Ohio Dog Auction: An Infamous Tradition

Puppy millers routinely transport their dogs to auctions. One of the most infamous auctions is the Ohio Dog Auction, formerly known as the Buckeye Dog Auction, in Homes County, Ohio.

On August 25, 2007 once again hundreds gathered at the Farmerstown Auction Barn for the auction of over 350 dogs and puppies. The dogs were placed one at a time on the auction table after a quick "inspection" by someone said to be a veterinarian. Most of the dogs were frightened as they stood there. They fetched prices from a few dollars to $1900 for an English bulldog.

Mary O’Connor-Shaver of BanOhioDogAuctions, http://www.banohiodogauctions.com/, and Columbus Top Dogs, http://www.columbustopdogs.com/, led a rally that morning against the auction. O’Connor-Shaver noted "Since 2004, the Buckeye Dog Auction in Holmes County, Ohio has grown into anything but run-of-the-mill. Most breeders who participate in this event are raising large numbers of puppies for profit in mills, factory-like operations in which caged dogs churn out litters year after year.  Many of these canine breeding facilities house dogs in shockingly poor conditions. …Dog auctions, like the ones taking place in Holmes County, are a symptom of the puppy mill industry. It is a major problem in Ohio and elsewhere.  As long as people buy dogs at their local pet store, puppy mills will exist and dog auctions will take place week after week."

O’Connor-Shaver added, "The majority of dogs sold at auction are used for one purpose - to breed – and will be shuffled between puppy mills throughout their lives. They churn out puppies – litter after litter – until they cannot do it anymore. Their babies are taken away from them too young and sold through pet shop and over the internet to unsuspecting customers who end up with sick or dying dogs within weeks of joining their new family."   

In many instances at these acutions, the miller may simply be trying to get rid of dogs that cannot be sold or used any longer for breeding because of their poor condition. Some have been returned by pet stores because they are ill or diseased. 

Here is a report of some dogs sold at this auction with inadequate vaccinations:

4 – black male poodles, all 7 mos (with 1 vaccine).  At this age, the puppies should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

1 – 9 mos shihtz-a-poo, male, 10 mos (no records and matted literally to the skin).  It was estimated that he looked more like two years of age.  At this age, the puppy should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

2 – blk/whit chi-poodles, female, 5 mos (w 1 vaccine).  At this age, the puppies should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

1 – shorkie, male, 8 wks (no vaccine history).  At this age, the puppy should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks.

1 – yorkie, male, 1 yr (no records and completely shaved).  At this age, the puppy should have been given a Parvovirus at 6 weeks, a 5-way vaccine at 6-9 weeks, a rabies vaccine at 12 weeks or older, another combination vaccine at 12-15 weeks (Leptospirosis, Coronavirus and Lyme) and an adult booster.

Animal Welfare Act regulations 

The Animal Welfare Act and its regulations govern the transport of the dogs to and from the auctions and also their care and treatment while they are there. For these puppy auctions millers cart these poor dogs around under conditions that clearly violate even the meager requirements of the Animal Welfare Act’s regulations for transporting dogs.

Under 9 CFR 3.14(b) the cages "must be cleaned and sanitized" every 24 hours. The cages must be cleaned in a way to "prevent the soiling of the dogs… by body wastes".  Also, 9 CFR 3.14(e)(1) requires "[p]rimary enclosures used to transport live dogs …must be large enough to ensure that each animal contained in the primary enclosure has enough space to turn about normally while standing, to stand and sit erect, and to lie in a natural position." The dogs must be handled with care while they are transported in these enclosures or cages. 9 CFR 3.19.

The vehicles used to transport the dogs must prevent engine exhaust from entering the compartment where they are located during the trip. 9 CFR 3.15(a). The compartment must be kept clean. 9 CFR 3.15(f) The animals must be protected from the elements and ventilated to allow "normal breathing". 9 CFR 3.14(e)(2), 3.15(b),(c),(d).  The ambient temperature of the animal cargo space may not exceed "85 [deg]F (29.5 [deg]C) for a period of more than 4 hours; nor fall below 45 [deg]F (7.2 [deg]C) for a period of more than 4 hours." 9 CFR 3.15(e). See also 9 CFR 3.19.

