Madison County, Arkansas, March 2016
Arkansas is one of the top puppy mill states in the country. And, according to the the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), Arkansas breeders are totally unregulated. The director of the Paws and Claws shelter in Huntsville, Ark., Shonna Harvey, earlier this year called in a tip to the HSUS puppy mill hotline. Acting on that tip, the HSUS along with the Madison County Sheriff’s Department raided the home of 67-year-old Joyce Johnson. They found 295 dogs and puppies living in stacked wire cages, many suffering from untreated medical conditions. They also found 5 dead dogs. Johnson, who was charged with two counts of animal cruelty, was selling puppies online through the Web site theperfectpuppyofnwa.com, as well as at a flea market in Texas. The rescued dogs were sent to several shelters in the area to get checked, receive the medical attention they need and eventually be put up for adoption. Paws and Claws took 25 of the dogs. While some rescue services were looking of specific breeds, Harvey offered to take the dogs “nobody else wants.” She received the $5,000 reward offered by HSUS for puppy mill tips and put the money back into Paws and Claws.
Raeford, North Carolina, January 2016
If you go to the Web site of The Haven, Friends for Life you’ll see that it is billed as North Carolina’s largest and most successful no-kill shelter. They claim to have saved more than 36,000 animals and describe their animals as “aged to perfection.” The site lists some relatively modest adoption fees and also asks for donations. What you won’t find on the site is anything current. That’s because the Haven was shut down in January and its owners, Stephen and Linden Spear, are facing four counts of animal cruelty. After getting numerous complaints from people who adopted animals who proved to be unhealthy, the Polk County Sheriff’s Department called in the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals. When they raided the property they found that the haven was anything but. They found animals that were emaciated, suffering from open wounds, ringworm or respiratory problems. They were living in kennels, cages and outdoor pens often with no protection from the elements. They also found mass burial grounds with the remains of dozens of animals. The ASPCA and the sheriff’s deputies pulled out 300 dogs, 250 cats and 40 horses, pigs and birds. One dog and one cat had health problems so severe that they had to be euthanized. But the others were fed and treated and by the middle of March were put up for adoption.
Washington D.C., November 2015
When the 2016 Defense Department budget bill was signed by President Obama late last year there was a law attached that involved rescuing some dogs. Military dogs. Thousands of working dogs joined U.S forces in Afghanistan. They identified explosives, found missing personnel, and sniffed out illegal drugs. But they all didn’t make it back home, even if they escaped their tour of duty without injury. Those who were retired overseas were left overseas, unless they were adopted by military personnel who paid the freight to get them home and adopt them. The new law, however, requires the military to bring home any dog who is retired from active duty while overseas. It also gives the dog’s handler first priority on adopting the animal. The military’s official adoption site is at the Lackland Air Force Base near San Antonio, Texas. There is no adoption fee and the demand is such that there may be a waiting list. There is also an organization called Save-a-Vet.org that rescues military dogs who are not immediately suitable for adoption due to their injuries or attack training, dogs that Save-a-Vet refers to as “America’s other forgotten soldiers.” Save-a-Vet pairs these dogs with disabled military veterans who are able to meet their special needs.
Kalamazoo, Mich., February 2016
In 2012, Kelvin Eric Thomas pleaded guilty to two counts of possessing fighting dogs and equipment. He was sentenced to 120 hours of community service. This conviction followed an action by the HSUS in which 32 dogs were seized. When Kalamazoo County Animal Services and the Humane Society of Kalamazoo paid Thomas a visit in February they discovered that the 120 hours of community service didn’t prove to be a sufficient deterrent for this animal abuser. Seven pit bulls and three Dobermans were taken away along with some dog fighting paraphernalia. Five of the dogs were puppies and they were underweight and dehydrated. The HSUS has a dogfighting rescue coalition that evaluates the dogs and rehabilitates them for potential placement. The coalition reports that many of these dogs, despite the fact that they have been abused, have gone on to become service dogs for wounded veterans or certified therapy dogs.
(All photos on this post were taken from the petfinder.com Web site. They are photos of dogs that were available for adoption at the time of writing.)
(The author, Ken Dowell, is a trustee of the Tess McIntyre Foundation . The foundation raises funds to support dog rescuers and to provide health care for dogs who need some medical attention before they can be adopted. You can follow the foundation on Twitter @TessMcIn.)
Ken, this is excellent. I am grateful for the decent humans who work to make right the wrongs (evils) of indecent humans. Thank you for sharing these stories.
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Just this weekend the animal shelter in the town where I live had a fire. All of the animals were safe but the shelter put out a call for people to foster the animals temporarily. By the time I got there people were lined up down the block waiting to get a dog or cat to take home with them. Pretty heartwarming.
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Thank you for sharing these stories, Ken. I didn’t know that Arkansas top puppy mill states in the U.S. I prefer going to a rescue center like ASPCA. I have had many friends who have rescued dogs from breed specific rescue places. They seem to have success with them as well. Thank you for bringing awareness to these events.
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Ken, right now there seems to be a big push on here in Ontario to close up dog-fighting rings. The cruelty inflicted on these animals during their ‘training’ and of course during the fights is unbelievable. We think of the horrors of ISIS, but in reality you can find people with the same sadistic mindset anywhere.
I was especially touched by the fact that military dogs used to be left behind – how awful. Thank goodness that has changed.
Have rescued dogs but it can be risky in Europe because if you are unlucky you end up with one with rabies. A strary dog that has managed to cross borders with the decease. You must have the same problem in the US with dogs with rabies getting across from Mexico.
It stuns me that people can be so cruel to animals. When I lived in MT there was a woman who was arrested for starving her horses. Insane, when there were so many things she could have done to save them.
Thanks for writing this and for confirming that petfinder is legitimate. It’s where I’ll look if I ever make the commitment to get a dog!
I’m going to share your article with my niece Ken. She’s dedicated her life to rescuing abused and abandoned animals and established a foundation for this effort in addition to her real passion – finally putting a stop to dog fighting.
Thank you for passing it on.
Cruelty to animals is so often overlooked in society. You truly wonder why people own animals if they do not have the time or love to care for them.
Good on you Ken for fighting for this cause.
Such sad stories. I’m glad that someone is working to help!
I enjoyed your article.
Thanks for sharing and indeed I respect these people who fight for animal rights and eager to commit their time and effort to help homeless ones. Good job promoting this concept
This reminds me if the news story I saw last night of the heroic us marine corps service dog that lost a leg sniffing out bombs and protecting the lives of soldiers in Iraq. So nice to see he was brought home and adopted by military vet and given highest award. Heartwarming!
Very interesting post, Ken. I wish all puppy mills would be outlawed, as well as dog fights. I think it’s wonderful that military dogs are now getting the happy retirement they deserve.
This post inspired me to read through Wikipedia’s Puppy mill entry (check the “Puppy mill raids” section for more rescue stories). I had heard of puppy mills and had a vague conception of them as low-end pounds but I didn’t realize that they are (intense, sleazy) breeding operations. Considering that we as a society really ought to be ‘going the other way’ in this regard – i.e., spaying and neutering the dogs we already have – it becomes that much clearer that puppy mill operators are bad guys who should be put out of business.
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The animal rescue industry is such a difficult one. I rescued a couple of cats this year were born by a stray mother in my yard. We tried to work with animal rescues to find them a home. What we learned is that these rescues are spread so thin and are so overwhelmed. In the end, we kept the cats because there was really nowhere else to put them. I applaud anyone who endeavors to help animals.
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They are so hard to resist!