Consent judgment

This sign sits on the property where the Missouri Department of Agriculture conducted an inspection of the dog breeding business. Photo by Stan Schwartz

CURRYVILLE—Debra Ritter, a co-owner of Cornerstone Farms LLC, agreed to a consent judgment filed March 11 by Missouri Attorney General Eric S. Schmitt.

A consent judgment means that Ritter and her husband, along with their children, who are also co-owners in the business, do not have to face a trial. 

The business, which is located off of Hwy. M outside of Curryville, was cited for violating the Animal Care Facilities Act and the Canine Cruelty Prevention Act.

It was fined $9,500 with $8,000 of it suspended if the Ritters comply with each term in the consent judgment for a period of eight years. Another $1,000 would be suspended if they dismantle the outdoor kennels on their property. They have 60 days from the consent judgment filing to pay the remaining $500.

The judgment states that, “Nothing  … shall prevent (the attorney general) from applying to this Court for further orders or relief if violations of this Consent Judgment occur.”

The Ritters are being allowed to keep 10 dogs as pets, but must have them spayed or neutered by May 10. All other dogs must be transferred to ACFA-licensed facilities within that time, as well. The family will, however, be allowed to keep three intact females.

In its 2019 report, the National Humane Society listed its “Horrible 100” dog breeding operations. Twenty-two of those operations are located in Missouri. The Ritter’s operation made the top of the list for five years running.

The Ritters are also not allowed to buy any dogs or cats for the purpose of adoption or resale for at least eight years. They are also not allowed to board any dogs or cats for that duration, as well.

The Consent Judgment gives the state’s Department of Agriculture the right to enter their property during the next eight years if it is thought the Ritters are again conducting business as dog breeders.

A check of the Better Business Bureau website showed that Cornerstone Farms was no longer in business. A sign with a Bible quote from the Ritter family was still visible from the roadway adjacent to the facility.

According to the BBB, on March 3, 2020, Missouri Department of Agriculture conducted an unannounced inspection of Cornerstone Farms. MDA found 152 adult dogs and 63 puppies on site and found dirty water bowls containing feces, dogs requiring treatment for skin conditions, and animals in stacked cages without an impervious barrier between the levels. 

Yelp, a business directory service that has crowd-sourced reviews, listed several complaints against the Ritter’s dog breeding facility.

People who had done business with the Ritters complained of not receiving correct papers for their puppies, or receiving a sick animal, which died shortly after it was purchased. One couple’s new puppy died five days after they took it home. It was later diagnosed with parvovirus, which is highly contagious for dogs.

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