Anyone who's spent a chunk of time inside the Ohio Dog Auction in Farmerstown isn't likely to shake the experience soon. Located in a barn right in the gut of Amish country, the site is where dog breeders and puppy mill barons from all over the country east of the Mississippi come to hock their wares — the wares in question being puppies. A lot of them. Cute, adorable pups, looking straight off the Hallmark card, jammed into cages stacked to the ceiling.
That mash-up of cuddly animals and confining circumstances is the reason more than one critic has called auctions cruel and unusual. As we wrote in a 2010 feature, the auction was ground zero for the controversy surrounding Amish dog breeders. For the last two years, activists have regularly picketed the events, and there's been a healthy push to ban the auctions outright through a ballot vote.
As of right now, business is closed at the Farmerstown locale — but that might change. According to the Plain Dealer, the Ohio Professional Dog Breeders Association actually purchased the business back in April from Harold Neuhart, one of the Amish dogfathers in the breeding business. The association has held off from holding any new auctions, in all likelihood in order keep the activist heat off. That doesn't mean they won't hold events in the future.
The state is currently looking through signatures collected by the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions to put the issue on the ballot.
The secretary of state is reviewing 154,000 signatures the coalition's 940 volunteers already had to gather to put the proposed law before legislators. The announcement on whether at least 115,570 of those signatures were penned by registered voters is expected tomorrow.
The coalition plans to also use paid circulators if it needs to collect the additional signatures to go to the ballot.
If you're interested in combing through the background and getting to know the characters involved, jump into our 2010 story. It starts like this:
The SUV coasts through the dead center of Ohio Amish country. Under a blank June sky, the Holmes County landscape is a picture postcard of country charm: A tight two-lane road lassos around green hills, the acres dotted with barns and the farmland studded with the five o'clock shadow of early crops. Amish men and women pass by on foot or in horsedrawn buggies, each of them waving to the familiar car as it navigates the rolling road . . .