6 million dogs put to sleep in humane societies each year.6 million puppies born in puppymills each year.
By Ray Downs
By Lindsay Toler
By Danny Wicentowski
By Lindsay Toler
By RFT Staff
By Lindsay Toler
By Allison Babka
By Lindsay Toler
The tents are up and the bleachers ready as hundreds of people mill in the cold morning sunshine. They chat with old friends while keeping an indulgent eye on their children, who chase each other over and under plastic tables and up spindly trees, squealing and tossing gravel. Despite the early hour, the air crackles with excitement.
With blue skies above, a homemade concession stand and boisterous children all around, the atmosphere in rural Mexico, Missouri, this morning feels like a harvest festival.
It's a rare harvest festival, however, that features security like this: Just off the county road, vehicles streaming onto the property are stopped at a checkpoint. There, driver's licenses are photocopied, plates are photographed, and a document is proffered for signing: It bans photography, audio or video recording and anything that could be construed as ill will toward the property owners. The threatened penalty for violations? $250,000.
And even beyond the security, there's the noise. Beneath the children's shouts is a cacophony of barking, yapping, howling and whimpering.
It's the sound of more than 800 dogs — and it echoes unceasingly.
This late October gathering on the rural Missouri property of Bonnie and Herman Schindler isn't a festival, and it isn't a fair. It's the end of what the Humane Society of the United States calls Missouri's largest — and, arguably, its most notorious — puppy mill.
Bonnie Schindler is a small, grandmotherly type: She has a voice that undulates like an unsteady rocking chair, loud to soft and back again, with pauses so long between statements that it's unclear whether she's decided to end the sentence early. She can also talk for so long without pause that if a call is dropped, and the person she's talking to calls back, she may still be rattling on.
Schindler refers to her dogs lovingly: Puppies are "babies" and adults are "mothers." She credits the time she spent with them for healing the cancer that invaded five parts of her body and earned a grim prognosis from her doctors.
"When I was so sick, I'd go down and sit in the puppy building with my puppies," she says. "I'd hold them and love them. And I beat it. I told my doctors, 'I don't have time to die. Dying's not in my schedule; I have too many babies to take care of.' And after I beat it, they shook their heads and said, 'You are a miracle.'"
It's when Schindler slips from "babies" and "mothers" — instead referring to them as "production animals" — that things start to feel a little less charming.
Bonnie Schindler and her husband, Herman, are both 75 years old. They've bred and sold dogs in Missouri for almost 50 years. At one point, records show, they had 2,913 dogs, all but a few hundred of them breeding stock.
This fall, they sold all of them. That's the reason hundreds of people flocked to the Schindlers' property on October 29 and 30: Before the couple could retire, they needed to get rid of their stock of 960 breeding dogs — 665 adult dogs and 295 puppies, according to a July 2010 count by the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
Missouri has been called the puppy-mill capital of the country for years. One of every three puppies in America was born in Missouri, and almost 1,500 licensed large-scale breeding operations call the state home, along with an estimated 1,500 of their unlicensed, unregulated brethren.
Deserved or not, the Schindlers have become a symbol for those 3,000 or so breeding businesses. And after decades of relatively quiet existence in Missouri, "puppy mills" suddenly became a subject of great controversy this fall.
The so-called Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act was one of only two statewide initiatives on the November ballot. Sponsored and heavily backed by the Humane Society to the tune of more than $2.5 million, Proposition B would require that females be given rest between breeding cycles. It would outlaw the use of stacked cages and wire flooring, rewrite the formula used to determine cage size, require that dogs have unfettered access to both indoor and outdoor areas and ensure regular veterinary care. It would also create a misdemeanor crime of "puppy-mill cruelty," punishable with fines and the immediate confiscation of dogs.
By definition, Prop B would make operations such as the Schindlers' a thing of the past.
Under the old standard, 1992's Animal Care Facilities Act, the only requirements were that dogs be fed and watered every twelve hours, with minimal room for movement in their cages. There was no limit on how many dogs a commercial breeder could own.
Once the new law is implemented, however, breeders will not be allowed to keep more than 50 dogs as breeding stock, much less the 1,000 the Schindlers have kept in recent years.
And so depending on whom you ask, the scene in Mexico that weekend was either a triumph or a tragedy. To those in the dog-breeding world, Bonnie Schindler is a saint, a well-respected breeder who has lobbied on behalf of the Professional Pet Association on Capitol Hill, dined with then-Congressman Roy Blunt and presented workshops on canine pediatrics at conferences for breeders. Betty Dwiggins, another breeder, describes Schindler as "a wonderful person and a wonderful breeder," who works hard to ensure the health and quality of her dogs.
However, this saintly figure may be better known to television viewers as the elderly woman in footage from a July 2010 KTVI-TV (Channel 2) news report. In it, she's wagging a finger from the passenger seat as her husband, Herman, accelerates, hitting the news camera with their vehicle. "This is private property!" she cries, shooing away reporter Chris Hayes.
The Schindlers (and, by extension, their breeding and brokering business, Mettoville Kennels, also known as Teacher's Pets) received a "dishonorable mention" in an October 2010 report from the Humane Society of the United States titled, "Missouri's Dirty Dozen: A Report on Some of the Worst Puppy Mills in Missouri." The Schindlers, the Humane Society concluded, may be running Missouri's largest puppy mill.
"The Schindlers' facility has racked up more than 35 pages of USDA violations in recent years and more than 133 Missouri Department of Agriculture violations, yet they remain both federally and state licensed," reads the report.
