Trump's Department of Agriculture Pick Exposes a Big Puppy Problem

December 14th 2016

Laura Donovan

President-elect Donald Trump's pick for the Department of Agriculture is raising eyebrows, and for an unlikely reason: puppies.

Trump's transition 2017 site announced on Saturday that Brian Klippenstein, the executive director of Protect the Harvest, will lead the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Protect the Harvest's objectives include creating hunters and informing others about "the threats posed by animal rights groups and anti-farming extremists." As noted by Mother Jones writer Tom Philpott, the organization has previously challenged the regulation of puppy mills, which the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) defines as "a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs."

In 2014, the non-profit group spoke out against Illinois legislation intended to prohibit puppy mill dogs from being sold in pet stores. Forrest Lucas, founder of Protect the Harvest, had previously opposed a 2010 ballot initiative in Missouri that called for more humane conditions in large puppy breeding facilities. However, it's unclear how Klippenstein's association with the group will shape his role in the Department of Agriculture.

There are puppy mills in questionable conditions throughout the country.

Puppy mills "usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization," which has been noted on the site for the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

"It is estimated that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. Fewer than 3,000 of these are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture," according to The Humane Society of the United States.

The ASPCA added that the animals in puppy mills are not always taken care of which can lead to them becoming very sick when they get to pet stores or their new owner's home:

"Puppy mill puppies are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions including heart disease and blood and respiratory disorders. In addition, puppy mill puppies often arrive in pet stores and in their new homes with diseases or infirmities ranging from parasites to pneumonia. Because puppies are removed from their littermates and mothers at a young age, they also often suffer from fear, anxiety and other behavioral problems."

In September 2014, writer Josiah M. Hesse wrote a Vice article about temporarily working at a puppy mill, which he described as an "industry of torture that would haunt [him] forever." Hesse explained that the mill had stacks of dogs stuffed on top of each other in a hangar.

"They were everywhere, stacked above my head, hundreds of them, all clamoring for attention with a frenetic urgency," Hesse wrote. "These were not the playful barks of excitement we associate with viral YouTube videos. There was no mistaking the sounds as anything but pained screams. I couldn't blame them, since I wanted to scream myself. The stench of hundreds of dogs pissing and shitting all over one another inside an enclosed space sent me running for the bathroom, where I quickly vomited up my morning coffee."

[H/T Mic]