Ohio dog breeders plead not guilty to 723 counts of cruelty

As Ohio’s first anti-puppy mill bill makes its way to Republican Governor John Kasich’s desk, authorities in the state are making a case against a trio of large-scale backyard breeders busted in a raid November 17.

In all, 241 dogs and puppies of various breeds were rescued from the Pedigree Pets breeding facility.

The raid on the alleged puppy mill comes at the culmination of a six-month investigation against Dave and Rhonda Auton of Maplewood, Ohio. Authorities first began looking into the couple when a Michigan woman lodged a complaint after purchasing one of their puppies.

The Autons and their 29-year-old son Adam were awakened to the sound of Sheriff’s deputies knocking on their front door, warrant in hand.

The Sheriff’s office joined the Shelby County Dog Warden and members of several rescue organizations in removing dogs and puppies from the facility where the mass-breeding operation, called Pedigree Pets, was located. Veterinarian Dr. Lisa Nadasi joined authorities in examining the dogs housed on the property.

“All the animals outside, all their water was frozen,” Nadasi described. “Every [dog] we brought in here to feed is starving.”

Many of the dogs were sick, malnourished, and covered in their own waste. Authorities describe the housing conditions in which these dogs were forced to live deplorable.

“I can’t imagine how anyone with a heart or could could have walked into that room and not known that these animals were suffering,” Nadasi added.

In all, 241 dogs and puppies of various breeds were rescued from the Auton’s property that day. The vast majority of the pups have been placed in foster care for the time being.

More than 20 different rescue organizations have stepped up to the plate to care for the dogs until they can be adopted out.

Meanwhile alleged puppy mill operators Dave, Rhonda, and Adam Auton have been charged with 241 counts each of animal cruelty — that’s a grand total of 723 counts, to which the family has pled “not guilty.” The Autons’ attorney, Jose Lopez, filed their written pleas on Tuesday.

While the Autons’ future is uncertain, what is made especially clear after the dissolution of their family’s large-scale breeding farm is that Ohio Senate Bill 130 couldn’t come at a better time for the state. Creating regulations and methods of oversight to help crack down on puppy mills is something that the Buckeye State has needed for a long time, animal advocates say.

“We finally have an opportunity, for the first time in Ohio’s history, to look at high-volume breeders and make sure they’re doing things well,” Columbus Dog Connection Director Kellie DiFrishchia told 10TV.com.

In the meantime, the organizations currently caring for the pups rescued in the Pedigree Pets raid are in dire need of funds and supplies. For more information on how you can help the 241 rescued dogs, please contact the Ohio SPCA.

Sources: WHIOTV.com, WFMJ.com, Examiner.com, WDTN.com