A Florida-based right-wing media site endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis is supported by puppy mill money
A fledgling right-wing media outlet with unusual access to Florida politicians is sponsored by a dog breeder featured in the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills and sellers.
Florida Puppies Online is one of five “proud supporters” featured on the homepage of Florida’s Voice, which has been endorsed by Gov. Ron DeSantis, a potential candidate for the 2024 GOP presidential primary who has a notoriously hostile relationship with the press. The Naples-based puppy seller earned a spot on the Humane Society of the United States 2020 “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills and puppy brokers. According to reports the Humane Society obtained from the Department of Animal Services in Collier County, Florida, at least 26 puppies have died in Florida Puppies Online’s care since 2017.
Florida Puppies Online is the Florida branch of breeder/brokerage Little Puppies Online, and the company’s owners are repeat offenders who were previously included in the 2017 edition of the “Horrible Hundred” list. Its owners were recently banned from selling puppies in Maryland after violating the No More Puppies Mill Act and selling sick dogs.
What is Florida’s Voice?
Florida’s Voice was founded in 2020 as Florida’s Conservative Voice by former local broadcast news reporter and current right-wing activist Brendon Leslie, who also attended the January 6, 2021, Capitol insurrection. Leslie also organizes Naples’ Patriot Fest, a far-right gathering that features conspiracy theorists such as Mike Lindell and Jack Posobiec.
As one of the cogs in an expanding right-wing media machine cranking out friendly media for DeSantis, Florida’s Voice enjoys access to DeSantis not afforded to its mainstream counterparts, including sit-down interviews and exclusive scoops. DeSantis’ administration has repeatedly attacked the press and refused interviews with reporters who might critically cover his attempts to ban books or gut diversity programs. Instead, the governor has favored an array of hyperpartisan outlets that are helping DeSantis build his brand and gain traction in right-wing social media spaces.
DeSantis officially endorsed Florida’s Voice in a scripted sound bite from an August 2022 interview. “When you see that the mainstream media is not giving you the facts, just turn to Florida’s Voice,” the governor said. Rep. Byron Donalds (R-FL) has also endorsed the outlet. Both endorsements are now regular features in Florida’s Voice content.
In a Florida’s Voice interview last October, DeSantis claimed the “national regime media” wanted Hurricane Ian to hit Tampa “because they thought that that would be worse for Florida,” adding, “They want to use storms and destruction from storms as a way to advance their agenda.” (The interview drew criticism after reporters noticed a Three Percenter militia insignia on Leslie’s shirt.)
DeSantis hasn’t appeared on Florida’s Voice since, but other members of his cabinet have. Leslie has interviewed both Agriculture Commissioner Wilton Simpson and Lt. Gov. Jeanette Nunez twice each since November 2022. Other recent guests include Republican politicians Donalds, Rep. Mike Waltz (R-FL), and various state legislators — such as Florida Senate President Kathleen Passidomo, Sen. Debbie Mayfield, and Rep. John Snyder.
Florida’s Voice is partly sponsored by a puppy breeder featured in the Humane Society’s “Horrible Hundred” list of puppy mills and sellers
Florida’s Voice is sponsored in part by Florida Puppies Online, one of five “Patriot-owned businesses” and “proud supporters of Florida’s Voice” featured on the outlet's homepage. It’s unclear how much money Florida’s Voice accepted from Florida Puppies Online/Little Puppies Online. Multiple Florida’s Voice podcasts, including Leslie’s Patriot Talk Show and Unbossed Reporting, feature Florida Puppies Online commercials.
Though Florida Puppies Online denies any allegations of impropriety or mistreatment, at least 26 puppies have reportedly died in its care since 2017. According to the HSUS, an October 2019 county activity report said “the owner was not meeting current space requirements for some of the puppies, but the county decided not to enforce the requirements at that time.” Florida Puppies online was also two years late in complying with a rule to report puppy dispositions, including deaths, to the county quarterly.
According to The Humane Society, “It does not appear that the Florida operation is specifically licensed by the USDA to ship puppies sight-unseen from Florida.” However, it noted that Florida Puppies Online is “linked to a business in Ohio that has a USDA license, Little Puppies Online. Both are owned by the same person, Nathan Bazler.”
Little Puppies online appeared in the 2017 edition of the “Horrible Hundred” report due to U.S. Department of Agriculture violations at its Ohio location, where Nathan and wife Sara Bazler operate as both a breeder and broker.
On August 17, 2022, the USDA sent Little Puppies Online an official warning for a violation stemming from a 2021 inspection of its Ohio facilities, which distribute puppies to other Little Puppies Online facilities across the country. The USDA found Little Puppies Online had knowingly bought puppies from unlicensed breeders. The Humane Society also wrote that the USDA previously cited Little Puppies Online with a Direct NCI, which it described as “the most serious kind of violation,” for overcrowded puppy enclosures.
In 2020, the Ohio attorney general received three consumer complaints against Little Puppies Online and two charitable complaints against a nonprofit the Bazlers also run, called Dogs to the Rescue. Bailing out Benji, a nonprofit focused on educating consumers about puppy mills, alleges Dogs to the Rescue is “using their nonprofit rescue status to sell ‘damaged’ puppies through their own for-profit businesses.” The Bazlers refute both allegations.
In August 2022, Maryland banned Little Puppies Online’s owners and their local retailer, Maryland Puppies Online, from “offering, selling, or transferring dogs in and from” the state. The state attorney general alleged that the company had continued selling puppies after the No More Puppy Mills Act banned certain sales in January 2020. The ban on the company was part of a settlement in which the Bazlers agreed to provide restitution to Maryland consumers who were sold sick puppies.
The Humane Society describes puppy mills as “inhumane high-volume dog breeding facilities that churn out puppies for profit, ignoring the needs of the pups and their mothers. Dogs from puppy mills are often sick and unsocialized.” Mills commonly sell through pet stores and online services, often relying on middlemen (or dog brokers) to transport and sell the puppies to unsuspecting customers.
Little Puppies Online, which also has branches in Pennsylvania, Indiana, and Georgia, provides delivery to “all 50 states and Canada” even where they “do not have facilities.” The Humane Society recommends never purchasing a puppy sight-unseen from any website and only purchasing puppies from responsible breeders.