All dogs removed from puppy mill in Bradley County, Tenn.

All dogs removed from puppy mill in Bradley County, Tenn.

June 16th, 2014 by Yolanda Putman in Local Regional News

Ruth Smith, top right, looks in on more than 25 dogs she is transporting away from a suspected puppy mill Wednesday on Candies Creek Road in Bradley County.

Ruth Smith, top right, looks in on more...

Photo by Tim Barber /Times Free Press.


Animals suffer without laws to protect them, said Beth Foster, noting that a 5-year-old Tennessee law that tightly regulates puppy mills - the Commercial Breeder Act - will expire on June 30. The Humane Society of the United States says legislators rejected a stop-gap measure that would have extended the law's provisions, but said stakeholders have pledged to work on a new bill to improve oversight of breeding operations.

Foster said animal lovers across the state should push for laws to be adopted that regulate puppy mills in 2015.

So many dogs were rescued from an alleged Bradley County, Tenn., puppy mill that it took four days to move them all.

And make no mistake, this was a puppy mill, said Beth Foster, media director for the county's branch of the Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

Some news reports had referred to the puppies' owners as "hoarders." But Foster said they operated a puppy mill to make money.

"This was a puppy mill, and it was established to breed dogs for profit," she said. "So this is very typical, these mass breeding operations, of what you find in a puppy mill."

Owner and breeder Rebecca Vanmeter has been charged with one count of cruelty to animals. She has declined comment.

Meanwhile, Foster said, care for all the animals is going to run into the thousands of dollars. Besides exams, all the dogs require vaccinations, perhaps medication and all will be spayed and neutered before being put up for adoption.

No dogs remain at the puppy mill on Candies Creek Road SW that once housed 240 puppies in unsanitary conditions.

The SPCA started removing dogs Wednesday. It took seven puppies on Saturday and finished the job with the remaining 94 on Sunday, said Foster.

This is in the largest animal rescue the SPCA has participated in since being formed in 2013, she said. Media accounts recorded a number of puppy mill seizures over the past few years in Tennessee, with most rescues involving about 100 to 125 animals.

A 2008 operation in Hickman County that involved the rescue of more than 700 dogs was referred to at that time as the largest such rescue in Tennessee.

The Bradley County Sheriff's Office discovered the dogs when going to the Candies Creek Road address in McDonald, Tenn., to investigate a domestic situation.

The Humane Society of the United States, Red Rover emergency shelter and the Bradley County SPCA opened a temporary emergency shelter in Charleston, just outside Cleveland, to provide medical care for the dogs. Most of them are beagles and smaller breeds.

Their condition is not yet fully known. They are being examined before being put up for adoption, and the kennel is not open to the public.

About 100 dogs are at the emergency shelter. Others have been taken in at other facilities because of the sheer size of the rescue operation.

The last dogs arrived at the Charleston shelter Sunday in crates, where they were to be transferred to kennels prepared for them.

Bradley County Commissioner Charlotte Peak-Jones said the kennel can keep the dogs from 60 to 90 days, so she hopes they are all adopted within three months.

No dead animals were found at the puppy mill, and no animals have had to be euthanized because of poor health, said Foster.

The Pet Placement Center in Red Bank reported that the dogs it has taken were among those in the most critical condition and that they suffer from mange and staph infections.

Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at