St. George pet store puppy mill
A puppy mill in the rural United States
public domain

On Friday, Jan. 15, animal rights activists demonstrated on St. George’s Bluff Street against Fur de Leash, a local pet store that sells puppies. Members of the national organization PeTA, the Humane Society, and the local organization P.A.W.S. (Providing Animals with Support) have been trying for nearly a year to stop what they say is an outlet for puppies produced by inhumane puppy mills. While Fur de Leash owner, Hayley Gardner, has maintained that the puppies they sell are coming from USDA-inspected breeders, not only has the question of USDA standards been called into question, but recent documentation has linked the St. George pet store to a breeder with multiple citations and conditions which match generally accepted definitions of a “puppy mill.”

St. George pet store puppy mill
Corinne Nyman
photo by Dan Mabbutt

The Independent has previously reported on the effort of local animal rights activist Corinne Nyman, one of the founders of the Southern Utah Animal Alliance. With support from Best Friends Animal Society, Nyman has been trying to persuade the St. George Town Council to pass a local ordinance banning the sale of puppies. Best Friends operates the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary and is the largest single employer in Kane County.

Currently, Best Friends lists 134 jurisdictions across the country that have enacted similar retail pet sale bans, ranging from Albuquerque, N.M. — which enacted an ordinance ten years ago — to an ordinance in Las Vegas, Nev., which was just enacted this month. To date, St. George has not taken any action on Nyman’s proposal, but she hasn’t given up. In addition to direct action like the demonstration on Friday, Nyman has created a petition at Change.org that currently has been signed by over 26,000 people. Nyman told the Independent that she is also getting support from the Humane Society of the United States for a new push to get St. George to take action.

St. George pet store puppy mill
Protesters on St. George’s Bluff Street photo by Dan Mabbutt

Protesters at the Friday demonstration against Fur de Leash claimed that the store is an outlet for inhumane puppy mills. The Independent also interviewed the owner of Fur de Leash, Hayley Gardner. Gardner said that her business did not obtain puppies from puppy mills and that all of her suppliers were inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture, which guaranteed that humane practices were followed and only healthy puppies were supplied to buyers.

“We get all of our babies from licensed and regulated breeders. … The USDA … every single month checks on [dog] mothers, health conditions, quality of parents, quality of living conditions, everything like that, to make sure they are not being overbred or kept in bad conditions.”

In an attempt to resolve the seemingly conflicting reports, The Independent also met with Nyman and checked the documentation that she said linked Fur de Leash with puppy mills. Nyman said that the same paperwork was presented to St. George Mayor Jon Pike as part of the effort to get a ban on selling puppies in St. George.

St. George pet store puppy mill
“Charley” – Puppy originally sold by Fur de Leash and then turned in to P.A.W.S.
photo by Dan Mabbutt from document supplied by Corinne Nyman

Nyman said that it was very difficult to get information about the sources that Fur de Leash uses for puppies since Gardner refuses to release it except to actual buyers. However, when a dog was received by P.A.W.S. — where Nyman does volunteer work — for placement with a new owner, she discovered that the original owner had purchased the puppy from Fur de Leash and gave the original paperwork for the puppy to P.A.W.S. to help them find a new home. This paperwork listed the name of the supplier from which Fur de Leash received the puppy as Lamar Reiff at Bramble Patch Kennel in rural Missouri. The dog was supplied through a broker named Pinnacle Pets who documented four generations of pedigrees for the puppy. The dog also went through a middleman supplier called Cold Wet Noses in Henderson, Nev. From there, the puppy went to Fur de Leash.

USDA records confirmed three active dog breeding operations in rural Missouri operated by persons with the last name of “Reiff.” Missouri leads the nation in commercial kennels with 678 such operations — over five times the number of kennels in the second place state of Iowa. In 2013, the Bramble Patch Kennel in particular — operated by Lamar Reiff — had “non-compliance reports” from the USDA concerning “attending veterinarian and adequate veterinary care,” “primary enclosures,” and “cleaning, sanitization, housekeeping, and pest control.” One report states that, “Many of the water receptacles throughout the facility had an accumulation of dark green, algae-like growth.” The Independent also discovered that the USDA only conducted annual inspections of Reiff’s breeding operation. Additionally, the Humane Society confirmed that Lamar Reiff was on their 2013 report of bad breeders.

This information directly conflicts with not only statements Gardner made to The Independent about the frequency of inspections but also to statements she made to the Spectrum that her dealers don’t have any strikes against them. However, as the Reiff kennel is still in operation, other statements that Gardner has made about people needing to take their gripes to the USDA instead of protesting at her pet store are well-founded.

