THIS IS WHERE A LOT OF THE PET STORE PUPPIES COME FROM!
NOTICE HOW A BACKYARD BREEDER RIGHT HERE IN AZ WAS BUYING FROM THIS
AUCTION! BEWARE AND KNOW WHO YOU ARE GETTING A DOG FROM.
For a breeder referral in Arizona, California, or Nevada please e-mail me. For all other states,
THIS LETTER WAS WRITTEN BY SOMEONE WHO ATTENDED THE MISSOURI AUCTION:
In November of 2007, I was sent a note from a friend of mine, a respected breeder and member
of the English Bulldog community and the Bulldog Club of America, alerting me to the fact that
there was to be an “All Bulldog” auction in Rocky Comfort, Missouri.
As a rescuer, I was devastated when I heard about this auction. I know these events occur
frequently – particularly for livestock, and even for beautiful dogs that ultimately deserve a life
as family members, not breeding stock. I realize not all people view canines the way I do, but in
the least, I would expect all animals to be treated with respect, compassion and appropriate
care. With trepidation, I wondered if I should get involved with this auction and help these
I understand that attending a dog auction puts more money in the pockets of the disreputable
breeders and puppy millers who are the root cause of the problem. On the other hand,
somebody was going to bid on these dogs at the auction, and if it wasn’t going to be a rescuer,
it would be another puppy miller looking for a way to make a fast buck. I realized I had to act.
Even though my bid for each dog would put money in the pockets of the puppy mills, I knew for
certain that each dog I took home would never be used again, would never make another cent
for yet another puppy miller, and more importantly, would be safe from the treacherous
conditions imposed upon these poor animals as they live their lives in cages, being used only
for the reproductive capabilities. Furthermore, I knew my participation at this auction would
help illuminate others about this terrible practice, would help pet owners and friends of canines
act in a concerted way to put an end to the suffering and misuse of our beautiful canine friends.
What I Witnessed at the Southwest Kennels Auction, Rocky Comfort, MO on
November 14, 2007
We drove up to a field full of pick up trucks and trailers. Everything seemed clean from the
outside. There was a beautiful house in the front, all brick, with a nice patio and lawn furniture.
In the back, several rows of barns, some well groomed, and others made of sheet metal. In the
back of these building I took a peek at rows of dogs in outdoor cages, barking and crying for
attention. It wasn’t a particularly cold day – I was grateful for that. I can only imagine what the
upcoming winter temperatures are going to mean for these poor dogs living outside in chicken
I went into the auction hall, a metal building with bleachers and risers surrounding a ‘ring’
which was barricaded off by a metal fence. There was a podium with a microphone behind this
barricade, and a dirty 6 foot folding table. Behind the podium and ‘staging area’ where signs
from the American Pet Registry, Inc. and other breeders who sell canines and other livestock
for profit. There was a concession area where food was being served, and the room filled with
smoke as almost everyone working at this event had a cigarette in their mouth. I stepped up
and registered under my own name, showed my ID, and received my bidding number. They
passed out programs with a picture of a beautiful bulldog on the front, and inside were the
listings for hundreds of bullies being sold that day. Several Am Staffs, dozens of English
Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs too. Some descriptions read, “ready and in season,” “proven
producer,” “raises her own pups” and other marketing lingo that you wouldn’t’ normally assign
to a bulldog.
