No Photos – at Holmes County dog auctions

There is apparently one Amish-attended event where cameras are not at all welcome: dog auctions. Or at least undercover cameras aren’t.

WFMY News reports that a producer and videographer working incognito were tossed from a recent Millersburg auction and threatened with arrest. I can’t say I’m too surprised, given that it was on private property.  And given that there is a reported ban on recording devices at these auctions.

Holmes County Dog Auction
King of his domain?

I’ve never attended a dog sale. My contact has been limited to seeing small breeders and a few larger operations in various Amish communities.  So I can just deduce a few things going on media coverage and my limited experience.

Puppy mills were getting a lot of media attention a few years ago.  A number of both Amish and Mennonite breeders were found running substandard breeding operations.  Coverage on the Oprah show was probably the peak of it all.

You still see stories from time to time, but I at least don’t notice as many nowadays.  That doesn’t mean they’ve disappeared, though I have heard that they were growing less common in Pennsylvania, and thus relatively more common in the Midwest and Ohio in particular.

Breeders v. Activists

Here’s what one activist said about the Millersburg event:

“My question would be, if this is an auction you are so proud of in your county and these are all reputable breeders, why do you have a problem with with videos and audios coming into the auction?” said Mary O’Connor-Shaver, an animal rights activist who has tried to get dog auctions banned in Ohio.

“The major problem is that these dog auctions here in Holmes County are a major distribution channel for puppy mill breeding in the state of Ohio,” she said.

Good question.  I can think of at least two answers.  One is that she is right, and they are not reputable, and operators are afraid of what cameras would find.

Another is that they are reputable, but afraid of what could be portrayed as abuse by someone motivated to do so.  Or, the answer could lie somewhere in-between.

And here is a breeder:

Jared Yoder, a Holmes County resident who breeds German Shepherds, said many of the differences of opinions over the dog auctions are cultural.

“We eat meat, and we raise and sell animals and dogs are viewed as livestock,” he said. “We are not like the animal rights activists who are protesting. There is a difference between the views on this issue between those that live in the city and those that live in the country.”

“Very few people here would ever put a dog in an abusive situation where they are not treated properly,” Yoder added. “There is a fine line between a puppy mill and someone who raises pets at their farm and sells them.”

He is being impressively blunt about it, and I think captures the gist of the issue.  I also wouldn’t be surprised if his statement about abusive situations were in some sense true.

Don’t pet the cows

But I think the way “abusive situations” is defined is quite different on one side vs. the other.  This is where the problem comes in.  A dog is not a cow, is what the activists are saying.  You might not think you are abusing them, but they require a different level of care than livestock–both physical and emotional.

I’m pretty dense when it comes to animals, but I can see this point.  When I, like a dumb guy from the city, try to pet my Amish friends’ cows, they shy away.  They don’t want you to touch them.  We are not pets, and we don’t need to be petted, pal.  Milk me twice a day, get a vet in once in awhile, and I’ll be fine.  But hands off.  Dogs of course are the opposite (the good ones, anyway).

That said, an activist group apparently found more than just dogs suffering from a lack of human attention.  They bought a few auction dogs and had them checked out. There was tooth decay in a poodle, and a pug with a bad disc, among other ailments.

Also, what the cameras caught before being kicked out wasn’t helpful for the dog sellers’ case (you can see video at the link up top).

People hate seeing dogs in cages.  We don’t care so much when it’s something we’re going to eat.  But when it’s man’s best friend behind the wire it’s a different story.

King of the Pugs photo: Bobby Bradley/flickr

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    1. Roberta

      Some people don’t take kindly to the fact that puppies who aren’t sold get taken out behind the barn and shot. Some people around here have been raising money to buy the rejects which I think just perpetuates the problem.

    2. Stephen

      Cows sometimes like to be petted and rubbed and in general have attention given to them, depending on how they were raised, treated, and especially if they are the only cow in the family, much as if a dog is the only pet in the family.

      That Amish cows might not like pet-like attention suggests to me that such cows aren’t accustomed to it, which wouldn’t surprise me a bit regarding cows living in dairy situations larger than having a single house cow or two. I’m not saying anybody is abusing their dairy cows so much as I’m saying that it’s much harder to give ten cows the attention that one would get, nor would a cow in a herd need the emotional if not physical human attention that a single cow or two would need.

