Breeders Compete With
Puppies Burned Alive In Hunte Truck
Local agencies and USDA probe truck fire that killed 60 puppies
during long transport from Missouri to Massachusetts.
August 16, 2006 | Staff Report
The USDA joined state and local authorities yesterday in
probing a tractor-trailer fire that killed dozens of puppies in
Lowell MA en route on a thousand-mile journey from the Midwest
to New England pet shops.
Investigators who searched the
charred 40-foot trailer said the fire was probably sparked by an
overheated ceiling fan which Lowell MA Deputy Fire Chief said
appeared to have ignited and "burned through the roof."
"We got the fire knocked down," he said. "But it was already too
late -- there was no hope for saving the puppies."
Police spokesman Robert Bousquet said no charges had been filed
yesterday, but his department planned an "involved investigation
to make sure that there was nothing that was inappropriate."
The state fire marshal's office and the Massachusetts Society
for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals are also investigating.
For those who may not understand the conflict of interest,
the USDA loaned Hunte Corp. over four 4 million dollars during
(see Hunte Puppy Mill & AKC). The USDA is
looking into whether the death of the puppies violated the
federal Animal Welfare Act said USDA spokesman Darby Holladay.
Typical of government bureaucracy - or ignorance, the spokesman
also said the department had no "prior enforcement" against
Hunte Corp. While that may be true, multiple acts of
cruelty have been officially reported to the state and to the
Hunte Corp Officials, which claims to be the world's largest
producers and broker of purebred puppies, did not return
repeated calls yesterday seeking comment. Again for those
who have not yet read the Hunte Puppy Mill coverage, Andrew
Hunte hired puppy miller
Doug Hughes who had twice been convicted of animal
cruelty. The driver of this rig was
Joseph Price, 40, of Joplin,
Mo. and with him was a passenger, William Iriarte, 50, of Nesho,
Mo.. Neither man was injured so it is assumed that the
fire was already too great and the rear of the tractor-trailer
too hot to attempt to open the rear doors.
Breeders in the NE have however speculated that something
happened to the puppies while they were in transit and note that
temperatures in August can soar into the high 90s and summer
humidity along the eastern seaboard is extremely high.
Nothing could survive for very long in a sealed trailer with
faulty or no air conditioning The
aluminum trailer was in fact
equipped with air conditioning and it was traveling on the
access road from Interstate 495 south to Route 3 when the driver
received a CB call from another truck driver alerting him that
flames had broken out in the back of his tractor-trailer.
The truck was delivering the puppies for Hunte Corp and State
Police cited the driver and Hunte with three violations
unrelated to the fire, for having defective brakes and an
expired inspection. The vehicle was held in police custody as
part of the investigation.
The truck had made a stop
about 4:15 p.m. at a pet store in Salem, N.H., and was headed to
Debby's Pet Land & Aquarium in Nashua. The Nashua store's owner,
New England Pet Centers, receives 30 to 50 puppies a week from
Hunte Corp. for the chain's 10 stores, according to a company
Hunte is "a very upstanding company," said
New England Pet Centers spokeswoman Kim DuRoss. "The cages are
beautiful. They're ventilated and clean -- it's like a puppy
"There might not have been anything they could have
knowingly done to prevent this -- that will be determined by the
police -- but the way to prevent a similar incident like this
from happening again is to quit carting thousands of puppies
around the country in tractor-trailers every day," said
Stephanie Shain, the Humane Society's director of outreach. "The
journey is too long, and they're moving them like they're
cartons of toasters."
The Missouri Department of Natural Resources investigated a
Hunte kennel facility in 2003 after receiving complaints about
how the site disposed of dead animals. Inspectors cited the
company for violating state clean water and waste laws. They
called the trenches of dead canines they discovered "marginally
The kennel was close to violating the state's
dead animal disposal laws, which allow no more than 1,000 pounds
of dead animals to be buried per acre, said Mark Rader, water
and land section chief for the department. He said that most
facilities bury dogs in landfills and that it is rare for a
kennel to bury so many dogs on site. Radar said he did not know
how the dogs died.