Seeing the Dogs For the First Time
They passed out programs with a picture of a beautiful bulldog on the front, and inside were the
listings for hundreds of bullies being sold that day. Several Am Staffs, dozens of English
Bulldogs, and French Bulldogs too. Behind the podium area was a sliding barn door to another
room housing dogs that said “employees only.” I realized that was the holding area for the
dogs. I went around the building and in through another door and was welcomed into the
space to take a peek at the dogs prior to bidding. What I saw horrified me. There were cages
stacked 3 high with one dog on top of the other. There were no plastic lines to the crates so
each animal was relegated to balancing on the wire of the cage. Their excrement was
everywhere and at one point, a dog kicked feces onto my coat. The room had the stench of
waste and rot. It was terrible. I held my breath and went through this holding area meeting each
dog. I was looking for those that seemed to be in the worst shape and made note of any
medical issues I saw. I was determined to bid on those dogs. I also made sure to give each dog
some love as I passed by. Whether through a kind word, or a pet, or eye contact saying “it’s
going to be okay little one. I’m going to help you.” I left the room with a list of the dogs I knew I
HAD to have. Those that were in terrible shape. Several had severe eye infections to the point
where there eyes were swollen shut and pussing, there was mange everywhere, hot spots,
sores, torn and bloody toenails, granulomas (from living their life standing on wire crates) and
hernias abounding. I also saw several masses in various places on the dog’s bodies. There
were puppies as young as several weeks, and breeding bitches as old as seven years. They
must have known I was an animal lover and not wanting to use them. I could swear they looked
at me longing for help.
I left the room to take my seat at the auction.
But…I had to get back up. I must have roamed that staging area 10 times. I couldn’t bring myself
not to be in there with the dogs. I wanted them to know a kind soul, a soft touch. I looked at all
of the puppy millers around me, ogling the dogs, wondering which would produce the most
puppies, live the longest and make them the most puppies. It was disgusting. Some of them
looked like I expected a puppy miller would. Others were dressed well and seemed to be ladies
you’d lunch with. Don’t let appearances fool you.
The Auction Starts
I was nervous, but ready. Much to my dismay, when the auction started, they opened by
auctioning off trinkets and bulldog-related items. This went on for two hours. Although it was
desperately boring, it gave me a chance to bid on small items and get the hang of the bidding
process, and also gave me time to understand the words coming out of the auctioneer’s mouth
– at a fast and furious pace, with a twang, and barely understandable to this city girl.
Then, it was time for the dogs. The auctioneer had to explain something to the audience which
at first I thought was educational. He reminded the bidders that once they purchased a dog, the
dog was theirs. He went on to say things like “don’t come back to me when you get home after
a long drive with the dog in the trunk and the dog is dead folks.” These are bulldogs. They can’t
be in extreme heat or cold. He also said things like, “I had a man once take dogs home in the
back of his pick-up and he tarped the truck with the dogs underneath, went in to eat lunch and
came out and they were dead in the heat. Whew, I was glad this auctioneer was warning these
people. How nice of him. Then it struck me. The fact that he said what he did meant that the
buyers truly would transport like this! Sure enough, there were horse trailers and tarped pick
ups all over the lot.
It was time for the English Bulldogs. They start with the female puppies first, move to the older
females, then male puppies and then older males. The first group of female puppies they
brought out where trembling on the table. They had beautiful, sad and confused eyes, and were
right next to the auctioneer booming his rambling into the microphone. Not one dog went on
that table without the auctioneer saying something about how much money that dog could
make you. For puppies, it was a lifetime of profitability, good breeding stock. For the “proven
girls” it was easy money. He would say things like, “folks, for just $2500, you can buy this dog,
she produces you just 1 puppy that you sell for $2500 and this bitch is free. Those pups are
going to make you money for years to come...from a free bitch!” Or “you measure the worth of
your bitch by the money she makes you.” I’d hate to be this guy’s wife.
I held back on my bids fearing that I would spend all of my money too soon, and not have the
funds left for the dogs that needed me the most – those that were sick and malnourished. In
retrospect, I should have started bidding immediately. Lesson learned.
What I found interesting is that dogs were carried from that back room directly onto that dirty
auction table. You never saw them walk. Later I realized why they do this. Several were
obviously lame in their back legs and couldn’t’ stand up. But others were less obvious. The
handlers held them up. We only realized later that most of these dogs have never walked on
solid ground or used their legs much – I would guess 50% of them had ambulatory problems
that they kept hidden because they carried them on/off the table. And sometimes the handler
wouldn’t be paying attention and the poor dog would almost fall of the table. The most
disgusting displays were when the auctioneer would yell, “this girl is in season ladies and
gentleman and you could breed her tomorrow.” He would flip her around and exposure her
genitals to the audience to prove his point. Can you imagine?
