In April, my dog rescue was invited to work in support of another to save mill dogs. Contrary to my title above, there are never too many mill dog rescues. I want to save them all. But there are far too many reasons to have to rescue, and that’s what needs to stop. You have the power to make the difference just by making a simple, educated choice – even if you aren’t in the market for a dog.
How the dogs come…
An unending supply of beautiful little souls arrive through a contact who begged puppy mills to give up their unwanted dogs. These dogs would otherwise be shot for lack of productivity or for missing traits of the breeds that they are supposed to represent.
Our contact gets the call, retrieves dog-filled crates at the end of a mill’s driveway, surveys the dogs for immediate health concerns, and sends them on a 12 hour transport to freedom.
When 2 means 30…
Last Thursday’s call said two dogs were ready for pickup. Somehow 2 meant 30. Mills are dumping dogs now that a new law went into effect. Puppies were pulled from 3 young moms by millers that morning and the mothers, leaking milk, were shoved into small crates two at a time.
Its estimated that our mill sources house anywhere from 500 to 800 breeder dogs living a life of pure hell. Jemma, a white rescued Chihuahua, was just one of these dogs. And yet she is such a happy, shining soul despite her need for reconstructive surgery for poor genetics (We know her one son, now adopted, was born the same way and nearly thrown away, yet the mills kept breeding Jemma and selling her “purebred” pups.). Can you please chip in for Jemma’s care?
When the dogs arrive…
Never have you seen a more happy dog when the world opens before them beyond a crowded chicken wire cage. These dogs light up regardless of oozing paws damaged from wire cage floors, eyes so sticky the dog can’t see through the flies, internal parasites so plentiful that up to 3 dewormings are required, teeth fully rotted from poor nutrition and lack of water, or kidneys so weak they only have 35% function. Some immediately seek human touch and comfort. Others take a bit longer to understand, but they do learn with patience and love.
What boils my blood…
We protect our contact’s identity to preserve a mill’s hard-earned trust, trust that took years to build and which remains precarious regardless. But I abhor the fact that we must shield the identity of the mills in order to save the dogs. None of us in New York know where exactly the dogs come from beyond which state. The paperwork is color coded so we are kept blind to the details. We must often remind ourselves that, at the end of the day, our contact and the Companion Animal Placement Program has saved truckloads of dogs this way and that we at Dog House Adoptions have joined a valiant and vigilant fight.
Know the facts…
Pet stores will tell you that their puppies come from “USDA licensed breeders.” USDA licensure is a good indicator that the breeders are, in fact, puppy mills. Licensing by the USDA as a commercial breeder is strictly reserved for those selling puppies to pet stores or brokers. Even the meager guidelines they tend not to enforce are horrific.
According to the ASPCA:
Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, which is enforced by the USDA, dogs in commercial breeding facilities can legally be kept in cages only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, stacked on top of one another, for their entire lives. It’s completely legal to house dogs in cages with wire flooring and to breed female dogs at every opportunity.
One way mills skirt the law is to sell their dogs strictly online. This type of sale falls into a loophole that does not require USDA licensing or inspection. If you think paying good money for papers ensures a healthy breeding stock, you are sorely mistaken.
Do your dollars support the mill dog industry?
You may be supporting a life of cruelty for millions of dogs confined to pumping out puppies like machines. Refuse to do either of the following and you can change that fact:
Do not purchase a puppy at a pet store or online
Buy your pet supplies from stores (online or brick and mortar) that do not sell puppies
Find ethical pet stores by zip code thanks to the ASPCA. Visit the database to find one near you or add one that you know of! Just remember, don’t shop ’til they stop. Your dollar makes the difference.
Meet the one that grabbed my heart…
This little lady from Friday’s transport made me fall apart, a little momma who ran joyfully like the others but instantly froze and closed her eyes at my touch. Being spayed today, she’ll never have to deliver or lose another puppy. (Her last puppy was taken away.)