The website USLegal.com defines a puppy mill as “a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” The site goes on to say that “The Office of the Inspector General even released a report detailing the United States Department of Agriculture’s (USDA) lax and ineffective enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) against licensed large-scale dog breeders and brokers known as puppy mills.” However, even given the Inspector General’s concerns and the reported problems with the Bramble Patch Kennel, Reiff continues to breed and sell animals, including to Fur de Leash.

An additional concern to animal advocates in this particular case deals with the middleman supplier that provided the puppy to Fur de Leash: Cold Wet Noses of Henderson, Nev. Henderson is where Pet Pros — operated by Hayley Gardner’s father, Scott Gardner — ran into trouble when faced with seven counts of animal establishment violations. The charges included keeping puppies in cages that were too small, having sick animals in close quarters with healthy ones, and five counts of failure to provide adequate water. Nevada corporation records show that the officers of Cold Wet Noses are Charles S Gardner and Allison E Gardner.

St. George pet store puppy mill
Eric Deardorff‎
photo by permission

Animal advocates argue that in the final analysis, it doesn’t matter whether it can be conclusively proven that Fur de Leash gets their puppies from a puppy mill or not. As protest organizer Eric Deardorff stated, “Every dog bred means a shelter dog dead.” Whenever someone gives a home to a dog from a breeder, it means that some other dog in a shelter won’t find a home. As animal activist Laurie Nelson-Barker wrote to the Independent, “Many healthy, well behaved animals end up at shelters through no fault of their own. Sometimes a death [of an animal owner] or move will cause an otherwise cherished pet to be surrendered to a shelter as a last resort. There are many well deserving animals that just need a chance to be the perfect companion.  Everyone benefits.”

The Independent will continue to follow this story.

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22 COMMENTS

  1. Thank you, Dan Mabbutt, for continuing to be follow up with the abuse surrounding Fur De Leash. I don’t know what further proof anyone needs.

  2. i just wish the owner of the pet store could go and visit the parents of these puppies so she could see what is really going on. How close minded on her part.

  3. Breeders don’t kill shelter pets. Irresponsible owners and backyard breeding do. Mandatory Spay/Neuter laws increase the shelter population. Rescue groups buying dogs from puppy mill auctions instead of pulling from kill shelters kills dogs. Rescue groups buying and importing dogs from overseas kills shelter dogs. Several rescue groups have been lining the pockets of puppy mills by paying several thousand dollars apiece for their dogs at auctions instead of pulling dogs from kill shelters. Longer Stray holds (some shelter dogs are someone s lost or stolen pet) to try and reunite dog and owner, requiring proof of ownership for owner surrenders, and many other factors would actually help save dogs.

  4. It doesn’t matter whether or not the puppies sold at Fur De Leash come from mills? Excuse me, but isn’t that the whole reason behind shutting down these stores in the first place? Or is it something more sinister, altogether? To those people who would get rid of all breeding altogether, just where do you think dogs will come from in the future? A world without purebred dogs would be a sad place to live. I love my mutts as well as my purebreds, but they are very different.

    It absolutely DOES matter where these dogs come from and if that’s the reason for closing the stores then I stand behind it fully, but stating that breeders, as a whole, are the problem infuriates me. Good breeders need support. Not to be thrown in a pile with those who treat their animals poorly, who ONLY do it for the money.

  5. I’m seeing conflicting comments here. Where’s the Independent’s review of all the facts? Is this a
    news investigation story or an agenda? Is backyard breeding next on the shopping block?
    Maybe the annual St. George rodeo and the Washington County horse racing program should be abolished for abuse of animals too.
    No wait! Election time is coming up. Lets discuss this subject, the humane Planned Parenthood factory mills and the BLM’s wild horse dealings come December.

  6. If breeding kills a shelter pet, why are shelters all over the USA importing dogs from foreign countries? Don’t they also kill shelter pets? Just recently more than 100 alleged Golden Retrievers were imported from Turkey. To my way of thinking that is 100 shelter pets killed because of importation of dogs.
    Think about it.

  7. Great article. No one is attacking legitimate breeders or pet stores such as PETCO or PetSmart for instance.The facts are that there is no shortage of companion animals and never will be unless everyone is willing to spay or neuter. According to the ASPCA, 2.7 million companion are euthanized in the U.S. every year. Many are purebreds. Purebreds have more health issues than mixed breeds due to inbreeding. For instance, Dalmatians are all unilaterally deaf, a defect that has been bred in,
    but can’t be fixed. Share Pei’s are prone to skin infections and many purebreds are subject to hip dysplasia. For those wanting purebreds, there are rescue groups specific to a certain breed. Those animals are obtained from shelters or other rescue groups.This should be obvious, but designer dogs such as a Labradoodle are not purebreds.(Think about the name). Humane Society International is rescuing dogs from China, Korea and Taiwan that are being raised for food. They also rescue animals in other countries in dire situations. Many animals in the entertainment industry are mistreated and abused, but there are exceptions. That should about cover it (I hope).

