NANCY, KY (WAVE) - Millions of puppies, maybe even one in your home, come from filthy and overcrowded breeding sites known as puppy mills. The substandard conditions can create huge vet bills and heartache for you after the puppy comes home.
The effort to stop puppy mills varies from county to county. In fact, one Kentucky man facing animal cruelty charges is still being allowed to breed and sell puppies - all because the county just doesn't have the resources to prevent it.
At Dream Catcher Kennels in Pulaski County, it's hard to imagine any of the puppies getting a good night's sleep. Six baby Schnauzer's were jammed into a wire cage with their mom. The puppies had wet bodies, matted fur and were shivering on top of each other as kennel owner Dennis Bradley demanded big money to take one away.
"The female is $300, the male is $250," Bradley could be heard saying on undercover video taken in conjunction with the Humane Society of the United States.
Bradley told the hidden camera he has 58 dogs on his property, at least a dozen of them, eight weeks old or younger. Most could be seen living in rusty wire cages, covered in mud and feces. In another, a dead mouse could be seen on the floor of the cage.
Bradley said some of the older dogs at the kennel are used for breeding while others, have just never been bought. That means they've been living in those conditions their entire lives.
Bradley was asked why he cramped so many puppies into a cage at a time.
"They fit," Bradley said. "I don't like it but that's what I've got to do right now."
Bradley said he is in the process of expanding so his dogs have more room and that he loves his animals. Yet in January Bradley was charged with animal cruelty after a raid on his home. Video taken by the sheriffs department shows some of Bradley's dogs sick and near death. Two were in such bad shape they had to be put to sleep.
So why is Bradley still in business? Animal rescue groups say shutting down a puppy mill can cost up to $70,000 in shelter, food and medical expenses for the dogs they remove. Sometimes, groups like the Animal Rescue Corps will pay the cost, as it did when it broke up an alleged puppy mill in Wayne County in September.
No group stepped in to help Pulaski County financially, and investigators decided taking all 70 dogs they found on Bradley's property would overwhelm the shelter system. So they removed the dogs in the poorest conditions and asked animal control to make sure Bradley took better care of the animals left behind. At a court hearing last month, Bradley's attorney told a judge that was happening.
On his way out of court, I tried to talk to Bradley about video I recorded on my iPhone during the undercover visit to his kennel. I asked Bradley if he would call what he runs as a "puppy mill?"
"No," said Bradley, who declined to comment further.
Animal advocates say puppy mills can cause serious health problems for the dogs and hundreds or even thousands of dollars in vet bills for the owners. It's an expensive way for a family to welcome a new pet and a painful way for a puppy to be welcomed into the world.
Animal cruelty charges against Bradley are still pending. His trial date is set for February.
In September, the USDA announced new rules to crack down on puppy mills, but the tighter standards only apply to online puppy mills. Animal rights groups say many loopholes remain that allow animals from puppy mills to be sold at street fairs, flea markets and festivals.
Click here for a link to the "Stop Puppy Mills" section of the Humane Society of the United States webpage.
Click here for the "End Puppy Mills section of the Animal Rescue Corps webpage.