New Podcast Series Explores Iowa’s Puppy Mill Problem

Sony Music Entertainment and Neon Hum

An Iowa businessman is seen as a leader in a national program to sell dogs raised in puppy mills to pet stores across the country, even in cities and states where puppy mills puppies are prohibited.

A new podcast details how he did it.

A seven-episode podcast series called “Smoke Screen: Puppy Kingpin” was released on Thursday. It details the scheme concocted by Jolyn Noethe, co-owner of JAKS Puppies in Britt, Iowa, to hide the puppies’ puppy mill origins in order to sell them in places where such sales are prohibited. The practice of “puppy laundering” can also mask whether a puppy is from a breeder with animal welfare violations.

“Fortunately, we had the Iowa AG case to start with, so we were able to build our investigation largely off of evidence in the Iowa Attorney General’s case,” said host Alex Schuman, journalist and author of the series, who grew up in Fort Dodge and now lives in New York.

He said the team had been helped by other lawsuits filed against the company, and the series attempts to follow a linear timeline while covering the lawsuits.

“Sometimes the timelines overlap a bit and we give those dates, but we try, he said. “One of the other key elements is the second episode which is very much focused on puppy mills. It’s about giving people that context so you understand the rest.

JAKS Puppy Owners are accused of create fake non-profit animal rescues – Hobo K9 and Rescue Pets Iowa – to hide the fact that the puppies came from puppy mills.

Both rescues were voluntarily dissolved because of a investigation and trial filed by Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller for fraudulent sale of puppies out of state, which violates Iowa consumer protection laws.

Schuman said the program is mostly about paperwork and how dogs are tagged. It’s important to remember that Hobo K9 and Rescue Pets Iowa aren’t the only fake rescues.

“What’s new is puppy laundering, and it’s a new type of fraud,” he said. “And that’s only new because there have been so many ordinances, both state and local, that prohibit the sale of these types of puppies.”

In 2017 and 2018, California and Maryland became the first states to ban pet retail. New York and Illinois recently followed suit, and nearly 300 cities and counties nationwide have implemented bans.

This is primarily because consumers are increasingly concerned about whether their pets come from places where they or other animals are mistreated.

“It’s really changing everywhere,” Schuman said. “And that’s just because people don’t want to support puppy mills, people don’t want their dogs to come from a place where the animal or any animal had to be abused to be able to have a puppy.”

It also has to do with greater scrutiny from the US Department of Agriculture, which is responsible for investigating animal welfare in places such as dog farms.

Schuman said he interviewed commercial breeders for the series and found openness is one of the best signs a breeder is legit. The series covers some of the solutions to puppy bleaching, including Goldie’s Law, sponsored by Rep. Cindy Axne (D-Iowa) and introduced in Congress in December.

The law would require the USDA to conduct more frequent inspections and require inspectors to report all violations, confiscate suffering animals, impose penalties, and share information with law enforcement in a timely manner.

Schuman said exposing the practice is his main focus for the series, as it’s very difficult to find out where your dog is from.

“There was so much more misguidance and deception than I expected a dog consumer has to go through,” he said. “And just to understand, like where a healthy puppy comes from. Honestly, I was a little surprised by the degree of secrecy that reigns.

“You can spend your whole life being a dog and you don’t even know how complex and industrialized the system is that brings puppies into homes all over America,” Schuman said.

“Smoke Screen: Puppy Kingpin” is a Neon Hum and Sony Music Entertainment podcast available on all podcast platforms. Subscribers to Sony’s “The Binge” can listen to all episodes at once, otherwise it will be released weekly for free.

Nikoel Hytrek

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