This profile has been updated. Following the publication of TCR’s reporting about the American Kennel Club’s business model and close examination of its Breeder of Merit program in which we reported about Sterling Kennel/Endless Mountain Labradors among other breeders whose kennels did not appear to be fulfilling what the AKC was promising the public on its website about Breeders of Merit, we felt that it was worth noting that EML was inspected again in December 2019, and again in June 2020; the kennel received no violations or notes of concern in either inspection. Indeed, in the aftermath of what we reported in November 2019, EML has since maintained a flawless record.
Here is the full-text of our sub-section on Endless Mountain Labradors, as it appeared in our November story:
DOGS WITHOUT HEAT OR SHELTER IN PENNSYLVANIA
AKC Breeder of Merit Donna Stanley and husband Jonathan Stanley co-own Sterling Kennel, also known as Endless Mountain Labradors, in rural northeastern Pennsylvania. In early 2017, Pennsylvania inspectors from the state’s Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement found that Endless Mountain was operating commercially without a commercial license. That finding triggered a tumultuous two years of inspection failures. Pennsylvania inspectors found multiple problems with the Breeder of Merit facility, both in 2017 and in 2018. According to their inspection reports, these included inadequate water, shelter, lack of bedding, insufficient space, and damage to the structure. The most disturbing violations pertained to the lack of physical space for the dogs:
Wardens viewed primary enclosures that housed dogs that would not allow each dogs to lie down stretched out and not touch the sides of the enclosure.
This warden directs the kennel owner to take the following action(s): Provide space to allow each dog to turn about freely and to stand, sit and lie in a normal position. The dog must be able to lie down while fully extended without the dog’s head, tail, legs, face or feet touching any side of the enclosure.
Wardens viewed primary enclosures that did not have an interior height that was six inches higher than the dogs head while in a normal sitting position…Wardens viewed primary enclosures that did not have the square footage necessary to house the dogs enclosed in them…”
– Pennsylvania Dog Law Enforcement Office Inspection Report, Sterling Kennel: April 10, 2018
WARDENS VIEWED PRIMARY ENCLOSURES THAT HOUSED DOGS THAT WOULD NOT ALLOW EACH DOGS TO LIE DOWN STRETCHED OUT AND NOT TOUCH THE SIDES OF THE ENCLOSURE.”
Visitors to the Endless Mountain website will find no shortage of references to Ms. Stanley’s AKC Breeder of Merit status as they are inundated with images of a large brick estate home surrounded by “lush, wooded acres,” as well as images of Ms. Stanley, an attractive woman with fair skin, blue eyes, and long blond hair, posed with several puppies.
Asked about the licensing violation and other violations, Jonathan Stanley told The Canine Review in a November 2019 email that the kennel had only exceeded the state’s limit on the number of dogs a non-commercial breeder can sell (or “transfer”) without being required to apply for a commercial kennel license by just one dog. According to the March 2017 Pennsylvania inspection report of Sterling, the Stanleys sold 65 dogs in 2016, which would have put the kennel five dogs over the limit.
In September 2019, Ms. Stanley wrote in an email to The Canine Review when asked about the violation for acting commercially without a commercial license, and other violations:
2017-2018 was our switch from private to commercial at the request of Harrisburg. So they had to “fail” us as a private kennel in order to then force us to be commercial with a timeframe for the transition. Nothing was “wrong”. They gave us a very reasonable time frame and everything to get all the changes in and we did it! So happy with it! Its like we went from an A+ kennel to an A++ and we were told we can brag about our new status.:) It means we have to meet the highest standards possible. We like that.:)”
Either way, Donna and Jonathan Stanley suddenly found themselves scrambling to apply for and then maintain a commercial kennel license. In an email with Dog Law Enforcement director Kristen Donmoyer, Jonathan Stanley wrote, “We are confident and optimistic that we will be able to get things in order in a very reasonable amount of time…We will embrace this change and we welcome the opportunity to raise the bar.”
