Diary of a Montana Spaniel Puppy Mill

September 12, 2007

Because of the staggering numbers of puppies this “family run business” is now producing, and the complaints we have received, and keep receiving, about this breeder, this page will be updated regularly.

The Frenchtown, Montana English Springer Spaniel puppy mill mass producing springer puppies under the name Bear Country Springer Spaniels is now operating under a bunch of new website domains (a new one they use on puppyfind and nextdaypets is  english-springer-spaniels.net)  and seller names, which change ALL the time. Other kennel names they go by are Bear Mountain Springers and Mystical Mountain Cluminger Spaniels.

Be aware that this is not a reputable or professional kennel “facility” of any kind. This a high volume, backyard breeder raising puppies out of their living room en masse, for quick sale on the internet. This is NOT a hobby kennel–this is a low quality breeder all about making money and they crank out puppies like processed loaves of bread.

Because of the incredible numbers of dogs they have on their property, adults and juveniles are turned loose into bare dirt open corrals (that cannot be disenfected) with a few dog houses and Igloos for shelter. Nobody can keep ten litters of puppies in their house for very long, and puppies for sale are kept in small pens with wood shavings for bedding. These puppy pens are everywhere around their house! Most of the corral dogs are probably ignored until it’s time to breed them (again), get a bath to spiff them up for their photo op, and sell more puppies.

September Update: The Bear Country/Mystical Mountain Springer and Cluminger Spaniel puppy mill continues to slide further underground, hiding info and available puppies and using more and more back alley tricks to advertise with. Available litters and prices differ on every online selling site, and at least ten (10) puppies from May still remain unadopted, with an undisclosed number of clumingers for sale. (Shhh. It’s a secret. No pictures are on their website so nobody can identify which poor bitch they’ve bred twice this year!) The Christmas puppies will start showing up soon enough which means lots of litters and more unsold “left overs” collecting in the dog corrals… Puppies for profit. Ain’t it great?August Update: The newest babies aren’t so new anymore. Twenty two (22) older springer puppies aged 12 -17 weeks old, remain unsold. No pictures or mention of the Clumingers on their website…probably a big litter, or <gasp>, more than one litter! How many litters do you guess are in the nursery? Stay tuned…July Update: Puppies from TEN litters are for sale. Nine Springer litters and one Cluminger Spaniel mixed breed. One of the mommy dogs just turned two years old (considered fully mature) and had her second litter. The common practice of price reduction has started on the older pups. PS: It usually means more pups are in the whelping boxes… June Update: They are attempting to sell off their “wonderful”  and “beautiful” stud dogs, including a three-legged stud named Rupers. (Hey, what kind of person do you have to be to sell a three-legged dog??!!) PS: The last time they had a big website “family illness sale” it was just a gimmick for they went out and bought MORE breeders!


COMPLAINTS: We started this page in 2006 when we were alerted that this kennel was claiming to have made a fake show champion (on the front page of their website no less), and since then we have quite unexpectedly collected dozens of complaints about puppies coming out of this Frenchtown spaniel kennel regarding very serious health disorders including life threatening EPILEPSY, THYROID DISORDERS, GIARDIA, KENNEL COUGH, SEVERE ALLERGIES, joint and eye diseases including TOTAL BLINDNESS, and temperament issues including aggression and timidity. One person has claimed that the very sick and temperamentally unsound puppy they received, didn’t match the one listed on the vet signed travel health certificate–this puppy had to be put to sleep. A five month old Bear Country puppy that ended up at a shelter in 2006 was turned in (with it’s AKC papers) because it was terrified of children. A recent complaint said their puppy had severe roundworm infestation, ate feces and defecated wood shavings for the first few days after it arrived via shipping. And the list goes on, and on…Common complaints include ROUNDWORM infestations, GIARDIA, FLEAS and COPRAPHAGIA (puppies that eat feces) which could be genetic, behavioral, or symptoms of malnutrition.

First of all, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. Some of the people that have contacted us were told by this breeder that they have “never had a complaint before.” YES, they have.

