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Hunte Corporation

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The Hunte Corporation is a commercial puppy broker based in Missouri. The company was established in 1991. [1] It is the largest puppy dealer in the world, with sales in the United States, Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Japan. The company distributes animals through retail chains such as Petland. [2] According to a November 2007 article in the Tulsa World, the company buys and sells 90,000 puppies each year. Hunte is located in Goodman, Mo., just across the Oklahoma state line and buys and sells purebred puppies for markets in 30 states that include Ohio, Illinois and Florida. [3]

Hunte facility

A significant number of Hunte's puppies are purchased from breeders in Oklahoma, one of the larger puppy mill states. A fall of 2007, investigation by the Tulsa World revealed that unlicensed breeders sell often sick puppies over the internet, newspapers and streets. After seeing the report, Andrew Hunte, the 62 year old founder and chairman, invited a reporter and photographer to tour his facility; located in Goodman (population 1,257). According to Mr. Hunte:

"When we started 16 years ago, we saw a niche to improve standards and practices and we remain focused on that philosophy. We also founded the company for God and to carry God's word."

The facility is a massive, block-long 200,000 square feet building. It houses business offices and ten million dollar, climate controlled kennels. It also has a surgery room, an examination room, a grooming shop, trucking bays, a warehouse and a retail pet store which sells purebred dogs. According to Hunte, the kennel's 13 large rooms are cleaned and disinfected weekly. The facility features a chapel that holds services on Tuesday and Thursday. The chapel seats 250 and comes with a worship band. According to Hunte's president Steve Rook:

"Cleanliness is next to godliness, and godliness is next to doing what is right and striving to continually improve on what you know and do. ...Hunte employees can use the chapel without having to clock out from work."

According to Mr. Hunte:

"Many lives have been changed due to our focus on God’s word and plan."[4]

Puppy processing

Puppies are purchased by the company at 8 weeks of age. According to Hunte, every puppy is groomed and receives two examinations, a booster shot and "minor surgery if needed" during its "one to five day stay" at the facility; before being shipped off to pet stores across the country in a semitrailer. According to Mr. Rook, Hunte's purebred puppies are purchased from "breeders licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and "hobby breeders" who "qualify for a USDA exemption by keeping three or fewer breeding females." The company employs 300 workers, including seven veterinarians, 25 veterinary techs and 16 dog groomers. According to Mr. Rook, Hunte neuters or spays approximately 2% of its puppies due to "potentially problematic defects such as multiple hernias." The company also offers a 3 year guarantee for "the cost of the puppy", in the case of congenital defects. However, they do not cover costs of veterinary or other care the puppy might require. They also sponsor annual breeder conferences:

"We spend a lot of time educating and reaching out to the breeders at our annual breeders' conference. When Andrew began the company, he probably rejected 30 percent of the puppies brought to him because of the quality, but that is less than 10 percent now."

The newspaper's investigations revealed numerous customer complaints against Petland. [5]

USDA & AKC "standards"

According to its' website:

"Hunte adheres to the strictest puppy care standards, including guidelines established by the USDA, the State of Missouri and the American Kennel Club (AKC). [6]

Although the AKC has run advertising campaigns that imply a commitment to healthy dogs, they have no health standards for breeding other than a minimum age of 8 months. Registration indicates only that the dog's parents were registered as a recognized breed. It makes no claims on health, show quality or how a puppy was raised. [7]

In 2006 the AKC registered 870,000 individual dogs and 416,000 litters. At $20 per dog and $25 per litter (plus $2 per puppy) the AKC brought in well over $30 million in revenues from registration. Litters from puppy mills are the registry's largest source of income. [8] The AKC lobbies against breeding standards and other humane legislation. See also AKC, sections 3 through 5.

The USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service/Animal Care (USDA/APHIS/AC) is responsible for inspections, reporting and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is the only federal law that regulates animals bred and sold by dealers, animals in entertainment, zoo animals and laboratory animals. [9] Even minimal requirements under the AWA are rarely enforced. [10] See also USDA.

SW Missouri Better Business Bureau

According to Mr. Rook, his business operates in the "stratosphere of integrity". However, the company received an "F" rating from the Southwest Missouri Better Business Bureau for failing to address customer complaints. Although he could not verify breeders who supplied specific stores, he insisted that:

"There are only two acceptable sources for our puppies at the Hunte Corporation. They include small-time "hobby breeders" and "USDA-registered and licensed and inspected breeders."

He also refused to provide names or information about breeders:

"The (USDA) is required to by law. And if they find that there is something that should be repaired to improve the quality of the facility, they give that breeder 30 or 40 days to fix that." [11]

See also Missouri puppy mills.