As a result of suddenly being held to commercial kennel standards, the Breeder of Merit facility was slammed with violation notices in 2017 and in 2018. Some violations were more concerning than others. In April 2018, the Breeder of Merit was cited for not providing any shelter from the cold for dogs in outside kennels:
WARDENS OBSERVED THAT MOST OF THE DOGS WERE BEING KEPT OUTSIDE IN 32-33 DEGREE TEMPERATURES WITH NO ACCESS TO HEAT OR A SHELTER SUITABLE TO PRESERVE THEIR BODY HEAT.”
Endless Mountain Labradors apparently doesn’t match the level of animal cruelty discovered in Mississippi, but is an example of a breeder who, at times, has fallen short of the AKC’s “most committed, most conscientious [breeders]” description according not only to negative reviews from clients but to Pennsylvania inspectors.[xxx] [xxxi] [xxxii][xxxiii] [xxxiv]
In March 2017, in the same report in which the inspectors cited Endless Mountain for operating commercially without a commercial kennel license,[xxxv] the inspectors wrote that they observed frozen, standing water in several outdoor exercise pens. At the dog houses or kennel, there were “chewed sharp edges” and openings with “exposed, unsealed wood.”
How the Stanleys reacted to the accountability was as notable as the citations. Through a public records request, The Canine Review obtained emails exchanged between officials in Pennsylvania’s Dog Law Enforcement Bureau, part of its Department of Agriculture, and Jonathan and Donna Stanley in 2017 and 2018:
In one instance, Mr. Stanley accused Pennsylvania inspectors of killing a puppy by unintentionally infecting it with Parvo. In another, Ms. Stanley accused inspectors of infecting their dogs with kennel cough and causing an outbreak. In an email written from Jonathan Stanley’s email account but signed by Ms. Stanley dated June 19, 2018 to Kristen Donmoyer, the Dog Law Enforcement Bureau director, Ms. Stanley wrote:
“Very very very very upset to again be experiencing an infection brought in again from the warden’s inspection. Again, exact days of incubation period from the day they were here until the outbreak according to my veterinarian. And I can can proudly say in 32 years we have never experienced a kennel-wide outbreak of kennel cough. You are welcome to talk to the two veterinarians we use to prove this fact. No one was in or out of our kennel, and there was no way it could have come in – – just like the horrible parvovirus brought in – – I still cry every time I think of the poor suffering of that puppy..,.”
Donna and Jonathan Stanley declined to speak about the inspection reports, or anything else related to the operation of Endless Mountain, including questions about where their puppies are born, raised, and who primarily cares for the puppies and dogs. When asked by email whose house “house raised” refers to, both declined comment.
“We’ve seen other breeders friends harassed by people, so we are all very careful who we allow speak with us,” Donna Stanley explained in an email. “We are all well armed by a private legal team…We don’t know why we would want to talk to a reporter,” she added. “We know how that gets twisted every day. We all see the news and how sick that is. We have not given you permission to interview or talk about my dogs or kennel.”
AKC CEO Sprung declined to comment when asked if AKC had ever conducted an inspection of Endless Mountain Labradors; spokeswoman Hunter would only say, with measured humor,
Oh, no. We don’t comment on Endless Mountain Labradors.”
[****Update: Following publication, AKC spokeswoman Hunter provided the following statement: “I was not laughing at them and I actually laughed at you STILL TRYING. When I told you we would not comment on any inspections outside of Hackney.”*****]
Although Endless Mountain’s website promises “family and house raised” puppies, neither Ms. Stanley nor Mr. Stanley would comment when asked about day-to-day operations at Endless Mountain, where puppies are whelped, raised, or who is primarily responsible for the care of the puppies and dogs. They declined to answer when asked whose “family” raises the puppies, as well as what “house” refers to.
