The HSUS (Humane Society of the United States) has issued its sixth Horrible Hundred Report of 100 puppy mills in the US. For the sixth year in a row, Missouri has the highest number of puppy mills at 23, followed by Ohio with 13, Iowa with 10, and Pennsylvania with 9. Kansas and Wisconsin had 8 while Nebraska and New York had 6.

Deplorable, disgusting conditions found at these mills included starving dogs without food and water, cages covered in feces, sick and injured dogs covered in blood with broken limbs, stolen dogs, and breeders without licenses.

Using public records, the Humane Society draws on federal and state inspections, mainly those of the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), to publish this Horrible Hundred Report, naming dog breeders who are the biggest offenders of animal cruelty and neglect. But in February of 2017, citing bogus privacy concerns, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) removed all animal welfare records from its website. Upon request of the records the HSUS was given inspection reports with mostly redacted information; learning only the city and state of abuse, not the name of the breeder.

Despite the lack of transparency on most of the records, the HSUS still managed to gather most breeder names and license numbers by examining state reports and using the Horrible Hundred lists from previous years, deducing the names and probable names of repeat offenders.

The USDA is legally bound to enforce the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and the Horse Protection Act (HPA) and protect animals as the law dictates. But the agency is aiding those who abuse animals and profit from their cruelty. The primary concern of those running puppy mills is making a lot of money at the expense of thousands of suffering dogs. You need look no further than the first page of the Horrible Hundred report for a reason to never buy a dog from a pet store or the internet.

But the repeat abuse that could easily be stopped and the USDA’s lack of regard for this is senseless. It can only further our commitment to not buying puppy mill puppies. For example, take the case of one breeder in Missouri:

“Marilyn Shepherd/Williams’s mistreatment of animals stretches back more than a dozen years. Shewas assessed a civil penalty of $25,000 for operating as a USDA dealer without a license and was permanently barred from obtaining a USDA license in 2006, which should preclude her from selling puppies to pet stores or online sight-unseen. But Williams has a website at pup4u.com and also has many puppies for sale on PuppyFind.com, a website that Humane Society of the United States researchers have linked repeatedly to puppy mill operators and questionable breeders. Her online ads offer to ship puppies anywhere in the United States. The HSUS submitted a complaint to USDA about Shepherd/Williams selling puppies online without a USDA license and in apparent violation of the 2006 agreement. MO #AC0002DJ. THIRD TIME IN THIS REPORT

Banning this person from selling puppies should be easy. But since the 2017 Horrible Hundred report, the USDA has not revoked a single breeder license.

It’s not only the current administration but those of years before who have taken the sides of those who want to profit by abusing animals — but this administration has rolled back even the most minimal of efforts to ensure animals are treated humanely.

Removing public records and blacking out information is illegal and already the cause of a lawsuit filed against the USDA by animal welfare groups. The USDA is effectively saying it wants us to buy a puppy from a Petland without knowing whether or not our pet was born out of a history of cruelty and disease. But these are public records. And consumers need to be protected along with the dogs. We need to know whether a breeder is violating animal rights and to further know if those violations are being dealt with.

If the USDA does nothing about repeat offenders, then they’re not doing their job. And it’s Congress, who instilled them with this responsibility through law, who needs to enforce that they are. Our Congress is beholden to us. We can take steps to remind them of this, and we can also not by puppies from pet stores, pet fairs, and online. And we can also petition for all cities and states to ban the sale of puppy mill puppies in pet stores.

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