Group says selling dogs, puppies at auctions needs to stop

Editor’s note: This is the second article in a two-part series on Ohio’s dog auctions. Click here for part one.

MILLERSBURG, Ohio — For the past several years, Mary O’Connor-Shaver has been advocating for the dogs and puppies in Ohio.
She’s developed several online communities of companion pet animal supporters and is especially concerned with those raised in mass confinement — what she calls puppy mills.

O’Connor-Shaver, of Lewis Center, Ohio, is leading a political action committee called Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions — a grassroots effort to ban dog auctions in Ohio, and crack down on the “puppy mill” industry in the state.

Signature gathering

So far, her organization has gathered roughly 15 percent of the signatures needed to put the ban legislation on the November 2011 ballot. She’s confident she and her organization will get the rest.

An all-out ban on dog auctions is necessary, she said, because increasing regulations on producers would not be enough. Regulations would still provide for inconsistencies, she said, and would not ensure enforcement.

Other side

But breeders and workers at the auction insist they do things right. They say inspections by USDA and a local veterinarian, who checks each dog before being sold, provide enough regulation for their actions.

“They’re inspected good enough,” said Harold Neuhart, a dog auction manager.

Inspection points include ruptures, broken bones, the condition of their eyes and teeth. If a dog is not fit to be sold, it’s sent back home with the breeder, he said.

Vet’s perspective

Teresa Hoxworth, a veterinarian with East Holmes Veterinary Clinic, said dogs found to be unhealthy are pulled from the sale.

It’s a brief inspection, she said, but enough time to handle the dog and check the major concern areas, including inside the mouth, c-section scars, the physical appearance and hernias.

She said the dogs are being cared for, and usually come the day of the auction, or the day before, and are given food and water.

“In general, I think it’s a pretty good situation,” she said.

Part of the frustration over the auctions is the difference between what people hear, and what is really happening, she said.

“They (public) hear a lot of stuff … I have never seen an animal that has been mistreated there,” she said.

Misrepresented?

Neuhart said claims have been made that he sold three dogs with broken legs. Just mentioning it makes him quiver, because, according to Neuhart and his auction staff, it just isn’t so.

Several of his workers said a dog with a broken leg would not clear the veterinary inspection, and would pose threats to those who tried to bring it into the auction area, possibly biting at them from pain.

Breeders at the auction said they’re open to improvement, and welcome inspections, but are offended over false statements.

“They (auctioneers) don’t even sell stuff like that,” said Freeman Byler, a local breeder who sells privately. “If a dog comes in there and it’s not healthy, they tell them to take it back home.”

USDA inspections

Commercial kennels and dog auctions are inspected in Ohio by the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.

Violations are common at some kennels, and range in severity from none at all, to those requiring immediate attention. They include issues with food and medicine storage, paint and condition of the facility, health and sanitary issues, and issues relating to the temperature of the kennel.

In January of 2009, the Farmerstown dog auction was reported for failing to maintain a minimum of 45 degrees. Overnight temperature dropped to minus 19, and the lowest indoor temperature did not exceed 31 degrees, despite the use of propane heaters. Water bowls froze and some dogs were found huddled and shivering, according to USDA reports.

Local investigation

In 2007, Holmes County Commissioners investigated claims of abuse to dogs at kennels in the county. The dog warden investigated, and found only issues related to cleanliness, which were resolved.

Commissioners then sent a letter sent to Ohio House of Representatives regarding legislation pending then, concluding: “It appears that these individuals (activists) are trying to do everything that they can to try and stop these kennels from operating, to the point of feeding the media blatant lies, misrepresentation and accusation.

“These emotions were designed to stir the emotions of the general public, which has no idea that they (public) were being misled by these individuals.”

Humane Society stance

O’Connor said the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions, or BODA, has made efforts to meet with people in Holmes County, to discuss its agenda.