Excerpts of a July 2010 USDA inspection report detail emaciated dogs, puncture wounds, oozing sores and a newborn husky whose tail had been bitten off by its mother in the hours immediately after its birth, leaving a raw wound. In another excerpted inspection, USDA personnel reported a burning sensation in their eyes and strong odors emanating from areas where the dogs were housed.
There's no middle ground when it comes to the Schindlers. To hear their friends tell it, they've been demonized by aggressive animal-rights groups, working in concert with a sympathetic media. Their critics say instead that a lax system allowed the couple to prosper for years, even as the dogs in their care suffered.
And how you feel about the Schindlers is likely a good indication of how you feel about Prop B. If you support the couple, you probably think it's an overreaching initiative forced on Missouri by deep-pocketed activists; if you oppose them, you surely believe it's humane and long overdue.
But the truth about the Schindlers, just like almost everything about the dog-breeding business in Missouri, is more complicated than it seems.
In late October, just one week before the election where voters would consider Prop B, a joint poll from the St. Louis Post-Dispatch and KMOV-TV (Channel 4) showed that 69 percent of Missouri voters supported Prop B, with a 4 percent margin of error. A Post-Dispatch story announcing the results called Prop B a "virtual lock." Not, the paper added, that "protecting puppies is an especially hard sell."
However, on election night, things didn't seem so easy. At the Humane Society of Missouri's election night "party," in fact, there seemed to be little reason for celebration. Early in the night, 63 percent of the vote was against Prop B.
Every two minutes, when new results came in, the room held its collective breath, hoping for the gap to narrow, for the "yes" votes to overtake the "no." For hours, murmurs of "at least we tried" echoed in the room.
"People get confused, and confused voters vote no," Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States, intoned from the podium. His early-evening pep talk sounded more like a concession speech.
By the end of the night, the "yes" on Prop B votes pulled ahead, but only by 60,320 votes — 51.6 percent of the vote.
The fact that Prop B came so close to failing is somewhat astonishing. The "Yes on B" campaign raised more than $4 million, more than three-quarters of it donated by national organizations and out-of-state boosters. Tony La Russa filmed a TV commercial; actress Betty White lent her voice to recorded phone calls to Missouri voters in the days before the election.
By contrast, the anti-Prop B Alliance for Truth raised a pittance, just shy of $122,000, almost all of it in small donations from Missouri donors. Spending less than 4 percent of their opposition's money, the group still came within arm's reach of defeating the measure.
Bob Baker, executive director of the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation and a key architect of Prop B, says that about a month before the election, proponents began to worry about what had previously been predicted to be a landslide victory.
"There's just been so much misinformation and fear mongering going on that it has everybody worked up, especially in the rural areas," he says. "There was just a huge campaign to try to give the impression that this was going to end agriculture in the state, and in some of the flyers and brochures that the opposition was putting out, they had a picture of a family with a dog, and the dog was whited out. It said that if Prop B passes, they're going to take your dog away from you."
Some voters he spoke with, Baker says, worried that the price of eggs would rise as a result of the law or that hunting would soon be outlawed.
"As you could tell from the voting results, it really had people in rural communities very concerned and scared. Now they've got their legislators scared, and I do think there will be some serious efforts to repeal or to amend Proposition B."
Indeed, today, it remains to be seen just how much of a mandate Prop B's 3 percent victory margin can command.
When the state legislature's new session gets under way this month in Jefferson City, the provisions of Proposition B could be totally altered or even voided. State Senator Bill Stouffer has already filed a bill to repeal Prop B. And while State Rep. Tom Loehner, the chairman of the House's Agriculture Policy Committee, won't talk to Riverfront Times about any specific plans, he did say that he hopes to "improve" the bill significantly.
After a ballot-initiative process that required thousands of signatures and months of work, plus a hard-fought campaign that ultimately earned support from a majority of Missouri voters, repeal or castration of Prop B would seem to be a great big middle finger to democratic policymaking.
But maybe that isn't such a bad thing. A number of animal experts, including those at the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association and the Missouri Farm Bureau, came out against the law. And while some of their complaints may be nitpicky, others appear to raise valid points:
• Prop B creates dozens of new, highly specific regulations — but pays for no additional inspectors to enforce them. Some experts say that a lack of enforcement and manpower have been the chief problems with the current system.
• The proposition clearly targets the dog-breeding industry. Animal shelters and facilities that raise hunting dogs, among other operations, are specifically exempt.
• Larger cage sizes and other new regulations could force massive renovations at most breeding operations. The costs of remodeling could put some breeders out of business. Some workers will almost certainly lose their jobs.
• The architects of Prop B relied on former animal-welfare inspectors and activists to shape the law. They did not consult reputable dog breeders when creating requirements such as giving dogs unfettered access to indoor and outdoor areas at all times — which could lead to exposing dogs to extreme temperatures.
• The creation of a "puppy-mill cruelty" misdemeanor puts more stress on local law enforcement, even as the provision allowing dogs to be seized on the spot could also allow a single inspector with a grudge to ruin a business in a day.
Proponents of Prop B can only swat at some of these complaints. For example, why is it OK to require breeders to adhere to certain standards — even while exempting rescue organizations?
Tim Rickey, the senior director of field investigations and response for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, brushes off the question of whether animal shelters should be barred from using wire flooring or stacked cages, just like breeding facilities.
"The comparison is ridiculous — it's not even a comparison," he says. "We're talking about a dog that's going to live its entire life in a two-foot-by-two-foot cage, as opposed to an animal who's rescued off the street and is brought into an animal-welfare organization, which is there to get the animal adopted. It's an animal that will spend a month at most at that facility."
