy mill operators," he continued. "Because North Carolina currently has no state law that provides basic standards of care for dogs in puppy mills, conditions have to reach the level of animal cruelty before law enforcement can do anything for these dogs. And that’s a very high threshold, as many of you know."

The 2013 bill did not require registration or inspection. Instead, it spelled out mandatory basic standards of care – food, water, shelter, exercise and veterinary care – for dogs belonging to any breeder actively breeding 10 or more female dogs for the purpose of selling the puppies to the public. It would not apply to breeders of hunting or sporting dogs, show dogs or any dogs "kept primarily for purposes other than the sale of offspring as pets."

"I know last session, some folks thought it didn't go far enough, and that’s probably a fair criticism,” Saine said. "But I kind of operate under the assumption that we need to at least start making progress."

The bill passed the House easily but "got held hostage over in the Senate," Saine said, even though he said his polling of Senate members showed it had majority support in both the Republican and Democratic caucuses.

"So, we have friends over there. Hopefully, there’ll be capacity to take this up," he said.

More than 1,600 dogs and puppies have been rescued in puppy mill busts in the state since 2011, and Wake County SPCA director Kim Janzen said her group has been at the forefront of many of them, seeing dogs in conditions she described as "heartbreaking and almost impossible for me to describe to you adequately."

"Picture your own dog and imagine her in a tiny cage, with feces so deep that they cover her feet," Janzen said. "It's not an exaggeration, it's not sensationalism. We have seen this time and time again. It is the reality, right here, right now, today, for thousands of animals in North Carolina.

"Here's the really uncomfortable truth: It is entirely preventable," she continued. "We are not talking over-regulation here. We are talking about the most basic care imaginable."

Nonetheless, a number of groups, most notably the American Kennel Club, fought the 2013 bill, arguing that it would unfairly regulate and penalize breeders.

Reaching down to scratch her dog's head, Lida Hayes said she would combat those arguments by visiting Senate leaders Thursday and telling them Munson's story.

"We don’t want any other animal to have to live like Munson did. He’s too good of a dog,” she said. “As they say, ‘damn good dog,’ and he is.”

The bill is expected to be heard in the House Rules Committee next week.


Please with your WRAL.com account to comment on this story. You also will need a Facebook account to comment.

Oldest First
View all
  • Elizabeth Brinkley Apr 17, 2015
    user avatar

    10 Things You Didn’t Know About Puppy Mills

    1) Passing laws intended to outlaw “puppy mills” will not solve any problem. Most substandard breeders are already in violation of existing laws and don’t care. New, stricter laws will only affect those who are already working to follow the laws. The only way to have any effect is to provide the funds and manpower to enforce the laws that are already on the books.
    2) There is no such thing as a "puppy mill". "Puppy mill" is not a legally defined term, it is slang invented by the “animal rights” extremists to denigrate any and all breeders -- small or large, standard or substandard. It's the "N-word" of breeders and equally insulting to use. The phrase “puppy mill” has been promoted in the media by the animal “rights” movement, people who want to end all animal ownership. It is applied indiscriminately by these fanatics to anyone who breeds dogs. You didn’t “adopt” a dog. If you paid money to a shelter it is a sale n

  • Eric Johnson Apr 17, 2015
    user avatar

    If Ms Hayes or the writer knew anything about dogs, they would know the licking of the feet was probably a reaction to histamines in the blood. Allergy tests perhaps? Not getting the tests ought to be proof of inhumane treatment ... right?

  • Dorinda Hayes Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    There are some human beings making our laws. The worse of the worse deciding the fate of these innocent animals that have no voice and should be protected. These people, especially these republicans on our legislature are monsters. People with no soul, ethics or morality.

  • Clarence Hill Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    Thanks for bring the dog. This nice AKC dog is a good example of the HSUS scam of animal rights vigilantes to raid and steal high priced/valuable dogs. Remember, the Stokes County breeder bred and raised the bulldog--only to have it stolen by HSUS. Also, the breeder had a sale or place for dogs. When HSUS took those dogs--they pushed dogs in other shelters towards death needles. Why doesn't the lady have in her arms a shelter dog--like HSUS wants others to do.

    This was a bad bill deceptively designed to shut down all commercial dog breeding, AS-is, if you converted your house, my house or our Governor's into a commercial dog breeding kennel--it would fail to meet regulations--without spending thousands of dollars to upgrade. HSUS knew that. This is not about just dogs, all animal farmers and ranchers should not be fooled into thinking so.

    Where is Kim Albourn--NC HSUS Director--in this discussion? I was expecting to see her wagging her tail/tongue at the microphone.

  • Alexia Proper Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    View quoted thread

    I don't get it from your explanation. If the dog is not used to a leash, perhaps that's because it was free to roam? Cannot navigate steps? That's due to what? Maybe the dog is scared of steps having never seen them before? Crawls to you? Maybe the dog is shy? Ever watched kids approach people they don't know, clinging to mom or dad?

    I recall last year when a story was posted about a bunch of neglected dogs. The words the "raiders" used made it sound like the dogs were an emotional wreck, but WRAL's cameras said otherwise. They were playing in the yard all happy, wagging tails.

    Some of this is nonsense. Some is overstatements of fact. Some is just incorrect. And some might be real, but hard from me to see fact and fiction given all the fiction I keep seeing.

  • Fran Rose Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    Clearly this is a case of animal abuse which should be treated as a felony. Breeders should be monitored very closely if they are going to allow it to continue. A suspended sentence is not acceptable for what those dogs have gone through. This just turns my stomach

  • Cathy Hofmann Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    I am fostering a dog from an "AKC breeder". She is scared of her own shadow, has never walked on a leash and doesn't know how to navigate steps. After 3 weeks she finally is ok on a leash and "crawls" to me for attention. She was dumped at a shelter by the "breeder" with her AKC paperwork. I guess she wasn't generating enough cash anymore. This isn't even a severe case, but it is bad enough. When will the legislators get it? Maybe when they are replaced by new ones....

  • Chris Holder Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    Gotta love NC.

  • Anne Havisham Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    Considering the recent WRAL article about hunting dogs [allegedly] being allowed to run wild after hunting season is over then being scooped up again when the hunting season begins, it seems unwise to not include hunting dogs in this legislation.

    I wonder about limiting the bill to only those breeders who have ten or more female breeding dogs. If someone else sees sense in this, please include an explanation of it in the comments.

  • Sammy Macloud Apr 16, 2015
    user avatar

    DISGUSTING!!! Guess the AKC has lined their pockets.

    For the Stokes Co. puppy mill to be back in business and have a SUSPENDED sentence plainly indicates, along with the AG GAG bill, that these yahoos don't care 2 hoots about the animals......disgusting!!!!