Dog breeders and owners, Mark A. Landers and Ray J. Cole and handler Jeff L. Wright are on a winning streak in the dog show world with their prize English Toy Spaniel, LTO Prosperity. A recent article in Best in Show Daily titled “Toy Spaniel Hat Trick” reports that Prosperity won five best-in-show titles by April. Prosperity’s ongoing fame might not lead to fortune for the trio as accusations arise that the breeders are operating a puppy mill in Hartville, Missouri.
The breeders’ heightened publicity has helped unhappy customers and business owners track the online purchase of sick dogs to Mark Landers, Ray Cole and most recently Ray’s mother Dee Dee Cole (also known as Annie or Anna Cole). The trail of customer complaints and reports are starting to reveal the underpinnings of a puppy mill operation.
“I wanted to make sure I wasn’t buying a dog from a puppy mill so I researched the information I had which was Dee Dee Cole’s name and the company name, LTO Farms,” said one customer. “I wasn’t able to find anything alarming but when my dog arrived nearly dead from malnourishment I felt horrible and embarrassed that I didn’t figure it out sooner.”
Shipping documents accompanying the dog revealed additional information such as Ray Cole’s phone number (417-259-3111), Dee Dee Cole’s phone number (573-247-1170) and Mark Landers’ name. After a quick online search it was apparent why this information would be withheld from potential buyers.
Our research revealed that the suspected puppy mill operators, Mark Landers and Ray Cole, have been changing their company name, operating under two different USDA licenses and now using family members such as Dee Dee Cole as their new sales contact.
Mark Landers and Ray Cole bred, distributed and auctioned hundreds of dogs under the business name “Promises Kept” and “Promises Kept Kennels.” According to PetShopPuppies.com, Landers and Cole housed over 200 dogs in 1999 and by 2008 that number almost doubled to 400.
Following a string of failed USDA inspections and released photos of the Missouri puppy mill operation courtesy of the ASPCA, Landers and Cole established “LTO Farms” and “Kennel LTO” and list themselves as “Mark & Ray Landers & Cole.” Dee Dee Cole, Ray’s mother, became the new point of contact for online buyers
USDA records show Landers canceled his license number 43A3615 in June 2012 and established the new license number 43A5776 in August 2012.
Dogs breeds currently available for purchase through LTO Farms or Kennel LTO include Komondor, English Toy Spaniel, Beagles, Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, French Bulldog and Brussels Griffon.
When asked about the process of purchasing the dog from LTO Farms the customer said “When I asked about the puppy’s small size and health, Dee Dee told me the dog was “extra fancy” because it was small and that I shouldn’t worry because the dog was just checked out by the vet and was healthy.”
The Brussels Griffon puppy was purchased on NextDayPets.com and the description currently reads: Small is what this girl is. LTO Sunset A weighed in at 3.6 pounds on July 10, 2013 and is a tiny toy black rough female Brussels. She is expected to stay small. She is sired by LTO Algernon (10 pounds) and her dam is LTO Sunset (8 pounds). She comes with full AKC registration, up-to-date vaccinations, health checked, and microchipped.
This customer spent twice as much on medical bills during the first month than what was paid for the dog. Dee Dee Cole and her business partners did not respond to complaints made by this customer or our request for comment.
Part two of this story is still in development but additional information can be found throughout http://www.missouripuppymill.com.