But as for the exclusion of breeders from the drafting process, it's not just hurt feelings and bruised egos at stake — it could be a matter of dog safety.
Dr. Richard Meadows, a shelter-medicine specialist and professor at the University of Missouri-Columbia's College of Veterinary Medicine, worries that, by allowing dogs unfettered access to the outdoors, the new laws could result in them standing outside barking at cars in dangerous weather conditions. Small puppies could wander out and freeze to death in cold weather or dehydrate in sweltering temperatures.
By failing to consult actual practitioners of dog husbandry, the proposition's authors may have missed out on crucial knowledge.
"This will mandate that they can get out there if they want to," Meadows says. "Well, I didn't let my daughters go out and play in bitter cold weather just because they wanted to, either. And they'd be mad at me, but dammit, I control them! I'm responsible for them. Humans need to make those decisions sometimes, and that law doesn't allow for that."
As for the 50-dog limit, Meadows simply says, "Volume can give you a lot of advantages. Just ask Wal-Mart."
Dr. Michael Muhlbauer is a veterinarian and the head of the Missouri Veterinary Medical Association's animal-welfare committee. The organization opposed Prop B, saying that its changes would harm licensed breeders and do nothing to punish the more egregious unlicensed ones.
Though he opposed Prop B, Muhlbauer says that he expected it to pass by a dramatic margin.
"When I first saw this, 'the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act,' I'm like, 'Where do I sign?'" he says. "I'm all for this. The way it's worded on the proposition, if you don't vote for it, you're a mean and evil person."
However, when he read the bill, he didn't like what he saw: more rules, instead of more funding and enforcement.
"I think when you see it on the ballot and read just the summary, I'd worry about you if you didn't vote for it. It's just a little snippet there that says, 'Do you think dogs should have food, water, proper housing, veterinary medical care, yes or no?' Well, yes!
"It would be fantastic to stop puppy mills, but just to sit back and create more rules and regulations isn't going to do it."
The scene at the Schindlers' property in October was both better and worse than you might imagine upon learning that nearly 1,000 dogs lived there until recently.
Small dogs peer out through wire doors on little red cages that look like rabbit hutches, dainty paws dancing on wire cage bottoms — some with long nails poking through.
Wooden steps lead up to rows of larger cages with wood-plank floors. Caretakers pace a small platform running the length of these cages, hosing the floorboards to make sure they're free of solid waste or stray pieces of food.
There are plenty of dogs in sight, but no exercise pens or large enclosures for the animals to roam freely. And under all the raised hutches and cages, the dogs' urine and fecal matter falls straight to the ground, piling up on sawdust, to be shoveled away later. The rows are as neat as a well-tended backyard garden, if that garden harvested piles of shit.
Whenever someone walks by, most of the dogs rush to the front of their cages, paws raised against the fencing. In one of the dimly lit sheds, two teenage girls wearing Ugg boots and rolled-down sweatpants coo at a cocker spaniel, tiptoeing through puddles of filthy-looking liquid to wiggle their French- manicured fingernails through the gaps.
"I'm sorry, little guy!" one says in a baby voice.
A ponytailed woman, clad in a SECURITY/NO ON PROP B T-shirt in highlighter yellow, intervenes.
"Jose, tell them they can reach in and peel back their lips and check that they have a good bite," she lectures. "But if they're just holding them, they need to put them down." The girls immediately shuffle off.
The yellow shirts are everywhere, pacing between the puppy sheds in the back, lingering near the sheds with handwritten "no admittance" signs at the back of the property and prowling through the tangles of floor mats and concrete feeding bowls waiting to be sold. (The auctioneer hawking them crows, "If your dogs can chew these up, your dogs are too big!")
Tension is thick. Anticipation for the dog auction, which won't begin until well past noon, crackles between the rescue groups and the breeders who will be competing with them to purchase the dogs.
Carolyn Hadley, of Something Special Castaways Rescue in Kansas City, is the unofficial rescue-group coordinator for the auction. She saw the auction as a rare opportunity for animal-welfare groups to save breeding dogs from a lifetime of drudgery.
"If they're truly closing out and no longer going to breed, if the rescues don't step up and get these dogs, they're only going to go on to other breeders," she explains.
Many of the breeders vying for the Schindlers' dogs are Amish. They wear bonnets and austere dark dresses, while most of the rescue people are wearing green or have scratched a little R on the corner of their auction paddles, a strategy to avoid bidding against other rescuers and driving prices up.
Tensions are also high between the security teams, mostly friends and relatives of the Schindlers, and the rescuers. One yellow-shirted Schindler ally is assigned to tail Hadley, in case she tries to take pictures or start trouble.
But when someone does get caught snapping pictures on her camera phone, it's not Hadley.
Brenda Carabajal, the canine coordinator for the St. Charles Humane Society, sits slumped on a curb, next to Kelly Backes, a volunteer from the same shelter and wife of St. Louis Blues right wing David Backes. Angry members of the security team stand over them, while auctioneer Bob Hughes' amplified voice echoes over the grounds: "The police are on their way."
At that, the proceedings screech to a halt. A few minutes earlier, six-dozen people had followed Hughes around the grounds as he sold off equipment: heaps of wire cages, rows of hutches, a tumble of water bottles and feeders. Now, they've joined the majority of folks, staring at Carabajal and Backes' hunched figures across a clearing near the parking lot.
"We're gonna take her car, we'll take her house, anything until we satisfy that $250,000," Hughes shouts.