If you have some concerns over a puppy purchased from this kennel (or even from another kennel) that you’d like to share, or would like to file an English Springer Spaniel Breeder complaint, please contact Judy Manley-the current AKC/ESSFTA Springer Spaniel Rescue Rep., as the list of complaints regarding this very irresponsible breeder grows on a regular basis. Unfortunately, Montana does not have a Puppy Lemon Law, but there are some things you can do if you have purchased a  Bear Country Springer Spaniel “lemon”: Call the AKC kennel investigations department (they must do an inspection if they receive complaints), file a complaint with the Montana Better Business Bureau. There is something YOU can do to make a difference and hold this puppy mill accountable, and possibly prevent another consumer  from buying a sick or genetically unsound puppy!

CLUMINGER SPANIEL (HYBRID MUTTS):It was probably just a matter of time before this Jimmy Dean couple figured out how to further exploit their springers for profit and they are now breeding Clumber Spaniels and Clumber Spaniel/English Springer Spaniel mixed breeds and calling them Cluminger Spaniel hybrids. This allows them to breed a bitch twice a year and only one litter is documented by the AKC and subject to inspections. The AKC has over 150 breeds of purebred dogs to choose from (there is a breed for everyone) and animal shelters are filled with mixed breed “hybrids”. If you choose to research a mixed breed dog as a pet, consider a shelter dog first. They cost less and the adoption fees go to a good cause as opposed to lining the pockets of a breed for greed breeder.

As a rare breed dealing with a limited gene pool, Clumber Spaniels have many health, hygiene and temperament issues to evaluate…mixing them with poorly bred springers (especially those that are known to produce serious health and temperament issues) is a scary combination!!!!

The AKC Clumber Spaniel parent club website can be found HERE for REPUTABLE Clumber Spaniel breeders that participate within the breed.

The people who run this “kennel” will say anything to sell a dog (see reality check below). In truth, the only thing they are knowledgeable about is online puppy advertising. Using gimmicks to sell and rehome their dogs is common and they have pretty much used every gimmick in the book-from “family illness” kennel clearance sales to fabricated show champions, to self proclaimed “therapy dogs”, (which in truth need training and certifications.) They  have taken Internet backyard breeding to an entire new level of high volume “gross”, and morphed it into something that turns the stomachs of every responsible breeder that has been made aware of them.

With some research on your part, you will see the red flags flying everywhere. 

Dishonesty is commonplace with breeders of this kind. An important reality FACT Check:

In July of  2006, Bear Country Springer Spaniels, a super high volume English Springer Spaniel breeder, located in Frenchtown, Montana was exposed by a group of concerned springer spaniel fanciers, for making up FAKE SHOW CHAMPIONS (this appeared on the front page of their website in 07/06) and fabricated testimonials. When asked to remove their fake show champion, they created and published a FRAUDULENT LETTER on the front page of their website, pretending to be from the Canadian Kennel Club –full of typos and spelling errors!

When the CKC was informed of this they were not amused. Read the official CKC response at the bottom of this page. 

As a result of this unscrupulous and incredibly dishonest behavior, this kennel was reported to the Montana BBB (Better Business Bureau) for fraudulent advertising, a report was submitted to the American Kennel Club, and a call was made to the County Attorney’s office to alert them of potential consumer internet fraud.

Despite 150 witnesses who saw it there, Bear Country denies they ever placed this info on their website, or that they received a  email from the Canadian Kennel Club accusing them of fabricating the  fake Bear Country show champion and misrepresenting the CKC in anyway. (PS: Being the proven liars they are-of course they did!) 


From: Sonny Allinson
Sent: Friday, July 21, 2006 9:33 AM
To: bearcountryspringers@hughes.net
Cc: Diane Draper; Leila Bahorie; Laura Colangelo

Good Day,

It has been brought to our attention that, without permission, the Canadian Kennel Club logo appears on your website www.bearcountrymt.com at the bottom of the home page. The logo is considered proprietary and we respectfully request that it be removed immediately. There is also some serious concern that the letter associated with the logo which claims to be a Canadian Kennel Club correspondence is in fact not an official document from the Canadian Kennel Club and is therefore, by appearing on this website, considered by the Canadian Kennel Club to be a fraudulent use and misrepresentation of our organization. With regards to your claim that the dog Bearcountry SLV Pine Tri Gift is a Canadian Champion, our official records indicate that in fact this is not the case and no dog by this name is registered with our organization. We are seriously concerned over fraudulent misrepresentation of our records.

