The site in Gorham, NY where the proposed large scale, wholesale dog breeding facility will NOT be moving ahead!

Last night, the town of Gorham unanimously approved a one year moratorium on wholesale dog breeding kennels, according to 13WHAM. And all animal advocates said, “YAY!”

The wholesale dog breeding facility proposed in February by Curtis and Jolene Martin, and the town board’s initial unanimous approval of their special use permit, sparked a controversy that quickly spread from coast to coast. (There is a list at the end of related posts about the issue.)

Calls, emails and petitions flooded in from all over. And rather than dig their heads into beauracratic holes, the town board stood up and responded – quickly and with an incredible amount of grace. 

They held a public meeting to allow residents and animal advocate groups the chance to share their opinions. They took thousands of phone calls and emails (and not all of those calls and emails were nice, calm or rational, either) and considered all of the opinions. They researched more about the USDA inspection reports for the Martin’s current facility in Seneca County. They took a second look at the Martin’s application and decided that it needed county approval and not town approval, and nullified their initial go-ahead.

And then last night, they said “No” to any more applications for wholesale dog breeding in their town. For a year, anyway. (more…)

Site in Gorham, NY of the proposed large scale, wholesale dog breeding facility.

The Gorham Town Board opened their meeting tonight to comments from residents about the dog breeding facility proposed by Curtis and Jolene Martin. The board initially approved a special use permit last week for the couple, who currently own a commercial dog breeding facility in Seneca County. The residents and animal welfare activists from around the area responded to the news with an uproar of protests, sharing their thoughts in emails, phone calls, and across the internet.

According to, 400 people attended the meeting, and 33 people spoke. But first, Gorham Town Supervisor Fred Lightfoote opened the meeting with a stern warning to those in attendance that disrespect would not be tolerated, and that law enforcement was onhand to maintain order.

He then went on to say that while initial approval was given for the project, that approval has been nullifed, and must go before the Ontario County Planning Board. In essence, that means the Martin’s proposal is halted for the time being, and any decisions by the board will  likely affect not only this project but future similar projects.

I caught the Channel 10 report on the 11 PM news, where several residents spoke out against the facility and expressed concerns about noise, waste, and animal cruelty. One man remarked that residents didn’t participate in their local government budget meetings but now showed up for the dog breeding issue. “We’re more concerned about these dogs than we are surviving,” he said.

Town Board President Debbie North also commented on the number of unkind postings and libelous statements online.

For now, it looks like the residents and Town Board can take a breath while they step back to consider the wholesale dog breeding facility in light of USDA reports, information about the problem with puppy mills or commerical dog breeding issues, and what is best for the residents of their community on both sides of the issue.

And while we’re at it, the Town Board of Gorham, along with Supervisor Lightfoote and his staff, deserve a huge thank you for taking this issue seriously, and for being patient with the torrent of feedback. It can’t have been easy to have been in the national spotlight this week, or quite frankly in the crosshairs of some animal welfare advocates. They’ve been gracious and willing to hear what residents have to say.


In the wake of the last week of outcry over proposed plans for a commercial dog breeding facility for Gorham, NY, Town Supervisor Fred Lightfoote has suggested that the Town Board enact a moratorium on dog- breeding facilities.

People from all over the country have emailed and called the town to voice opposition to the board’s approval last week of a special use permit for dog breeders Curtis and Jolene Martin to open a large, wholesale commercial dog breeding facility that would house between 200 and 500 dogs.

A moratorium would temporarily halt further progress on such a facility, giving the town time to look at zoning laws and further consider the concerns of residents, not just for this project but moving forward as well.

The Gorham Town Board has set aside time before tomorrow’s budget meeting for people in the community to voice concerns.  Town Supervisor Fred Lightfoote said in a local news story that “he will begin the meeting by making a prepared statement about the dog breeding operation and the meeting will allow a designated time period for people to speak.”

Due to the large expected turnout, the meeting has been moved from the town hall to the Gorham Elementary School, 2705 Route 245. The meeting begins at 7:30 PM.

As I’ve said before, if you do not live in Gorham, you should not be attending the meeting. The people who live and work in this community need to be the ones discussing with their town officials about this proposed dog breeding facility. Time and space are limited, and should be given first to those people whom are directly affected by this issue.

If you are allowed the opportunity to speak – time will be limited due to the number of people on hand – be calm, be respectful and be informed. Do not show up with protest signs or placards; do not chant “No puppy mills!” or otherwise incite the emotion level; do not get up and ask “How could this happen?”. This is the time for clear, factual information to be shared in a reasonable manner.

