Puppy mills often subject animals to substandard conditions.

The holidays should be a safe and happy time for pets.

Community / Prompted by a tip from a former employee who detailed the squalid conditions of the dogs at Bradley Hawaiian Puppies in Waimanalo, Last Chance for Animals (LCA), a mainland animal rights group, sent an agent to Hawaii to work undercover and surreptitiously film the “puppy mill” earlier this year.

The video clearly shows animals lying in their own filth, suffering from untreated medical conditions and living in an area with a major rat infestation. When confronted with the findings of LCA’s investigation, Dave Becker, the owner of Bradley Hawaiian Puppies, expressed his concern by asking, “What’s the big deal?”

“Heartbreaking” seems a descriptive understatement when observing the filmed inhumane treatment suffered by these pets. The term “puppy mills” is applied to operations involving animals commercially bred for profit. Many of these dog-breeding facilities put profits above the well-being of the puppies and other animals normally kept as household pets. These puppy mills, or puppy farms, often subject their animals to dangerously substandard conditions or use them as feed for other animals.

Some of those cute, irresistible pups for sale in pet shops–on seemingly legitimate websites and at swapmeets–are the offspring of dogs maintained by greedy, large-scale breeders in extremely brutal and barbaric conditions. These animals are often forced to live their entire lives in small cages, with little concern for their health or safety and devoid of the comforts of human companionship.

The puppies are bred continuously until their fertility wanes, causing some callous breeders to kill the puppies rather than sell or donate them to animal-friendly homes. Inbreeding is common in local puppy mills, often producing dogs suffering from disabling congenital abnormalities or serious medical problems.

Although large-scale breeders can be difficult to locate in rural areas such as Waianae, the North Shore, Waimanalo and Kahaluu, a well-known case a few years ago involved more than 70 dogs kept in deplorable conditions in a Hawaii Kai condo in Honolulu.

Ironically, millions of puppies and kittens are bred and sold for profit at the same time millions of adoptable dogs and cats go homeless.

“It is important that the cruelty in puppy mills be brought to the attention of the masses and be stopped,” said popular local dog trainer Cesar Millan at a recent rally, “It is our goal to discourage pet store and Internet sales of puppies and kittens and to encourage adoption from rescue organizations and animal shelters instead.”

Pamela Burns, president of the Hawaiian Humane Society, explains that the HHS is handicapped by legal restrictions that make it impossible for her organization to investigate a suspected abuse situation without a valid search warrant containing evidence to persuade a judge to sign the required papers.

“So in the Waimanalo case, the video we had was several weeks old, and [the owner] did let us on the property, but by the time we got there, he had already cleared away any evidence of abuse or maltreatment and taken the dogs to the vet,” Burns explains. No fines or penalties resulted from the investigation.

By current Hawaii law, a single household can house up to 10 dogs. State laws, however, place no such restrictions on the number of dogs a farmer is allowed to keep. This means farmers can operate as large-scale breeders and, until recent legislation, have not been subject to any state laws governing their standards of care.

After viewing the LCA video, state Sen. Clayton Hee, a farmer, horse owner, and known legislative champion of animal rights, introduced an animal confinement bill at the 2010 session requiring the regulation of puppy mills throughout the state. “This bill will ensure the well-being of animals bred for profit,” says Sen. Hee.

The end-of-session victory for Hee’s bill will give teeth to the enforcement of overcrowding and neglect in large-scale animal operations in Hawaii. It requires humane housing standards for pets, the first step in preventing puppy mills and mass breeding operations. “Effective Jan. 1, we will have a new law that veterinary care must be given to relieve suffering,” says Burns.

Currently, 13 states have bills in the pipeline to outlaw puppy mills. A growing number of local animal lovers are signing petitions and supporting animal rights organizations that fight puppy mills and other forms of animal abuse. “The most important step of all is to adopt your pets from animal shelters or purchase them from reputable breeders,” says Burns.

If you suspect animal abuse, call the Hawaiian Humane Society at 356-2250, around the clock.

At A Glance

There are an estimated 4,000 puppy mills in the United States that breed more than half a million puppies a year, according to the US Department of Agriculture. For-profit breeding on a smaller scale is sometimes referred to as backyard breeding.

Hawaii holds the embarrassing distinction of being one of the “Five Best States to be an Animal Abuser,” according to the Last Chance for Animals, a mainland animal rights group. The LCA also includes Hawaii as one of the “shameful seven” states with no felony provisions for animal cruelty.

Puppy Mill Legislation

According to [], a nationwide organization that seeks to prevent animal cruelty, Honolulu investigators are examining nearly two dozen cases of alleged animal cruelty, with the offenders facing possible criminal prosecution. In May 2010, the Oahu Society of Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (SPCA) rescued 29 animals from a Nanakuli home. The same week, workers for the Habitat for Humanities found 25 dogs and four cats locked inside an abandoned home about to be demolished. According to SPCA officials, the animals were said to be “severely dehydrated and emaciated.”

Although only a partial solution, state legislators passed an act in the 2010 Legislature specifying the standards of care that an owner must provide a pet animal, including the type of pet enclosure, safe conditions and when veterinary care must be provided.