By HENRY REDMAN | Wisconsin Examiner

Wisconsin ranks No. 4 for the number of dog breeders in the state cited by the U.S. Department of Agriculture for violations of health and safety rules so far this year, according to reports compiled by Bailing Out Benji, an Iowa-based animal welfare organization. 

The reports cover the first six months of 2023. With 28 breeders cited for USDA violations, Wisconsin trails Ohio with 54, Iowa with 44 and Missouri with 36. The Wisconsin citations range from issues such as outdoor dog runs that have not been cleaned to one incident in which unclosed stove vents caused the temperature inside of a dog shelter to rise to 146 degrees, killing 26 puppies. 

Most of the citations occurred when officials from the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service were conducting routine inspections at licensed dog breeders’ facilities across the state. The issues inspectors found were largely classified as “non-critical” violations of health and safety rules regarding cleanliness or a lack of veterinary care for the dogs at the facility. 

Non-critical violations come with a date by which the breeder must fix the problem. If the problems persist, the department “may pursue civil penalties, criminal prosecution, or other sanctions for this alleged violation(s) and for any future violation(s).” 

“The vast majority of USDA violations, even those that have an obvious negative impact on the care and safety of the animals, are listed by USDA as ‘non critical’ violations,” Humane Society of Wisconsin spokesperson Megan Nicholson told the Wisconsin Examiner. “‘Non critical’ violations can include issues such as piles of feces, limping dogs, dogs with open wounds, dogs left outside in sub-freezing weather, and dogs in cages that are rusty, dangerous and falling apart. The ‘non critical’ category is a very misleading way of USDA characterizing almost any violation as if it were not severe, but nothing could be further from the truth. Many dogs live their entire lives in miserable conditions at dirty and cramped puppy mills that have never received a ‘critical’ violation from USDA. Furthermore, breeders who are cited for violations are often given numerous chances and ample time to correct the issue, therefore avoiding any penalty, fine or other repercussion.”

In the second quarter of 2023, the citations were filed against breeders caring for more than 700 adult dogs and puppies. 

According to Bailing Out Benji, Wisconsin is part of the country’s “puppy mill belt,” which is a group of 12 states stretching from Pennsylvania across the Midwest and down into Texas where most of the federally licensed dog breeders in the country are operating. 

The U.S. Humane Society describes a puppy mill as “a dog breeding operation, offering dogs for monetary compensation, in which the physical, psychological and/or behavioral needs of all or some of the dogs are not being consistently fulfilled due to inadequate housing, shelter, staffing, nutrition, socialization, sanitation, exercise, veterinary care and/or inappropriate breeding.” 

This year, five licensed breeders in Wisconsin were listed on the U.S. Humane Society’s “horrible hundred” list of problem puppy mills that potential dog owners should avoid when looking to adopt a pet. 

The list includes the facility operated by William “Junior” Yutzy in Hillsboro, where inspectors have found 18 violations during five inspections in a row since the second quarter of 2022. 

In March, an inspector found that the inside of the facility was clean, but six outdoor dog runs were  “excessively soiled with fecal material.”  

On a return visit to Yutzy’s facility in June, an inspector found that a number of dogs did not have proper identification, which “can make tracking husbandry and health conditions of each dog difficult,” according to the inspection report. The inspector also found that five animals hadn’t been properly registered with the USDA and that two outdoor dog runs had “more than one day’s amount of waste material on the floor.” 

At the time of his last inspection, Yutzy had 34 adult dogs and 19 puppies at his facility. 

In February, The USDA issued a critical violation against Reuben Graber for the heating incident that killed 26 puppies at his facility, also in Hillsboro. During that same inspection, Graber was issued a non-critical violation for “excessive soiled material stuck between the panel and floor” in dog enclosure areas. The inspector noted that this “can cause health hazards and create areas for pests (flies) to nest in.” 

Graber is also listed on the Humane Society’s “horrible hundred” list. 

The USDA also issued an official warning against Amos Allgyer’s Platteville facility for not providing adequate veterinary care to seven dogs in his care. One dog in the facility had “drainage, matted hair under the drainage, reddened skin, and a strong odor” coming from his right ear. The male bernedoodle named Archie had been receiving treatment for the ailment for months, but it was “unknown how often [medication had] been given.” 

Five other dogs in the facility had untreated skin conditions on their feet and ears. 

Inspectors had also found violations at Allgyer’s facility for failure to keep dogs tagged and registered with the USDA. Bailing Out Benji has tracked dogs raised at the facility to pet stores in seven states. At the last inspection, there were 22 adult dogs and 15 puppies at the facility. 

A direct violation was also issued against Simeon Lapp’s Darlington facility after an April inspection for failing to provide adequate veterinary care after one puppy died and another was displaying similar symptoms. 

“The facility had one puppy death in a litter yesterday and another puppy was observed by the facility to not be interested in suckling but has been taking some milk replacer,” the inspector’s report states. “The licensee was concerned this puppy’s problems might be the same as the one that died but the attending veterinarian had not been contacted.” 

Lapp’s facility had gone since 2021 without a USDA inspection. Bailing Out Benji has tracked dogs from his operation to pet stores in three states.

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