    • “No on attacking petco or PetSmart…”

      Seriously, that is your response?

      Starting and running a locally owned, small business is courageous and difficult at best. No information of any wrong doing, breaking laws or regulations by this local business is presented in this article. It’s bias and bullying one of our communities entrepreneurs.

  8. Thank you Laurie! Also why is everyone so fixed on what is or is not killing shelter animals? The point here is local pet stores are supporting horrid puppy mills!!
    Now to add we do not want any pet stores shut down, we just want them to change to a humane model and sell rescue/shelter dogs since it is proven they getting animals from puppy mills.

  9. What’s a person to do? A family desires to obtain, raise. breed and train a certain line of dog. Say a Retriever type or a Sheppard for K9 purposes. What’s the shelter going to do for their needs? Nothing. If someone just wants to have a family pet, one that has no desire to hump the neighbors pet, etc., A pet from the shelter make sense. Pet stores have a purpose. Some puppy mills have a purpose too. I guess we’re just talking about politically correct, feel good crap in this whole article. You want to support the Humane Society? eat nothing but tree bark or grass dude.
    You want to try a cat taco sometime? Go to Mexico or Korea.

    • You better not eat tree bark. Trees are living and have feelings too… Didn’t you know this? 😉

      But you can buy plenty stuffed animals, produced over-seas, from wal-mart. No humping, no “animal” hunger, and… Oh wait, we better scream how these stuffed animals last for a life time so you better read a novel, sign a contract, and pay double for the price so the AR peeps can have a job. Never mind any other perspective or possibilities, just do what your told.

  10. Terribly bias article. I am surprised that so many people read this and settle for such misrepresentation. This article could contain the exact same details and portray how a local business is being bullied.

    I understand that most who will this comment are the same people who think a poorly written article like the one above is informative.

    If we can’t see reason to question an article such as this, we will all be buying stuffed animals from wal-mart for pets and companions. And with little concern or awareness of the child labor used to mass produce them.

    Most small businesses fail before a year can pass. It’s hard enough to be an entrepreneur without being bullied. This locally owned business has obeyed all the laws and regulations.

    When people become angry they often take it out on the vulnerable, not the guilty. I am proud of every locally owned, law abiding business in our community. I am discouraged that they would be bullied and targeted so unwarranted.

  11. Anti bully.. They are not breaking any laws sadly- but they are supporting horrid puppy mills which should be illegal. You need to do some research on puppy mills before u speak out saying they are doing nothing wrong because u just sound uneducated.
    100+ cities around country have passed ordinances, why do u think that is?

    • You should have stopped after the first 6 words. “They are not breaking any laws.” So get the laws changed. Don’t go after the law-abiding business owner.

  12. Take aim and fire, just like the crazies who kill Dr.’s who perform abortions. Free speech is a wonderful thing.

  13. Sherry Collisi comments are directed to anti-bully, big cry baby and weak, weak and weak. I think as a society we have not the Will to stop the inbreed people who are allowed to run the earth, population control is a good thing.

  14. The issue here is about cruelty & abuse of puppymills by irresponsible owners who care only about profit….period!! Don’t sidetrack by bringing up animals shipped from China, Golden Retreivers purchased from the UK & bias opinions about the article written reporting an unvestigation into the actions of another supposedly corrupt & disgusting puppymill!! And by the way….Petco & Petsmart do not belong within the realm of having empathy for animals!! Investigations into both Petco & Petsmart have uncovered horrific cases of animal cruelty & neglect!! So do not even go there!! It was expected that some would defend the backyard breeder & afew puppymill operations that “might” be caring & breeding under proper guidelines for the industry. However….the more investigations move forward to inspect these puppymill operations…the more the truth is uncovered that most mills are into it just for profit and NOT concerned for the well being of the animals they are breeding!! YES!!!! Shelter animals are dying due to overpopulation caused primarially by the puppymill industry! There are enough dogs, pups, cats and kittens to go around this planet a hundred times or more and shelters are over flowing with unwanted and owner surrendered animals.
    Of coarse unspayed and unneutered animals plays a major role, as well. Let’s stay focused on the problem and make certain that puppymills follow proper guidelines to breed & maintain a healthy and safe environment for the animals in their care; AND that are sold to the public!! If they do NOT comply….then shut them down…PERIOD!!!!

  15. I purchased a jack Russell terrier from petland. I got a certificate of pedigree from them. The breeder Lamar Reiff Bramble Patch. My jack Russell has had a lot of health problems. Petland charged my husband and I 1,700.00 for this dog. I have huge vet bills now cant afford the loan payment. I love my Amelia and would not trade her for the world. It makes me angry petland does this sells unhealthy dogs something should be done about this. Please someone get intouch with me about this matter. Thank You a jack Russell terrier lover Alison Smathers

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