Fifteen minutes later, two Audrain Country Sheriff's Office cars roll down the gravel road, dust foaming behind them. Hughes continues his amplified tirade, accusing the women of "agricultural terrorism."
"I don't come into your house, knocking holes in the walls, tearing it all up. This is private property!"
A deputy spends some time gesturing and talking to the women, the security staff and the tall, imposing figure of Herman Schindler. But no handcuffs flash in the light, and no paperwork is filed. Carabajal's phone is returned to her, pictures deleted, and the women are escorted back to their vehicles.
They leave, no dogs in tow, and immediately report to a waiting FOX 2 satellite truck parked just off the Schindlers' property. Backes tells reporter Chris Hayes grimly, "You wouldn't even think of treating your dog like that."
"She gotta buy herself a lawyer," Hughes tells the crowd.
(For the record, neither Carabajal nor the St. Charles Humane Society has been contacted by the Schindlers or faced any legal action since that day.)
Carabajal and Backes aren't the only ones removed from the auction that day, though another ejected offender didn't violate the contract, just the delicate sensibilities of dog breeders.
When a Riverfront Times reporter approaches Herman Schindler, he immediately turns and stalks a few steps away.
He returns with a deputy at his side.
"Can I answer a few questions?" he spits. "I've been down this road before, and I'm gonna ask you something: I'm gonna ask you to leave."
Herman Schindler isn't bluffing: He has, in fact, been down this road before.
For nearly 50 years in the business, he and Bonnie operated without much in the way of scrutiny. Sure, there were inspections from both state and local officials, but they never led to much. On average, the Schindlers were visited twice each year from 2000 to 2006, but no significant discipline ever came from the visits.
Then, a volley of shots were fired: FOX 2 came calling in July, and with it the infamous camera-versus-car clash that cemented the Schindlers' status as public villains. Following the report, the Schindlers were allegedly kicked out of their commercial puppy store space in St. Peters, supposedly because the owner of the building had seen the story. (The building owner did not respond to requests seeking comment.) The channel aired several follow-up stories, and the Humane Society of the United States subsequently blasted the Schindlers in its October report.
Bonnie Schindler says that she is reluctant to pick up her phone, for fear that the caller will be an angry person accusing her of running a puppy mill or a reporter who will paint a dark image of her in the press.
Frankly, she's sick of it.
"If you want to print something positive, go ahead," she says one day. "If you want to print something negative, just forget that you've talked to me."
Yet while the Schindlers flaunt their years of spotless inspection reports, that appears to be a symptom of a system-wide problem more than of individual excellence. It wasn't only the Schindlers who prospered for years with minimal oversight.
A May 2010 audit from the USDA's inspector general found that the inspection and subsequent enforcement process were ineffective against problem dealers. Fines and penalties were reduced or made nonexistent to avoid breeders exercising their right to a hearing. The breeders, in turn, wrote off any fines as general operating expenses. "Good faith" reductions in penalties were arbitrarily applied. Not enough evidence was gathered to support claims of noncompliance, such as photographs or specific dogs' microchip numbers.
Rickey, the ASPCA inspector, saw what he called a "broken system" firsthand. Because inspectors had to give the breeders a chance to comply with the law and correct their mistakes, animals could be left in unhealthy situations until the inspector returned for an update.
"We have this horrible lag time between when these things are discovered and reported and when they're finally resolved, if they're ever resolved," he says. "And in the process of that, animals suffer and die every day. It's not acceptable; it's not necessary."
The Better Business Bureau of Missouri agreed. It published its own report, "The Puppy Industry in Missouri," in March 2010, concluding that "Missouri is so overwhelmed by the number of puppy sellers that it can't regulate the puppy industry properly."
Both the Missouri Department of Agriculture and the USDA declined comment for this story.
The Missouri Department of Agriculture has only twelve inspectors to oversee some 1,500 licensed breeders and unknowable numbers of unlicensed. Assuming there are around 3,000 total breeders in the state (the most common estimate), each inspector would have to visit 250 facilities per year, one for every single working day. This math, of course, discounts the time it takes to identify unlicensed breeders.
Making matters worse, many licensed breeders require follow-up visits to ensure that noncompliant items are rectified. For example, between September 2009 and their final inspection in July 2010, the Schindlers were visited seven times by state and federal inspectors.
Bonnie Schindler sees the flurry of inspections, some that suddenly noted as many as 50 noncompliant items, as a sign that her business was targeted by puppets of the Humane Society.
"We had no noncompliants for time after time after time," she protests.
Records show, however, that even before the Humane Society call-out and FOX 2's targeted reports, another agency had its eye on the Schindlers: the Missouri Department of Agriculture.
In an October 2009 internal memo from Matt Rold, program coodinator for Animal Care Facilities Act, to his USDA inspection counterparts, Rold urged a crackdown on the Schindlers.
"As we discussed earlier in the week, the conditions at Herman and Bonnie Schindler's kennel are well below the [Animal Welfare Act] and ACFA standards," he writes.
The report that caught Rold's eye had been conducted a few days before. It detailed fourteen pages of violations, while a report dated six months before, and indeed, the previous three years of inspection reports, showed no violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
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."
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.
Though SW Kennel Auctions, which conducted the dispersal of the Schindlers' dogs that weekend in October, refused to disclose any buyer information from the auction, it's safe to say the dogs are all right. Some of them, at least.
At least 200 of the approximately 800 dogs sold that day went to rescue groups, according to an unofficial RFT tally. These pups exchanged their wire-bottomed cages for the plush couches and welcoming laps of foster families and "forever homes."