The Holmes County Humane Society met with BODA in May. Donna Norfolk, board president, said members were encouraged to do as they choose, but no official support will be made for BODA.

“We, as a 501c3 organization, are not going to become involved with any coalition or political action committee,” she said. “We cannot afford to get into a political arena to jeopardize the work that we’re doing.

“We (humane society) do our part in Holmes County to work with a lot of different groups — (inspectors), breeders and veterinarians,” Norfolk said.

“We bow our heads to the people (USDA and veterinarians) that have a lot more experience in this than we do,” she said.

Street rally

On May 22, O’Connor-Shaver held a rally in front of the Holmes County Fairgrounds, to gather further support. A dog auction was held that afternoon, in Farmerstown.

On the day of the sale, at least a half-dozen animal rescue groups were represented, many undercover. They asked not to be identified, citing fear of retaliation from breeders and auction staff.

Mixed views

Some rescuers were opposed to the auction, while others said they support it, because it gives them a venue to rescue dogs, and a place to market them to prospective buyers and homes.
0002000003A6000017033A0,Many of the dogs bought by rescuers are listed for adoption on Internet websites, including petfinder.com. Others are taken to rescue shelters.

Rescuers came from within Ohio, and from New York, and some from the East Coast. One said she would like to see “all (commercial) breeding stopped,” and all pets be in a home.

Neither Byler nor Neuhart expressed opposition to dog rescuers. But Byler said there is a variety among rescuers, some who treat the dogs worse than if they were to be sold to breeders.

“A rescuer can go to Farmerstown and buy a dog, and they can shove six dogs in one cage, and nobody (says anything.),” he said. “If it’s a breeder, it’s a different thing.”

Although rescuers cited different reasons for buying dogs, they seemed to have a common goal.

Most said they wanted to give the dogs “a chance at a life outside of the cages.”

More information: To review the full inspection history of licensed commercial kennels, visit the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s public records database. You will need to enter the owner’s name you wish to inspect.

Farm and Dairy asked the Tuscarawas County dog warden for her reactions over the weekend. An early holiday deadline prevented them from being included in this report, but can be viewed here.

About the Author

Chris Kick lives in Wooster, Ohio. An American FFA Degree recipient, he holds a bachelor’s in creative writing from Ashland University. He spends his free time on his grandparents’ farms in Wayne and Holmes counties. More Stories by Chris Kick

15 Comments

  1. If you are set on buying a puppy please download and read, “How To Buy A Puppy” before you consider parting with your money. It is free at http://www.howtobuyapuppy.net

    Buying a puppy without problems is harder than most people think. Finding a responsible and knowledgeable breeder is very difficult.
    http://www.howtobuyapuppy.net

  2. 2 Many Dogs says:

    Glenn,

    Respectfully, I submit that, while there are dogs overflowing in shelters and rescues, with 10,000 killed every year alone in a single Ohio county, the term “responsible breeder” is an oxymoron. Did you know that a single dog and one of her litters (if they are all females) can produce ANOTHER 67,000 puppies every 6 years? That statistic terrifies me, because it means I will never be able to stop rescuing dogs.

    It makes sense to me that the breeding community, the portion of it who treat their dogs like companions, rather than breeding stock and do not over breed, would want to support the effort to ban dog auctions. How could that not be obvious? (I’m sure money is in that answer somewhere.)

    Just as those who promote, and try to hide the horrors of, puppy mills, lump rescuers into one group, so do rescuers lump breeders together. A couple of people who responded to the last article tried to over-simplify, in order to point fingers and start a yelling match. In fact, there is a continuum for both of those groups. Rescuers run the gammit from individuals who help an occassional dog find a new home to hoarders. Breeders range from an accidental litter to the puppy mills whose dogs end up at Harold Neuhart’s auctions.

    It only follows that it is in the interest of legitimate rescuers to expose hoarders and rescuers practicing unethically. Continuing on that logical path, does it not also make sense for legitimate breeders to expose the pretenders on their spectrum? No legitimate breeder will promote the abuse and neglect puppy mills are guilty of. Harold Neuhart’s auction house allows those puppy millers to not only exist, but helps them flourish.

