Why Breeders like Rabbit Ridge stay in business

Not long after the explosion that sank the Deep Water Horizon and led to the worst ecological disaster in US history, people began to question the Mineral Management Service's role in the event. News began to surface at how lax MMS was; how much this US regulatory agency was in the pocket of the very industry it was supposed to regulate.

The problem with the MMS is a problem that exists in other government agencies: the organizations that regulate and control an industry are also the organizations that are tasked to support and promote the industry. The two, regulatory agency and industry, begin to establish close connections that hinder legitimate enforcement. In an article on the spill by the Washington Post, Rep. Edward Markey (D-Mass) used the term of "boosterism" to describe the relationship MMS had with the oil industry:

I'm of the opinion that boosterism breeds complacency and complacency breeds disaster.

The same boosterism applies to both the USDA and Missouri's Department of Agriculture, though any disasters forthcoming from both organizations may not be as spectacular. But the close relationship of the organizations with the people they police has led to failed audits when it comes to their oversight of large scale commercial dog breeding operations—three times for the MDA, and once for the USDA. More importantly, the failure of both organizations has led to a life of misery for animals who have been bred for 15,000 years to depend on us.

It is this boosterism that keeps a breeder like Rabbit Ridge in business. Boosterism, and the lax laws and regulations that have now been enshrined in Missouri law thanks to the recent efforts of the Missouri Legislature and Governor Jay Nixon.

A quick read through of the combined inspection reports for this breeder shows that something has to be in play for this breeder to still be in business. The breeder had failed inspections not once, not twice, but several times in one year. And the failures were not for simple things like incorrect identification of dogs, either.

  • Dogs fed out of rusted coffee gallon cans. Dogs given water out of water dishes coated with slimy green algae.
  • Dogs kept in indoor kennels during hot Missouri August days, with no air conditioning and little ventilation. Dogs without wind or rain breaks and little or no bedding in outdoor kennels during below freezing winter nights.
  • Several days accumulation of feces under outdoor hutches. Rodent droppings in the buildings and holes in the walls.
  • Dogs with hair so matted, they couldn't even defecate.
  • Dirt and grime build up everywhere, including in the dog's cages.
  • Hutches in advanced stages of disrepair, with broken rusted wires. Filthy standing water between the kennels.
  • Dogs given no medical care when they're too sick to stand up. Dogs with open, oozing sores not being seen by a veterinarian.

There was even a dog that had its tag and collar stuck in its mouth so its head was dragged to the side and it couldn't close its mouth. The breeder didn't even notice the dog until it was pointed out by the inspector. How long was that poor dog like that? Well, from the inspection reports, we know another dog's collar was so tight, it was starting to embed itself in the dog's neck—leaving raw wounds around the collar.

We can see from both the MDA and USDA inspections that two inspectors from each organization met with the breeder on November 16, 2010. From the amount of activity afterwards at the kennel, we can ascertain that the inspectors gave the breeder a "come to Jesus" talk. The next time the USDA inspected the kennel, it found no violations.

The breeder finally cleaned up the accumulated wastes. He replaced the rusted wires and scratched and dilapidated rabbit hut enclosures. Crockery bowls replaced the coffee cans. The paperwork was in order. Holes were patched in buildings—temporarily for now, but with a promise of permanent solution later in the year. The dogs with matted hair had been shaved, and the *sick and injured dogs were treated.

Yes, the breeder, Donald Schrage, was on his best behavior...for a little while. Slowly but surely, though, his old ways are returning. The last MDA inspection noted the build up of grime and dirt in the buildings. The last USDA inspection noted the strong ammonia smell in the two buildings, the wear in the outdoor kennels, the lack of cleanliness and two obviously sick dogs.

In the meantime, other places aren't getting inspected because breeders like Rabbit Ridge Kennel take so much time and effort to monitor.

Without a doubt, this breeder would have been shut down under Proposition B. Evidently, under the new laws, it's business as usual.

*Or were they? All we know from the inspections is that the requirement that the veterinarian attend the dogs was met. However, the breeder had 295 adult dogs in August, 2009, but only had 130 adult dogs in March of 2011. What happened to the rest of the dogs?