I-TEAM: Inside A Minnesota Puppy Mill

(WCCO) Just last week a nationwide investigation exposed how widespread problems with puppy mills have become. Now the I-TEAM gets a rare look at what happened inside one of those kennels in Minnesota.

"They said the puppy was in good health," said Angela Rauen.

Last May, Angels Rauen and Tim Howe bought their dog, Kennedy, from a Web site called Puppies On Wheels. They paid $900 for their dog, $100 of which was for delivery by truck at 1 a.m. on the side of the road.

"She was coughing uncontrollably and that was from the minute we got off the truck. At night, it was almost like I thought she was dying," said Rauen.

Puppies On Wheels is run by Kathy Bauck, a breeder who operates the site out of her Otter Tail County facility called Pick of the Litter.

The I-TEAM learned Bauck has a history of bad breeding practices.

In October of 2006, the Minnesota Board of Veterinary Medicine ordered her to cease and desist all surgeries she was performing since she's not licensed as a veterinarian. Those surgeries included neuter surgeries, ear crops and Cesarean sections.

Bauck didn't stop, and that got the attention of the Companion Animal Protection Society, also known as CAPS.

"We've received probably more complaints about her dogs than just about any other breeder or broker in this country," said Deborah Howard, who runs CAPS.

Wearing a hidden camera for just over a month, one of Howard's investigators captured video given to the I-TEAM, showing emaciated pregnant dogs, sick puppies, and dogs with bloody ears and open wounds.

In one clip of the video, Bauck examines a gaping wound on a dog and says, "I just can't hardly sew it up." That dog is then left in a cage without repair to the wound.

The CAPS investigator also caught Bauck dunking dogs in diluted insecticide normally used on livestock.

Of the insecticide, Howard said, "It is very, very dangerous. It should only be used for cattle and swine."

The insecticide can be fatal if swallowed. The video shows the dog licking its lips.

"The dunking of the puppies in the insecticide and stuff is just a cruel act," said Wade Hanson, a Minnesota Humane Investigator.

Hanson helped the Otter Tail Sheriff's Department get a warrant a few months ago to search Bauck's property for one specific item.

"There was a kill box which they used to euthanize the dogs on the property that was seized," he said.

Dogs were allegedly killed with gas when the box was hooked up to a running four-wheeler.

"I don't believe that she should be allowed to continue operating," said Hanson.

Reached by phone, Bauck told the I-TEAM she wouldn't do an on-camera interview, but when asked about what looks like abuse in the video, she said, "I can just tell you, 'not guilty'. End of story."

She also told the I-TEAM to consider the CAPS investigator may have "set some things up."

Through her attorney, the I-TEAM was told that Bauck's use of insecticide "was probably not authorized for dogs and cats," but that "many medications for animals and for humans are used off-label.

The CAPS investigator also captured video of a Bichon that was unable to stand on her own for days after delivering her puppies.

"Kathy and her daughter used forceps or clamps to reach in and try to pull this puppy out of there. She broke off the tail and broke off one of its rear legs," said Howard of CAPS.

The Bichon died.

Commenting on the Bishon, Bauck's attorney said there's no video of that happening, and he's right. The CAPS investigator wasn't wearing a camera that day, but witnessed the incident.

Bauck is now charged with animal cruelty, torture and the unlicensed practice of veterinary medicine in connection with the treatment of dogs like those shown in the video.

Her trial is set for January, and her attorney is trying to get the CAPS video suppressed.

The USDA is considering pulling her breeder's license, but such an act might not put her out of business. Neither, would a criminal conviction.

"Internet sales are not regulated by the USDA," said Howard. "So even if she's convicted and loses her USDA license, she'll still be able to run Puppies On Wheels."

Online petition - Shutting down Pick-of-the-Litter Puppy Mill


Puppy Mill Investigation Leads To 2 MN Pet Stores

(WCCO) The Humane Society of the United States alleges a popular pet store has been using puppy mills as its supplier.

For the past eight months, Human Society investigators have been looking into Petland, the nation's largest chain of pet stores that sells puppies. They operate two pet stores in Minnesota -- one in Shakopee and the other in St. Paul. The Shakopee store was one of the 21 stores investigators visited. They also checked into 35 breeders across the country linked to Petland stores.

At many of those breeders, investigators found puppies living in filthy, barren cages reeking of urine, lack of veterinarians, as well as inadequate care and socialization.

"The claims that Petland makes, that they establish the highest care possible for their animals, in simply not true. It's misleading to its customers and it's irresponsible for a corporation," said Howard Goldman, Regional Director for the Central States of the Humane Society.

The Humane Society said many of the Petland puppies are not supplied directly from breeders, but rather "middlemen" who buy from puppy mills. They also found some of Petland's puppies are ordered through a pet auction Web site that does not allow for them to check into the background of the breeders.

Many of the Petland store owners said their breeders were licensed by the USDA. The Humane Society called the USDA regulations minimal and found serious violations with some of the breeders.

In Minnesota, investigators looked into breeders in Little Falls, New York Mills and Cushing. They also checked out the Petland store in Shakopee.

Jeff Latko, a manager at the Shakopee store, said the owners visit all of their breeders and have never bought from any of the ones under investigation.

In a statement, Petland called the investigation sensationalism released during the holidays when it says the Humane Society is trying to raise money. They said they "do not support substandard breeding facilities."