There are minimal requirements for food and water for the dogs. 9 CFR 3.16  "If a dog … is obviously ill, injured, or in physical distress, it must not be transported in commerce, except to receive veterinary care for the condition." 9 CFR 3.17(c )

There are similar requirements for the care and treatment of the dogs when they reach the auction site.  9 CFR 3.18

Last Year’s Buckeye Dog Auction

At last year’s Buckeye Dog Auction in Millersburg, Ohio, 365 dogs were available for sale. Many of the dogs were brought to the auction in tractor trailers. Buyers entered through a staging area where they could view the dogs or livestock as millers and auctioneers refer to them.  According to Mary O’Connor-Shaver who attended the auction, this area "smelled like a cesspool.

"The majority of cages lacked food, water and were covered with feces.  All the dogs were scared and shaking, down right pitiful and heartbreaking.  Some of the dogs had been shaved, and any experienced vet technician could tell by their feet that they have been living in urine and feces.  What was most disturbing was the number of dogs who were immediately registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) following the winning bid.

"[S]everal dogs … were surrendered by the auctioneers to Holmes County Humane Society.  All of them were in a severe state of neglect.  Once such dog was a three year old and the [puppy] miller stated ‘he was injured while being transported’.  [The puppy miller] surrendered the dog to the [Humane Society]. [The dog was then placed with a Chihuahua rescue…. Truth is, once he was examined by experienced rescue folks, it was determined his toe nails were so long and curled up on his one leg, causing  him to walk with a limp.  He was covered with fleas.

"A Cavalier King Charles, Dachsund and eight year old German Shepherd (who had a good portion of her jaw deteriorated [from her many mating cycles]) were also surrendered to [the Humane Society] and then given to rescue[s] because of injuries.  The German Shepherd is now in foster [care] with me".

O’Connor-Shaver explained she could not get photos of the auction. "Anyone taking pictures and they saw you, they stopped you immediately."

Lori Skaggs also attended the Buckeye Dog Auction that day. She explained the auction is in Amish country. Lori noted, "This auction is held several times a year and is a place where puppy millers come to sell their wares."

She described, "I …enter[ed] the building where the dogs were on view before the auction.  The first thing I remember is the smell.  That smell will live with me for the rest of my days.  It is the smell of never washed dogs, mixed with old and fresh excrement, combined with the smell of illness, infection and death.

"As we walked through the 365 dogs being sold, I saw terrible sights.  Tiny little dogs cowering in a corner of their cages with no food or water and were sitting in their own excrement.  Others were begging to be removed from the filthy cages.  I saw dogs with sores, cherry eyes, eye diseases, nails so long that they curled into the pads of the feet, fleas, and filth.  Not one dog was clean.  I saw stains on the fur of their paws that comes from years of standing in urine and feces. 

"Notes on some of the cages proudly stated things like, ‘Due in heat 9/10, last time had 5 puppies’ or ‘AKC female bred this week to AKC male.’  It was simply disgusting.

"I think that what most shocked me was that there was a man wondering the room with a golf shirt announcing he was ‘AKC Staff’.  The American Kennel Club had a staff member on site during this auction, certifying these dogs. 

"I also found out that the vet certifying the health of these dogs had only been contracted to check for things like heart murmurs, surgical scares, hernias, etc.  The vet was not checking the general health of the dogs.  …

"A number of rescues, some from as far away as Vermont had come to buy the dogs in the auction.  While I do understand how they feel, I can’t help thinking that they are only keeping demand up, allowing puppy mills to continue to be lucrative businesses.  In the end the only way puppy mills will end is to dry up demand, pass stringent laws making them illegal, and having the ability to enforce such laws."

About 300 dogs were sold that day at the Buckeye Dog Auction. The prices obtained for the dogs ranged from $25-$450 per animal.

