You know, it’s been a while since we’ve been called out to liberate dogs from a puppy mill. Remember
them? A few years ago it was in all the papers and online newsfeeds. People were shocked and horrified at the images and stories
of where many commercially available (pet store) puppies came from. It was a trending social issue and actually garnered considerable
interest from the general public. Enough interest in fact so that people from some States contacted their Representatives
and Senators, even wrote letters to the Editors of papers and got the issue into the policy-makers offices. Indeed, in Wisconsin,
as the movement to “do something about puppy mills” gathered momentum it became a bandwagon that few politicians
could ignore. Eventually a bill or two were formulated and the lengthy process of turning a bill into law was begun. As the
legislation wound its way through the various offices, listening sessions, innumerable meetings and the powerful voting bodies
of both houses it became apparent that Wisconsin was going to have a law on the books that would deal with puppy mills and
all of the ugliness they represented. In fact supporters of that legislation were ecstatic when the bill was passed unanimously
and signed by the Governor. Anyone who follows such things knows that a unanimous vote is a rare thing, then or now.
So with that
legislation the issue of puppy mills and their horrible conditions and practices slipped out of the public spotlight. People
were satisfied that all was well and those awful places would no longer be in business, so they moved on to the next hot button
political issues. Once again the public would become complacent under the false assumption that “it’s all been
taken care of”. The only problem was that, despite the best efforts of all involved, the business of puppy milling is
still alive and well, albeit regulated and reduced to some extent. There is no blame or shame here. Everyone involved gave
their best effort to come up with a solution. It just hasn’t been able to eliminate the business of puppy milling in
Wisconsin. Better yes, gone no.
So, in the past few days, we found ourselves once again on the way to what we call
a rescue, or a liberation, of dogs from a puppy mill. The name and location doesn’t matter. What does matter is that
you realize they are still out there. Still running their dirty, cruel businesses with no thought given to the well-being
of the very dogs that are making them the money.
As we loaded our crates, carriers, and all of the necessary handling
equipment into the three vehicles, a thousand thoughts raced through the minds of the five rescuers. What would we find upon
our arrival? What condition would the dogs be in? Would the owner be hostile? Would the dogs be so scared and unfamiliar with
human touch that they would bite? As we continued to load up the gear, including boots, gloves, filtered masks, catch-poles
and nets we tried to anticipate and prepare for whatever we might find at the site.
On the very cold, subzero
morning, at approximately 9:30 we pulled into the driveway and immediately scanned the collection of buildings trying to determine
which one contained the dogs. Usually, there is a deafening, desperate-sounding, collective barking coming from the building
that houses the dogs. Today there was none. That was cause for concern. As we approached the building that looked most likely
to be housing the dogs, a man appeared from the nearby house. We exchanged pleasantries, commented on the cold and then proceeded
on to a small building we had not considered as a possibility. After all, we were there to get up to 30 dogs and this building
was approximately 12 feet wide by 20 feet long. We should have known better based on past experiences.
We climbed up a ramp and
once inside the barking broke out. The frigid cold air outside had opened our nostrils wide and the old familiar smell of
puppy mill filth penetrated deeply. The dogs were housed in wooden boxes with cheap wire fronts. The floors were heavy wire
grates designed with large enough openings so that dog waste could drop through. We noticed that the piles of dog poop and
urine were collecting in pans under each pen. Some of those piles were 3” deep. The poor dogs had nowhere to escape
from that smell beneath them. It’s a wonder after years of living in those conditions, that a dog would ever become
housebroken, and yet, most do in time after being rescued.
The man was cordial throughout the process. He even reached into each pen,
retrieved a dog and handed one to each of the rescuers. As each rescuer held that first dog, the expressions on their faces
showed disgust at the urine-soaked, matted coats, the smell from infected gums and feces-matted feet, butts and tails. We
won’t go into any more details here. Suffice it to say many of the wounds, injuries and lack of medical care would make
you ill to see it or even read about it. We felt anger at the way the creatures we have dedicated our lives, time and
effort to helping, were being allowed to be treated in such a manner that they ended up like this. It truly is enough to make
you cry, but you can’t, because we are here today to save them, so that’s what we do, and one by one, the dogs
were being delivered into freedom. They knew it too. Despite what they had lived through, the years of horror and neglect,
their tails still wagged as we carried them out.
We knew they had a long road ahead of them. We would have to medically
assess their needs and treat the wounds. We will have to find a way to restore their damaged personalities and get them used
to normal life. We all vowed that this first day of December, would be the first day of their new lives. Lives where they
would know what it was to be a dog. Lives where they could learn what clean, warm, well-fed and most of all, loved meant.
Each of us knew that once again, although the battle will never end, good had triumphed this day and we had made a difference.
If this true
story has moved you in any way, please help us in caring for these poor dogs. Join with us in providing them with everything
they need to heal. It does not come cheap. They will need extensive medical care, large amounts of food, drugs, vaccinations,
blood-tests and grooming too. Please make a donation to help with their expenses.
Feel free to stop by and
visit them, sit with them, talk to them, hold them and let them know, it will be OK. Follow along with us and watch them as
they make progress on their journey to find their new loving homes. With your help, we can make it happen for them.
If you want
to read more about this or see photos of puppy mill conditions and some of the rescues we have been involved with, please
click on “Puppy Mills & Dog Auctions” in the menu on the left