Others were not as fortunate: Hundreds of dogs went to other breeders.
One of the lucky dogs is Cowboy, an eight-year-old Cocker spaniel. His russet coat is flecked with gray; his muzzle is entirely white. And though he has difficulty climbing onto the couch, his veterinarian attributes that to age, not injury. Cowboy bears no signs that, until just a few months ago, he spent the majority of his life in a cage not much larger than his body. It's not obvious in any way that he's a puppy-mill dog.
It's much more obvious that he never wants to let his owner, 75-year-old Floyd Dunlap, out of his sight.
Dunlap, a retired police officer, attended a St. Louis Senior Dog Project adoption event looking for a Boxer or another large breed. He ended up falling in love with Cowboy.
"I looked at maybe a dozen dogs that day, and when he stuck his foot through the cage to shake hands, I thought, 'Yep, that's the one I'm looking for,'" Dunlap says. Cowboy sits silently on his lap, chin tilted up and big brown eyes fixed on Dunlap's aged face, patiently waiting for a pat on the head.
Whether Prop B — which Dunlap calls "that law" — survives the state legislature's intervention, whether the Schindlers' offspring continue their family's legacy of large-scale dog breeding, Dunlap and Cowboy seem content to live quietly together in south St. Louis. Just two retired guys keeping each other company.
Dunlap is uninterested in hearing more about the place his dog came from. He's more interested in buying doggy steps to help Cowboy get onto the couch or finding a dog-size cowboy hat for the dog he calls "the new sheriff in town."
"That part of his life is over with," he says of Cowboy's time with the Schindlers. "And those people are done."
6 million dogs put to sleep in humane societies each year.6 million puppies born in puppymills each year.
Not so fast, Shelley. Your quote: Focusing on irrelevances has long been the hallmark from those against Proposition B. And focusing on the fact that there is no "legal definition" of puppy mill is about as irrelevant as it gets.
Then why does Prop B sneak CRIMINAL CODE into the bill using the undefined word? You know, the crime of 'puppymill cruelty' for any infraction? You forgot about that one.
I'm just happy that some dogs went to good homes, like the beautiful Cowboy--highlighted in the article. I wish that the other dogs had not been allowed to be purchased by other breeders--those dogs have been through enough--they deserve to be babied the rest of their lives.
I think with everything being said about puppymills,we don't need dingbats advertising for Michael Vick in the South county area as being their favorite football player.The advertisement in their condo window is probably more of a publicity stunt for the one who put up the poster in the window.I St.Louis we cheer for the Rams ,not individuals prosecuted for dogfighting.This gives our national symbol a bad name,too.
I love my dogs and other pets. That being said, you 'Puppy Mill Prevention Cruelty' wackos can't complain about unemployment or the economy. You just put more companies out of business and more people out of work.Get your priorities straight. Human being are more important than animals.
The writer only highlights one of the "better" mills... meaning, there are MUCH worse mills that keep dogs in deplorable conditions. Most of the dogs from the Schindler acution that went to rescue groups were pretty well socialized and ready to go to homes. But, there were also those who didn't make it, as they were too sick. The writer does not mention those.
The photo of Floyd and Cowboy is stunning. But, again, if I were to look at that photo without knowing the awful truth about the mills, I would only think that Cowboy is a good looking dog. It makes it seem like mills really aren't that bad, if Cowboy was a previous breeder. And, of course, nothing is further from the truth.
IMO, while it appears that the writer tried to remain unbiased and present both sides, I believe she showed way too much to support for the mills and the opposition and did not adequately depict the deplorable conditions those pour souls are kept in.
There wouldn't be any puppy mills, if people who aren't going to show dogs would only buy dogs from a humane society. They make better pets any way.
Puppymills need to go.There is no way humanly or humanely possible for one or two people ,especially elderly people or anyone who works to be able to care for these animals properly.Even if most a re healthy by the time they are sold,it is impossible to care for all of these animals.It was the equivalent of two full-time jobs for me to care for my sick dog after his brother died from the drug overdose precribed by the vet.We got our "two years" after heart failure but,the new vet was happy to play old-school
and let his kidneys fail.The "specialist" said don't come back if you don't give what he precribed.My dog only tolerated a little more than half and thrived for a year.He got some some dental from one caring capable vet but,needed a little more to keep going longer without antibiotics that he would have never tolerated .He needed the "specialist" again to get through the hard drugs and we would have gladly paid.He was still showing us where the fire was when it was time to eat up until the two days before he got put on hard drugs.The vet only guessed at how much he should have had.One drop was all he tolerated until the allergic reaction or CHF overcame him at home in my arms.If the pets owners are the only ones who have time to do it right,then encourage the one drop over the whole syringe.I would not have traded anything in the world for the last two years of my little heros life and would have gladly bought him more time from anyone who could have done it right.The dog breeders I grew up with never had more than 5-10 dogs at one time.To have hundreds and thousands of dogs without a full staff of expereinced animal lovers is a crime that should be punished to the full extent of the law and more severe laws need to be implemented.These animals have the right to lives with the right conditions.Stop saying that dogs and cats and all other animals give unconditional love.They are just more forgiving and consisitent but,do suffer from PTSD and eating disorders and do get their feelings hurt and it shows.It has taken two years for my sick dog to