Joan Huber of Blythewood Kennels has been breeding miniature schnauzers for almost her entire life. The 81-year-old is also currently on house arrest with an ankle bracelet, in a case that symbolizes the escalating beef between the practices of dog breeders and the efforts of animal rights activists.
The Washington Post reports that Huber landed in hot water primarily for cropping the ears of her dogs—which makes schnauzer ears stand up in a pointy fashion, a solely aesthetic operation—and is illegal for anyone but a veterinarian to perform in her home state of Pennsylvania. But Huber’s defenders, mainly other breeders, argue that her kennels are not fly by night operations. Her dogs sell for about $3,500 each, frequently win awards at dog shows, and she’s been named the American Kennel Club’s Terrier Group Breeder of the Year.
Less auspiciously, last year she was convicted of eight counts of animal cruelty, and next month she’ll be sentenced for “violating probation terms that required she own no more than 25 dogs,” writes the Post. (Upon inspection, it was discovered she had 41.) Supporters for Huber have started a GoFundMe page that has raised over $30,000, and claims that she is “the victim of Animal Rights people.”
Is she, though?
Your answer probably depends largely on whether or not you believe in buying dogs from reputable breeders or adopting. When Huber started her business, ear cropping was legal and she learned the practice from her former husband, who was a vet. Rules about ear cropping changed in Pennsylvania in 2009; her defenders claim that the charges against her were trumped up by activists who hate breeders calling in reports against Blythewood Kennels. But according to Tracie Graham, manager of the local SPCA shelter, it was Huber’s employees who turned her in:
At Huber’s trial, three witnesses, including a former bookkeeper, testified that she cropped dogs’ ears on her kitchen counter without following proper veterinary procedures, Delano said. Huber herself testified that the procedure was necessary to give her show dogs a “winning edge” in the ring, Graham said.
“The cropping itself was horrific enough. But to hear the testimony of the employees, the anesthesia protocol was not up to par. There was no pain medication. Some of the dogs were awake,” Graham said. “It was pretty barbaric.”
Huber’s license has been revoked, and she could potentially face jail time for violating her probation. In an interview with the Washington Post, she called the SPCA “the Gestapo” and is considering moving to Delaware, where regulations are much friendlier to breeders. Of the ear cropping, she says it’s an “art form.” Read the full wild ride here.