We’re going to heal her eyes and I will do everything in my power to help her see that touch is every bit as good as she thinks it might be. Last night, in my lap, she flattened to me as if to disappear … yet she let me feed her this way. I set her down and she came right back. It’s a start.
I’ve named her Leila, honoring her with more than a number, if she even had that. My husband and I are personally sponsoring her care. This one has my whole heart wrapped around her. If she weren’t at the vet, I’d be with her right now. Since I’m not, I’m using my time to ask for your help.
Please consider adoption.
Every single day, sweet dogs like Leila need you and they will quickly blossom in your care. Nothing feels better than knowing that you gave a dog a chance.
Blog the Change for Animals the 15th of every January, April, July and October, an event sponsored by Be the Change for Animals.
Following Comedian Steve Hofstetter’s dog journey, I grow more and more fond of the funny man. Yes, I’m a fan of his comedy, but I’m an even greater fan of his compassion and commitment to animals.
Steve went from respecting his wife Sara’s animal welfare interests at a distance to adopting a rescue dog now named Bea Arthur and using his celebrity status to promote rescue. Offering a stray dog named Carlin the only comfort of his last few days on Earth last month, now Steve is turning animal activist to change the outcome of a topic so large that it hasn’t been properly tackled to date – ending puppy mills.
Steve’s latest message gives me hope. I share it with gratitude for the work he and Sara are doing to make a very real difference. We can rescue mill dogs all we want, but the problem will always be bigger than the resources available to cope – unless we eradicate the problem’s source.
My wife Sara reached out to you with our story about Carlin, the abandoned dog we found in a gas station parking lot that had to be put down. The support and kind wishes we received were overwhelming, as close to 250,000 people read and shared Carlin’s story.
I wanted to reach out with a thank you, and some good news. The heartbreak inspired me to start a legislative campaign to end all puppy mills once and for all. With my contacts in the media and government, passing this is a realistic possibility. And Carlin’s story convinced our landlords to let us have a second dog – so we might not have saved his life, but his life saved another.
If you’d be willing to share this story [featured below], it’s a lot more uplifting than the last one, and will hopefully inspire more people to adopt.
And if you’d like to join our campaign to end puppy mills, please visit EndTheMills.com. Even one petition signature helps a great deal, as we’ll be pursuing legislation on a federal, state, city, and local basis.
Thank you so much, Steve Hofstetter
The Happy Ending
It’s been 18 days since my wife, Sara, and I found a stray dog in a gas station. It’s been 18 days since we cleaned him off, fed him, and named him Carlin. It’s been 18 days since we learned Carlin was in the advanced stages of distemper and we had to put him down. It’s been 18 days since I cried for the first time in years.
I knew I’d become a dog person already. What I didn’t know was the extent. For two years, we had a little Puerto Rican roommate named Bea Arthur that showed me just how much I could love a dog. But in just a few hours, Carlin taught me that loving one was not enough.
I will never forget the shock of the vet telling me that Carlin had distemper. We knew something was very wrong. But the optimist in me thought everything would work out. The optimist in me likes to get my hopes up just enough to set up an impending heartbreak. Turns out the optimist in me is also a sadist.
There was a brief moment when I was thrilled that the vet agreed to take Carlin in, before I realized that he was taking him in just to end things mercifully. That emotional cliff dive was like nothing I’d ever experienced. I went from the relief of knowing Carlin would be cared for to the anguish that this was somehow our fault. We were happy to give Carlin his literal moment in the sun. But, as illogical as the thought was, I couldn’t escape the fear that we were partially responsible.
I wrote a column about Carlin – both as catharsis for me and a tribute to him. I must have re-read it a dozen times, hoping that somehow the results would be different. But you can’t change the ending. Ilsa gets on the plane, Soylent Green is made of people, and the boat always sinks. Sara and I weren’t whole for days.
The oddest part was when we’d interact with other people. When you’re that emotionally distraught, it’s difficult to understand that everyone around you isn’t just as sad. Even a world champion in empathy can’t truly relate to someone else’s loss. We couldn’t connect to anyone.