USDA certified puppy mills

Breeding dogs in puppy mill

There are only about a hundred USDA inspectors to monitor 10,000 facilities across the country, ranging from research labs to zoos. Furthermore, "standards" are abysmal. Federal guidelines allow a medium sized terrier to be kept in a cage the size of a clothes drier for its entire life. The federal Animal Welfare Act is hardly the gold standard for compassion. For example, the act does not say you cannot have 300 dogs confined to cages for their entire lives; never to be taken for a walk or receive any personal attention, let alone be a part of a family. A breeder passes USDA muster as long as the dog has food, water and enough space to turn around.

USDA standards are very minimal. Adhering to them does not prove that a breeder is not a puppy mill. Even more so, since even these standards are often not enforced. Many licensed breeders for large chains like Petland, have significant violations. [12]

See also USDA & NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.

USDA & Hunte

In September 2001, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced that the USDA had approved a $900,000 guaranteed rural development loan for the company to purchase equipment for its McDonald County operations; restructure its debt, and expand its operations. The loan followed a $3.5 million dollar loan from the USDA the previous year. According to Hunte, sales for 2001 would exceed 26 million, up from one million a decade earlier. [13]

Animal welfare related incidents

Clean water & waste citation for trenches of dead puppies

When the Missouri Department of Natural Resources made a complaint driven investigation of a Hunte kennel facility in 2003, they discovered "trenches of dead canines" on the premises. According to department spokesperson Mark Rader, most facilities bury dogs in landfills. It is rare for a kennel to bury so many dogs on site. He did not know how the dogs died:

"The kennel was close to violating the state's dead animal disposal laws, which allow no more than 1,000 pounds of dead animals to be buried per acre."

The company was cited for clean water and waste violations. [14] Apparently, no other investigation or inquiries were made regarding into the "trenches of dead canines" by the state of Missouri.

What happens to imperfect puppies?

If the company was "close to violating" a law that allows "no more than 1,000 pounds of dead animals per acre", how many "dead canines" (specifically, puppies) were found? Many or perhaps most of these puppies were likely popular small and toy breeds that weigh no more than a few pounds each. They would have been approximately 8 weeks (the "standard" age for puppies purchased by the company). All the more strange as puppies spend one to five days maximum at the facility and are screened (presumably for illness and other "defects") before being purchased by Hunte. Hunte's puppies are "guaranteed". However, at 90,000 puppies per year processed through the Hunte assembly line, even very small percentage of "unsellable" puppies would translate into hundreds or thousands. This does not even take into account thier breeding parents; at the mercy of miserable AKC and USDA approved puppy mills across the mid west.

Many puppies die within days of reaching the store from illness or lack of nourishment or soon after being purchased. A pet store has no motivation to treat them, as they receive "credit" for dead puppies. If they buy a puppy for 100 dollars or less, than can sell it, along with its AKC "papers"; for $600 and up. Sometimes, the customer often does not have the option of a refund, only credit for another puppy. In the pet trade, it makes little sense to spend hundreds of dollars on a 60 dollar puppy. [15] In some cases, people or organizations step in to rescue a "defective" dog. However, in the world of puppy mills, pet stores and brokers, unmarketable puppies are usually dumped in over burdened shelters, killed or simply allowed to die. [16]

Hunte truck fire kills 60 puppies

In August of 2006, a tractor trailer from the Hunte Corporation delivering puppies to New England pet stores, caught fire in Lowell Mass., after a thousand mile trip from Goodman, Mo. By the time the fire department arrived, the flames had burned through the roof. Investigators searched the charred 40 foot trailer, which suffocated 60 puppies before firefighters arrived. The fire was attributed to an overheated ceiling fan. According to Fire Chief Patrick McCabe:

"We got the fire knocked down, but it was already too late. There was no hope for saving the puppies."

According to state police spokes person Robert Bousquet, no charges were filed, but his department planned on an "involved investigation to make sure that there was nothing that was inappropriate." The state fire marshal and the Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals also planned to investigate. According to USDA spokesman Darby Holladay, the department had no "prior enforcement" against Hunte, but was looking into possible Animal Welfare Act (AWA) violations. The company did not return repeated calls for comment. All of the approximately 5 dozen 8 to 12 week old puppies housed in cages inside the air-conditioned aluminum trailer died in the fire. The driver, Joseph Price of Joplin Mo. was driving on an access road when he received a radio call from another truck driver alerting him of flames coming from the back of his truck. Another driver, William Iriarte, 50, of Nesho, Mo., was also in the truck. State Police cited the driver and Hunte with three unrelated violations for defective brakes and an expired inspection. According to Stephanie Shain of the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the dog's deaths highlight problems in the national puppy trade:

