A puppy mill is a terrible place for a dog to spend his or her life. These dogs are victims of the breeders who own the mills, almost always receiving sub-standard care and living in horrible conditions. For those of you who are lucky enough not to have ever learned about what puppy mills are, they are breeding facilities that exist so that the puppy mill owner/breeder/hoarder can sell very popular puppies for high prices. The puppies who are sold usually sell for around $300 but can easily go into the thousands for each puppy, depending on the breed. Some puppy mill owners sell them locally or in-state; some have outlets like pet shops to sell them to and others have a thriving internet business – all at the expense of the adult dogs who live in these facilities. The puppy mills that exist across the county all have their versions of inhumane treatment but they have one thing in common. They treat these animals as products, not as living, breathing beings. They are almost always overcrowded, many of the dogs live in crates stacked on one another, they lack adequate food and water as well as vet care and some of these dogs don’t ever leave their cage and walk on grass or run on the beach. They do not live the life of a normal dog. They do not live the life they deserve to live.
Just today, more than 150 dogs were seized from the John D. Jones Kennel in Lake City in Missaukee County by an ASPCA response team. It is, by every definition of the phrase, a puppy mill. After a year-long court battle, the dogs were finally able to be removed from two locations as the result of a civil action because of Jones’ violations of the Michigan Dog Law. The investigation into this puppy mill was led by the Missaukee County Sheriff’s Office and the Roscommon County Animal Shelter. Jones was unable to pass his kennel inspections over and over again which made him unable to get a kennel license. A kennel license is required through the Michigan Department of Agriculture. Without that, he cannot operate his facility in a legal manner.The dogs are being transported to a temporary shelter where they can received medical examinations by the ASPCA Medical team. After their exams, they will be evaluated by the ASPCA and evaluated for placement, working with the Roscommon County Animal Shelter. Click here for photos from the seizure:
Jones has advertised his business as “JRT John’s Jack Russel Terriers” on his website here. He is primarily a breeder of Jack Russell Terriers however he also lists Shiba Inu puppies for sale. He says, “I am a large breeder not a puppy mill as some would like have everyone think. Every pup go to a family not a pet stores or animal broker as puppy mill pups would be.” His prices range from $25 to $650.
During the time when the Roscommon County was reaching out to area shelters and rescues to help when the time came to seize the dogs, it was estimated that Jones had 10 JRT (Jack Russell Terrier) nursing moms, 15 JRT adult males, 25 JRT retired females, 70 JRT adult females, 20 JRT young adults, 20 JRT 6-month old puppies, 2 Border Collie adults, 10 Shiba Inu adults and an undetermined amount of new puppies depending on the timing of the seizure. As well as being a puppy mill, the fact that Jones kept so many dogs that weren’t breeding also points to the fact that he may also be considered to be a hoarder.
The rescue groups and shelters who were asked for help were told about the conditions of the dogs, including no evidence of disease control, heartworm testing/preventative, vaccinations or rabies. Complaints and prior seizures showed there were several cases of genetic mange, dog bites and worms. Other cases included bacterial growths, coccidia, bladder infection, bladder crystal, lung worms and rare lung fungus (led to pneumonia). Some females have been breeding four to ten years according to the kennel operator.
The closing of this facility has been a long time in coming. The Jones puppy mill has been a concern of area residents and people in the animal rescue field for years. Pet Friends Magazine was initially made aware of Jones in March of 2010 by a volunteer with Handds, an animal rescue group in Traverse City, who was tipped off about the kennel by someone else. Pet Friends sent out emails to several resources including Jill Fritz, Michigan State Director with the Humane Society of the United States, who helped with information regarding the kind of inspections and laws that Jones would have to comply with. Fritz also passed along the contact information for Pam Sordyl, the founder of Puppy Mill Awareness of Southeast Michigan. The Puppy Mill Awareness group is a grassroots organization dedicated to ending commercial breeding “puppy mills” and protecting families from puppy peddlers, pet stores and bad breeders by lobbying for stronger laws, setting up information booths, completing research studies and launching pet store campaigns.
The Jones puppy mill in Lake City wasn’t really on too many people’s radar in 2010 but he was starting to be discussed among people in the animal welfare/rescue world and tips would filter in from different places about him. No one really knew how to go about reporting his kennel or who to report it to. People who bought dogs from him and had seen the kennel first-hand were at a loss of how to help the dogs. They had witnessed horrible conditions and for these dogs and didn’t know how to help them.
Sordyl didn’t have the resources to look into the Jones case in 2010. She had been working on a kennel study and looking into all of the kennels in Michigan to help provide information to get Michigan Puppy Protection act passed. This act would require regulations for large-scale dog breeders to make sure that the animals have adequate conditions of shelter, food, water, and veterinary care and also putting limits on the amount of dogs these facilities can have. Lawmakers are currently taking another look at this legislation now with the Puppy Protection Act.
Sordyl said that at the time she was made aware of Jones, it was hard to decide which kennel to focus on with 6,000+ active kennels in Michigan and her group mainly being a pet store protesting organization. She decided to pursue the Jones case after someone called her about their own investigation into him and how many roadblocks they had hit. They had filed every kind of complaint they could with every organization that they knew but it went nowhere. Sordyl started collecting more information about Jones and his operation, including participating in an undercover operation. She told the Missaukee Sheriff about what she was doing and asked for help. He didn’t hesitate. He also didn’t realize how bad it was.
