Breeders Gone Bad
Hank Investigates: Breeders Gone Bad
From Heidi Ericksonís notorious apartments, to this squalid Middleboro Motel room, to this secret basement in a private home -- cat breeders unlicensed and unregistered in this state, operating without oversight behind closed doors.
"The people are so good at hiding what they're doing."
Elizabeth Fourar-Laidi, Cocheco Valley Humane Society
And our undercover camera revealed the result -- unsanitary conditions, overcrowding and mistreatment of animals.
"Would anyone know who is out there breeding cats?"
Hank Phillippi Ryan, Investigative Reporter
Kara Holmquist, MSPCA
Neither did Dr. Michelle Rahimian. She purchased her cat "Coco" from Heidi Erickson after shopping Ericksonís website where she promises "to promote responsible breeding."
"I thought this was going to be somebody I could trust."
Dr. Michelle Rahimian, Cat Buyer
Michelle was suspicious when Erickson would not show her the kittens parents and turned out that Coco was extremely ill and barely recovered.
"I was horrified, I was really upset."
At the Massachusetts Department of Agriculture, Dr. David Sherman is the state's chief vet.
"Why didn't the Department of Agriculture do something about this?"
Dr. David Sherman, State Vet Bureau of Animal Health
"My answer is that we don't have any specific regulatory authority given to us to intervene in that situation."
In fact, we found that state animal laws are so antiquated, they still basically focus on farm animals.
"There is essentially zero mention or reference of cat breeding in the Mass. general laws."
Dr. David Sherman
There are state regulations for pet stores, but even though cat breeders are selling animals for money, just like pet shops do, breeders are not subject to state inspections.
"My hands are tied in what I can pursue and what I can't."
And by answering other want ads, we discovered what inspections could find! This ad says cats $300 and up. But we were only offered a few at a time in what was obviously a "viewing room" and like Michelle and Coco, they would not show us where the cats really lived.
"You should be very suspicious."
And as we left, through a basement window, we saw where the cats had come from. The entire room was converted to cat breeding, floor to ceiling cages, filthy litter boxes, crawling with cats. But officials would never know about places like this unless someone complains.
"What does that lead you to believe could be out there?"
This law enforcement video, we obtained, documents where a tip can lead. Animal control officers found a Middleboro breeder keeping his diseased and dying cats in a filthy trailer and a disgusting hotel room.
"How could that happen?"
And on a local level, often the only protection for cats is a private shelter like this one in Quincy. Many wind up with way too many cats and clamor for communities to take more responsibility.
Peggy Wright, Director, Cat Shelter
"Really, I believe there is no one protecting the cats."
And in fact we found this MSPCA in-house survey of Massachusetts cities and towns. It proves that only about 10 even mention cats in local bylaws, that means in most cities and towns there is no individual licensing, no kennel requirements, and no oversight.
"Is this good enough?"
"No, this certainly is not good enough."
And whatever the outcome, as Heidi Erickson battles her way through the system, insiders know that without big changes, you're going to see pictures like this again and again.
"We need to do something."
"Or else itís going to get out of control."
There have been bills offered on Beacon Hill to revamp all the animal laws but they just don't make it out of committee. Insiders told us that lawmakers say they aren't hearing from constituents, who consider it a priority.
For more information:
For tips on how to find a pet:
To file a report about animal neglect or cruelty:
In New Hampshire:
Contact your local humane society, police department or the New Hampshire Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to animals or the New Hampshire Division of Animal Industry:
For information on pet shop licensing or to file a complaint:
Also, in Massachusetts the MSPCA and Animal Rescue League can also investigate pet shop complaints:
In MA and NH there have been bills filed in the past regarding breeders and pet shops:
For information on adopting a dog or cat from a shelter or town animal control facility please see the links below:
Animal Control/Town Shelters:
- Boston Animal Control/Shelter
- Duxbury Animal Control
- Fairhaven/Acushnet Control/ Shelter
- Kingston Animal Control/Shelter
- Mansfield Animal Control/Shelter
- Medfield Animal Control/Shelter
- Norfolk Animal Control/Shelter
- Sterling Animal Control/Shelter
- TJ O'Connor Regional Dog Pound
- All Paws Rescue
- Animal Rescue League of Boston
- Animal Shelter Inc/Sterling Animal Shelter
- Buddy Dog
- Ce Ce and Friends Cat Shelter
- Cocheco Valley Humane Society
- Massachusetts Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals
- Milton Animal Rescue League
- PawSafe Animal Rescue
- Pets in Need
- Pets 911
- Save A Dog
- Saving Pets Lives
- Second Chance Shelter for Cats
- All Breed Rescue, provides links to many different breed rescue groups in New England
- Cocker Spaniel Rescue of New England
- Dachshund Rescue
- Doberman Rescue
- German Shepherd Rescue of New England
- Golden Retriever Rescue
- GreysLand Greyhound Adoption
- Lab Rescue
- Miniature Schnauzer Network
- New England Sheltie Rescue
- North East All Retriever Rescue
- Staffordshire Farm Rescue
- Sterling Animal Shelter
- Toy Dog Rescue
New England Non Profit Animal Shelters:
Breed specific rescue groups:
Breed Rescue, provides links to many different breed rescue groups in New England