Wednesday, June 2, 2010

Investigation: Inside the Multi-Million Dollar Business of Dog Auctions

It's a multi-million dollar national business; the sale of dogs at auction. Many of the dogs end up in pet stores and some in puppy mills.

WHAS11's Melanie Kahn went undercover to get a story many breeders and pet store owners don't want you to see.

It is legal in many states, including Kentucky, Indiana and Ohio. But animal rights activists are working to outlaw the auctions.

WHAS11 went inside one of the biggest auctions in the Midwest last weekend in Ohio, for you to see what goes on.

It's a world few could ever imagine... And a world even fewer have ever seen.

With hidden cameras, WHAS11 takes you inside a world where thousands of dogs a year are sold. It happens at the Buckeye Dog Auction House, a dilapidated barn that sits off State Road 557 in Farmerstown, Ohio.

For most of the year this place is vacant but on auction days it's packed, full of people, of all ages eager to buy and sell dogs.

Upstairs are hundreds of dogs and puppies, stacked up in wire cages, waiting to be put on the auction block. Some look excited, some confused and many seem scared. They don't have names, only numbers, their order on the auction block.

Owners put the dogs into crate and an hour before the auction begins, buyers are invited into the cramped rooms to inspect the dogs before they are put up for sale.

The auctioneers take their posts and the auction begins.

Each dog is brought into the room in numerical order and brought to a veterinarian table, where the dog is given, at most, a 20 second exam.

After that, it's off to the auction block where the bidding begins.

The price of the dog depends on the breed, age, gender and the most important quality for commercial breeders: the past breeding history of the dog.

Those commercial breeders, known as puppy mill operators, may be hoping to expand their stock and their fortune.

Selling puppies is one of the largest industries in the united states, grossing hundreds of millions a dollars a year, perpetuated primarily by consumers who purchase dogs from the thousands of pet stores across the country, that buy their dogs from auctions like these.

The Buckeye Dog Auction is one of the largest auctions in the Midwest, regularly serving breeders and pet stores from states east of the Mississippi River.

At this auction, breeders have brought dogs to sell from Kentucky, Ohio, North Carolina, West Virginia and Georgia.

This auction house is owned by Harold Neuhart, who also breeds puppies for profit.

USDA inspection reports show that he had been cited multiple times by inspectors for poor building maintenance, dirty food and water bowls and for assaulting a USDA inspector.

For years he has ignored a barrage of phone calls from members of the media.

But when WHAS11 showed up with our cameras he did not avoid us, but Neuhart was not happy to see WHAS11. He did not want to talk to us with the camera and grabbed it at one point.

For several minutes, WHAS11 Photographer Steven Richard tried to convince Neuhart to let go of the camera while a Holmes County Sheriff's Deputy stood by. She only intervened when specifically asked.

When asked by the officer, Neuhart let go and Melanie gave Neuhart one more chance to talk to WHAS11. He refused.

With that, WHAS11’s visit to the Buckeye Dog Auction House was over, without knowing the fate of the hundreds of dogs we left behind.

WHAS11 brought home 9 dogs, as many as we could fit in the car.

The Humane Society reports many of the dogs that don’t sell are killed.

While there, WHAS11 saw no evidence of this and we want to stress again this is a legal practice, supplying many pet stores.

If you are thinking of getting a companion animal, PLEASE DO NOT buy one from a pet store.  Please visit your local SPCA or shelter and ADOPT a companion.

Part one:  If you cannot see the video, try clicking the title to this story. 

Part two:

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