by Erik Gunn, Wisconsin Examiner
November 6, 2023

Federal inspectors found 51 violations at 18 Wisconsin dog breeders during visits in July, August and September, according to an Iowa organization that monitors the enforcement of federal and state animal welfare laws.

Only Virginia, with 52 violations, had more than Wisconsin during U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspections of dog breeders conducted in the third quarter of 2023. The records are compiled quarterly by Bailing Out Benji, an Ames, Iowa, nonprofit that campaigns against large-scale dog breeding operations known as puppy mills.

“Wisconsin is one of the worst states for USDA violations so far this quarter,” Mindi Callison, founder and executive director of Bailing Out Benji, told the Wisconsin Examiner.

Among the Wisconsin list of violators, USDA inspectors found two with “critical violations.” The rest of the violations were identified as “non-critical.”

Daniel Ray Miller of Hillsboro was cited with a critical violation for grouping dogs together that were not compatible. The inspector’s report states that when seven dogs were allowed to run together in a large exercise yard one day in early September, some began fighting. One, a male poodle, was bitten on the right hind leg, leaving “a deep wound.”

A veterinarian who treated the animal told the inspector the wound was too deep to stitch without risking an infection and would likely take a month to heal. The inspector’s report instructs the breeder: “Ensure to prevent serious bite wounds by not housing incompatible dogs together.”

The other critical violation report was issued to Martha and Joseph Schrock of Fairchild. After visiting their kennel in July, an inspector wrote that a female rat terrier had escaped from the grounds in April.

“The licensee was unable to find the dog,” the inspector reported, noting that if a dog could escape it was at risk of being hit by a car or attacked by a wild animal. The dog also might be unable to find food, water or shelter “and could end up deceased,” the inspector wrote. “The licensee must properly contain all regulated dogs so the dogs are unable to escape from the licensee’s premises.”

The inspector listed four non-critical violations at the facility, which has also had violations in previous quarters. None of the adult dogs had an ID tag, tattoo or microchip, required by the USDA. An inadequate drainage system allowed waste to drain into other enclosures, raising the risk of exposure to disease or parasites.

A repeat violation was issued for accumulated waste from a pellet stove and for bugs in a cold storage container where vaccines were stored. Both should be cleaned regularly, the report said, and it instructed the operators to prevent bugs from getting into the cold storage and contaminating the contents.

The inspector found an adult dog and two puppies with feces caked in their fur around the anus, which the report said could lead to an irritation or an infection or cause a blockage making it difficult for a dog to defecate. The operators were instructed to groom the dogs regularly to prevent a recurrence.

Available USDA records don’t indicate whether penalties have been recommended for the serious violations. Callison said that information may take longer to show up on department records.

“We firmly believe that the USDA should do more to fine breeders when they see violations that directly pertain to the health and safety of the animals in their care,” she said. “Right now, many of these problematic facilities are let off with a slap on the wrist with no meaningful consequence for their actions.”

She said the federal agency also rarely seizes animals, although her organization believes that it should do so more frequently.

Wisconsin Examiner is part of States Newsroom, a network of news bureaus supported by grants and a coalition of donors as a 501c(3) public charity. Wisconsin Examiner maintains editorial independence. Contact Editor Ruth Conniff for questions: Follow Wisconsin Examiner on Facebook and Twitter.