More than 100 dogs were taken from an alleged North Benton puppy mill in southern Mahoning County Friday.
Authorities say the dogs were living in unsuitable conditions - a problem that soon will be addressed in the Ohio Revised Code.
Newly enacted state regulations on high-volume dog breeders are aimed at improving the quality of life for the puppies they rear, but local animal experts have mixed emotions on how effective they will be.
Robin Stowe remembers the first time she came across a puppy mill while working as an investigator for the Animal Welfare League of Trumbull County.
"I just didn't know what to say. It's bad. The smell alone just kind of overpowers you. I was kind of floored," she said.
In her six years of working for the league, she said she has only come across a few high-volume breeders.
"We've had a couple of calls ranging from 20 to 120 dogs at a place, a lot of them are just bad breeders basically."
Bad breeding means cages were kept in all rooms of the house, including bedrooms and kitchens, while the dogs weren't being given adequate care or socialization.
"They think they are doing a good job, and they can't," Stowe said.
In these cases, the Animal Welfare League had few choices if the owners would not allow them inside or give them custody of the dogs.
"It's a chain of reactions. You have to start from where the puppies are starting," said AWL Executive Director Kerry Pettit.
Pettit said before her work in Ohio, she came from Nevada where regulations were already in place that resemble those recently enacted by Ohio legislators.
According to the Ohio Revised Code, high-volume breeders - those who produce at least 60 dogs or nine litters each year - must now register a license with the Ohio Department of Agriculture.
New specifications for everything from cage size to bedding, the number of times that dogs are fed and how they are socialized were also added to the code.
So far 231 breeders have applied for a license, which Erica Hawkins, Ohio Department of Agriculture communications director, said is on par with their expectations.
The department has hired four inspectors and a supervisor to enforce the annual inspections that all high-volume breeders are now required to undergo. All the regulations were devised by a board of veterinarians, breeders, animal rescue advocates and the like.
"It's definitely a big step from where we were a few years ago," she said.
Prior to the enactment of the new laws at the beginning of the year, Hawkins said breeders in Ohio were governed by less detailed federal laws.
"Now with a law being there, you have something to enforce," said Pettit.
One last litter at the end of the year is what pushed Stone Quarry Bulldogs in Garrettsville to a yearly puppy count of 66, meaning they would be required to apply for a $150 license.
Melissa, her husband Robert Riley and their two sons have been breeding small-sized English bulldogs for the past seven years on their 11-acre farm.
"We just fell in love with the bulldog. They are so beautiful and friendly. We wanted to make them available to regular people," she said.
The popular pups, which average a $2,000 price tag, have been purchased by people as far away as Turkey and as famous as NASCAR driver Joey Lagono. Melissa said they make sure that buyers, who reserve puppies months in advance, are ready for a 12-year commitment.
Melissa said her dogs are treated with love and respect so the new regulations aren't really altering their operations.
"It won't be hard to comply to the living conditions. They are requirements we already have, like how much room the dogs are given; our dogs area exceeded that already. Socialization, we already had. Even how often they eat - our dogs are fed twice a day," she said.
About the only thing that she sees changing for Stone Quarry is that the law requires veterinarians to visit the breeders instead of vice versa. She said Stone Quarry Bulldogs keeps up with the American Kennel Club's regulations, which include surprise inspections, so more by the Department of Agriculture won't be a problem.
As far as she's concerned, having additional regulations will only be a benefit.
"I think it's great. It'll make sure that people trying to be breeders have to do it in a responsible way," she said. "Any regulations met they can fine them for, as opposed to just warning them."
Still, Trumbull County Dog Warden Gwen Logan said she is skeptical as to how effective the regulations will be.
"Theoretically the way it is written, owners will volunteer to go to the Department of Agriculture and say 'Hey I'm a puppy mill and let me pay for a license,'" she said. "I'd like to see how this is all going to shake out."
Logan said because the illegal mill operations are underground, she mostly sees just the remnants of them near the Ashtabula and Portage County borders. Mostly what this means, she said, are purebred strays that have been discarded by breeders when they become too old or of no use anymore.
Because the bill specifies that the mills come under control of the Department of Agriculture, she said she will be redirecting calls to them if anyone with suspicions of puppy mill illegal activity speaks out about it.
"Maybe it will work down the road," she said, "I don't want to be a naysayer."