A right-wing blog endorsed by Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis (R) is sponsored in part by a dog breeder whose companies have been on the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills and sellers multiple times. The governor has previously called the mistreatment of animals “despicable” and “disgusting.”
But DeSantis may have neglected to do due diligence about one of his chosen outlets.
Florida’s governor is notoriously cagey with the press. His media availabilities are regularly invite-only and invitations are often extended to outlets guaranteed to cover him in a positive light.
Florida’s Voice is one of those outlets. Florida’s Voice enjoys what some would call unusual access to the governor. DeSantis has even endorsed the blog. “When you see that the mainstream media is not giving you the facts, just turn to Florida’s Voice,” he said during an interview last August.
Florida’s Voice is run by Brendon Leslie, who breached the Capitol complex during the Jan. 6 insurrection attempt. Leslie recently told Talking Points Memo that he inadvertently ended up on Capitol grounds and that, once there, he merely observed as a member of the media.
On Thursday, Media Matters reported that one of Florida’s Voice’s sponsors is a dog breeder with a spotty track record: Florida Puppies Online.
Florida Puppies Online denies allegations of impropriety or mistreating animals. Its website claims that it supports “only the most ethical and humane breeders and businesses” and says that it doesn’t buy animals from puppy mills or backyard breeders.
In 2020, the Humane Society reported that at least 26 puppies had died at a Florida Puppies Online facility in South Florida since 2017. It was accused of violating guidelines and breeding dogs in inhumane conditions, which the store manager denied. These accusations landed it on the Horrible Hundred, the Humane Society’s annual list of “known, problematic puppy breeding and/or puppy brokering facilities.”
Media Matters reports that Florida Puppies Online is part of a network of puppy sellers owned by the same person. Its companies have been gotten in trouble in Ohio and Maryland in recent years for buying puppies from unauthorized sellers and other violations, such as overcrowding.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) cited its Ohio-based company Little Puppies Online in 2017. Last year, the USDA sent the company an official warning over violations found during an inspection of Little Puppies Online’s Ohio facilities.
In 2017, Little Puppies Online was included on the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills.
“Its owners were recently banned from selling puppies in Maryland after violating the No More Puppies Mill Act and selling sick dogs,” Media Matters reported.
Florida Puppies Online is listed as one of a handful of “patriot owned business” that support Florida’s Voice. The exact amount of its support is not known.
Florida’s Voice didn’t respond to an inquiry sent via the contact form on its website Thursday afternoon.
Leslie suggested that the Media Matters report about his sponsor and symbiotic relationship with DeSantis is inaccurate.
“Oh gosh another far left activist group writing a hit piece on me and lying, what will I ever do?!” he tweeted Thursday afternoon.
Leslie didn’t point to any specific allegations that he believes are inaccurate.
DeSantis has previously portrayed himself as an advocate for animal welfare.
In 2021, DeSantis tore into Dr. Anthony Fauci over misleading reports that the National Institute of Allergy and Diseases funded experiments in which beagle puppies were abused and killed.
“They’re doing cruel experiments on puppies,” DeSantis said at the time, according to Florida Politics. “What they were doing with those puppies is flat out disgusting. It’s despicable. I cannot believe American tax dollars would go to treat those dogs the way those dogs are being treated.”
DeSantis’ office didn’t respond to an emailed request for comment on Thursday afternoon.