A Puppy Mill Rescue Story
Early in December of 2014, 28 small dogs were rescued from a puppy mill in Clark County. This is the story from the perspective of one of the CCHS staff who went on the rescue. Read on....
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.