rehabilitate my rescued dog.Without his 3 1/2 pound life coach his expereince with just humans would not have been enough.He needed the love of another animal like himself ,which I'm sure he never had.This dog rescued from a puppymill never saw another dog play,and whine,and bark in a playful manner.He had never been kissed by another dog on a daily basis and shown how Chihuahuas are supposed be mischievious and get away with being demanding because it's cute.He would have never known how much fun it is to go outside and then run through the house at full speed to get to their breakfast and to gain the courage to look outside the window while eating without being afraid.now he gets to watch the snow fall from inside where it's warm and enjoy seeing it and learn to love the color white even though his favorite color is black.Let's not forget how this little dog communicates his former life as a show dog,no matter how short his career was and then abused as a stud dog.He was loved once ,temporarily,then did harder time than a convicted murderer or child rapist.This is a problem brought on by the human condition when they so desperately thrive in humane conditions
you don't give the dose of heart meds he recommended.My dog could only tolerate a little more than half of the med and thrived for a year
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This issue is like a cancer affecting every area of animals lives.The puppymills are horendous as my black Chihuahua will tell you when you look into his eyes.The verterinarian service is just as deadly as my whilte Chihuahua and chocolate Chihuahua would tell you had they survived the overdose of antibiotics and if the vets did not encourage us to end our pets lives to buy new ones.My little guys held on for as long as any vet has documented that they will but,I had to fight with several to get the correct meds,food, and info..I was constantly criticized for getting my correct info from the internet and no one encouraged us to persevere and never got any help with a difficult 3 1/2 pound dog who needed dental.These animals are caught in a Holocost.You pick up a stray cat,pay for medical attention and try to find them a home for them only to be euthanized the first day they are sent to the Humane Society.We do the work and they get thrown in the trash.This is a vicious circle at it's worst.The road kill is out of control and still no fences are put up along long stretches of highway and busy streets.Sensitivity training is a must for all individuals in this business and classes for all who adopt in order to properly care for their pets so they don't end up in a trash can or tortured through less than qualified medical attention.
OF COURSE IT'S A TRIUMPH ! IT'S EMBARRASSING LIVING IN SUCH A BACKWARD STATE AS MISSOURI ! WELCOME,WELCOME MISSOURI TO THE 21ST CENTURY,WHERE WE ARE ENLIGHTENED AND INTELLIGENT ENOUGH TO TREAT ANIMALS WITH THE RESPECT THEY DESERVE. REMEMBER,YOU CAN WITNESS HOW FAR A SOCIETY AS EVOLVED BY THE TREATMENT OF THEIR ANIMALS.
puppy mills give a place for homeless veterinarians to go.with all of the tornados there has to be at least one waiting for their check from the Emerald City.follow the yellow brick road and say hi to Toto.with the insurance money coming in they can afford to buy theirself a new name and a math class.
I didn't take from this article that the author had any sympathies for the dog breeders. In fact, I think the breeders are portrayed in a very bad light- as is the auction company.
Puppy mills are horrible! These people need to live in the pathetic manner that thier dogs do. Missouri needs to be educated! Wake up people. It is a sorry human that would do the things that this elderly couple have been doing for decades. 1,000 breeding dogs. Insane!
Missouri.. I have lived here most of my life and thought we were the best... in the last few years I found out that we are top in child abuse.. meth labs and puppy mills.. we should all be ashamed :(
Matt Blunt is a poster child for abortion.Makes me just want to go have them for the hell of it.Where was the coat hanger when he was just a bun in the oven.
I guess our votes don't mean anything to some people. I say protect the animals and the majority vote counts.
I agree with Shelly Powers on most points here, and in particular her observation about the extreme secrecy with which the large-scale breeders operate. When people are afraid of journalists, you can bet that they've got something to hide, and journalists should get righteously pissed off at being denied access rather than falling for sob stories about how unfair other journalists were in the past. If you're running a large scale operation where the well-being of hundreds of animals depends on the quality of your work, you should be subjected to public scrutiny. That is true for puppy mills and for other operations.
I'm tied of the news media reporting THEIR OPINIONS rather than the facts and using their position as a tool to influence the public toward their way of thinking.They are dangerous to the well fair of our country.
The law isn't perfect, but it's a hell of a lot better than letting the bad breeders continue to operate without any apparent limits whatsoever, as they have been for many years.
Factory-style production of dogs intended to be pets is a bad idea all around. The dogs are bought by families who expect their pets to be healthy and socilaized, and the very size of these factory operations makes this impossible.
If you want a purebred dog, go to a small local breeder and check them out throughly. Look their operation over as throughly as possible. Get references from past customers.
If you don't want a purebred dog with papers, go to a shelter.
Do the math....900 dogs..give each dog 1 minute = 900 minutes / 60 minutes in an hour = 15 hours to feed, water, clean cages, collecting puppies to sell, removing puppies from mother so the mother can be bred again, inspect for disease or injury(time to take dog to trash if disease or injury really bad...like chewed foot off because foot caught in matted coat)...75 y/o.husband, wife and their son doingall the work....and it's a terrific place...get real.Thankfully, their tortureous puppy mill is gone.
That is a nice dog!!!!! this dirty dozen name doesnt seem to be working i saw the prop b ads and they held up a half dead dog. something doesnt float here.
