Feds Find Dogs Neglected at Local Puppy Mill; PETA Seeks Criminal Probe

For Immediate Release:
June 27, 2022

Nicole Meyer 202-483-7382

Howell County, Mo.

Armed with damning U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reports documenting thin and injured dogs and others surrounded by feces at Rocky Top K-9’s, a local puppy mill operated by Ellen Roberts, PETA sent a letter today to Howell County Prosecuting Attorney Michael P. Hutchings asking him to investigate and file applicable charges against those responsible for the animals’ persistent neglect.

According to the just-released reports, on May 19 a USDA inspector found at least 18 dogs confined amid piles of days-old feces and one dog stuck in a wire enclosure so small that the top of it was just 2 inches above the animal’s head. And on January 19, an inspector found six dogs outside given just two doghouses in freezing temperatures, a dog whose vertebrae and ribs were showing, another “thin” dog nursing seven puppies, and a dog limping with an open sore.

“Puppies in pet stores come from miserable mills like this one, where the dogs are treated like cheap equipment and left to languish in squalor,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “PETA urges Howell County authorities to prosecute those responsible for this neglect and calls on everyone to avoid the stores that keep operations like this one in business.”

Missouri is the puppy mill capital of the U.S., with nearly 30% of all dogs bred in the U.S. born in the state—but its animal neglect law still requires people to supply “adequate care” to dogs in their custody.

PETA—whose motto reads, in part, that “animals are not ours to abuse in any way”—opposes speciesism, a human-supremacist worldview. For more information, please visit PETA.org or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.

PETA’s letter to Hutchings follows.

June 27, 2022

The Honorable Michael P. Hutchings
Prosecuting Attorney
Howell County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office

Dear Mr. Hutchings:

I hope this letter finds you well. I’m writing to request that your office (and the proper law-enforcement agency, as you deem appropriate) investigate and file criminal charges as suitable against those responsible for the persistent neglect of dogs at Rocky Top K-9’s, a puppy-breeding facility operated by Ellen Roberts at 1261 State Route 14, outside West Plains. PETA urges investigators to visit the facility with a veterinarian who has expertise in canine health and welfare so that the veterinarian can identify any animals in need of care and opine on the conditions of and for the animals there.

A U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspector documented neglect at the facility in the attached reports. On May 19, the inspector found at least 18 dogs confined amid an “excessive amount of feces,” some of which was “obviously several days old.” The same day, she found a poodle in a wire enclosure so small that its top was just 2 inches above the dog’s head.

On January 19—when overnight lows were below freezing—the inspector found six dogs provided with a total of just two doghouses and three dogs requiring veterinary evaluation. Dez, a boxer, was limping and had an “open sore” emitting discharge between his toes, according to the report. The vertebrae and ribs were “easily seen” on Maybelline—a bulldog housed with nine puppies—and Stella, a cocker spaniel, was “thin” while nursing seven puppies, the inspector wrote.

These findings may violate Missouri’s prohibition against animal neglect, RSMo § 578.009. The USDA’s action renders no aid or relief whatsoever to animals on site, carries no criminal or civil penalties, and doesn’t preempt criminal liability under state law for acts of cruelty to animals. If you’d like to learn more about the USDA’s findings, please see the contact information for the office in Riverdale, Maryland, here. Thank you for your time and consideration. Please let us know if we can assist you.


Daniel Paden

Vice President of Evidence Analysis

Cruelty Investigations Department

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