Due to Pam’s investigation and several complaints about the Jones puppy mill, the Missaukee County Undersheriff Wilbur Yancer along with Roscommon County Animal Control Officer Terry MacKillop did a cursory inspection of the kennel in February of 2012. Missaukee County does not have an animal control and the Michigan Department of Agriculture has limited time and funds to regulate kennels in Michigan, however county Sheriff’s Departments can act as agents for the state, doing inspections to make sure that kennels have licenses and that they comply with Michigan law. They found many substandard conditions including overcrowded kennels, empty food and water dishes, inadequate shelters, excessive fecal waste and an over powering smell of urine. At the time of the February 2012 inspection, Jones had 136 adult dogs and an additional 64 dogs and puppies in the nursery.
According to court papers (click for pdf: Missaukee-County-v-John-Jones-2) filed by William J. Donnelly, Jr., the Prosecuting Attorney of Missaukee County, the dogs who lived at the John D. Jones Kennel in Lake City have had to deal with numerous bad living conditions. The inspection sheets done by Missaukee County Undersheriff Wilbur Yancer and Roscommon County Animal Control Officer Terry MacKillop show a miserable existence for the dogs at the Jones puppy mill. Jones received mostly “poor” marks on every area of the inspection – storage of food, shade to protect the animals, shelter to protect the animals, sufficient space for animals, accessible water and much more. The report indicated that the Jones Kennel would not pass inspection to qualify for a kennel license.
Yancer submitted a letter to Jones on April 2nd, listing the conditions that were substandard at his kennel and discussed possible criminal charges. It was decided, however, to give Jones 30 days to comply with the standards of running a kennel, with a re-inspection scheduled for May 2nd. They gave him the information needed to get the kennels up to compliance.
The facility was not approved for a kennel license on that date either as the conditions still did not meet Michigan’s kennel standards. A return visit on June 14th yielded the same results, except that there were actually MORE cages added, the pile of dog feces increased and the facility continued to be un-licenseable as a kennel.
In the county’s complaint on July 9th, they outlined all the problems with the kennel again. In August of 2012, Jones answered the summons with statements such as “my dogs are on a free chose food feeding and there is enough food in each house for 3 days” but he doesn’t mention that with many dogs in one space, the more timid dogs aren’t going to get anything to eat because they are chased away by the pack leader just as they would be if the shelter only provided enough cover for only one or two dogs. The county’s documents support that the dogs are currently in a terrirorial environment in which they have to fight for food, water and shelter. He also said that the things to be fixed “do not apply to the kind of kennels that I have.” He stated that the dogs are not over crowded and that they had adequate shelter and conditions. He wrote that the kennels are “kept clean and free of feces, filth and mud when it’s not raining” but didn’t say what the conditions were for the dogs when there was rain and snow.
On January 10th, 2013 a Notice of Hearing on a Motion for Summary Disposition was filed by the county. The Motion for Summary Disposition basically states that the defendant has failed to plead a valid defense to the claims of the prosecutor and unless he can do that at trial, Jones will be permanently enjoined from breeding, raising and/or housing dogs unless and until he applies for a kennel license with the appropriate Dept. of Agriculture inspections and its requirements are met.
The next court date was set for Friday, February 1st and everyone held their breath. Jones was given one last chance to get his kennels up to compliance. March 4th was the new deadline for Jones to comply to the kennel standards. Another kennel inspection was done and Jones failed again. That resulted in the Missaukee Prosecutor filing an affidavit for another hearing. At that hearing, an order was made for the county to seize the dogs.
Terry MacKillop took the lead role in the seizure/rescue, a plan that was started at least a month earlier. Rescue groups and animal shelters were contacted about taking in the dogs when the time came. After receiving the additional resources needed from the ASPCA, arrangements could be made to seize the dogs. The story about the ASPCA’s role in the seizure can be found by clicking here.
After being evaluated and sent to rescue organizations and animal shelters, most of the dogs will need a little downtime to learn how to live a normal dog life before they can be adopted out. Some of the dogs, however, might be made available more quickly like the puppies and those dogs who haven’t been at the Jones puppy mill as long.
During their rehabilitation, the dogs will have to learn how to be a normal pet – living in a house, having space to run around in, having buddies to play with, learning how to share toys, getting on a regular feeding schedule and learning proper behavior with other dogs and with people, both in a house and in public. Each rescue group and animal shelter who takes in the dogs will have their own policies of rehabilitation and adoption protocol.
This wasn’t the first time that Jones has ran into trouble with the law concerning his kennel. He had his breeding operation shut down in Barry County in 2007 where 85 dogs were taken and euthanized because he had too many in his kennel. Click here for more info. Jones was arraigned on a misdemeanor, which followed his refusal to negotiate with Barry County authorities who tried to limit the number of dogs kept on his 2-acre farm. The investigated was initiated because he had too many dogs, many of whom were sick with severe manage, a parasite that can eat away fur and make the skin rough like leather.
Everyone in Missaukee County and Northern Lower Michigan can sleep a little better tonight knowing that these dogs are now getting the care and medical attention that they deserve.
Other links to story:
Video of dogs being rescued here
Jones not being charged with animal cruelty or neglect, read about it here
Cadillac News story here
Daily Mail story (from the UK) here
ASPCA press release here
Michigan Humane Society press release here