Questions about designer dog breeder leads to odd exchange on public highway

(KPLR) - Along a rural highway in Curryville, MO, a sign welcomes you to Cornerstone Farms.  The sign says 'Where Children Are a Blessing from the Lord.'

We wanted to see their breeding operation, so we drove out to the property.  Nearly 500 dogs live in the back, according to Missouri Agriculture inspection reports.

On a Friday afternoon at 11:30 a.m. we stopped about a quarter of a mile away to see the kennels in the distance.  Someone spotted us, leading to an unexpected meeting with the farm owners.

A man who did not immediately identify himself pulled up to us and pointed, 'Is that recording?'

To understand why we're here, meet Kylie.  Cornerstone Farms sold Kylie to Kristin Akin for $1,250.00 in June.

Akin said, 'We met in a parking lot down in the Chesterfield Valley area.  At the time it didn`t dawn on me.  Shame on me.  They said `Oh we`re meeting two other families so we`ll bring her out to you because we`re bringing some other dogs out.`  So it just seemed like oh wow, how convenient.

Akin said she`s spent another $3,000.00 getting her dog healthy.  Akin said, 'She had horrific infections in both ears, really severe. And she was just itching non-stop all over.  So she had open sores on the back of her front legs.'

Akin says Cornerstone Farms gave her two different birth records for Kylie.  She fears both records are wrong.  The first record stated Kylie was born this past January.  When Akin questioned if her puppy was really six months old, she was given new paperwork that said the dog was born last November.  Akin found a picture online of the puppy she thought she was bought.  At the time of our interview, that photo was still posted on a Cornerstone Farms website called 'Designs by Janai.'

Akin said, 'That is her picture so is she still available?'  Akin laughed then continued, 'I`m not sure because she`s sitting on my lap.'

Back to the encounter in the road, breeder Debra Ritter showed up, surrounded by some of her children.

Ritter told me, 'Maybe in your walk in life you`ve never made a mistake but we did.  We actually gave Ms. Akin the papers and the information for a puppy in a different litter, ok, by accident, totally by accident.  When she called us and said her vet said something was wrong with it, I looked into it myself because my daughters, these are my daughters and my daughters do all my paperwork for me.'

Ritter told me she has 26 kids, many adopted, ten still living at home.   She said they are all caring for the animals.  She would not allow me on the property to see for myself.

Ritter said, 'They are not in little wire cages like all the animal rights people want you to believe.'

I asked, 'Without seeing it, we wouldn`t know for sure.'  Ritter continued, 'Our USDA inspectors and our state inspectors know.'

In 2015, Missouri Agriculture inspectors wrote violations ranging from:

Inadequate bedding with a 'temperature at the time of... 33 degrees'

A "(dog) housed in an enclosure that did not provide six inches of head space'

And a '(puppy) observed with all four feet passing through the wire flooring.'

Ritter explained, 'It was an animal rights person who worded it incorrectly and people who are journalists who don`t really know the facts because they don`t find out, they just listen to what animal rights people say.'

I followed up and asked, 'So put it in your words what it was.'

Ritter answered, 'Let me say this, we have never in our entire lives, and we`ve been in business since 2001, State licensed, now USDA because of the new code.  We have never ever, ever, ever been shut down for harming an animal.'

Hayes asked, 'Do you walk the dogs?'

Ritter: 'Walk them?'

Hayes: 'Yes.'

Ritter: 'What do you mean by walk them?'

Hayes: 'Do you let them out of their cages?'

Ritter yelled, 'Yes!  Yes, look at all of these children sir. They`re our babies.  Look at all of these kids.  We show our dogs. That`s when they get a lot of the exercise you`re asking about.  And our pens are all 3-5 times bigger than the State requires.'

Hayes: 'That would be compelling if you would show us.'

Ritter: 'Hey go on Yelp. I have pictures of it.'

We found the Yelp page.  One picture shows an outdoor kennel.  Yelp users gave Cornerstone Farms a 2 out of 5 stars.  Ritter added that she`d take Kylie back, but that`s not what Akin wants.

Akin said, 'I really just want to know how old my dog is.  I love her.  I wouldn`t trade her.'

Cornerstone Farms maintains the second health record for Kylie is accurate and that she was about eight months old at the time we took our video.  Akin says her vet, however, told her Kylie`s teeth look like adult teeth.

We`re going to stay on top of this story and bring you more soon.