For Immediate Release:
August 10, 2023
Brittney Williams 202-483-7382
Columbia, Mo. – A damning report just released by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) reveals that dogs were kept in rundown, foul-smelling enclosures and one was denied veterinary care for tartar-coated teeth and “reddened” and “receded” gums at Hargis’ Sunshine Kennel, an operation near Hallsville that churns out puppies for sale and is run by Beverly Hargis. In response, PETA rushed a letter to Boone County Prosecuting Attorney Roger Johnson asking him to investigate the facility—which recently confined over 50 dogs—and file applicable charges against those responsible for the animals’ conditions.
According to the most recent report, on June 30 a USDA veterinarian found a dog whose teeth were covered with “a heavy deposit of dark brown/tan materials,” causing his gums to become inflamed and to recede. The facility’s own records reveal that a veterinarian had recommended treatment for the dog’s dental disease more than seven months earlier, but the owner hadn’t provided it. The report warns that the condition could be painful, affect the dog’s ability to eat, and cause permanent damage to his gums and teeth.
“Denying veterinary treatment and keeping dogs in filthy, ramshackle enclosures are standard procedure in miserable puppy factories like this one, where animals are treated as nothing but commodities,” says PETA Vice President of Evidence Analysis Daniel Paden. “PETA is calling on Boone County authorities to prosecute those responsible for this rampant neglect and urges everyone never to buy any animal from a breeder or pet store and to adopt from shelters instead.”
The report also documents the presence of wire fencing with jagged edges and sharp points that presented an injury risk to the dogs and an ammonia odor so strong that the inspector warned that it could “increase the risk of severe respiratory conditions.” Previous inspections at the facility found another dog with untreated and severe dental disease, a broken floorboard that created gaps so large that the dogs’ legs could fall through, severe fly and gnat infestations, additional fencing with dangerous and jagged edges, severely chewed plastic “whelping boxes” that couldn’t be properly sanitized, and surfaces with a significant buildup of “dirt, hair, and/or grime.”
PETA is pursuing charges under state law because the USDA doesn’t render relief or aid to animals during its inspections and these violations carry no federal criminal or civil penalties. 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, listen to The PETA Podcast, or follow the group on Twitter, Facebook, or Instagram.
PETA’s letter to Johnson follows.
August 10, 2023
The Honorable Roger Johnson
Boone County Prosecuting Attorney
Dear Mr. Johnson:
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, as suitable, file criminal charges against those responsible for neglecting dogs at Hargis’ Sunshine Kennel, a breeding facility operated by Beverly Hargis at 14500 Level Rd. near Hallsville. PETA hopes investigators will visit the facility with a veterinarian who has expertise in canine health and welfare so that they can identify any animals in need of care and opine on the conditions of and for the approximately 50 animals there.
U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) veterinarians documented neglect at the facility in the attached reports. On June 30, a veterinarian found “a heavy deposit of dark brown/tan materials” on the teeth of Toy Soldier, a dachshund whose gums were “reddened” and “receded.” Dental care had been recommended for the dog more than seven months earlier, but the suspect(s) had yet to provide such care. The same day, the veterinarian found a “strong ammonia odor” in a building used to house puppies as well as rough and/or sharp surfaces in several enclosures confining dogs and/or their puppies.
Last October, “numerous flies and gnat-like insects” were found near puppies, and five dogs were confined to enclosures where a dislocated wooden floorboard left gaps large enough for the animals’ feet and legs to fall through. While beyond the statute of limitations, a December 2021 inspection found another dog who was denied veterinary care for receding gums and a “heavy deposit” of dark brown material on their teeth as well as “a build-up of dirt, hair and/or grime” on “multiple surfaces” at Hargis’ facility.
These findings may violate Missouri’s prohibition against animal neglect, RSMo § 578.009, which requires that individuals provide animals in their custody with “adequate care.” RSMo § 578.005 defines this term to include “shelter and health care as necessary to maintain good health.” The USDA renders no aid or relief whatsoever to animals on site, and these reports carry no criminal or civil penalties and don’t preempt criminal liability under state law for neglecting animals. If you’d like to learn more about the agency’s findings, please see the contact information for its office in Riverdale, Maryland, here.
Thank you for your time and consideration and for the difficult work that you do every day.
Vice President of Evidence Analysis