I was outbid several times and wasn’t sure how high to go. It took me a while to get in the
groove, and I can’t tell you how elated I was when I won my first bidding round with the highest
bid for a girl that I had marked down as ‘severe medical needs.’ In the backroom where I had
seen her previously, she had sores all over her body, her feet were swollen and her eyes were
pussy. She was defeated. Used up. I know I had to help her. When she came up onto the
bidding table, the auctioneer said “this girl has some hot spots, but nothing 3 days of
Gentamicin spray can’t fix right doc,” as he looked over to the USDA veterinarian that was in
the crowd. Oh yeah, no problem at all. Seeping, gaping sores can be fixed with 3 days of some
topical spray. He tried to start the bidding high, but ultimately, these puppy millers could see
that she was sickly. She was one of the dogs who sold for the least amount that day – my
winning bid was almost $1000. I think people looked around at me when I bought her
wondering why in the world someone would pay for a dog in that shape. Inside I smiled
knowing that she would be in a cozy and warm car soon, with nothing else to worry about. It
felt good knowing at least one of these dogs would be out of this life of danger and horror.
The bidding went on and to my surprise, people were bidding ridiculous sums of money for
these dogs. The auctioneer would trot around talking about how this and that dog come from
champion blood lines, just look at all of the champions on the pedigree waiving the piece of
paper in the air. The audience would clamor and voting would start high and go higher. These
bidders didn’t care what that pedigree meant, or if it meant anything at all. All they cared about
was buying a “champion” so they could market their puppy mill produced dogs are “champion
bred.” These dogs sold for much more than any legitimate breeder with a champion blood line
would ever sell their dog. It took me a while to figure out why the bidders were so dumb. If you
really want a champion dog, you can get one for much less from a reputable breeder to add to
your stock – oh yes, no legitimate breeder would ever sell their dog to the likes of these people.
It’s like black market pedigree. This is the only way these puppy millers can get any ‘champion’
in any bloodline – regardless of whether this champion is healthy or not.
Other horrors that I saw. One female was on the auction table with her left eye almost hanging
out of her head. The auctioneer made mention of this flaw and said it wasn’t a big deal. After all,
she could still produce right? Who needs an eye as long as you have a uterus. Sadly, this bitch
was one I was bidding on and I was outbid. I am kicking myself because I should have kept
going, I should have saved her. I found out after the fact that this dog was owned by the same
breeder that one of my friends in rescue had previously bought her dog from…not realizing she
was a puppy miller. That made it even more torturous for me. I should have kept bidding….
Another dog sold for thousands of dollars, only to be returned to the auctioneer because she
had a lump in her lymph nodes. The buyer wasn’t comfortable with it. So instead of putting this
poor girl back in her cage for medical follow-up, they called up the USDA vet (I use this ‘vet’
quite loosely here) who said it looked fine, nothing to worry about, and they reaction her to the
highest bidder again. Poor sweet thing. Cancer? We will never know.
Of all of the crazy nonsense that went on that day, I can only sum up a few. There are too many
to mention. However, out of 80 dogs, I would guess at least 30 had mange and the answer from
the auctioneer was always “this vet says that 3 days of topical spray and she’ll be all good.”
However, one sticks out so clearly in my mind and so horrifying that I have to share it. One
younger dog came up onto the bidding table with a cherry eye. I had this dog on my list to bid
on. I was hoping that people would see the cherry eye and the bids would be low so that I could
scoop her up and treat her. The auctioneer explained that she had a “little eye issue” and that
he talked to the USDA vet before and the vet offered to take care of the cherry eye that day for
around $7.00. He would “snip it right off.” Really? The vet, for $7.00 would snip off a part of a
dog’s body? Was he planning to anesthetize, or just torture the poor dog? I made a face at the
auctioneer that said “no way buddy, that is so wrong.” I continued to speak loudly in the crowd
about that not being the proper way to care for the eye. That the dog would develop dry eye. I’m
not sure if he heard me, I hope so, but he leaned over to the vet and then said, “you can also
have it tucked in, but that will cost you a lot more money folks.” Ultimately, I was outbid, and I’m
sure that poor dog, for the bargain basement price of $7.00, had that cherry eye cut right out.
