GAMBIER — A matriarch’s last wish is defied, and her family farm is flipped. On top of that, a valuable heirloom goes missing. It appears to be a case of adding injury to insult. But at least one person sees something positive about David Hershberger selling the Mescher Farm rather than moving his family from Holmes to Knox County.
An animal-rights activist contacted the News after reading about the Mescher Farm auction, and claimed that Hershberger is “one of the most notorious puppy-mill operators in the state.” There have been wars of words for years between dog breeders and groups seeking stricter laws for the industry. Ground zero is Ohio Senate Bill 130, which would establish a Kennel Control Authority. The proposed law is viewed as too restrictive by breeders and too lax by activists. Where Hershberger fits into the equation is a subjective question, but minimal research confirms he has had many run-ins with the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s APHIS program: Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service.
Hershberger has been a dog dealer under several corporate names, notably Quantus Corner LLC. Between 2010 and 2011, his facility was the target of more than a dozen APHIS inspections and racked up nearly 100 violations. There were dirty conditions, accumulations of urine and feces, and rodent infestations. The building was understaffed and the enclosures overcrowded and poorly maintained. Medications were wrongly labeled and improperly administered.
Documentation was often inaccurate or incomplete. Some dogs could not be accounted for, and dozens were found with obvious ailments and injuries. One was found unresponsive and died before it could be given veterinary attention. USDA inspectors noted that Hershberger frequently refused to sign their reports.
In June, Hershberger held a “kennel dispersal sale” at which he offered 400 dogs and quantities of kennel equipment at auction. The News was told that the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions sent representatives who purchased six dogs at the sale.
“There were two beagles that needed more than $1,000 in vet services,” the activist said. “They are still having socialization problems. David says he is finished with the dog-breeding business and going into real estate, but he attended a hearing on the Ohio Puppy Mill Bill, so I’m not convinced.”
Hershberger has been offered several opportunities to present his side of the story, but no response has been forthcoming. Whether he will attend Saturday’s land auction at the Mescher Farm on Ohio 229 is not known. If he does, the Mescher family will ask him about their missing heirloom, an antique horse-drawn sleigh. They say it was stored at the farm with Hershberger’s approval, but when they came to collect it, the sleigh had been removed.
“I remember seeing it in the barn when we came out to take pictures, which was after the property had changed hands,” auctioneer Curt Yoder said “But I have no idea what arrangements were made about it.”
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