Well, we connected to a few people. We live in the top floor of a house, owned by a wonderfully sweet couple named Larry and Lee who have an adorable mutt named Hannah. Months ago, we’d asked if they would allow us to have a second dog; we assumed that due to our shared love of everything pup that they’d relax their previous one dog policy. We got a resounding no.
After we lost Carlin, a second dog wasn’t even on our minds. We knew the rules – and having just lost our brief friend, we were gun shy. But Lee could tell something was wrong. Having trouble explaining what had happened, I pointed her towards the column. A few hours later, I received an email from them that didn’t just allow us to get a second dog – the email pleaded for it. This time, we didn’t ask for them to let us get a second dog – the universe did.
It turned out that Larry and Lee had just rescued another pup of their own, and they could see just how good of a home we would be for one more. That email was the first time I’d truly smiled since we lost Carlin, and I had done a show the night before. Outwardly, I’d smiled plenty. But that was the first time I meant it.
I was excited that Carlin’s death would save the life of another dog. And the sheer volume of support we received regarding Carlin was staggering. Close to 250,000 people read the column, and it was shared all over Facebook, reprinted in blogs, and even appeared in some newspapers. Carlin’s life hadn’t just touched us – it touched everyone we told.
I was inspired. I spent a few days building EndTheMills.com, a website based around the idea that with simple legislation we could end puppy mills forever. I didn’t want Carlin to just save one dog. I wanted him to save them all. It was an immediate success – through signatures, publicity, and donations, there is a realistic possibility that my little gremlin could be the catalyst to end the systematic overbreeding and abuse inherent in the mill system. The ending of Carlin’s part of the story couldn’t change – but the movie wasn’t over yet.
Sara went home for a week to visit family, and then I had a few gigs. So this weekend was our first chance to adopt a little brother for Bea. I’d gone through the seven stages of grief – shock, guilt, anger, depression, the turn around, reconstruction, and hope. As much as those few hours with Carlin will always be with me, I knew that the real way to end the movie was to find the first dog who’s life Carlin would save.
We went to No Kill Los Angeles, an adoption event sponsored by Best Friends Animal Society where dozens of rescues and shelters bring over a thousand animals to be adopted. We didn’t know if we’d meet “the one” there. But it was a great chance to try.
I never imagined that I would be looking for a second dog – let alone a Chihuahua mix – but I wanted to find a dog that reminded me of Carlin. The first dog we met was Jack – a sweet little guy from Best Friends themselves. But it would be ridiculous to fall in love with the first dog we met. And one named Jack? That’s the grandfather I wanted to name a child after. Fate couldn’t be that obvious, could it?
After meeting several more with too much energy for a family of couch potatoes, we found a second candidate. Charlie had been fostered by a rescue for close to a year, and was incredibly chill. He was great with people, great with other dogs, and grateful that we wanted to meet him. But our heart, somehow wasn’t in it. Maybe it’s because Jack looked more like Carlin. Or maybe because Jack was smaller and needed more help, or maybe because we just met Jack first. Whatever the reason, Charlie reminded me of the platonic friend you know would be a good choice to date, but there’s just not enough spark to go through with it. Sorry Charlie – we’re just going to be friends.
So where is the happy ending? I’m writing this, sitting on my couch, while Bea Arthur and Mitch Hedberg are asleep next to me. We changed Jack’s name to Mitch – I may not ever have a son, but if I do, I’m keeping the name Jack available. Besides – Mitch is a fitting tribute to Carlin, another one of comedy’s greats. And Mitch Hedberg was a one-liner guy. Seems right for a dog small enough for me to palm.
Bea is a wonderful big sister. Despite how selective she can be with other dogs, I feel like somehow, she knows. She understands that Mitch is family.
It’s been 18 days since everything changed. It’s been 18 days since I started grieving. And it’s been 18 days since we got to spend one afternoon with Carlin. But that afternoon will allow us to spend a lifetime with Mitch. And hopefully, it will inspire other people to help us end the mills permanently, preventing street dogs like Bea, Mitch, and Carlin from ever needing a home again.
