Ripple Effect: Pressure to Close a 'Puppy Mill'

Bill Smith has dedicated his life to fighting "puppy mills," the warehouses where dogs are raised for profit in tiny cages, denied sufficient medical care, and often killed when they get sick or can no longer breed. Smith noticed that many of the farms around his shelter facility, near the heart of puppy-mill country in Lancaster County, Pa., were displaying signs boasting that they were or-ganic dairy operations. Smith found that one mill—B&R Puppies, which had been cited by authorities as recently as a year ago for housing dogs in squalid cages and failing to vaccinate them—was also supplying milk to Horizon Organics. Horizon is a major presence in markets like Whole Foods, where animal welfare is paramount.

My April article, "A (Designer) Dog's Life," highlighted Smith's efforts. Before NEWSWEEK published the story, I notified Horizon and Whole Foods that my piece would reveal they were buying and peddling organic milk from a farmer who mistreated dogs. Horizon sent an inspector to B&R the next day and found dogs living in filth. The company suspended the farmer, John Stoltzfus, who has since dismantled his dog-breeding operation, according to Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture records. That allowed him to resume supplying Horizon, which he began doing earlier this month.

Smith demanded that Whole Foods send several hundred vendors a letter warning of repercussions for inhumane dog breeding. In mid-May, the grocery chain issued a stern request that ven-dors "not supply any products to our stores that have been sourced from farmers…who breed or raise dogs inhumanely." Smith says the Whole Foods letter was a "huge step" forward because "consumers have always had the power to close these facilities."

Smith is now focused on getting other companies to do the same; this week he makes his plea in a full-page ad in The Philadelphia Inquirer. The Inquirer, whose publisher adopted a dog from Smith's shelter, gave Smith the ad space for almost nothing. "If other companies follow Whole Foods' lead, farmers everywhere who are operating puppy mills as side businesses will either clean up their acts or stop breeding dogs altogether," Smith says. He'll make sure of it.