Tonight the Gorham Town Board will hear from residents about the proposed wholesale commercial dog breeding facility proposed by breeders Curtis and Jolene Martin. The couple currently own a facility in Varick, NY where they breed roughly 300-400 dogs. (If you’re behind, here are the posts about the proposed facility in Gorham, NY.)
Over the last few days, I’ve listened while radio talk show hosts and even news reporters have mentioned the Martin’s USDA violations at their Seneca County facility. One radio host said they were few and minor, and accused those in opposition of the facility of being guilty of destroying a business that puts food on the Martin’s table. A news report from a local TV station today mentioned that the Martins have had numerous violations, but said they were “mostly for record keeping.”
The last thing I want to do is fan the flames of this highly emotional, and now national, story. But I’ve read the USDA Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) reports and they are not minor.
In fact, I’d argue that they show a pattern of neglect to care for the dogs who produce puppies that then go on to live in people’s homes.
To be fair, it’s not unusual for the USDA to find a violation when they come to do an inspection anywhere. Something is dirty, something needs to be fixed. What you’re looking for is a pattern of violations that raise red flags. For example, if you found out your favorite ice cream parlor had been cited repeatedly for one employee’s failure to wash their hands? It sounds minor, but that’s how serious (and disgusting) diseases are spread. If the owner fails to correct it, then that tells you something about how they run their business. (Note: I know the USDA doesn’t inspect your local ice cream parlor. I’m just making an analogy.)
Since we’re dealing with living animals, it’s even more important to make sure that all of the ducks are in a row, so to speak. These are living, breathing creatures who will produce living, breathing creatures. If you get a bad toaster, you can go back to the manufacturer. Get a bad puppy? Much bigger problems, for you and the dog.
For example, repeated citations for inaccurate record keeping are not minor. Puppies from commercial facilities like this are notorious for genetic defects; if the breeder can’t keep accurate records of which dogs he has in his facility and are being bred to each other, or are using breeding dogs from unlicensed dealers (both violations the Martins have been cited for), they can’t expect to pay attention to the other aspects of breeding that produce a quality product.
If you consider a puppy a product, that is.
Feces in the feeders. Treating dogs with expired medications. Dogs with untreated injuries. A breeding bitch on loan from another facility that was so malnourished her ribs, spine and pelvic bones were clearly obvious to the inspector. Accumulation of rodent droppings in empty whelping boxes. Dogs with fur matted with dirt and feces. Dogs with untrimmed nails – which seems minor, until you realize that these dogs are standing 24/7 on wire mesh floors of their crates. Untrimmed nails can grow into the paw pad and get caught on the wire mesh.
Some of the USDA APHIS reports – especially for March 2010 and November 2010 (see end of post) are several pages long. Ironically, those are the inspections just before and just after Jolene Martin recieved her Class A breeding license, which was approved after an inspection May 11, 2010 which found no violations.
Knowing that, you’ll not be surprised to find that their Seneca County facility had no violations in November, 2011 – right about the time they were preparing to go before the Gorham Town Board about the new facility.
At the end of this post are the USDA reports for inspections going back to 2007 so you can read them yourself. I’m not sure I even have all of the reports, and honest, I am not trying to malign anyone personally. But as I listen to news reports, I’m hearing misinformation and limited information, and I think that it warrants a closer look. So here are some things you’ll need to know so you can do more research yourself :
- USDA uses the terms Class A dealer (meaning breeder) and Class B dealer (meaning dealing with dogs bred elsewhere and breeding themselves). But this only relates to wholesale sales.
- NYS uses the term Pet Dealer, meaning pet stores and certain breeders selling to the public. One of my sources told me that there are many exceptions and loopholes, and there is no penalty for unlicensed operation; currently there are only 300 licensed pet dealers.
- Curtis Martin is licensed as a Class B dealer, license # 21-B-0147
- Jolene Martin is licensed as a Class A dealer, license #21-A-0147.
