Some of the violations for Jolene Martin in 2011; scroll to the end of the post to see USDA APHIS reports on the Martins dog breeding facility.


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. (more…)

This news from The Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) couldn’t have been more timely:

The Humane Society of the United States announced the newly formed Breeders Advisory and Resource Council (BARC) which is composed of responsible dog breeders from across the country. Council members will advise HSUS on dog health and welfare issues, and talk to the general public about what constitutes proper breeding practices, promoting the health of the parents and the puppies.

In the press release announcing the council, Wayne Pacelle, president and CEO of The HSUS says:

“For too long, large-scale commercial puppy mills have given all dog breeders a bad name. We commend the responsible breeders who are showing leadership in their community and speaking out against the abusive operations that treat dogs not like loving family members, but like a cash crop. Everyone who cares about the health and welfare of dogs must be part of the solution, and we are excited about this new partnership.”

Council member and AKC Breeder of Merit, Kathryn McGriff says in the release:

“We want to protect our right to be responsible breeders and to enjoy and bond with our dogs in show and performance events, but if we think for one minute that ignoring the problem of cruelty to animals makes us responsible breeders and protects our rights, I believe we’re wrong. We can no longer sweep puppy mills under the rug.”

You can learn more about responsible dog breeders, how to find a responsible breeder, and even ask a responsible breeder a question as well as explore the problem of puppy mill on the HSUS website.


This week has seen a lively discussion about wholesale commercial dog breeding facility planned for Gorham, NY. It’s been interesting to hear from both sides and to see the passion that people have for the humane treatment of dogs.

Here’s a story from the Humane Society of the United States that should make you think beyond puppies: cockfighting.

When animal lovers think of blood sport in the animal world, they usually think of pit bulls and Michael Vick. But Dr. Oran Smith, the executive director of Palmetto Family, and Dr. Richard Land, president of the Southern Baptist Convention’s ethics and religious liberty commission, have released a video citing scripture and Biblical principles in an effort to expose the cruelty of cockfighting as well as the larger societal effects of the illegal blood sport.

I confess that for a second, I thought … a chicken? But just for a second. Because God doesn’t look down and say one animal is more important than the other. If God’s eye is on the sparrow, it’s equally on the pit bull and the rooster. And when you learn just a little about cockfighting, you can see that the issue of inhumane treatment of animals is the same regardless of what animal is being abused. (more…)

With the hot discussion this week about the wholesale dog breeding facility approved for Gorham, NY (or as it’s otherwise known, a puppy mill), I thought this quote might provide someting to ponder on this weekend regarding the different way we view animals we eat and animals we live with, and how that differs around the world. It’s from the preface to James Serpell’s very thought-provoking book, In the Company of Animals: A Study of Human-Animal Relationships:

“Human attitudes to animals often appear extraordinarily variable and artibrary. Consider just two examples. In India the cow is sacred, and its slaughter and consumption are taboo. As a result, cows wander around and proliferate unmolested in a society where humans regularly die from lack of food. Conversely, in Europe and North America, where people enjoy exceptionally high living standards, cows are treated for the most part like walking milk bars or hamburgers on legs. The domestic dog, meanwhile, has become the Western equivalent of the sacred cow. Dogs are cherished and nurtured as man’s best friend, and the idea of killing and eating one is virtually unthinkable. Yes, throughout much of the Near East dogs are reviled as symbols of all that is filthy and degraded, while in China, Korea and the Philippines they are cooked and devoured with enthusiasm.”

– James Serpell, In The Company of Animals

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