CLEWISTON, Fla. (WFLA) — 100 dogs were removed from a suspected puppy mill in South Florida on Monday.
The owners of the unlicensed breeding facility in Clewiston —Beatriz Perez, age 46, and Alexei Fernandez, age 47— were arrested Monday morning on cruelty-related charges.
An investigation of the facility began after several complaints were made by individuals in the community, according to an American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals spokesperson.
The dogs were discovered living in crowded, filthy pens, many with little protection from the elements.
Many dogs had no access to clean drinking water or food and were suffering from various medical conditions, including skin and eye disease and severe dental issues, according to the ASPCA.
“We have no tolerance for animal cruelty in this county,” said Hendry County Sheriff Steve Whidden. “Hopefully this case will send a message and prevent similar situations.”
The confiscated dogs were a variety of breeds including Siberian Huskies, Chihuahuas and Poodles. Investigators say the dogs were being sold to pet stores in the Miami-Dade area.
The ASPCA Field Investigations and Response team is assisting at the request of the Hendry County Sheriff’s Office with the removal, evidence collection, sheltering and medical care of the dogs.
The ASPCA said it believes the facility is a puppy mill, which the organization defines as a large-scale breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the animals.
“This is a tragic situation we see all too often,” said Tim Rickey, vice president of ASPCA Field Investigation and Response.
“Puppy mills are a widespread issue across Florida and around the country. Many people are unaware that most puppies sold at pet stores come from puppy mills, and that buying pet store puppies indirectly supports these facilities. While the puppies are sold for profit, their parents are kept at these mills for years, subjected to incessant breeding and a very poor quality of life. Our goal is to remove these dogs from a life of neglect, help them become healthy and eventually find them safe and loving homes.”
The dogs are being transported to a temporary shelter in an undisclosed location, where they will receive medical care from ASPCA veterinarians. The ASPCA will continue to care for the dogs at the temporary shelter until custody of the dogs is determined by the court.
Florida is among a minority of states with no laws regulating the use of dogs for commercial breeding, according to the ASPCA.