Those three years of perfect inspections had something in common, other than their spotless nature: The same inspector conducted every one of them.

"I asked [a Schindler employee] if the USDA inspector even went out to the kennel during inspection, and he stated that sometimes he did and sometimes he did not," Rold's memo continues. "I personally feel that any facility holding over 1,600 dogs cannot be adequately inspected by one inspector in one day. I also feel that this situation lends to the 'good old boy' stereotype that both of our agencies work against.

"I believe we can do better."

Jennifer Silverberg
Located a two-hour drive northwest of St. Louis, Mexico, Missouri, held one of the state’s largest dog-breeding operations. Until October 2010, the entrance to Herman and Bonnie Schindler’s property, seen from the county road at right, was home to nearly 1,000 dogs.
Kase Wickman
Located a two-hour drive northwest of St. Louis, Mexico, Missouri, held one of the state’s largest dog-breeding operations. Until October 2010, the entrance to Herman and Bonnie Schindler’s property, seen from the county road at right, was home to nearly 1,000 dogs.

In the memo, Rold suggests an intensive probe of the Schindlers' facilities, including frequent visits from both the USDA and the Missouri Department of Agriculture — by investigators who would actually inspect the property, not just take a cursory glance and then head inside for coffee with the Schindlers.

"The items cited during Tuesday's inspection were chronic, and I do not believe they manifested themselves within the past few months," the memo continues. "The Schindlers are failing in health, short on employees and long on dogs that didn't sell last summer."

Bonnie Schindler pleaded old age in her seller's statement for the auction. She told the RFT that her recurring cancer prompted the dispersal.

But the state of Missouri says otherwise.

In fact, it appears that a perfect storm of increased inspections (some of them yielding more than 50 noncompliant marks in a single visit), heightened awareness of puppy mills in light of the upcoming Prop B vote, and negative media attention gave the state the impetus to shut the Schindlers down.

A letter from Rold to the auctioneer dated October 21, 2010, outlines procedures for the Schindlers' dispersal auction. Rold writes, "The state will act as custodian, and the sale of the dogs will occur at the state's behest. The sale of the dogs shall be absolute."

That memo, obtained via a public-records request, is being reported for the first time here.

Before the RFT obtained the memo, public perception was that the Schindlers, worried about the impending legislation and getting older every day, sold the business on their own accord.

The Schindlers weren't long on unsold dogs at the auction — and they didn't go for cheap. Before the auction, one rescuer had predicted spending between $50 and $100 per dog, at most. Carolyn Hadley, however, says that the dogs averaged $500 or $600 each, due to the dogs' pedigree and proof as good breeding stock.

The auction itself disgusted Hadley.

"If you've ever been to an antique auction or a junk auction, it was just like that," she says. "They would hold them up in the air and set them on the tables. If they were females and there was the potential that they were bred, they held them up and stretched their arms in the air so that everyone could see their bellies.

"There was a pug that had just delivered three puppies. They wrapped her butt in a towel, and they brought her out and sold her."

Hadley spent more than the $15,000 she had raised online prior to the auction and took home 114 dogs on behalf of various rescues. (Though 114 sounds significant, she had secured 250 commitments to foster dogs, expecting much lower prices.) She was surprised at what good condition the dogs were in.

"They were much more social than we were expecting, and that's not something you can do in a short period of time," she acknowledges. "The dogs overall moved along pretty quickly as far as being able to be placed in homes already because they were at least somewhat social enough to be able to adjust pretty quickly to life on the outside."

Meadows, the shelter-medicine expert, was not surprised that the Schindlers' dogs were in good condition.

"If they came out of a breeding situation, the ultimate goal of the people selling those dogs is to have that puppy act friendly to a potential buyer, right?" he says. "Plus, they do have innate social skills. They're pack animals; they're looking for other members of the pack!"

He was, however, surprised to hear that the Schindlers were shutting down their breeding business. He bought his last two dogs, miniature pinschers, from them. He saw them as good breeders.

But the impending rule changes, he says, will probably lead to more people like the Schindlers closing up shop.

"The good, well-meaning people that follow all the rules, it'll put them out of business," he says. "The people who never paid shit for attention to the rules to begin with still won't."

But just as the battle over Prop B continues into the new year, the Schindlers' breeding legacy may live on, too. Their daughter, Lori Conrad, is also a licensed a dog breeder. And though she chose to whittle down the majority of her breeding stock at the same auction as her parents, she won't say she is absolutely through with breeding.

"This is no longer a battle that I want to be forced to participate in," she says. "I'm not saying I won't participate in it still."

Conrad's brother, Tony Schindler, also holds a current license for a breeding business in Frankford, Missouri.

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