The movie isn’t over yet. That happy ending is up to you.
Puppy Mill. The term gets bandied about so often, I wonder, does the meaning get lost? Could you define one? Could you identify a dog who came from one? And did you know there are kitten mills too?
Puppy mills are large breeding facilities where dogs live in deplorable conditions, often without necessary food, water, or veterinary care. Melanie Kahn of the Humane Society of the United States says in the video below, “It’s a horribly sad experience.” These dogs often stand on wire mesh their whole lives, eat and drink from contaminated bowls, stand in their own feces, suffer from various injuries and infections, and they fear most everything.
ECONOMICS AND THE UNSUSPECTING CUSTOMER
As the video states, with an estimated 10,000 puppy mills in the US, the industry rakes in hundreds of millions of dollars each year. Somebody is forking over a lot of cash to sustain this cruelty. So who’s buying?
It could have been you. Puppy mills provide vast numbers of animals to pet stores where demand is high. These pups look adorable behind glass, but they have often been bred so close in bloodline that they become riddled with physical ailments, infection due to filth and lack of immunity, and have various anxiety issues. Unsuspecting customers only see adorable puppies and buy, buy, buy – supporting the system time and again. And guess what happens to those pups that don’t sell before they grow up. They get returned to puppy mills, trading their glass box for one of chicken wire to churn out more puppies until they die.
BIG CHAIN BADLANDS
In 2008, HSUS conducted an eight-month investigation revealing that many Petland stores across the country are marketing puppy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers. On the heels of an HSUS followup investigation, “Animal Planet Investigates: Petland” broadcast HSUS footage while exploring the relationship between Petland and puppy mills. The program featured heartbreaking stories of families who had lost beloved puppies to illness and pointed to the root of Petland’s involvement with mass-breeding facilities.
PETLAND CANADA TURNS OVER A NEW LEAF
On September 9th of this year, Petland Canada announced a change in policy. They had been dogged by animal advocates and the growing trend of bans on retail pet sales long enough. To no longer sell pups and kittens was the right move. It’s time Petland USA took the same message to heart. UPDATE: Petland Canada’s shift was based on slow sales, not advocacy, and not all stores are participating in the change. Read BtC4A: Not So Fast to learn more.
Be sure to visit BTC4Animals.com today and all this month for more ways to fight Petland and puppy mills!
DON’T SHOP, ADOPT
Don’t buy puppies or kittens from a store. Ever. Don’t even buy other items from a store that sells puppies or kittens. Adoption will not only save the life of that dog or cat who won’t be euthanized for the sake of overpopulation, it also prevents the demand that churns the puppy mill machine.
SUPPORT CONSCIENTIOUS, RESPONSIBLE COMPANIES
The Honest Kitchen, the food I feed my dogs and cats, has a strong stance against puppy mills and the selling of puppies in retail locations. To that end, they have never allowed their products to be sold in such stores because, as they say:
9 times out of 10, these puppies come from mass breeding facilities where they live in squalor, are bred for unnatural traits (squishy noses, low-riding hips, etc) and are transported around the country – without proper socialization, during a critical period in their development. Then, they’re sold to the highest bidder. Puppy purchasers are not vetted to see if they have the time, resources and know-how to take care if their new companion. In fact, some stores are only now banning ‘drunk puppy purchasing’. With the continued press on the puppy mill issue, including this recent study on the psychological damage of puppy mill dogs, it’s important we continue spreading the word, and educate our fellow pet loving friend about the cause. It’s up to us to give these pets a voice.
Today I learned something new. The folks at The Honest Kitchen read an editorial this month from a pet industry trade magazine, Pet Age, asking the industry to band together and support the sale of puppies in retail locations. The Honest Kitchen pulled their advertising, and founder Lucy Postins published her Letter to the Editor here.
All it takes is a little research. Be a wise consumer. Vote with your dollars for what you believe in.