(KPLR) – Do you know where that cute puppy in the window comes from? A recent dog owner called FOX 2 after finding puppies for sale that she believed to be coming from a bad breeder. So Fox Files investigator Chris Hayes tracked the puppies to their Mid-Missouri home to give you an inside look.
Our investigation begins inside Petland in Lake St. Louis.
A salesperson told our undercover producer, 'We get all our dogs from really good breeders.'
You can check a dog`s history yourself. You should ask for a certificate of pedigree. In the case of a golden retriever we looked at, the certificate showed breeder John Reiff. That raised a red flag for concerned dog owner Karen Busch. She said, 'That breeder has quite a few violations from USDA.'
It was enough to make this year's list of 101 worst breeders according to the Humane Society of the United States.
We visited Reiff`s Rocky Branch Kennel in rural Latham, Missouri, the heart of Mennonite country.
Owner John Reiff said he could not talk on camera because he said it`s prohibited by his religion, Old World Mennonite. Instead, he asked his broker to show us around - Chris Flemming with Pinnacle Pet.
Flemming said, '(Reiff) started building and making improvements and wanted to get better at it but just didn`t know how.'
Flemming addressed each violation listed by USDA inspectors, including an inspector`s finding of a dog that couldn`t put weight on a foot with a one inch `red raw` lesion. Flemming described that violation as something that can happen to anyone, by saying 'If they`ve had children, does their own child ever get injured? If it had a one inch gash in the paw and I`m not disputing that fact, but it wasn`t an old wound. It wasn`t a seeping wound. It was a fresh wound.'
Flemming explained that Reiff wants to improve and he added that it`s good for business to make improvements, as well.
I asked Flemming, 'Are these dogs loved or are they treated as livestock?' Flemming answered, 'Well you can see and I hope you guys show that they know who their owners are. They know the kids, they`re playing with by the kids.'
Nine kids, some who we saw playing with the dogs, but again, they declined to be recorded on camera because of their religion.
USDA inspectors also wrote up Reiff for puppies exposed to the cold. You can see the dogs have a run, housing and shade, but they're always outside. Flemming responded that Reiff 'brought it up to his veterinarian who wrote him a letter that they have adequate bedding. They have adequate shelter and they're ok.'
Then there`s the whelping house, which is a stacked building. Reporter Chris Hayes asked, 'Somebody might say, they`re stacked, it just doesn`t look nice.' Flemming said, 'Right and it doesn`t. It`s one of the things John`s working away from. He`s spreading out more, but in their situation it works for them. He told you before he doesn`t have air conditioning in their house but his dogs do.'
The Reiffs currently have 70 dogs, which the family claims is not too many to take care of between their family of 11.
It`s also Petland`s answer as to why they`re willing to sell dogs from a breeder with a record of recent violations. A representative told me by phone that the store won`t forever prohibit a breeder because of past history.