And if you’re not from Gorham, please share your concerns via email or snail mail (seriously, write a letter). Then look for ways to battle animal cruelty in your own neighborhood. It’s happening everywhere.

The board members of Gorham, NY have been more than gracious in the midst of this situation, and are taking your concerns seriously. Please be respectful of the officials and the residents of the community, regardless of which side of the issue you’re on.


This video from the Humane Society offers a glimpse at puppy mills and commercial breeding operations. 

The story that hit the news this week that a dog breeder is planning to build a large, wholesale commercial dog breeding facility in Gorham, NY has struck a nerve with animal lovers across the U.S.

Unfortunately, emotions run high in situations like this, and there are lots of people who are all fired up with nowhere to direct that passion. So before everyone goes off half-cocked and descends on the town of Gorham like locusts, let me share an important thought:

While it’s important that animal advocates in Gorham who are opposed to a large commercial dog breeding facility have the support and encouragement from dog lovers across the U.S., it’s also important to know that the people who live in the town of Gorham are the ones who need to be show up to meetings, call their local government offices, and get involved in their town business.

A million phone calls from California or Idaho or even Rochester won’t make a difference if the people in Gorham aren’t represented. How you feel about the commercial dog breeding business and what is legal regarding that business are not the same thing. If a change needs to take place, it needs to start with the people in Gorham – who may need to work with their town to ban the licensing of commercial dog breeders, like was done in Romulus, NY. (I have more information on how that was done, if you want it.)

IF YOU LIVE IN GORHAM, the best thing you can do right now: (more…)

2/4/12 ** PLEASE MAKE SURE YOU READ THIS UPDATE: What you can do about animal cruelty in your community (whether you live in Gorham or not)

* * * * * * * *

When I posted this week about the plans for a large scale wholesale dog breeding facility in Gorham, NY, I had no idea it would spark the flame it has. I’m sure there are lots of other bloggers covering the story, but readers here at Heavenly Creatures have brought up some interesting points:

The term “puppy mill” is a super charged phrase. A reader named Doug Williams wrote:

 “u have already slandered these people in your article by calling their other facility a ‘puppy mill’. Do you have proof of that assertion. What is a ‘puppy mill’?”

Being the idiot that I am – something readers have reminded me of many times – I didn’t realize that a puppy mill isn’t always a puppy mill. In fact, there’s not really a definition of puppy mill that can be used unilateraly. So I asked a few experts for their thoughts on whether a facility like the one proposed in Gorham would still be considered a puppy mill, even if conditions were state of the art:

Melanie Kahn, who is the Senior Director for the Puppy Mills Campaign for the Humane Society of the United States, tells me:

“The HSUS puppy mills campaign defines a puppy mill as an inhumane, commercial breeding facility.  So in answer to your question, I would say that even if the dogs are being housed in a beautiful facility, if they are being treated inhumanely (e.g. not receiving veterinary care, not being able to run, are forced to breed until their fertility wanes) then yes, I would still call this facility a puppy mill.”

Mary Anne Kowalski, with the Seneca County SPCA, hates the term “puppy mill”. “There is no generally accepted definition – although everyone thinks they know one when they see one,” she says, adding:

“Use of this term allows the breeders and the pet industry to argue over that rather than deal with the issues.  And because there is no definition, it makes many of the suggested solutions in the legislature meaningless.  You can’t ban ‘puppy mills’ if everyone has a different definition of them.”

She would “prefer a law includes the entire companion animal industry and clear definitions based on activities performed, not on our judgments of them.”

So from now on, when I refer specifically to the Martin’s facility, I’ll call it a wholesale commerical dog breeding facility. It’s actually what it was called by Mr. Martin in the board meeting minutes. (Although, if I can be honest, a “wholesale commercial dog breeding facility” sounds a lot more horrific to me than “puppy mill.”)

Not everyone regards animals the same way. One reader named Debbie asked:

“If the board had denied the application based simply on emotions, then what’s to stop a horse farm, dairy farm, beef cattle operation from being denied as well?” (more…)

** UPDATE 3/22/12: Moratorium passed! Read more here! **



4446 Route 247 in Gorham, NY, the approved site of the proposed large scale, wholesale dog breeding facility.

According to the Messenger Post newspapers in Canandaigua, NY, plans for a new dog breeding facility have been approved by the Ontario County Planning Board. The facility “could house hundreds of dogs in a new building planned for 4446 Route 247, north of the intersection of Lake to Lake Road” in Gorham, NY.