- These are licenses for the same facility at 4520 Route 89, Seneca Falls, NY. In order to make sure you’re seeing all of the information, you need to check both Jolene and Curtis Martin’s license. For example, on November 23, 2010, Jolene Martin’s reported listed numerous non-compliance issues while Curtis Martin’s report had none.
- You can go to http://acissearch.aphis.usda.gov/LPASearch/faces/CustomerSearch.jspx and input those license numbers to see the reports yourself or to research a breeder in your area.
(*** Thanks to one of my readers whom I hesitate to mention by name without her permission, who has clarified something for me:
“[T]he way they have things set up right now, Curtis does not usually have dogs at the facility under his permit. The B permit is for dealing. So when the puppies (Jolene’s or other breeders) are 8 weeks old and ready for transport, he loads them in the truck and takes them to the pet stores. So, his operation is essentially paperwork and compliance with the law about age, acquisition, etc. The care violations follow the license that ‘owns’ the dogs.”
As you read the reports, note at the top whether the A or B license is in non-compliance.***)
Here are some excerpts from the reports; again, you can find copies of the reports at the end of this post:
* * * * * * * * * * * *
In a pre-licensing inspection for Jolene Martin’s Class A breeding license: a breeding dog on loan from another facility was noted as being so thin her pelvic bones, ribs and lumbar vertibrae were obvious and she had a concave abdominal tuck; dogs were matted and in need of grooming; nails need to be trimmed so they don’t grow into the foot pad or get caught in the wire mesh; disrepair or improper kennels; wire mesh in the whelping boxes that would allow puppies’ feet to get caught; feces-contaminated and/or moldy, spoiled food.
Separate report for Curtis Martin’s Class B license: 30 dogs without identification numbers on hand.
MAY 11, 2010
Jolene Martin passed the inspection with no violations and recieved approval for a Class A breeder license. (May 2010). License #21-A-0147
No non-compliant issue for Curtis Martin’s Class B license
NOVEMBER 23, 2010
Violations for Jolene Martin Class A license: included dogs matted with feces and long nails or with untreated injuries; wires protruding into a dog enclosure that could injure the dog; incomplete or inaccurate recordkeeping; unclean feeders, including an amount of accumulated feces in at least one feeder that the inspector said would make it “difficult for the dogs to access uncontaminated food”; an accumulation of feces under one building; and due to the number of non-compliant issues the inspector noted that the facility did not have enough employees to give the “acceptable level of husbandry” for these animals.
No non-compliant issues for Curtis Martin Class B license.
JANUARY 5, 2011
Violations for Jolene Martin Class A license: Having and/or using expired medications which are “not considered appropriate methods when trying to prevent or treat diseases and injuries”; dogs who are not groomed, cleaned or maintained, or what the inspector called a failure to “Conduct daily observation of all animals to assess their health and well being;” having rusted bottom support bars on the cages of several large breed dogs.
JUNE 30, 1011
Violations for Jolene Martin Class A license: Cited for not providing a large enough whelping box and having empty whelping boxes with an accumulation of rodent droppings near whelping boxes with mother and puppies.
NOVEMBER 8, 2011
No non compliance issues for Jolene Martin Class A license
Violations for Curtis Martin Class B license: include records incomplete for several dogs purchased; purchasing from a breeder in area who is unlicensed, which can’t be done by breeders breeding for wholesale purposes.
- Gorham Town Supervisor recommends moratorium on dog breeding
- What you can do about animal cruelty in your community (whether you live in Gorham or not)
- The Humane Society of the United States forms new dog Breeders Advisory and Resource Council
- Animal cruelty and the problem of cockfighting (video)
- Readers speak out on the Gorham dog breeding facility
- Large “wholesale” dog breeding facility (puppy mill) approved for Gorham, NY
- Are pet adoption rules too restrictive? And is a pet store your only other option?