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Massive Puppy Mills Get Permission To Breed Even More Dogs

Amish farmers in Minnesota have been granted permits for dog breeding operations - massive operations many have condemned as puppy mills.

Photos from the farms in Utica and Saratoga Township area of Minnesota appear to show dogs in deplorable conditions, covered in feces, some too weak to stand on their own.

But that hasn't stopped the Winona County Board of Commissioners from signing off on permits, the Winona Post reports. In all, six farmers - David Yoder, Menno Yoder, LeRoy Yoder, Toby Detweiler, Henry Yoder and Menno Bontrager - will be allowed to breed dozens of dogs on their properties.

The permits come with the condition that the number of dogs at each property must be curtailed.

LeRoy Yoder had requested a permit for 150 adult dogs at his site, but the board allowed him no more than 85. The other breeders will be permitted a maximum of 50 dogs per farm.

The decision comes despite extensive citations from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) - and the fact that the operations had been running illegally.

Photos from a 2011 inspection of LeRoy Yoder's farm, reported on by NBC affiliate KTTC, show dogs in harrowing conditions, including animals with rotten teeth, eyes that no longer opened and fur so acutely matted, it ripped the dog's flesh.

Just two years later, the USDA cited Yoder with 11 violations, including animals with open, rotting wounds and bowls covered in feces.

Last year, City Pages reports, the Yoder property housed 170 adult dogs and 133 puppies.

The county's decision to grant these farms permits fueled a storm of protest among animal lovers.

"Shame on Winona County. Shame on the commissioners," wrote animal activist and author Becky Monroe in a local newspaper editorial. "I don't know how you will sleep at night knowing hundreds of dogs are suffering in silence because of what you decided."

A Facebook group, dedicated to chronicling puppy mills in Minnesota, has published the names and addresses of eight Amish men, claiming they sell the animals to pet stores across the country.

Meanwhile, an estimated 80,000 to 90,000 unwanted animals are euthanized each year in Minnesota shelters.

A protest near LeRoy Yoder's farm is being planned for this weekend, with organizers hoping to "draw attention to the deplorable conditions these animals are forced to live in.

Want to join the fight against puppy mills? Here's what you can do.