She will be blind in several years from dry eye. I assure you.
Don’t let appearances fool you. The worst offenders of the day were three groups of buyers
who had greed written all over them. One was a woman and her husband (and their child!) from
Arizona who were buying up dogs in bulk. It was like they were at a red-tag sale at a local
department store. They must have purchased 25 dogs at least.
Another family, mother, father, son, were also bidding. They looked like nice enough people
until at one point the auctioneer turned to her (he knew her) and said something to her like,
“how much money did you make last year off your dogs? How many do you have?” The
answer was 200+ bulldogs and she made over $1,000,000. And her child sat and watched. She
too bought dogs.
And of course, the Amish were there. One Amish buying contingent from Arkansas outbid me
on several occasions for these dogs. There were about 5-6 of them sitting together. Buying.
We went home with only a handful of dogs. I’m kicking myself for not bidding higher, for not
rescuing more. As I sat in the stands I could tell that dogs on the table knew a kind face, knew
that I cared. My rescue partner and I kept looking back and forth at each other like “did you see
how that bully was staring at us?” It was like they were asking us for help. It broke my heart. I
still can picture one beautiful white female, several months old, flopped in the frog pose on the
table (she couldn’t stand up), squishy as can be, with dark eyes just staring at me. Her bidding
went up over $2000. I just couldn’t afford it. I should have. I just should have found a way.
At the end of the bidding, you paid and took your proof of payment over to the dog holding area
(that filthy room with the piles and piles of cages). We couldn’t be more excited to break our
gals out of their crates. We took them into the big grassy lot and let them smell, walk, hug and
cuddle. Something we are certain they never had before.
The first girl we bought was the one with the open sores on her skin. Wow. The poor gal was
malnourished (at least 15 pounds underweight) and about 4.5 years old. She was shaky and
seemed to be running a temperature. Her eyes were mattered over with puss, her sores were
bleeding and puss was everywhere. We wrapped her up tightly and put her in the crate in the
back of the station wagon, facing me in the passenger seat so that I could keep an eye on her. I
immediately called my vet so that he knew after the long ride home, we would be bringing her in.
The second dog was a 5-year old breeding female who at first glance, just appeared to have
skin issues. After feeling her chest, I felt the tell-tale ‘swooshing’ of a heart murmur. It proved
right. This poor girl has a significant heart defect and was being bred. No doubt her puppies will
be dying at young ages because of this problem. More concerning, after vetting her, we were
advised that at some point in her younger years, she broke her ball and socket hip joint and it
was never repaired or treated. She must have been in excruciating pain. Now, it is full of arthritis
and scar tissue.
The third dog was a 6 year old female. She was in the best shape of the bunch. She was a lover
and cuddled with us the whole ride home. Other than ear mites and a few small issues, she was
And finally, the final lucky bully. This almost 8-year old girl spent her life in a crate, bred over
and over. She has dry eye, granulomas on her paws and most shocking, front joints in such
disrepair that her gait is lopsided and appears painful.
As these beautiful girls stay in our foster network, they are receiving the highest level of
medical care. Their blood work shows promise, their tenderness is heartbreaking. They are all
underweight and need nutrients and proper diet. They all have rotten teeth that will need to be
pulled because they were fed the ‘dregs of the food world’ at the puppy mill. Their teeth are
worn down from trying to chew out of their crates while in captivity. Their toes and feet are a
mess from standing on wire their entire life. The don’t know – YET— how wonderful the feel of
grass is in the summer. How nice it is to have a padded bed. How clean their space can be
when they are not defecated on by the dog in the crate above them. How nice it is when
someone cleans their folds and their eyes and administers medications that are making them
feel better. They are just now learning these things.
The foster girl staying in my home is so unsure of what it feels like to be out of the crate, that
she runs back in it every chance she can get. She slips and slides when she walks with shaky
legs, and bows her head when I approach for fear of what I might do. I can’t wait for the day that
she runs, her fat bully butt wiggling from side to side. For the day that she can chew
comfortably because her teeth don’t hurt. For the day her skin stops bleeding. For the day she
is truly happy.