INDIANAPOLIS - A national report on "problem puppy mills" from the Humane Society of the United States includes six Indiana breeders.
The report entitled "A Horrible Hundred: Problem Puppy Mills In the United States" is not a list of the worst 100 mills in the nation, but HSUS maintains they are operations with deficiencies and inadequate attention to animal welfare based on data from USDA inspection reports, Call 6 Investigator Kara Kenney reports.
"The report is putting a spotlight on a number of widespread issues in the puppy mill industry," said Kathleen Summers, director of outreach and research for the puppy mill campaign at the Humane Society of the United States. "We put this report out to draw attention to the widespread problems that exist and to encourage authorities to more closely these facilities."
Summers said at a puppy mill, the dogs are kept solely for breeding purposes and are usually kept in cages 24 hours a day, seven days a week.
"There's a lot of horrific conditions going on in these puppy mills in Indiana," Summers said. "USDA does inspections unannounced. They found dogs in the freezing cold without protection from the weather and underweight dogs without adequate food."
The Indiana breeders listed in the report include Marlin Bontrager of Rome City, Elam Fisher/Morgan Creek Kennel of Williamsburg, Kathryn and Vernon Lambright/Clearspring Kennels in Wolcottville, Elmer Lapp/Pine Hill Kennel of Hagerstown, Steven Lapp of Modoc and Larry Miller/Railside Canine of Millersburg.
The Call 6 Investigators visited Wayne and Randolph counties to track down some of the breeders listed in the report.
Elmer Lapp's Pine Hill Kennel in Hagerstown has accumulated "gruesome USDA violations in recent years," according to the report, including repeated violations for improperly cutting off puppies' tails.
"At its most recent inspection in February 2013, an inspector found puppies with recently docked tails which had been glued together at the base with expired surgical adhesive, a limping Boston Terrier, a matted shih tzu with dental disease and more repeat violations for issues such as insects and feces in the dogs' food, filthy conditions and rodent feces throughout the facility," read the HSUS report.
RTV6 agreed not to show Lapp's face on camera because he is Amish.
"There are some issues. I don't argue that point," Lapp said. "As far as that's concerned, everything's under control."
Lapp said the kennel is undergoing renovations and construction should alleviate some of the health and safety issues.
The Call 6 Investigators could hear dogs barking on the premises, but Lapp would not allow RTV6 to take video of the facility.
"We're upgrading and stuff, and I expect to get inspected here in a little bit," Lapp said.
The Call 6 Investigators next stopped at Steven Lapp's kennel, no relation to Elmer Lapp, in Modoc.
The "A Horrible Hundred" report said USDA inspections in 2012 and 2011 revealed "piles of mouse feces," sick dogs that had not been properly treated by a vet, tail docking without a veterinary license and expired medications.
RTV6 also agreed not to show his face on camera because he is Amish.
"We had some mice in the kennels. We cleared it up and got it done," Steven Lapp said.
Steven Lapp pointed out to RTV6 that his most recent inspection in August 2012 did not have any compliance issues.
"We are caring for our dogs," Steven Lapp said.
The Humane Society said although his last 2012 inspection report was compliant, the USDA had to inspect him four times in 2012 due to issues with the kennel.
"Normally, the USDA inspects only once a year, so the fact that it took him four tries to get one compliant inspection is significant," said Niki Ianni, HSUS spokeswoman, in an email to RTV6.
The Call 6 Investigators could hear dogs barking on the premises, but Steven Lapp would not allow RTV6 to take video of the facility.
Both Steven and Elmer Lapp said they do not consider themselves "puppy mills," but rather professional breeders.
Kenney's last stop was at Elam Fisher's Morgan Creek Kennel in Williamsburg.
According to the HSUS report, in September 2012, the USDA cited the facility for dogs with swellings and ulcerations on their feet and excessively long toenails -- common problems with dogs forced to stand on wire flooring all day.
RTV6 is not showing Fisher's face because he is Amish.
"It has been taken care of," Fisher said. "We love our dogs. We love our job."
Fisher told Kenney the kennel is working with the USDA.
"We're not perfect," Fisher said. "We're doing everything we can and they're satisfied."
Fisher then said he had to leave for an appointment, so RTV6 left the property immediately. As RTV6 was shooting video of Fisher's property from a public street, Fisher called the sheriff's office, which responded with two deputies, who left as soon as Kenney explained the situation.
The Call 6 Investigators reached out to the American Kennel Club, which represents numerous dog breeders.
"This report is yet another example of HSUS using unsubstantiated claims as facts to engage the public in fundraising. The AKC encourages responsible dog breeding practices and immediately notifies the appropriate authorities when animal cruelty is uncovered during inspections of breeders who register their litters with AKC," the organization said in a statement. "AKC spends $1.5 million annually on its inspections program for the welfare and humane treatment of dogs. The Humane Society hopes the report will encourage people to get their animals from a shelter or rescue group, rather than a pet store or the internet where there’s no guarantee the animal came from a reputable breeder."