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Shame On You Gorham, New York!

First, outrage. Then, education.
By Nancy Kay DVM, March 2012, Updated June 2021

Part I: The Gorham Town Meeting

I read the article in the Canandaigua Messenger with disbelief. It appears that the town of Gorham, New York is rolling out the red carpet for a large-scale puppy mill expected to house 500 breeding dogs (yes, you read this correctly, there will be 500). The proprietors, Curtis and Jolene Martin are not new to puppy milling. In fact, they have been previously cited for their work—busted by the USDA for violations such as rodent droppings in whelping boxes, sick and injured dogs on the premises and inadequate staffing.

Mr. Martin maintains that he is not into mass breeding just for the money. He states:

We don’t just produce as many puppies as we can, that’s not our goal. Yes, we do have to do that but it’s not the main reason we’re in it. We’re in it for the animals.


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Have a look at the minutes from the December 19, 2012 Town of Gorham Planning Board Meeting. Be forewarned, reading these minutes made me feel sick inside. There was plenty of discussion about numbers of dogs (not to worry, puppies don’t take up much room), noise prevention (not to worry, the dogs will be housed completely indoors with plenty of sound-proofing), and composting and burying of dead dogs (not to worry, there will be enough containment so as to prevent water contamination in the neighborhood). Never once during the lengthy discussion did a single board member question how the dogs would be exercised, how they would be fed, what size cages would be provided or how the emotional needs of the dogs would be met. Was there not a single dog lover in that boardroom?

I’m not naïve enough to believe that what’s happening in Gorham, N.Y. isn’t happening in many other towns throughout the United States. Perhaps this situation strikes a particularly sensitive nerve because it is happening in the state where I attended veterinary school and received an extraordinary education. On the one hand, New York trains veterinarians to care adeptly and compassionately for dogs. With the other hand, they welcome the abuse of dogs. I suspect that the Gorham town board members have their eyes focused on the prize. Can you imagine the tax revenue stream from the sale of thousands and thousands of purebred puppies?

What can you do to help stop such madness? If you happen to live in the vicinity of Gorham, New York please contact city and county officials there to find out what would be needed to change their minds about welcoming the Martins or any other puppy millers into your community.

If you don’t live in or near Gorham, but feel fired up about what is going on there please put that energy to good use. Puppy mills exist throughout the United States. Learn more about what is happening in your neck of the woods and begin a letter writing campaign, organize a peaceful protest, educate a classroom of children about puppy mills, counsel a friend or relative who is ready to purchase a purebred pup on how to find a reputable breeder or rescue organization. Never ever purchase a pup from a pet store or online site and sight unseen. Feel free to share this blog post. Every little bit helps. One less purchase from a puppy mill brings us one step closer to their eradication.

Part II: A Response from Gorham, New York

Mr. Doug Negley, a councilman for the Town of Gorham read my blog post and reached out to me for some candid conversation. During our talk it became clear to me that Mr. Negley is a true dog lover and that he was surprised by the rapid action taken by his town’s planning commission. Mr. Negley told me that he remains unclear whether or not the decision to approve the puppy mill can be reversed.

Prior to this Gorham chaos (town leaders have been inundated with phone calls and emails), Mr. Negley admits that he was unfamiliar with the horrors of puppy mills. You can trust that I provided him with a solid education during the course of our telephone call. I asked Mr. Negley to provide me with his point of view in writing, something I could share with you, my readers. Here are his thoughts:

Dr. Nancy Kay,

Thank you for the opportunity to comment on your blog of February 9, 2012 “Shame on you Gorham NY.”

Your perception of “commercial kennels/puppy mills” is right on—this is a national if not international problem. In the last paragraph you mentioned learn what’s going on where you live. Educate others on “commercial kennels/puppy mills.” I would like to add instead of buying a new pup consider rescuing a dog.

On your comment “I suspect that the Gorham town board members have their eyes focused on the prize. Can you imagine the tax revenue stream from the sale of thousands and thousands of purebred puppies?” New York State law currently exempts USDA Class A “commercial kennels/puppy mills” from local dog licensing. Yes, that’s right Gorham receives nothing for this type of operation. And these breeders do not contribute to the state spay and neuter program to help low income people spay and neuter their pets, even though, each year they are contributing to the numbers of unwanted dogs.

As for this town board member’s eyes, they are focused on:

1)   The best for residents of the town of Gorham.

2)   Using education because it is the best weapon against puppy mills.

3)   Build a case supported by facts against puppy mills.

4)   Then take action at both state & federal level.

There is no reason why, over time as a society, we can’t get rid of such operations. I would like to help in their eradication. Like many topics the public is ignorant of this practice, me included.

I have thought about and continue to research the concept of “commercial kennels/puppy mills.” I do not like the idea of having a facility in our town. However, if Gorham is going to be saddled with this business I want a golden pig with lipstick, not just another pig. Thanks again, to be continued.

Respectively submitted,

Doug Negley, Councilman for the Town of Gorham

Mr. Negley told me that he would be happy to respond to your comments. Let’s keep it civilized!

Nancy Kay, DVM, Dipl., American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, is a 2009 recipient of AAHA's Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award and author of Speaking for Spot.