Return correspondence on this issue is requested as is immediate corrective action. 


Sonny Allinson

Manager, Communications Division

The Canadian Kennel Club.


How to be a smart buyer and avoid bad breeders!

September 12, 2007

“Ladies and Gentlemen, in the ring you will now see the best of breed winners — the best of the best at today’s show.  None of these beautiful, correct specimens comes from a pet store or a puppy mill.  When you are looking for a dog, please consider the purebred dog that respected breeders produce, for they have put years of research and dedication into the job…they work for the love of their breed, not for the money.”  ~ Spoken at a recent AKC dog show.

Navypups2006blog All springer puppies are adorable and cute, but not all breeders are the same.   Any half wit can put two dogs together in their backyard and make a litter of puppies,  but not everybody can do it well, and with integrity.  Choosing a breeder with your best interest in mind is a big decision and with the growing number of  “backyard internet puppy mills” exploiting both dogs and consumers for large profits, now more than ever you need to learn how to be a smart buyer and avoid the pitfalls that come with a poorly bred dog from less than reputable sources.  We hope you will find the many resources we have provided on this page useful.


Some External Links to Explore:

  • SOME QUESTIONS YOU MUST ASK : Reputable breeders expect and welcome questions by their potential puppy buyers. This section provides you with many excellent questions to ask a breeder.    
         1: Ask to see the pedigree of the litter.  Many online puppy mills will show you lots of pictures, but no pedigree of the puppies. If you are paying a premium price, quality purebred dogs have proven 3-4 generation premium pedigrees!
         2: Ask about the ages of the breeding dogs. Bitches and dogs should be fully mature before being bred. How old a bitch is before being bred her first time, and with what frequency she is being bred, can say a lot about the responsibility and quality of the breeder you are dealing with. If the breeding dogs do not have OFA records (given only after a dog turns 2 years old and considered fully mature), ask to see a copy of thier registration papers to verify the age. Puppies shouldn’t be having puppies. 
         3: Why are they breeding?  Are they breeding to make the breed better with proven, strong and healthy genepools, or produce “more” pet quality dogs with “more” weak pedigrees?
         4: How many dogs do they keep on their premises? Where do all the dogs live during the day and sleep at night? Where do they stay while unattended? Do they have kennels to separate intact bitches and dogs? Do they DNA profile all their intact males?
         5: How many litters do they produce each year? Can you verifiy this with a veterinary reference??? Yeah, this one is is hard to prove. Some puppy mills use many vets and some of the slimier breeders change their websites and selling names all the time, but if they have lots of litters available at any one given time, you should be concerned.
         6. What dog registry do they use and why? Have their dogs earned any titles using this registry?
         7. What do they do with their retired breeding dogs? Why are they retiring and rehoming these breeding dogs? With what frequency are they retiring dogs?
         8. Do they participate in the breed community by showing or trialing their dogs? Why not? People who participate within a breed sport, tend to take the breed seriously.
         9. What kind of health certifications have the breeding dogs had prior to being bred?  What kind of guarantee do they offer? Have you verified these clearances with the OFA online public database? Why don’t they have their hips certified free of dysplasia? Both males and females must be 24 months or older to receive official joint certifications. Do they give an eye exam to their puppies? (hint: puppy mill breeders never do!) What good is a replacement guarantee from a breeder who sells diseased dogs?
         10: HOW did you find this breeder? Did you find them on internet websites like Dogbarter, Puppyfind, PuppySites, NextDayPets, Hoobly,  USFreeAds and other credit card, finance and brokerage sites, advertising 100 other breeds? These kinds of websites tend to promote quick turnover and sales so they will attract the online puppy mill breeder. Great caution should be used  when exploring this option.

Finally, If you do not  know  of the breeder through reputation or  referral, VISIT the kennel you are buying a dog from! If you feel comfortable with what you see, then your opinion is the only one that will matter.

Most importantly, dog quality is proven through good breeding practices over time, achievement and awards and dog temperaments are best seen in person, not in pictures.