    One question for residents of Holmes County: Why would any community want to be known for auctioning puppies who are sick and injured, especially one claiming to hold the high ethics found in the Amish religion? There were several responses to the first “article” who indicated they had first hand experience and/or knowledge of the sickening conditions the puppies are kept in. Specific, documentable, and multiple examples of disgusting abuse that Neuhart turns a blind eye to were, sadly, ignored by the writer of this article in his few responses to his readers. The couple of responders supporting the continuation of dog auctions and puppy mills also ignored those well-written, heart-felt comments, choosing, instead, to repeat twisted versions of their opponents’ posts.

    There were at least two responses with direct evidence of USDA inspectors NOT enforcing current regulations when severe abuse and neglect were obvious and documented. (For the author: the quotes around “article” indicate that I do not believe this “article” should be called an “article”, as it is mostly editorial comment.)

    Hidden agendas of those wanting to obscure dark realities, so their profit remains unthreatened, have slowed progress on what should be a no-brainer to a frustrating snail’s pace.

    Finally, regarding this article, which really is without merit for comment, the author needs to take another round of English 101. “Signature gathering.” Was that supposed to be a sentence? Where’s the verb? He has an obvious personal agenda, that seems to have turned into a vendetta against one person. Does anyone know, by the way, if it was O’Connor-Shaver who coined the term “puppy mills”? He seems to be giving her credit. And, again, an English tip for the author: Your use of ” ” around “puppy mills” seems to indicate that you believe the term to be inaccurate. Are you really questioning the existence of puppy mills anywhere? Do you really think they do not exist at all? Do you think every cup of milk you drink was hand pumped, early in the morning, by a straw-haired, sleepy-eyed 10 y/o boy, wearing rolled up blue jeans and a straw hat? Or, do you just not understand what the ” ” themselves mean? (Just curious. You seem to be a bit out of touch with reality.)

  3. 2 Many Dogs. Thank you for bringing the “signature gathering” error to our attention. It was a subhead that was uploaded without the proper coding, and not a sentence as you inferred. We have fixed it now.

  4. 2 Many Dogs says:

    Ms. Crowell,

    Glad to help. I would also, again, with respect, submit that this “article” is mis-categorized. It belongs in the Letters to the Editor column. The very first line that appears under the title indicates that there is an even balance of views on each side. That is hardly the case, with a recent poll showing 92& support for the ban.

    Given the high quality of many of the articles in Farm and Dairy, I am frankly surprised to see tolerance of the amatuerish and slanted “reporting” submitted by Mr. Kick. His writing is a disappointment and reflects poorly on any attempt to deliver fair and balanced reporting.

  5. 4Truth,Justice,Etc. says:

    Please consider your veterinary choices carefully. Teresa Hoxworth, representing East Holmes Vet Clinic, supports puppy mills. Her statements are absolutely false. They cannot possibly match the realities seen each time Neuhart holds an auction. Hoxworth’s lies do nothing to ease suffering, and that is the role of a vet . . . to ease the suffering of animals. Do you want to put money in the pocket of a canine professional who supports mass-production of puppies for profit? I know I don’t.

    Anyone using East Holmes Vet Clinic should carefully consider that choice. Your money is part of the puppy mill machine. You pay them. They speak, in the name of their business, in support of puppy mills, and they then allow those lies to be published.

    Farm and Dairy has shown little responsibility in the coverage of this crucial issue. Instead of covering a story, they handed a writer a soap box and failed to review his message with adequate scrutiny.

  6. Ah, but the poll referenced was not a scientifically based, unbiased poll, based on population demographics, etc. We have similar polls on our home page and we would never construe those results as scientific. I think you would agree that polls like these can easily be skewed by one side urging supporters to visit the site and vote.