      I’ve never had cows of my own, but I worked on an educational farm run by an environmental organization that kept one or two cows and I can tell you that there were cows that would come when I called them (even break into a trot or RUN sometimes!), push their (large!) heads into me so I’d rub behind their ears, and follow me around the pasture if I was out there doing something.

      Cows, like dogs, will give back what you give them.

      1. Interesting to learn that, Stephen. I always feel sort of foolish trying 🙂

    3. Stephen

      I would add to my previous comment and offer that even in the case of a single house cow, perhaps Amish folk and culture don’t view cows as pets and would never treat even a single cow as pet and hence, the cows don’t expect it.

      Do Amish treat horses well? I am less of a horse person than a cow person, but every horse I’ve ever seen needs a certain amount of loving cajoling in order to get it to reliably do its job.

    4. I’ve got some great pictures from a dog auction… (not really, couldn’t resist). Anyway, this is not a good subject for me because it makes me sad even thinking about it, but the one thing I will say is I can see how things could be misconstrued through the lens of a camera. On the other hand, if you’re selling good, healthy pets, wouldn’t you want someone to send a pic to a friend to see if they’re interested? There’s no easy answer is my answer. Like you said, there’s a difference between animals used for sustenance and those used for love and companionship. My dogs would agree with me. ha ha

      1. Dog on the table

        Well played Beth…as an aside, the subject of foreign eating habits came up in a class I am teaching, and talk turned to consumption of dogs, practiced in some Asian countries.

        A student with a Korean acquaintance was told that it’s not like they grab the family pet if the fridge is looking empty and they don’t feel like going to the store. There are “pet” dogs and “food” dogs.

        I don’t know if I’d be able to make the same mental divide, though if I grew up Korean, I guess it would probably seem as normal as eating a chicken burrito with your pet parrot happily squawking in the other room.

    5. Robin

      Puppymills stink … I adopted two puppymill moms 9 years ago. They were 3 and 5 years old, the 5-year-old had given birth to who knows how many litters, the 3-year-old was deemed an unfit mother. They were starving her to death when rescue came in for her. They were never totally house-worthy having accidents, did not like to cuddle (unlike pugs), skiddish and had several serious health issues that eventually took them. However, we loved them all the more. There is no need for the puppy business. Just check any shelter or rescue and there are more than enough to go around. Though I admire the Amish on many levels, this is one issue I do not. I am glad to hear that maybe the puppymill business is fading in Pennsylvania. Now, to work on the Midwest. Missouri is the puppymill capital of the world some say. And these mills are not by any means run only by Amish … I think it’s more the “English” that are perpetuating this tragedy.

    6. Alice Mary

      Some of my best friends...

      I agree fully with BethR. Having adopted/loved/raised a number of my “best friends” (canine and now feline) in my lifetime, it disturbs me very much to see or hear of any kind of abuse to dogs/cats/most animals. I’m not a full-fledged vegetarian, and eat very little meat, so I know I am also guilty of causing the demise of some cattle, chickens, seafood. It’s not an easy problem to solve. I certainly wouldn’t put the treatment/condition of the dogs in the clip in the same category as people who deliberately torture animals for a mean thrill, but we have to have a conscience when it comes to caring about or mistreating any living being.

      Alice Mary



    8. Naomi W.

      Interesting post and comments

      The libertarian in me says that any private enterprise should have the right to ban photo or videorecording. On the other hand, any well run operation should be able to stand up to scrutiny, especially one dealing with live animals.
      Perhaps the answer to the problem of puppy mills and other morally and ethically questionable industries is that consumers dedicate themselves to purchasing directly from the producer (farmer/furniture maker/seamstress/etc) instead of allowing middlemen to control distribution of products. Pups should never be purchased from pet stores because irresponsible breeders can hide behind these false fronts. Fresh produce, meats, and dairy are much better straight from the farm than at the grocery store. Clothing made by your local seamstress ensures you aren’t supporting sweat shop labor. Through direct relationships the consumer knows if they are getting a quality product, and the producer has a better chance of earning a living wage. The consumer who sees that a business is being run in an unfit manner can simply spend their money elsewhere.

    9. I did a post on puppy mills...........

      Hi everyone getting on Amish America late in the day, and we got into puppy mills on one post from Jean on my blog. When I drive around Lebanon county I have seen a sign here and there condemning puppy mills, and somehow saying the word “puppy mills” has a negative ring to it. If someone runs a puppy mill and you are running a humane and clean business Id love to hear from you because your Image is not too good, so I welcome you to try and change my mind! Have a great weekend folks. Richard.

