Minnesota home to America's worst puppy mills


Federal inspectors walked into the kennel of the repeat offender on three separate occasions, only to find more of the same.

A greyhound with such severe dental disease it was a wonder the dog could still eat. A husky with an oozing eye. Four different dogs with such lame legs they each supported themselves. On top of these discoveries, the USDA officials felt "a burning sensation in their throats" because the place so reeked of excrement.

Renner's Kennels in Detroit Lakes is one of three Minnesota puppy mills to land on "The Horrible Hundred 2015" list put out by the Humane Society of the United States. Renner's, owned by John and Lyle Renner, is no stranger to the ill notoriety. This year marks the operation's third appearance on the HSUS report.

What was discovered during Renner's most recent inspections comes at no surprise. A USDA report from three years ago noted a dog "with a swollen area between the toes on the left front foot that had a bloody discharge," another with "a malformed left eye with a mucus discharge," and an enclosure for puppies "deteriorating to the point where sharp metal edges protruded" into their living space. 

Not far from Renner's is Michelle Sonnenberg's kennel. Sonnenberg refused to allow inspectors into her facility in April, and likely for good reason.

Previous visits as recently as last summer documented 300 dogs and puppies living in filth. USDA officials found water bowls polluted with feces, insects, and maggots. One report noted an “ammonia level strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat.” 

One of the dogs found at Renner's Kennels in Detroit Lakes.

One of the dogs found at Renner's Kennels in Detroit Lakes.

Officials reported the very same health and sanitation problems back in 2011. 

The state's most horrendous puppy mill belongs to Wanda Kretzman of Clearwater Kennel Inc., according to the Human Society.

Located northwest of Little Falls, Kretzman's puppy mill in Cushing is said to be one of the worst — and largest — canine concentration camps in the country. Federal inspectors have reported more than 1,000 dogs at the facility. 

Inspections show that staff is overwhelmed trying to care for so many animals. Fecal matter and urine were so pervasive that it “limited [the] areas for the dogs to walk or stand without coming into contact” with their own wastes, the Human Society alleges. 

Last fall, a USDA visit showed Kretzman was compliant with federal animal welfare laws. But inspectors were quick to add that Clearwater Kennel "has a history of temporarily coming into compliance, only to be found with additional severe violations at subsequent visits."

In recent years, Kretzman has been cited for violations, including seven dogs with bloody, inflamed, and swollen paws — likely from walking on the wire flooring ubiquitous at puppy mills — as well 188 others who were exposed to hazardous fumes.

This year marks Kretzman's third showing on the Humane Society's "Horrible Hundred."

Messages left for Kretzman went unreturned. Renner's Kennels' phone number has been disconnected. City Pages placed repeated calls to Sonnenberg. No one ever picked up and no messages could be left.

Send tips to Cory Zurowski