Minnesota Breeders Named on National Worst Puppy Mills List

sad pug

In May of this year, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) released their annual “The Horrible Hundred” list, which lists the names and locations of the 100 worst puppy mills in the United States. Only 16 states had mills on the list — and horrifyingly, Minnesota was one of those states, with three breeders listed. 

This is who they are.

1. Renner’s Kennels in Detroit Lakes

Dogs were found with fleas and skin disorders at Renner’s Kennel (Photo: USDA)
Dogs were found with fleas and skin disorders at Renner’s Kennel
(Photo: USDA)

From the report: “During three separate visits since our last report was published in May (May 2014, Sept. 2014 and Nov. 2014), USDA inspectors found sick or injured dogs at Renner’s Kennel. The issues included dogs with swollen areas of red skin, a husky with a ‘reddened and cloudy right eye,’ and a Greyhound with signs of severe dental disease that ‘can make it difficult for the dog to eat’ and ‘can be painful,’ according to the USDA inspector. In July 2014, the USDA gave Renner an official warning for violations of federal regulations for the failure to maintain adequate veterinary care for several animals. In February 2014, four dogs were found with injured paws, and two of the buildings had such strong odors that the inspectors said they felt ‘a burning sensation in our throats,’ and in the puppy nursery, ‘our eyes also felt a burning sensation.’”

This is Renner’s Kennels third time on this list.

2. Clearwater Kennel, Inc. in Cushing

From the report: “The complaint alleges that Clearwater Kennel, Inc. willfully violated the Animal Welfare Act by failing to establish and maintain a program of adequate veterinary care, failing to provide the proper cleaning, maintenance and sanitation, and failing to maintain enough employees to carry out the level of care needed by the enormous number of dogs at the facility. Clearwater Kennel, Inc. is one of the largest puppy mills in the country, with more than 1,000 dogs. February 2014 violations at Clearwater Kennel included a strong ammonia (urine) odor, rodent feces near the dogs’ food, and excessive dog feces in the enclosures that left ‘limited areas for the dogs to walk or stand without coming into contact’ with their own wastes, according to a USDA inspection report.”

Clearwater Kennel is one of the largest puppy mills in the country and has made this list three times.

3. Michelle Sonnenberg in Detroit Lakes

From the report: “In June 2014 an inspector found the same standing water issue in three different barns that contained a total of 306 dogs and puppies, and noticed that the standing water was buzzing with flies – yet the same issue was noted again in October 2014, when the inspector noted that the water was ‘dark, dirty and mixed with excreta’ and presented a ‘risk of odors, insects and disease hazards.’ In February 2013 an inspector noted an ‘ammonia level strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat’ and other problems.”


While it’s horrifying that Minnesota breeders made this list, there’s also reason to hope that these breeders will be shut down (or forced to improve conditions drastically) in the years to come. Since the passage of the 2014 MN Dog and Cat Breeder Regulation Bill, standards of care for commercial breeders have become more strict. [Related Story: MN Breeder Bill Passes!]

This law, which decreed that all breeders must allow the MN Board of Animal Health to inspect their facilities to enforce laws and ensure animal care standards are met, went into effect on July 1, 2014. It stated that all breeders had to register with the state before July 1 of this year.  Then by July 1 of this year, all breeders must be licensed and inspected by the MN Board of Animal Health with annual inspections thereafter.

Unfortunately, the USDA inspectors have noted that Clearwater Kennel “has a history of temporarily coming into compliance, only to be found with additional severe violations at subsequent visits,” so this may be a long battle.

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