PATIENCE IS A VIRTUE A good breeder does not have puppies available year round. Good buyers will wait for a quality dog. As a breeder nothing is more frustrating than getting inquiries from people who want a puppy now, now, NOW!  Slow down…Resist the temptation to buy out of convenience. Plan ahead and expect to get on a waiting list. You’ll be glad you did.

NO responsible breeder is arrogant enough to assume their pedigrees are fault free.  I know of a nationally recognized field  kennel that has been linebreeding for 25 years and they still hip OFA every sire and dam and check every litters eyes for hereditary defects. Knowledgeable and reputable breeders know that Springers and certain bloodlines in particular are prone to various inherited diseases (including some skin conditions and allergies) and it is important to the health of your future pet and the overall health of the breed, that they are screened for as much as possible prior to breeding. In the minimum, adult breeding springers (over the age of two years old) should be certified free of joint displaysias through the OFA or PennHIP, have a valid ACVO/CERF number (eyes) and proof of DNA-PFK testing.  Most of these tests can be verified through the OFA ONLINE by simply typing in the name or registration number of the dog. If it does not appear, ask for a hard copy of the certificate and an explanation as to why it does not have these tests.

Springers are very susceptible to several serious retinal dysplasia (RD) eye conditions, a couple of which can be detected and definitively diagnosed only between 6-20 weeks old. In 2007 a DNA test was developed to diagnose PRA (progressive retinal deterioration that leads to blindness) and it was shown that 80% of the breed is said to be affected with this disease. It does not seem to be in field bred dogs. If you are buying a springer from SHOW lines (or field/show mixes) please be aware of this!Does the breeder screen their puppies’ eyes for inherited diseases with an ACVO exam done between the ages of 6-16 weeks old? Why not?  Results of an ACVO eye exam can be submitted to CERF, the online database open to the public. Breeders who don’t take the time to ensure the future health of your puppy, care more about your money than your pet.

OFA and current CERF reports show up on AKC registration papers under the sire and dams name. PennHips scores are not endorsed through the AKC and do not have an online database to verify results.

Sm_artwork Reputable breeders work hard to maintain qualities good for the breed. They do not breed for “novelty colors” from less than reputable pedigree sources. A properly bred springer comes in liver and white, white and liver, black and white, white and black and tri (tan colored) points of the mentioned colors are also allowed. Note that off colors like yellow, orange, red and sable are not allowed to place in the show ring and are not acceptable clors for the English springer spaniel. Check out the AKC conformation standard HERE.

If you feel the urge to buy a fruity orange or lemon spaniel, check out the beautiful Clumbers and merry English Cockers that come in those colors. If you want a red springer, buy a Welsh Springer Spaniel. If you like the color sable, I suggest you buy a ferret instead. Most importantly, if you want any other “off” or historically culled color, show some respect, if not love, for this breed and and don’t buy an English Springer Spaniel!!!

THE FIELD/SHOW BREED SPLIT Be aware that there is a huge field/show breed split in springers.  While the show side strives for breed standard perfection, the field side strives for the perfect hunting and field performance dog.

Rayblog There is no “breed standard” for field bred appearance. AKC Field Trial and Hunting Test performance are the standards by which they are measured. Field bred springers are the original springer spaniel and have field champions only in their pedigrees. Lots of backyard breeders assume that they have field bred dogs if their pedigrees sport no titles at all.

Despite the breed split, both field and show springers should demonstrate performance versatility with excellent eager to please spaniel temperaments. However, the two are rarely mixed together by credible breeders, as it dilutes the excellent qualities in both sides and reduces the predictability of health and temperament quality.

The ESSFTA, English Springer Spaniel Field Trial Association is the AKC Parent Club for the ESS. It’s name however, is a bit of misnomer as about 90% of it’s membership is of the SHOW variety. If you are looking for a quality show bred puppy they have a Breeder Referral list of members that have agreed to abide by responsible breeding ethics. A state by state Field bred Breeder Directory can be found here.

Contrary to what the backyard breeder will tell you, a reputable show or field breeder will always have pet quality puppies in their litters.

