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2 dog kennels in Detroit Lakes listed as 'horrible' puppy mills

Of the three breeders mentioned in the Minnesota breakout of "The Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed," two of them are in Becker County. The report, produced annually by the Humane Society of the United States, lists John and Lyle Renner'...

Dogs were found with fleas and skin disorders at Renners Kennel in Detroit Lakes, according to a Humane Society report. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Of the three breeders mentioned in the Minnesota breakout of “The Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed,” two of them are in Becker County.

The report, produced annually by the Humane Society of the United States, lists John and Lyle Renner’s kennel and Michelle Sonnenberg’s kennel, both located off Highway 34 in rural Detroit Lakes, as repeat offenders.

John and Lyle Renner could not be reached for comment. Sonnenberg declined to comment.

(A third breeder actually tops the Minnesota list: Wanda Kretzman, who owns Clearwater Kennel Inc., in Cushing).

Renners: Injured dogs


At Renners Kennel, USDA inspectors repeatedly found injured dogs, according to USDA inspection reports.

“During three separate visits since our last report was published in May (May 2014, Sept. 2014 and Nov. 2014), USDA inspectors found sick or injured dogs at Renners Kennel,” the Humane Society says in its report.

The issues included dogs with swollen areas of red skin, a husky with a “reddened and cloudy right eye,” and a Greyhound with signs of severe dental disease that “can make it difficult for the dog to eat” and “can be painful,” according to the USDA inspector.

In July 2014, the USDA gave Renner an official warning for violations of federal regulations for the failure to maintain adequate veterinary care for several animals.

In February 2014, four dogs were found with injured paws, and two of the buildings had such strong odors that the inspectors said they felt “a burning sensation in our throats,” and in the puppy nursery, “our eyes also felt a burning sensation.”

In January 2013, Renner’s Kennel was fined more than $5,000 by the USDA for repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act regulations.

Violations on previous USDA inspection reports include dogs kept in small cages without the minimum required space; lack of proper cleaning and sanitization, violations for dogs needing vet care, including a husky who could not bear weight on his leg, a dog with a missing eye and discharge, dogs with swollen/oozing paws (common in breeding facilities with wire flooring), dogs without adequate protection from extreme temperatures, strong odors and accumulations of feces.

This is the third time Renners Kennel has appeared in the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” report.


USDA inspection violations can be either “direct” or “indirect.” Direct violations of the Animal Welfare Act tend to be more serious and affect the dogs’ health.

Renners Kennel improved from four indirect violations (two of them repeat violations) on Feb. 13, 2014, to one indirect violation in the last inspection on Jan. 28. The kennel had 122 adult dogs and 69 puppies at that time.

Sonnenberg’s: A health hazard to dogs?

At Sonnenberg’s kennel, inspectors found that standing waters mixed with feces presents a health hazard to hundreds of dogs.

According to the Humane Society, “Health and sanitation problems were found repeatedly at Sonnenberg’s kennel every year between 2011 and 2014, and the kennel failed to let inspectors in during an attempted inspection in April 2015.”

In September 2013, USDA inspectors noted a “foul odor” due to standing water mixed with feces and maggots, an issue that persisted at subsequent inspections well into 2014.

In June 2014 an inspector found the same standing water issue in three different barns that contained a total of 306 dogs and puppies, and noticed that the standing water was buzzing with flies.

Yet the same issue was noted again in October 2014, when the inspector noted that the water was “dark, dirty and mixed with excreta” and presented a “risk of odors, insects and disease hazards.”


In February 2013 an inspector noted an “ammonia level strong enough to make the inspector cough and feel a burn in the back of the throat” and other problems.

The Humane Society has also received complaints from buyers who reportedly purchased sick puppies from the facility. At its last inspection, the USDA documented more than 300 dogs and puppies at Sonnenberg’s kennel.

Since Sept. 19, 2013, Sonnenberg’s kennel has been inspected five times. Twice it had no violations, twice it had one indirect violation, and once, on June 25 of last year, it had three indirect violations.

The kennel failed to let inspectors in during an attempted inspection last month, according to the Humane Society.

Clearwater Kennel: One of the largest puppy mills

Wanda Kretzman, owner of Clearwater Kennel Inc., of Cushing, located between Motley and Little Falls, has been hit with an official USDA complaint due to years of inspection violations.

On March 2, 2015, the USDA filed an official complaint regarding a series of violations at Clearwater Kennel, one of the largest breeding facilities in the country with more than 1,000 dogs.

The violations listed in the complaint occurred between March 2010 and June 2013, although additional violations were found by USDA inspectors as recently as February 2014.


The complaint alleges that Clearwater Kennel, Inc. willfully violated the Animal Welfare Act by failing to establish and maintain a program of adequate veterinary care, failing to provide the proper cleaning, maintenance and sanitation, and failing to maintain enough employees to carry out the level of care needed by the enormous number of dogs at the facility.

February 2014 violations at Clearwater Kennel included a strong ammonia (urine) odor, rodent feces near the dogs’ food and excessive dog feces in the enclosures that left “limited areas for the dogs to walk or stand without coming into contact” with their own wastes, according to a USDA inspection report.

Although a September 2014 inspection of Clearwater Kennel was compliant, the operation has a history of temporarily coming into compliance only to be found with additional severe violations at subsequent visits. No 2015 inspection reports were available at the time of this report.

The Humane Society’s annual report is far from complete.

Due to the patchwork of laws across the U.S. and spotty enforcement, many puppy mills are not licensed or regulated and very little information on them exists.

The kennels listed in this report were selected to demonstrate common problems and conditions at puppy mills and puppy mill brokers across the United States. The breeders listed in this year’s report were selected based on a number of factors, including:

The availability of federal kennel inspection reports showing violations, or related documents received via public records requests.

USDA official warnings or fines:


  • The quantity of violations found on those reports or the severity of violations, especially those affecting animal safety and health, and how recently the violations occurred
  • Whether the dealer was listed in one of The Humane Society’s prior reports and has continued to accumulate violations since then
  • The availability of consumer complaints, photographs and news articles, and indications that the facility appeared to be in business at the time of publication
  • Some puppy mills were not listed because they are under active investigation

If a breeding facility is not listed in this report, it may be due to a lack of available records.

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