JEWELL - The term "puppy mill" is an insult to professional dog breeders like Carolyn Arends and her daughter Julie Peterson. That's the first thing they want you to know as they sit down for a visit about their long-time Jewell business, Julie's Jewels, which was recently portrayed by a Des Moines television station as just that.
"We have done this for 30 years, and I am not ashamed of it. We have thoroughly enjoyed this business or we wouldn't have done it this way," Arends said. In those three decades, she said, the kennel has sold thousands of puppies of numerous breeds. Now, though, Julie's Jewels breeds and sells only three breeds of dogs: Siberian huskies, Bichon Frise, and Shiba Inu puppies.
The animals live in a large kennel building with pens on cement. Doors at each pen allow the animals to be outside on concrete runs whenever they wish. No dog is on wire, because it is very hard on their feet and legs, she said. The building - which currently houses 45 adult dogs and 22 puppies ages 8 to 14 weeks - is insulated, heated and cooled, according to Arends and Peterson.
Julie Peterson gets a greeting from some of the puppies at her kennel near Jewell. Peterson and her family breed Siberian huskies and two other breeds.
"I bet many homes are not as clean as our kennels are," Peterson said on a tour of the kennel building with several litters of puppies of various ages and breeds, all in their pens. The two women often stop to cuddle a puppy or comfort a mama or point out a favorite animal.
"We've cut back on the number of breeds and the number of dogs we have," Peterson, 48, said. "What we have left are the breeds we like." She said the huskies are her favorite breed, while her mother likes the bichons best. Huskies are what they sell the most.
The recent television report claimed that the Jewell kennel is one of the worst in Iowa. The women didn't want to let reporters into their kennel because "they're known for having hidden cameras," according to Arends, 68. "In 25 years, they have never done a fair story on any kennel."
Editor's Note: The Humane Society of America recently released a 2014 report, "101 Puppy Mills" which names breeders from 21 states who were deemed to be operating puppy mills. Julie's Jewels was among the list of six breeders from Iowa.
Besides, "we don't let anyone into our kennels, because they can bring disease," Peterson said.
Animal activists are also challenging to the mother-daughter team. "When it comes to animal activists, we have not been quiet," Peterson said.
"This has been a very satisfying business until the animal activists decided to get involved," according to her mother.
Problems with Peterson's health since a heart attack in 2010 have meant cutbacks in the numbers of dogs in the kennel and changes in the division of work for the mother-daughter team. They said the recent television report was stressful for them both, but they are still content with what their business offers them and others. They have no plans to change what they do. This enterprise that involves the entire family - Julie's two young-adult children, her husband and their young grandson, along with Eldon Arends, Carolyn's husband and Julie's dad.
"We sell dogs all over the state, and we've sent them as far as Alaska when we had our USDA license," Peterson said.
"It has been an interesting 30 years," said her mother. "We've worked with many, many wonderful people, and often they are repeats. We love raising puppies and seeing happy children and adults with their new puppy."