As the dictionary definition of mill implies, a “puppy” mill is a “kennel” or “machine” that cranks out  a large volume of puppies for profit in a manner similar to a factory quickly cranking out loaves of bread. When many people think of the term puppymill they think of  those old PETA commercials of dirty, filthy facilities where dogs are kept in cramped cages and auctioned off for quick sale. HBO recently aired an excellent documentary called Dealing Dogs showing  an undercover investigation of the abusive kind of puppymill, but unfortunately there are many kinds of mills operating at various levels of “production” and the new trend of high volume backyard puppymilling is growing across the country.

Be wary of the “mom and pop” breeder. Today’s puppymiller has updated it’s marketing techniques and has found their way online thus bypassing the commercial red tape and loopholes in the laws. Bitches are bred as juveniles on every heat cycle, and low quality, poorly bred-high volume puppies can be quickly purchased at vastly elevated prices, with the click of a mouse from a breeder you never see and from unproven backyard bred dogs.  Rather than buy a vastly overpriced dog from a retail pet store bred by a puppymill, now you can buy directly from the puppymiller! These people breed dogs like rabbits at horribly young ages, with no consistent health testing to speak of. They are essentially high volume commercial breeders operating under the guise of a “family run” and “spoiled rotten” loving home and learned along the way that they can sell a newspaper (or pound) quality dog for much more online and to many more people.

Backyard breeders are usually low volume breeders that basically lack the knowledge to maintain the qualities reputable breeders value. They tend to own both the sire and dam, (which rarely have health clearances), and breed them “just to make a litter” or to make a few bucks-usually around Christmas or other holidays. Innocent enough, until you add the combined effect from similar mindsets, and suddenly you have a breed dominated with undesireable temperaments, weak pedigrees, dysfunctional breed characteristics and tons of health problems. Cute puppies, until they grow up and bite your kid’s face or set you back big bucks at the vet from various health problems the breeder did not test for. No quality pet is ever produced from these kinds of breeders.

First of all, why not? The reputable springer spaniel breeder strives to make the breed better. Better genetic health, temperaments, performance, conformation, versatility and better pets for the average family to enjoy. They have the knowledge and expertise to select the best puppy for showing, field work and pet or family life (especially when children are involved)  because they participate within the springer community and have paid their dues by learning before breeding. Some are better at it than others. Reputable breeders care about quality of the breed not the profit they make from it. Price is rarely a factor with a reputuble breeder, and there are always good breeders with wellbred dogs within every family’s price range. Even better than buying a puppy, there are 200-300 dogs available across the country in Springer Rescue that can make a wonderful pet and give you the pride of doing something good for the breed rather than perpetuating the bad habits of puppymills and high volume BREED FOR GREED breeders. All of these dogs are evaluated for temperament, family/lifestyle compatibilities and can make great pets, agility dogs and even OK hunting buddies.

“JUST SAY NO” TO  PAYPAL PUPPIES!Verification_seal
Whoever  said that buying a puppy should be instant or convenient, should be spayed and neutered themselves! Using PayPal  gives way to impulse “fast food” buying, which in turn can lead to “throw away” dogs after the cute puppy in the pictures grows up. You aren’t buying an Ebay trinket, you are buying a living, social animal that will require your dedicated care for the next 10-16 years of it’s life. A reputable breeder will never ask you for PayPal payment and can wait for your check to arrive AFTER getting to know you and your family. Please avoid breeders endorsing this kind of payment service.


RED FLAG: Breeding frequently. Puppies are available for sale from many litters –month after month, year round. Many litters do not even list a coherent pedigrees and their prices are inflated to reflect novelty colors, not the pedigree, genetic health, or temperament quality of the dog. Puppies are the product of a “business.” Holidays like Christmas and Easter can increase a puppy factories production significantly! It is generally agreed amongst the springer spaniel community, that no reputable or quality springer hobby breeder has over  four (4) litters of puppies a year.RED FLAG: Breeding immature dogs. Perhaps the most despicable aspect of breeders of this ilk, is their dirty habit of repeatedly breeding physically and temperamentally IMMATURE dogs. Most are under or around a year old for their first litters,  young females whelping pups while still a growing pup themselves, and many of these  “ladies” are being bred twice in one year.  Only puppy mills breed dogs in this manner.  The AKC defines a puppy as a dog under the age of 24 months old. The Orthopedic Foundation of America (OFA) does not consider dogs fully mature until they are over 24 months old.