Top of the Ozarks Dog Auction 

Here are observations from attendees of the Top of the Ozarks Dog Auction in Hartville, MO: There were cages in which dogs crammed together could not even hold their heads upright. There was no room for them to do so.  Other dogs could not stand or even sit in a normal position.  Still others could not lie down but were shoved against the wires of the cages unable to extend their legs. For example, an adult Husky was housed in a container that was 18 inches high. Two adult beagles were crammed into a cage 30 inches long, 24 inches wide and 24 inches high. One large pug was observed in great distress because he could not turn around or lay normally in the carrier.  (Recall the Animal Welfare Act regulations state "[e]nclosures must provide sufficient space to allow each dog to turn about freely, to stand, sit, and lie in a comfortable, normal position, and to walk in a normal manner." 9 CFR 3.14(e)(1))

One dog appeared to be starving. His ribs, shoulder blades and hip bones stuck out. The veterinarian examined him and pronounced the dog fit. The veterinarian, however, is the operator of this puppy mill auction.

It was hot. There was no air conditioning in the building. For hours the animals were not provided with any water. The dogs were in obvious great distress. 

At one such auction in Hartville, MO APHIS inspectors were literally thrown out. Those staging the auction and even would be buyers screamed at them, shoved them and tried to take their cameras.      

Typically at puppy mill auctions dogs are carried or dragged to a table next to the auctioneer. The dogs are held onto the table. At times the dogs might be lifted into the air presumably to allow buyers in the audience to see them. Of course, these animals are frightened, anxious. Some are struggling.

During the bidding the auctioneer calls out comments about the dogs. The auctioneer might yell, "No teeth, but she’s a great producer", "She won’t miss that eye; she’ll be too busy producing", "That little cut will go away,"  or "He knows how to do his job".  Missing limbs or eyes, limps, torn flesh or matted, dirty fur are all dismissed by the auctioneer especially when the dog is simply to be used for breeding.  

The American Kennel Club

Thomas W. Sharp, assistant vice president for Compliance for the AKC, claims the AKC does not support puppy mill auctions. He explained, "[I]t perpetuates the problem and tends to create a seller’s market. Reciprocally, auctioneers seek more dogs of those breeds to offer at auctions. …AKC believes that the purchasing of dogs at auctions is not overall in the best interest of purebred dogs." The American Kennel Club has stated it "considers auctions and raffles not to be reasonable and appropriate methods to obtain or transfer dogs." 

Yet, there was AKC at the Buckeye Dog Auction, collecting registration applications and fees, certifying dogs as of "good quality".  Indeed, the AKC has a representative present at many, if not most, of these auctions.

Sharp has also stated, "AKC has spent tens of millions of dollars since the 1990s on its inspections program.  A field staff of fourteen people around the country has the full-time job of inspecting the kennels of high-volume breeders who register with AKC.  The inspections cover the care and conditions of the dogs and the kennels in which they are raised, record-keeping and identification practices, and even collecting DNA samples at AKC’s expense to verify the parentage of AKC registered litters.  In addition to inspections, inspectors also cover dog auctions like this [Buckeye Dog Auction], per the policy noted herein.  My understanding is that approximately half of the dogs at this particular auction were AKC registered.  The inspector verified the microchip identification for every single one prior to sale." 

In effect, AKC has fourteen people who purportedly inspect facilities, attend auctions and certify dogs for thousands of "high volume breeders" or puppy mills.

Sharp would not release AKC’s inspections records. Nor would he elaborate on the amount AKC has collected in registration fees for dogs it has said are of "good quality".

In fact, the AKC does not travel to every breeder’s facility to inspect it. Nor does AKC check to find out if the puppy even qualifies for registration. Though the pet stores and breeders may not tell consumers this, the AKC has announced it "cannot guarantee the quality or health of dogs in its registry." Sharp has acknowledged "[m]any breeders in that area [of Ohio] … are not inspected by the AKC."

Rescues Attend Puppy Mill Auctions

Many rescuers attend puppy mill auctions. They are there to protest and raise awareness about the horrific conditions, the cruelty of puppy mill operations. They are also there to rescue as many dogs as possible. Critics say these rescuers are only perpetuating the mills. Of course, as long as the public continues to buy dogs, there will be puppy mills. Rescuers say at least they are giving a better life to some dogs like the breeding dogs, those that spend their lives in a cage, producing litter after litter. Those dogs never even get to be the puppy in the window at the pet store.  

For more information on puppy mills and puppy mill auctions, click here. http://www.columbusdogconnection.com/PupMillsInOH.htm and www.lcanimal.org