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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."

State 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 the 90s (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 USDA.

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 spokeswoman.

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 hotel."

"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 compliant."

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.  #10081201

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