RED FLAG: Lots of puppy pictures and no pedigrees. This is a huge red flag when purchasing a purebred dog. Reputable breeders take a lot of pride in their dogs and accomplishments. Quality bred dogs will have lots of champions in a three generation pedigree. The further away you get from champions, the more likely you are to end up with a poorly bred dog (bred for all the wrong reasons from people who just don’t know what they are doing!) full of health and temperament issues. Reputable breeders will always have pet quality dogs in their litters for loving homes. It’s really not that hard to find one, if you use the resources on this page!RED FLAG: Breeding for “rare” colors. Breeders advertising rainbow and fruity colors should be approached with caution. We even saw blue merle springers, blue eyes, green eyes and one of each, listed online.  Red, lemon, orange and sable are novelty colors considered BAD characteristics in a quality AKC English Springer Spaniel.  Tri Color springers without  correct form and function behind their pedigrees are almost always gimmicks to increase the selling price of the puppy. It has nothing to do with it’s QUALITY.  A reputable breeders knows that form and function come first in any breeding program. Breeding a correct speciman of either the field or show side requires patience, skill and knowledge developed over many years of working with a breed. What usually happens with “Red Flag” breeders placing an emphasis on color breeding is something that looks like THIS. Heavy inbreeding just to keep that color line going and maximize their profit., despite the high risk factors for genetic diseases and temperament pitfalls. It’s about  the money stupid!RED FLAG: Online References and Testimonials.

When you see them listed without full names, where they are from, and phone numbers, RUN the other way. Many are probably made up and in no way do they reflect a breeder’s reputation or quality.  RED FLAG: Lack of purpose. This kind of breeder does not participate in dog sports or purebred community. “Our dogs don’t need titles”, they are winners as pets.  Breeders of this kind tend to make excuses for their inability to achieve results. Apparently, you must take their  “word” for everything. They also have a tendency to mix and match field/show rejects and say they are “perfect” for everything, despite the lack of proof they are good at anything.  If there aren’t any titles in several generations they make up what they want.  Whether it is of field or show decent, If there aren’t any champions within three-four generations, a dog doesn’t have a “championship” pedigree.  Everything is “wonderful” and beautiful” but there is no proof of this anywhere. Why are they breeding? If they don’t participate in the springer community at all, or prove their dogs are quality in any way…they are breeding for all the wrong reasons. These breeders will be the kind using red, orange, lemon and sable springers in their “lines” –and usually from less than reputable kennels and sources.  Pets are indeed wonderful just being pets, but reputable  breeders prove their breeding stock’s quality!

RED FLAG: Springer “Hybrids”. Sprockers. Clumingers. Springadors. Brittingers. These are mixed breed puppies from purebred parents of different breeds. As if there aren’t enough of those sitting in animal shelters across the country. The AKC has over 150 purebred breeds to choose from, surely you can find one that’s right for you?

Let’s be honest, red flag dog breeders like the kinds listed above have no respect for the breed and the sad reality is that they are extremely unqualified to evaluate a dog’s conformation, temperament, or field ability. They do not care about soundness or quality, and are in truth doing the breed more harm than good. These people breed for greed, and no other reason.

Ignorance is bliss they say, but if you are looking for a decent hunting dog, field event competitor, show prospect, or even a quality companion or family pet, learn to be a good buyer so that you get what you pay for, instead of paying for your hasty purchase later with an extremely overpriced and poorly bred  specimen of the breed.  If you are willing to shell out big bucks to a dishonest, high volume backyard breeder who breeds babies to make more babies and doesn’t prove their breeding dogs are quality in any way, you need to wise up and take a crash course of how to be a good buyer!

With a little effort on your part, you can learn to recognize the red flags of a bad breeder by doing some research and learning what qualities to look for in a good breeder.  If you care about the breed, you will care about what breeder you buy from. Use the links we provide you on our website, ask questions, verify results for yourself and most importantly before you send a payment you’ll never see again, DO YOUR HOMEWORK. YOU DESERVE  A QUALITY PET FROM A RESPONSIBLE, ETHICAL BREEDER