The Ontario County Planning Board unanimously approved Curtis and Jolene Martins’ request for a special use permit, as well as the Martin’s site plan following a public hearing last week. According to the article:

“The Martins presented detailed engineering and design plans for what Harvey said would be a wholesale business in a new building equipped for anywhere from 200 to 600 dogs, depending on the size of the animals. “

The Martins run a puppy mill called Puppies R Us in Varick, NY, in Seneca County, a notorious hotbed for puppy mill breeding facilities. Animal welfare groups across the country keep their eyes on what happens there.

So here’s the catch: the Martin’s new facility is planned for Gorham, NY, which is in Ontario County. Not in the notorious puppy mill hotbed of Seneca County. (more…)!

I wanted to share a non-animal story with you today, because it’s so important to me – and if you’re the compassionate reader I think you are, it will be important to you, too.

This year, International Justice Mission celebrates 15 years of seeking justice around the world on behalf of the oppressed, the abused and the forgotten. Their team not only rescues people from oppression and slavery, but uses the legal systems in their countries to bring the perpetrators to justice.

This is on my mind today because, as of late, I’ve been inundated with puppy mill stories, pleas for help with abandoned dogs, and other cries for help in the animal world. Baby seals. Feral cats. Stranded dolphins.

Which, of course, got me thinking. And you know that will either generate an interesting discussion or a boatload of hate mail – or both. (more…)

Bailey at six weeks old, the day I brought her home from the shelter. Had I not done that, she would have been one more "disposable dog".

One of our local news station in Rochester, NY, 13WHAM news, did a two part story this week on the problem of backyard breeders and the astounding number of pit bulls ending up our local animal shelter. The two-part series was called “Disposable Dogs.”

In the story, reporter Jane Flasch shared information about the growing problem of irresponsible backyard breeding, which resulted with more than 1,000 pit bull puppies (some just days old) and dogs euthanized last year at Rochester Animal Services (RAS), the municipal shelter for the City of Rochester, NY. (The shelter euthanized about 3,000 dogs in 2011.)

I volunteered for a year at this shelter and I can attest to the fact that pit bulls are are problem … wait, not pit bulls, exactly. Pit bull owners and breeders.

And I have one of those “disposable dogs”.


According to, the NY State Police raided the Wyoming County SPCA today. Click the image to read the story at the

Just a week ago we were talking about animal cruelty and puppy mills, and in an ironic twist the New York State Police today raided the Wyoming County SPCA following allegations that “hundred cats were living under inhumane living conditions and funds were being improper handled.” Police also raided an adoption center run by the Wyoming County SPCA in the Eastern Hills Mall in Clarence, NY.

According to the, Erie County SPCA spokeswoman Gina Browning, who is assisting with the investigation said, “I think deplorable is an understatement in how to describe the conditions inside that facility.” The Wyoming County Emergency Response Team is also assisting in the clean up.

Read more of the story here.

Do you know where your bacon come from? Click the image to watch the video from the Humane Society of the United State's undercover investigation at two of the nation's largest pork suppliers

McDonald’s Corporation and Hormel both recently announced that they will phase out the use of sow gestation stalls in favor of more humane treatment of pigs that become our food.

A gestation create is a 2 x 7 crate in which a pig lives its entire live, virtually immobalized and unable to even turn around. impregnated over and over and over. A recent undercover investigation by The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) offered an inside look Seaboard Foods and Prestage Farms; Seaboard is the nation’s third-largest pork producer, and a supplier to Walmart. Prestage is the nation’s fifth-largest pork producer.

HSUS press release explains:

In addition to the extreme confinement endured by animals at both facilities, the investigations found workers cutting piglets’ testicles and tails off with no painkiller, injured piglets with their legs duct-taped to their bodies, gestation crates overflowing with feces and urine, and employees hitting pigs’ genitals to force them to move from one crate to another.

Because the abuse documented at the Seaboard facility is in stark contrast to statements on the company’s website about animal care – which read, in part, “daily animal handling plant audits and employee training ensure proper animal treatment” – The HSUS filed legal complaints against the company with the SEC and FTC urging the agencies to require that Seaboard stop misleading its shareholders and the public.

I’ve talked to people recently who don’t have a problem with gestation crates – for pigs or for commercial dog breeding. I suspect, however, that those people don’t actually know what a gestation crate is or how the pig (or dog) is treated. After watching the video above, if those people still want to argue gestation crates are humane, that’s fine. They’re entitled to their opinions. As long as they really understand what they’re arguing for. (more…)

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