"There might not have been anything they could have knowingly done to prevent this, that will be determined by the police; but the way to prevent a similar incident like this from happening again is to quit carting thousands of puppies around the country in tractor-trailers every day. The journey is too long, and they're moving them like they're cartons of toasters." [17]

Class action lawsuit against Petland & Hunte

In March of 2009, HSUS members and other consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Petland and the Hunte Corporation for conspiring to sell unhealthy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers in 20 states. The lawsuit was filed in the federal district court in Phoenix. According to Jonathan Lovvorn, vice president and chief counsel for Animal Protection Litigation at HSUS, many of Petland's puppies come from mills, with the Hunte Corporation acting as a middleman. According to reports resulting from HSUS's 9 month investigation, Petland used deceptive sales and marketing to sell puppies with life-threatening genetic defects and highly contagious parasitic and viral infections. The 34-page complaint included numerous examples of sick and dying puppies.

Petland denied supporting substandard facilities and claimed to follow "Humane Care Guidelines" developed in conjunction with the USDA. However, the USDA informed HSUS in writing that it had no record of any such guidelines. The law suit requested a jury trial and reimbursement of the puppies' purchase price with compensation for all related monetary damages for the class members. [18]

On August 7, 2009, Judge David G. Campbell of the Arizona federal district court dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint against Petland and Hunte Corporation. The plaintiffs were given the option of refiling the Petland complaint, but must add allegations. According to the judge's decision, the plaintiffs did not establish that Petland and Hunte had a duty to inform customers that their puppies were from mills; thus could not sue the companies for non-disclosure. The judge did not allow oral argument. [19]

Hunte owned Petlands & other companies

Hunte's president Steve Rook is married to Andrew Hunte's daughter, Jessica. The Hunte family own a diversified network of companies incorporated in Missouri under names like JessAnd (Jessica/Andrew) and JesStevAnd and JesSteve and own Petlands in Missouri and Kansas. [20] Jessica (Hunte) Rook operates Petland franchises in Springfield, Independence and Joplin Missouri and Olathe, Kansas. [21]

Hunte investigations & USDA reports

USDA AWA reports

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.[22]

Personnel

  • Andrew Hunte - Founder & CEO
  • Steve Rook - President

Contact

The Hunte Corporation
121 Roy Hill Blvd, Goodman, MO 64843

Phone: 417 364-8597
[23]

Web address: http://www.thehuntecorporation.com/

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles

References

  1. At Hunte, Puppies Will Always Come First, Hunte Corporation, accessed November 2009
  2. Jane Seymour That Bulldog in the Window: The Corporation, Friends of Animals, 2005
  3. Omer Gillham Puppy Showcase: Hunte Opens Doors to Huge Facility, Tulsa World, November 2007
  4. Omer Gillham Puppy Showcase: Hunte Opens Doors to Huge Facility, Tulsa World, November 2007
  5. Omer Gillham Puppy Showcase: Hunte Opens Doors to Huge Facility, Tulsa World, November 2007
  6. At Hunte, Puppies Will Always Come First, The Hunte Corporation, accessed November 2009
  7. American Kennel Club, Search.com, accessed January 2009
  8. Laura Allen Rally Against The AKC's Support Of Puppy Mills, Bestfriends Network News, April 2007
  9. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2009
  10. Project R&R: Animal Welfare Act, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 2009
  11. Tim Vanderpool A Dog's Life: Petland stores feel the heat over a puppy-mill protest, Tucson Weekly, April 2009
  12. Tim Vanderpool A Dog's Life: Petland stores feel the heat over a puppy-mill protest, Tucson Weekly, April 2009
  13. Jane Seymour That Bulldog in the Window: The Corporation, Friends of Animals, 2005
  14. Emma G. Fitzsimmons Four agencies probe truck fire that killed 60 puppies: Dogs were caged on trip from Mo., Boston Globe, August 2006
  15. Lyle E. Davis No More Puppy Mills!, The Paper, August 2006
  16. Bunnie: the Story of a Puppy Sold by Hunte, Coalition Against Misery, accessed November 2009
  17. Emma G. Fitzsimmons Four agencies probe truck fire that killed 60 puppies: Dogs were caged on trip from Mo., Boston Globe, August 2006
  18. Petland Faces Class Action Lawsuit for Peddling Unhealthy Puppy Mill Dogs in at Least 20 States, Humane Society of the United States, March 2009
  19. Laura Allen Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Petland and Hunte - For Now, Animal Law Coalition, August 2009
  20. Jimmy Frost He Done Done It Now: The Many Faces of the Hunte Corporation, Hamptonroads.com, April 2008
  21. Springfield Petland operator receives Vanguard Award, Petland, July 2008
  22. USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports, USDA, accessed November 2009
  23. The Hunte Corporation, Corporate Affiliations.com, accessed November 2009

External articles

External resources