  7. Chris Kick says:

    2 Many Dogs, Dog Psych, or whichever you may be,

    The poll you reference sounds significant on its own, and it may be. However, after receiving communications in which O’Connor-Shaver told her masses of “companion pet lovers” of every land to visit that site and vote against the auction, it appears the result could have more to do with those who voted.

    That’s why newspaper poll results are generally considered “unofficial.”

    It is difficult to say how the state would vote. So far, more than 100,000 signatures are still needed before we find out.

  8. Chris Kick says:

    4Truth,

    The veterinarian you mention holds a degree as a doctor of veterinary medicine in this state, and is one of the veterinarians who conducts inspections at this sale.

    That makes her a credible source for this story, and her comments and observations deserve to be reflected.

  9. Lorry Schlick says:

    2 Many dogs hit the nail right on the head!!! Good job of telling it like it is!!!

  10. 2 Many Dogs says:

    To Ms. Crowell:

    Speaking of bias, let me play back for you Mr. Kick’s own words:

    ” . . . O’Connor-Shaver told her masses of “companion pet lovers” ‘

    Please do not claim that the bias there is invisible. Sarcasm has no place in the tool kit of un-biased reporters. As was already stated, Kick’s article is nothing but his personal opinion, and you have no business presenting it as fact. Editorials go in the Letters to the Editor column.

    Interesting that you are concerned about mis-using polls, but other misrepresentations and lies of ommission seem to be no issue. Where was the Neuhart assault in this story? Seems to be somewhere under the rug, hanging around with the fleas. Harold Neuhart is no more credible than the vet, Teresa Hoxworth, who continues to cover up the suffering she witnesses. It disgusts me that anyone in the veterinary profession could be so unethical. (Please do not use her degree to indicate trustworthiness. Plenty of M.D.s practice unethically. Educational degrees and licensures are not accurate predictors of ethics.)

  11. Chris Kick says:

    Sorry if you felt this was sarcasm. Her letters are addressed, “Dear companion pet lovers.”

    And they are sent in group, or mass e-mails to many followers.

  12. LoneRanger says:

    “Often we allow ourselves to be upset by small things we should despise and forget. We lose many irreplaceable hours brooding over grievances that, in a year’s time, will be forgotten by us and by everybody. No, let us devote our life to worthwhile actions and feelings, to great thoughts, real affections and enduring undertakings.”
    André Maurois (1885-1967) French writer.

  13. sydney says:

    my chruch group n i do dog rescues n just heard of this place called back to kennel sale … buck eye dog auction… and or farmerstown dog auction… we are very intrested to go n help n to bring dogs home to foster if you have ne info or directions, n when the next one is occuring n time we would greatly appreciate it u can write me at averyannelw@yahoo.com

  14. okiestorm1 says:

    Maybe if pounds and rescue places would bring down the price a little more animals would be adopted out and the vets up here in ohio charge an arm and leg to fix a dog or cat it is unreal. Auctions need to be stoped you never know where the dog is going to end up. In oklahoma if you are giving away or selling a dog or cat you can call the sheriffs office and see if the people wanting the animal has ever had animal abuse charges brought against them it is public record. Where I am from in OK it cost 25 dollars to adopt a dog from the pound and get some of that back when it is fixed,also the vets dont charge an arm and leg to fix them. I called a vet here in ohio to get my corgie fixed they wanted 150 plus dollars to fix a corgie, ill take her back to OK when we visit and get her done there. Every one complains about the population of dogs and cats but they never do anythang to bring down the prices to fix them so people can actually afford it. Puppy mills, auctions and the outragous pricing need to be stoped.I would love to get a couple cats for the farm but I dont see paying 100 dollars for a farm cat.I dont want an inside cat I want an outside cat so that leaves out adopting anyway.

  15. berlinoh5 says:

    boda is holding a meeting in holmes county this month. reservations are full but they may be able to make room for a couple more people.

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