While I work at HSUS, I have family in Missouri, and am proud to know that they voted Yes on Prop B. The fact that people are trying to convince elected officials to repeal Prop B shows how low some will go. Officials should respect the will of the people. Subverting the judgment of voters is not right, and it is anti-democratic. Like it or not, our system is built on majority rule, and a majority of Missouri citizens—including majorities in most House and Senate legislative districts—favored Prop B. The precise reason that voters acted, is because the legislature has failed to stop puppy mill abuses. It is extremely undemocratic and wrong of lawmakers to usurp the power of the people and ignore their expressed will. Additionally, Prop B was a simple measure, dealing only with setting standards for commercial dog breeding, and has no connection whatsoever to Missouri’s important agriculture and livestock economy. The opponents’ campaign was based entirely on falsehoods and misrepresentations in an attempt to confuse voters. The truth is, Prop B dealt only with dogs. It does not deal with cattle, chickens, or pigs. (I realize that there are those that disagree, but again, Prop B. only. deals. with. dogs. While many voters were wrongly told that existing regulations on dog breeding are adequate, the fact is that they are not. Under pre-Prop B rules, a dog can be in a cage just six inches longer than her body, she can be confined in that cage and never let out, she need not ever see a veterinarian, and a dog can be huddled in a wire cage in the middle of winter—exposed to freezing temperatures. All of that is legal under existing rules, and that’s why we needed Prop B.The new regulations—requiring adequate and clean food and water, exercise, properly sized and sanitary cages, veterinary care, protection from extreme heat and cold and adequate time between breeding cycles, are very reasonable, as Missourians of good will—including responsible breeders—know. Prop B also provides a one-year phase-in so breeders have plenty of time to comply with these new standards.For anyone that suspects a puppy mill to be operating, I urge you to contact the puppy mill task force, a tipline dedicated to investigative puppy mills. 1-877-MILL-TIP
By failing to consult actual practitioners of dog husbandry, the proposition's authors may have missed out on crucial knowledge.
This is the understatement of the year! What is not redundant in proposition B is certainly not geared to the welfare of breeding dogs. It is so obvious to ANY experienced dog breeder that the bill is specifically aimed at putting the good breeders out of business, by demanding expensivechanges in housing and restricting income to pay for it by limiting breeding stock and trying to play breeding police, as well.
I didn't mean to click that I "liked" this horrid entry. Pable, who employs you to write "opinions"?People are having trouble caring for themselves, let alone their pets, thanks to US financial institutions endlessly ruining the economy. We're seeing more abandoned pets everywhere, including pathetic bodies along the highway, thanks to the raging pace of home foreclosures and the rising cost of everything and the tax incentives to ship jobs and companies out of the country. Pablo, there's no excuse for cruelty.
Pablo, your post makes more sense than anything else being said here. You are totally correct in your assessment of the whole situation. Thank you!
given the pet over population in this country, if a few breeders went out of business, that would NOT be a bad thing. then again, following your logic, we *need* the breeders so we continue to have a pet overpopulation problem so that we keep people employed at the shelters too...after all, we need someone to do all the euthanizations!
yeah, pablo, i see what you mean :-)
I certainly don't want a humane society mutt with no known history for health or temperament issues. I have no desire to show. Are you calling all the rest of the dog kennels puppy mills? I would rather get my dog from a legal, licensed breeder anyday.
Dogs will reflect the neuroses of their owners. Keeping terminally ill and suffering dogs alive at all costs is cruel and not in the best interest of the dog. When quality of life is compromised, you need to listen to the vet and let them go. No pat on the back here for making them suffer by prolonging their death.
O I agree completely. Hey if they banned pictures from being taken of the dogs then OBVIOUSLY there was proff of animal abuse. Theres no maybe about it. They didn't want proff of their abuse of these animals to get out.
Before you voted for Prop B did you even read the current 26 pages of law on the books or did you just go with the flow?
To the "Well Fair" of our country.Yes, they are very very dangerous, aren't they?Please just move to Texas.
If you buy a dog, you, yes, you directly actually killed another.Because you bought a dog another dog was killed.Breeding in and of itself for a profit cannot ever be an ethical behaviour.Lives should not be bought and sold. Isn't this what we did with people a few years back and now we think it it is terrible?
I hope you get to be in a cramped little room, not able to walk, and to get your own feces all over yourself. It is my nocturnal emission for the evening. So not sexy. No wonder republicans have to pay for sex.
I seem to remember reading (in a different article) that the Shindlers employed 14 or 19 people. The article said that the dogs were all fat and healthy and very social. Does not sound like a puppy mill to me. Sounds like a responsible breeder that when they got old things started slipping.....except the dogs seemed to have good care.
Typical HSUS tactic, anyone breeding dogs commercially ARE a puppy mill.
Oh my gosh, Sarah- you response above is EXACTLY the SAME response Barbara Schmitz gave in an interview a couple of weeks ago in the Spingfield NewsLeader! Like, word for word. Hmmmmm. Can we say mindless mimics of each other?
BTW, folks, that tipline number that Sarah uses above is NOT the number of any group that has any policing authority at all. It is the number of the HSUS. If anyone in MO needs to report a genuine case of abuse, they need to call Operation Bark Alert, a program administered by the Mo Department of Ag, and who has genuine authority to close down an abusive situation at a kennel. The HSUS has NO authority at all.
Sarah, you and HSUS are so full of it! You LIE about so many things. Unfortunately, your lies have been repeated so often (by design, I'm sure), that some of the clueless city folks are still buying what you are selling. I am not, of course. You need to read the ACFA regs and quit lying. Dogs can be exposed to freezing temps? No, that one is IF prop B stands as is. Then there is unfettered access.to extremes weather, and breeders can no longer protect their dogs and puppies. I have never seen dogs in any kennel housed in such small quarters. Minimums mean just that. Even then, singly housed dogs requires double space if not exercised otherwise. Why would you say the dogs are never taken out of their pen? Who would do that? You and your fellow animal rights activists know nothing about how Missouri licensed kennels operate. How many legal licensed kennels have you even seen?
