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Investigator: Dog auctions accused of animal cruelty

9:00 PM, Jul 9, 2012   |    comments
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MILLERSBURG -- The dog auction in Millersburg was technically on private property. But it was advertised in the local paper and a few hundred bidders showed up.

Most of the bidders were Amish, as this is Holmes County, home to one of the largest communities of Amish in the country.

But despite the public nature of this event, a producer and videographer working undercover for Channel 3 News were thrown out of the dog auction last week and threatened with arrest by Holmes County Sheriff's deputies if they did not leave the property.

Dog auctions in Holmes County have become a lightning rod for animal rights activists in Ohio for the past few years.

The tensions between the animal rights groups and the Amish dog breeders who operate the auctions have led to a ban on cameras and recording equipment at the dog sales.

In all, there were more than 450 dogs auctioned at the recent event in Millersburg.

"My question would be, if this is an auction you are so proud of in your county and these are all reputable breeders, why do you have a problem with with videos and audios coming into the auction?" said Mary O'Connor-Shaver, an animal rights activist who has tried to get dog auctions banned in Ohio.

"The major problem is that these dog auctions here in Holmes County are a major distribution channel for puppy mill breeding in the state of Ohio," she said.

O'Connor-Shaver said this while activists were protesting outside of the county courthouse in Millersburg. Some cars gave them a thumbs up, but others shouted for these protesters "get out of town."

Ohio is the only state east of the Mississippi River that permits breeders from other states to buy and sell dogs at these auctions.

"These breeders use the dogs bought at auction to increase the number of puppies they can produce for profit with little regard for the dogs' health," O'Connor-Shaver said.

The animal activists were able to buy eight dogs in Millersburg, with prices ranging between $300-500 each.

Most of the females had had about four litters of puppies and were less than five years of age.

Six of the dogs were brought to a veterinary clinic in Columbus, and the preliminary examinations of two dogs filmed by Channel 3 News showed the dogs to be in poor physical condition.

A female pug, age 3, had a degenerative disc in its back and broken bones in its left front leg.

"If [the neck] is not corrected, she is potentially going to be in pain, but under the worst case scenario she could become paralyzed," said Dr. Michelle Gonzalez.

The other dog was a five-year-old poodle, suffering from an ear infection, major tooth decay, and skin lesions on its back.

"Some of these dogs are maintained in small pens pretty much their whole lives and are not receiving the necessary physical care, but also the mental care they require," Dr. Gonzalez said.

"What it means for their puppies is that the parents are not cared for properly and a lot of these conditions that are genetic are passed down to the puppies because no one take the time to notice these problems."

Jared Yoder, a Holmes County resident who breeds German Shepherds, said many of the differences of opinions over the dog auctions are cultural.

"We eat meat, and we raise and sell animals and dogs are viewed as livestock," he said. "We are not like the animal rights activists who are protesting. There is a difference between the views on this issue between those that live in the city and those that live in the country."

"Very few people here would ever put a dog in an abusive situation where they are not treated properly," Yoder added. "There is a fine line between a puppy mill and someone who raises pets at their farm and sells them."

Animal rights activists had tried to get a referendum on the Ohio ballot this fall, but failed to get the required number of signatures.

Complicating the issue is that State Rep. David Hall, who represents Holmes County, is chair of the House Agricultural Committee that oversees dog breeding legislation.

So there is often a stalemate on this issue, as the animal rights activists have a difficult time getting any bills through the house committee whose chair leans toward protecting the Amish breeders in his district.  

WKYC-TV

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