State animal board neutered when regulating puppy mills

Minnesota's commercial breeder law lacks teeth for any meaningful protection of the canine innocent.

Minnesota's commercial breeder law lacks teeth for any meaningful protection of the canine innocent.

How do Paul and Sheila Haag continue to operate a kennel so huge that it's more like a dog breeding factory?

State law allows it.

The USDA inspects commercial canine kennels. State law also empowers the Minnesota Board of Animal Health to license, inspect, and regulate breeders that produce five or more litters of puppies per year with the purpose of selling them.

That would definitely pertain to the Haags' Valley View Kennel that's hidden behind the Amaze'n Farmyard entertainment complex a two-hour drive northwest of the Twin Cities near Paynesville. According to USDA inspection report from last summer, the Eden Valley mill housed more than 900 creatures.

The state's breeder's law, however, is proving to be regulation without a whole lot of teeth. In fact, it contains no limit on the number of dogs a kennel can house and breed.

Minnesota's Commercial Dog and Cat Breeder Law, which went into effect was last July, dictates that breeders must provide daily enrichment for their furry charges, meaning positive physical contact with people and other well-adjusted animals at least twice daily. It also requires operators to monitor animals' health and well-being daily, thus ensuring proper care. Or least that's the idea.

The Haags, along with their son Kyle, operate Eden Valley. If they worked eight-hour days, dedicating every minute to interacting with all 916 dogs twice, the total "positive physical contact with people" would amount to less than a minute and a half.

Almost 90 names make up the list of Minnesota's Commercial Dog and Cat Breeders. Included is Valley View Kennel, which was designated as "one of the worst puppy mills" in the country in 2013 by the United States Humane Society. So are Renner's Kennels, owned by John and Lyle Renner, and Wanda Kretzman's Clearwater Kennel, Inc.

The latter two made the Humane Society's "Horrible Hundred 2015" puppy mill list.

Dr. Paul Anderson, who directs Minnesota's companion animal program, says the Haags’ kennel was inspected in the past 12 months. It passed.

Anderson declined City Pages' request to examine the kennel's latest inspection report. He cited state law, which says commercial dog breeder data is "classified as private or nonpublic."

When City Pages pressed the matter, pointing to the law's exemption that allows information disclosure if it "will aid" in the protection of animal health and safety, Anderson said the matter would have to be taken up at the board's next monthly meeting in mid-September.

When the Minnesota commercial breeder law was passed, Gov. Mark Dayton said, "The humane and decent treatment of these innocent creatures is no longer an unwritten expectation — it is the law."

A protest at Valley View Kennel is scheduled for Saturday afternoon.