Disgusting conditions, horrible treatment and very sick dogs — saddly enough, puppy mills are all over our state.
Ohio is the second worst state when it comes to puppy mills, according to The Humane Society of the United States, which puts together a horrible hundred list every year. Missouri takes the top spot.
The Trivisonno family has firsthand experience with puppy mills. Seeing their dog Digg, you'd never guess their healthy, lovable boxer had a rough start.
"He smelled horribly. It took three or four baths to get him clean...He was riddled with parasites. Probably every one you can imagine...He was vomiting blood, it was coming out the other end...What they thought he had was caused by a bacteria that runs rampant in puppy mills," Wendy Trivisonno said.
All of those symptoms were consistent with a dog from a puppy mill, but the Trivisonno family originally had no idea that was where their dog was coming from. They found Digg online on a site that connects people looking for dogs with breeders, but didn't notice the red flags.
The first red flag they didn't know to look out for was that the breeder wouldn't let them come to him and check out the puppy and its mother. The breeder also didn't offer any medical background for the dog. All he could offer was to drive halfway and meet them in a parking lot to give them Digg.
"He brings the dog out of the cage, and I took one look at the dog and thought, something is not right," Trivisonno said, describing Digg as lethargic, possibly even sedated.
As animal lovers, they knew what they had to do.
"What do we do? We have to take him. If we don't, what's going to happen to him," Trivisonno explained.
They took Digg right to the vet that saved his life.
Another vet visit and hundreds of dollars later, the breeder told the family their only recourse was to surrender the dog back to him.
Trivisonno reported the breeder to the humane society and the county dog warden, who had several complaints against him. But according to the warden, the breeder works just within compliance, so they can't do anything.
Therein lies a larger problem.
"Often times we see breeders meeting the minimum standard requirements. So if they're only going to meet the minimum requirements, it's up to us to increase that floor of protections for dogs," Ohio State Director of the Humane Society of the United States Corey Roscoe said.
Ohio legislators currently have their hands on a bill that would raise the standards. Roscoe explained House Bill 506, which prohibits stacked cages, wired floor bottoms and requires increased cage sizes.
"The bill will also provide food twice a day, access to water and an annual exam by veterinarians," Roscoe said.
But why do so many puppy mills exist in our backyards?
Roscoe said there isn't one answer, but the current low standards, the rural parts of the state where these breeders operate, and mostly, the public continuing to buy the dogs, contribute to the problem.
"This is our sixth year doing the horrible 100 report, and during that time not a single breeder has been shut down by the USDA," Roscoe said.
Click here for tips to keep in mind and red flags to look out for when looking for a puppy.