    10. Fiona

      Rescued Dogs

      I’ve owned a puppy mill dog. She was shipped to a pet store here in Canada, failed to bond with her original human. We wound up getting her from a Rescue Organization. Many social issues that tooks a few years of love to settle but her trust just wasn’t there.

      I have a friend has three rescued Dachshunds. One was a breeding bitch. Still skittich.

      i thin if anyone feels that these mills are humane they should think about spending their life being bred and having their children taken away from them repeatedly.

      Compassion and being practical are too very different concepts.

    11. Ed

      The auction has every right to ban cameras. This is likely both out of respect to the Amish attendees and due to misrepresentations by the “animal rights” activists.

      I’ll say, if I was going to get a pet, I would get it from a shelter, or a reputable breeder where I could see the dog’s parents and how it was raised. Not at an auction.

      However auctions obviously fill a role to supply certain breeds to the public. In my past interactions with “animal rights” activists, I’ve found them to be unstable, eccentric, and more concerned with animals’ welfare than human beings.

      The kind of “gotcha” videos the TV station made are a classic example of bad journalism. There is no evidence the dog with a slipped disk, for example, got that from how he was raised. No doubt you take several shelter dogs to a vet, you would find similar problems.

      Yes, I think we can improve how we raise and sell pet animals…but the animal rights crowd isn’t going to help us get there.

    12. OldKat

      You are so right, Ed.

      People find a “cause” to support and once they have found that “cause” they feel that anything and everything goes in order to promote it. I am not advocating cruelty to animals by any means. That said I find the “animal rights’ crowd to be a bunch of self-serving, self -aggrandizing idiots. If the organizers of the auction are holding it on private property and they don’t want cameras present; be they still or video, then that is that.

      It would be a different story if they were holding the auction at a public forum or facility, like if the auction were being held as part of a county fair or something. Fact is it was not. It was being held on private property and the owners of that property and the organizers of the event are the only ones that can call the shots as to what is allowed and what is not allowed to take place during that event. If people have a problem with that they should NOT ATTEND the auction …period. I have a strong feeling that the same people who feel that they are somehow entitled to break the rules or bend them to suit their purposes and video in spite of the fact that it was prohibited would be absolutely livid if someone would enter their private property uninvited and start videoing their family, their home or whatever. Yet, because of their cause they feel that their actions are “justified”. If that happened at an event that I organized I can tell you for sure that their camera would not be operable when they left and they probably would need to find a dentist to straighten up their teeth after I shoved the camera down their throat.

      Oh, and BTW I have never been to a dog auction, don’t intend to go to one & wouldn’t buy a puppy that came from one if I knew that was where it came from. Most of our pets over the years have come from family, friends, shelters or have wandered up and just adopted us. We have two cats like that right now. Still if dog (or cat) auctions are legal those people should be left alone. If there is compelling evidence that animals are being abused in the process of producing them for auction, preparing them for auction or at the auction itself then work to get the laws changed so that these things can’t happen. What the sleaze ball zealots like animal rights activists will do is take video and then edit it like crazy so that it appears to show one thing, when in reality the unedited video often does not show what they are saying it does at all. I find this to be reprehensible. Off my soap box.

    13. Lattice

      Something that came to my mind is the images one would see if he or she attended a dog auction. No matter how well dogs are cared for, take a large number of them, from various locations, and put them all (in their crates/cages/pens) within sight/smell/hearing of each other, and how do you think they would look? Like sweet, cuddly, furry pups, or would they look like timid, frightened, and nervous wrecks? Any images caught “on film” would surely make the auction appear inhumane.

    14. Janet

      The Amish are, in fact, notorious for owning and operating commercial dog breeding facilities, aka Puppy mills. In fact, the amish are less careful with the dogs as most do not view them as companion animals. They spend less money on the breeding facilities and therefore, most of the puppies are not healthy.

      This particular auction not wanting cameras is only saying, “we don’t want people to see the mistreatment of our dogs”. Most of us who speak out for the many puppies and breeding mothers in puppy mills are not activists. We are advocates and there is a big difference.

      I have seen many amish mills and auctions and they are not pretty. People need to stop selling puppies like other commodities. They have hearts and each it’s own unique personality.

    15. Seriae Wilson

      Auction of Dogs

      The practice of auctioning dogs needs to be banned – you are encouraging backyard breeders when so many are in shelters and rescue groups needing homes in order to prevent them from being euthanized – this practice is HORRIFIC and needs to be stopped