A dog-breeding facility in upstate New York is at the center of a fierce online protest by animal-rights advocates who say the owner is keeping some 100 puppies and dogs outside in frigid temperatures with no adequate shelter.
Police this weekend investigated Flat Creek Border Collies, a puppy farm in Sprakers, after complaints poured in from people from all over the country concerned about the welfare of the animals. Criticism of the breeder began to spread last week on Facebook and other social media sites as the Northeast region braced for a major snowstorm, which was followed by a bitter blast of cold air. Temperatures in the area rebounded by Monday but will plummet dramatically over the next 24 hours, reaching a high of only 10 degrees on Tuesday.
On a newly created Facebook page called “Save the Dogs From Flat Creek Border Collies,” animal-rights activists are posting photos of puppies and dogs in a snow-covered compound, walled off by what appear to be electric fences. The only apparent shelter are plastic barrels. “Right now there are PUPPIES outside freezing to death because her little white barrels are NOT adequate shelter,” one activist wrote.
The activists have also been posting contact information -- a name, address, phone number and email address -- for a person they identified as the owner of the facility. The information has been shared all over Facebook, Twitter, Craigslist and other message boards, where critics are saying the facility should be shut down and the owner charged with animal cruelty.
The person identified in those posts could not be verified as the owner nor reached for comment. Some protesters wrote on Facebook that they believe she has changed her email address and disconnected her phone number in response to what one local reporter described as a “lynch-mob mentality.”
Visits to Flat Creek Border Collies have so far turned up nothing illegal, according to local authorities. On Friday, Maj. Steven James of the New York State Police issued a statement that the facilities were inspected multiple times and appeared to conform to state law. “Several visits to the kennel have not revealed any violations of New York State Law or local codes,” James wrote. “The owner of the kennel has provided shelter, food and heated water as required. The New York State Police are continuing to monitor the health and well being of the dogs and are consulting with local animal welfare authorities as appropriate.”
Not everyone is convinced, however. Some protesters point to flaws in the “Minimum Standards of Animal Care” section of New York’s legal code. Critics say the section that deals with proper temperatures is vague to the point of being virtually meaningless. It reads as follows:
“The temperature surrounding the animal shall be compatible with the health and well-being of the animal. Temperature shall be regulated to protect each animal from extremes and shall not be permitted to fall below ranges which would pose a health hazard to the animal.”
At least one animal-rights group has pursued further legal action against the facility. Robin Mittasch, president of the nonprofit Lexus Project, told IBTimes in an email that the group’s lead counsel appeared at the Montgomery County Courthouse on Monday to file an Article 78 proceeding, which could compel local police to enforce the law. A Facebook update late Monday afternoon said the proceeding was filed and the Attorney General’s Office is now waiting on a veterinarian’s report before deciding what action to take.
In the meantime, dog-breeding supporters, fed up with the criticism, have launched their own Facebook campaign, albeit a decidedly less viral one. The page “Stop Animal Rights Terrorism Against Breeders” describes the animal-rights advocates as extremist, ignorant bullies, using social media to organize virtual lynch mobs against responsible breeders. “Why don’t some of these people with a passion turn that energy towards helping homeless people,” one person commented on the page. “These dogs are fine outdoors. They were designed to live outdoors. But humans who don’t have proper food, clothing or shelter are suffering every day.”
The counter-protest page had only 323 likes as of Monday afternoon, compared with more than 3,100 likes for the page calling on Flat Creek to be shut down.
Criticism of commercial dog-breeding facilities -- often dubbed “puppy mills” or “backyard breeders” -- has gained tremendous steam over the last few years. In an effort to combat substandard conditions at such facilities, more than two dozen municipalities across the country have banned the retail sale of puppies at pet stores.
Late last month, a bill was delivered to Gov. Andrew Cuomo that would bring control of New York pet stores and breeding facilities back to local municipalities. Animal-rights groups have been calling on supporters to urge the governor to sign it.