He never knew the inside of a house. He rarely had opportunity to play with toys. He’s unfamiliar with leashes and walking the neighborhood, and his housetraining is limited. His name was Stormy.
One year ago, the then-three-year-old Shih Tzu was one of dozens of dogs rescued from the squalor of a puppy mill. Staff and volunteers at Hearts United for Animals have a mission – to rescue, work with, and re-home as many puppy mill dogs as they can. They also take in dogs and cats for other reasons, such as deaths in the family, and they help owners keep their pets who might have to give them up due to the animal’s medical condition. Nearly 400 animals reside at the rural Nebraska animal sanctuary, many of them small breeds like Stormy. But, there are also larger dogs, such as Hounds, Labs, and Shiba Inus. Other organizations, such as National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado, have a similar mission: closing puppy mills by rescuing the oppressed, neglected animals and bringing new life and hope to those creatures.
What is a Puppy Mill?
According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), a puppy mill is “a large-scale commercial dog breeding facility where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions without adequate veterinary care, food, water or socialization. In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little-to-no recovery time between litters.” The pups are sold in pet stores, over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets. Because millers focus on making money, the dogs are often bred with little regard for genetic quality, and therefore, the puppies are often ill or have significant health issues. There is no oversight to this industry, and though there is no real data to know the number of millers in the U.S., the ASPCA estimates there are about 10,000 puppy mills in America.
The Humane Society of the United States also rescues and shuts down puppy mills. Learn more about their operations at http://www.humanesociety.org/issues/campaigns/stop_puppy_mills/?credit=web_id93480558.
Saturday, Sept. 16, 2017 is Puppy Mill Awareness Day. Take time to learn more about puppy mills and then educate your family and friends. Do what you can to help bring an end to this terrible life thousands of dogs endure!
New Life, New Hope
Stormy now has a new life – and a new name. Jeremiah Story Irwin is the new four-footed family member in my house. He, and other puppy mill survivors (and their rescuers) have a story, and I write stories, therefore, his middle name. A few weeks before his first anniversary with HUA, Jeremiah now lives in a house for the first time in his life, has other animal friends (although the original Irwin resident pets are still getting used to the idea of a new housemate!), and has a large backyard to explore. The first time he accepted a toy and trotted around the house with it brought tears to my eyes. There are challenges, such as housetraining, but he’s catching on quickly, and he’s already learned the commands of sit and come – in less than a week. He’s a smart, loving, happy boy, and I’m thankful we found each other! I am also thankful to the heroes who help puppy mill dogs escape the horrors of their previous lives!
Adopt, Don’t Shop! And encourage your friends and family to do so. By those actions, you, too, can impact (and change) the lives of puppy mill dogs, giving them hope, love, and joy.
Gayle M. Irwin is a writer and public relations professional who volunteers with various animal rescue groups. She enjoys sharing her books and her passion for pets and the environment with others.