A dog auction scheduled to debut in Geauga County this month has been called off, and the controversial sale appears to be moving elsewhere in the state.
One of the Amish men who tried to buy and relocate the auction to the Middlefield area would not discuss what prompted the change. The first sale had been set for April 21 at a building along Newcomb Road.
"It's over," said John Henry Byler, a co-owner of Bylerville Enterprises LLC. "Just forget about it."
The auction has served as a rallying point for animal advocates intent on shutting down what they term "puppy mills," cruel and inhumane operations where caged dogs churn out litters year after year. Activists regularly gathered outside the auction in Holmes.
The promise of similar protests in Geauga unnerved county officials, as well as members of the local Amish community, who said they did not want to court problems or negative attention.
Where the auction will end up is unclear.
The new buyer is Harold Neuhart of Senecaville, according to a dealer's license application request recently submitted to the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Neuhart already holds a USDA breeders license to operate Seneca View Kennels.
Neuhart could not be reached Tuesday. A woman who answered the phone at his home declined to comment.
A Columbus-area animal advocate - Mary O'Connor-Shaver - said she heard that the auction may be returning to Holmes. "But wherever it goes, we'll be there," said O'Connor-Shaver, who launched an online protest site at www.banohiodogauctions.com.
Meanwhile, Geauga officials said they will continue working to enact regulations and restrictions on dog auctions should the business return. The county commissioners asked the prosecutor's office to take on the project two weeks ago.
Dog Warden Matt Granito said the county needs to be prepared.
"As long as the public's buying dogs, this industry isn't going to stop," Granito said. "There's obviously enough business to keep this auction going."
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