Over 150 Missourian veterinarians came out for Proposition B. This included veterinarians at shelters, including the Humane Society of Missouri.
I don't know how "expert" you want people to be, but I think shelter veterinarians have a pretty good idea of the ugly side of commercial dog breeding.
So many "guest" commenters against Proposition B.
Your comment along with Pablo is the big problem here.The people who cause this problem are not more important than the animals.Any of you can go to work at McDonalds just like anybody else.You are probably the same lazy creeps that would put your own daughter on a street corner.These animals do not deserve to be used whatever sick selfish needs of a sociopath.I'm also tired of hearing sex perverts complaining if a dog gets nuetered and never has a sex life.If you can't afford the high cost of groceries ,try planting a garden and tending to that instead of abusing animals.There are Zoos in this country that lock up animals against their will and in some cases for their own good and a puppymill does not qualify as a Zoo.It qualifies as a sewer.
You still believe in the pet over-population myth? Then why do some shelters import dogs and pups from other countries just to fill the demand for shelter pets? Of course, they are bringing in health problems not seen in this country with them. Shelters transfer dogs to other shelters weekly to fill the demand elsewhere. If a shelter near you is crowded, they can send to one needing dogs. Shelters and especially rescues are BIG business these days. In fact, HSUS has stated that they have rescues standing by just waiting for the dogs that are over the limit of 50.
Actually, the laws on the books (pre-Prop B, don't forget, Prop B WAS enacted by Missouri voters on November 2nd 2010, and will go into effect November 2nd 2011) attempt to address the puppy mills problem, but fail. That is why this situation has festered in our state for so long and why we need Prop B. For example, ACFA attempts to ensure that the dogs get veterinary care, but it only requires that a vertinarian visit each facility once a year. Prop B requires that each dog be examined by a veterinarian once a year and that injuries and illnesses be treated propmply.
ACFA attempts to prevent the dogs from being exposed to extreme temperatures, but it fails for couple of reasons. For one, it states that they cannot be exposed to extreme temperatures for more than four hours, but this is impossible for an inspector to determine, as their inspections do not last that long. Therefore, it cannot be enforced. Prop B will require that the dogs' indoor enclosure have an ambient temperature between 45-85 degrees F, which is specific enough to be enforced.
ACFA also attempts to keep the dogs from being exposed to extremes in temperature by requiring bedding should the temp fall below 50 degrees. That might help when the temperature is say 40 degrees, but is not enough when the temperature falls into the 20s, teens or below zero as it does every winter in Missouri.
ACFA attempts to ensure that dogs in breeding facilities have access to regular exercise, but there is a loophole that states if the dog has more than an extra square foot of space, then it is not necessary.Prop B will require that each dog have access to a reasonably sized exercise enclosure. Also, ACFA does not address:*Adequate rest between breeding cycles, which is essential to the health of the mother and the puppies. The AKC recommends it.Proposition B requires adequate rest between breeding cycles.*Stacked wire-floored cages, which often lead to painful foot problems and allow urine and feces from upper cages to cascade onto the dogs below.Proposition B requires that the dogs have the basic comfort of a solid floor and that cages not be stacked.*Breeders destroying dogs which are no longer producing themselves with inhumane methods.Proposition B requires that when necessary euthanasia be performed by a licensed veterinarian using a method deemed acceptable by the American Veterinary Medical Association. *Real consequences for violations. Currently, there are several substandard large-scale breeding operations with pages upon pages of violations (and often repeat violations) that continue to be licensed and operate business as usual. Proposition B will create a misdemeanor crime of puppy mill cruelty for any violations.
Prop B strengthens existing law and makes it enforceable. More funding will not help if the law is too weak and vague to be enforced.
WhatwouldJesusdo: Change your name. You are being disgusting and disgracing the name of Jesus. You know nothing about this issue, have no dog in this fight, and just need to shut up.
Not all inspection reports noted number of employees, but it seemed to hover somewhere around a dozen. It wasn't just the Schindlers taking care of these dogs, but it is noted in some records that the inspectors told them to hire more employees to manage the dogs.
Are you in equal support of slavery?When something doesn't make sense just follow the money trail. What money do the animal lovers make over this? They actually have had to spend money for a cause. The reason this is a hotly debated issue is because there are people who will have to spend more money to stay in business or it might eat into their profit. They are getting paid for exploitation so they have something financial to lose. However, any job that requires to to create suffering for others is not sustainable. If it were solely about ethics or morals the answer would be easy. It's so American to turn the head the other way until it is nearly too late to change. Nothing to interfere with our capitalism. A proud, educated country.
150 MO vets for prop B and the rest of the 4600 liscensed vets againt it. Yep,should have interviewed the rest.
Shelter vets are hardly experts in knowing how to operate a dog breeding kennel, unless of course they are secretly breeding the dogs the shelters are supposed to be selling to good homes (yes, I said selling).. The true professionals are the vets who actually visit the kennels for inspections and advise and treat any problems. There are several thousand vets in Missouri, I believe. Most of them were against prop B.
Shadowlane who is paying you to write this fabrication? Hundred of animals are put to death daily due to lack of homes, especially in the summer. Or the animals are abandoned on highways. Check out the bodies on Highway 370, especially near the Third Street ramp.
Shelter vets are the ones that deal with the negative repercussions of commercial dog breeding.
Over 150 vets came out for Proposition B, and the No on Prop B had about 20.
The general body of the MVMA did not vote against Proposition B. It was a decision of the executive staff to come out against Proposition B.
After all, they can't afford to offend the agricultural interests in this state.