But in the emails obtained by The Canine Review, the Stanleys submitted an “Exercise Plan” to Pennsylvania inspectors signed by two veterinarians dated June 23, 2017 which states:
“An adjoining apartment in the kennel is provided for a live-in staff person who has 24/7 awareness and attention toward the kennel. Their additional staff people feed two times a day, and another staffer picks up after the dogs every day at a different time. Additionally, owners or the handyman are in the kennel every day at various times. There is constant traffic and observation of the dogs on a daily basis between 6 people whether the dogs are in their primary enclosures or in their play yards.”
The document says that a total of “6 people” including the “owners” care for the dogs. The Canine Review asked the Stanleys if that number was still accurate and if it would therefore be accurate to say that they have a total of four employees who are responsible for the dogs, including at least two live-in employees who are primarily responsible for the dogs. The Stanleys declined to comment. When asked if the dogs are raised by them in their home, or by live-in staff, the Stanleys would not comment. When asked how many hours per day or per week they each spend with the dogs, the Stanleys would not comment.
Beyond the worrisome reports from Pennsylvania inspectors, there are a handful of stinging reviews from Endless Mountain clients (it is important to note that the vast majority of the kennel’s online reviews are positive).
One of those online reviews was written by apparel brand executive Denise Lockaby of Concord, Massachusetts[xxxix], who says she and her husband, John Battista, purchased a yellow Labrador puppy for her twins whom they named “Rosie” from Donna Stanley in 2006. Lockaby was able to offer details that seem to back up her story that she had purchased a labrador from Ms. Stanley [a purchase which she says was likely made under her husband’s name].
Lockaby recalled an unpleasant and “stressful” experience when she and her husband drove “nine hours with two six-year old’s to pick up our new puppy. My husband and I knew something was not right, we should have just driven away … but in the moment it’s so hard to believe that their amazing website, with the accolades and stunning looking dogs is all a sham,” she recalled in an email.
In telephone and email interviews, Lockaby asserted to The Canine Review that Ms. Stanley gave her family a single 30-minute window:
“It was very much, ‘You come between this time and that time, Lockaby recalled. “’ And if you can’t come between this time and that time, I’m not going to be able to give you the dog, because I have a lot of dogs going out. So, you must make your time,’ which was stressful for us because we were driving so far…”
The puppy they were given – the puppy they were told was theirs – did not look anything like the pictures of the mother and father they had been sent, she said. But the problem she says she noticed almost immediately was with Rosie’s temperament.
“We joke that she was on the spectrum, because she just wasn’t, she wasn’t right” Lockaby said. “She just wasn’t engaged. Eye contact wasn’t there, the responsiveness to voice. She was sweet, but there was something off about her right from the day we took her home.”
Rosie’s temperament issues worsened, Lockaby said. “It got to the point where she was beginning to growl and lunge at people because she was so fearful. And that was incredibly concerning to us.”
Then, at seven years of age, Rosie died of bone cancer. Lockaby said she did not call or write to anyone at Endless Mountain Labradors about any of the problems with Rosie, she says, because she had seen Ms. Stanley verbally attack others who posted complaints online. Nevertheless, she says that she ultimately decided to write a scathing Yelp review. “I felt strongly enough that I [eventually wrote a] review many years after we got [Rosie],” she recalled. “I felt strongly that people needed to know what my experience was.”
When asked about Denise Lockaby’s account and the problems she described with her dog, Ms. Stanley declined to comment except to dispute her accounting of the amount of time Ms. Stanley provided clients who come to take home their new puppies. Ms. Stanley suggested that clients have the option of taking up to three hours and that there was no truth to Ms. Lockaby’s account of the 30-minute window appointments.
None of this is to suggest that there are no happy Endless Mountain clients. To the contrary, on Endless Mountain’s Yelp page, the majority of the reviews about the kennel are positive. There are more than 50 glowing five-star reviews, thanking and praising Endless Mountain, and Ms. Stanley. More important, Pennsylvania state inspectors have not cited Endless Mountain for any violations since the April 2018 report.