Dirt driveways and dusty yards were lined with old machinery, overturned dirty buckets, rusty pieces of metal and drenched cardboard. On one side was a dilapidated chicken coop with a rotten wooden door, a broken screen door, and a dead chicken on a rusty metal roof.
Three border collie puppies were running around in fear.
A rescue vehicle should be the happy part. When animal welfare groups pick up puppies, there’s often a grinning, happy photo of the animal in the car en route to its new life.
However, this rescue was one of the most difficult.
The head of Speak Rescue and Sanctuary once took this trip to rural Missouri. Last time he had two puppies in an enclosure filled with stagnant water, old parts and lots of feces. His one of those puppies is now in a great home, but his other one just couldn’t make it. He had a deadly infection that could not be cured.
All of the puppies were raised on rural farms miles away from nothing. His two parents of them sneak around the property, growling and barking at strangers. Puppies are completely afraid of people. They desperately tried to escape to the shed, where dog food was strewn across endless heaps of chicken and puppy poop.
Eventually, the three puppies were collected en masse and escaped unharmed. We offered to spay and neuter our parents, but the owner just laughed. If the puppies survive, he sometimes sells them. Sometimes they don’t survive.
What Rescuers Can Do
In the animal welfare world, days like this are heartbreaking. We feel helpless because there is so little we can do.
People get angry and ask why should we just gather all the dogs in our car and run away. Why not demand something from the authorities? It’s not that easy. This backyard breeder is not a puppy mill, but the same general principles apply.
“As for the question of why not take them, because doing so could get us arrested and the dog simply put back in an abusive situation. The US Stop Puppy Mills campaign told Treehugger Told.
“It just makes puppy mill owners victims, makes us the bad guys, and pushes dogs back. that is important.”
And they especially happen when so many dogs are confined to small cages and deprived of a clean environment, enough healthy food and clean water.
However, it can be difficult to get the authorities to investigate, as they are often overwhelmed with demands and other incidents.
“Sometimes law enforcement files lawsuits, but they don’t tell complainants how things are going. Too many people go to Facebook and report what they hear. So it should be,” says Goodwin.
“Sometimes law enforcement is ambiguous and needs to do some work to get them to act. It has to be done in a way that builds.”
change the law
One way to help is by changing the laws regulating puppy mills.
“Most people are shocked when they learn what’s going on at a puppy mill and want to do something to help their dogs,” says Goodwin. “I encourage people to talk to their state legislators about taking action to stop puppy mill cruelty. It may come in the form of a bill that
Another big step is adopting from a shelter or rescue. If you buy from a pet store or online website, those puppies were likely born in a mill.
“Rescues like this are mentally exhausting,” says Judy Darr, director of Speak, who saved the puppy.
“This situation literally makes my stomach hurt while I’m trying to hold back my tears, but when I drive with my pup, I feel momentarily relieved, proud, and somewhat joyful, but that’s what it’s all about. Until the terrifying thought of it happening again, and now that so many animals are suffering, not enough is being done to change the laws to protect them.”
You can follow the adventures of Mary Jo and her foster pup on Instagram @brodiebestboy.
Why this matters to Treehugger
At Treehugger, we are advocates for animal welfare, including pets and other livestock. We hope articles like this highlight to our readers the importance of adopting a rescue pet rather than buying one from a breeder or pet store. Learn more about how you can support your local animal shelter. Please see here.