Puppy Mill Bust Creates Frenzy at Local Shelter

March 13, 2009 | By John McQuiston | Category: Care & Safety | 845 comments
Tags: care & safety, dogs

Potential adopters waited in line for hours outside the SPCA Tampa Bay just for a chance to give 10 puppy mill dogs a new home earlier this month. (Zootoo Pet News Photo by John McQuiston)

Puppy Mill Bust Creates Frenzy at Local Shelter: People come in droves to adopt dogs rescued from puppy mills; While some hope to help, others are just looking for a good deal. But in Florida, potential adopters learn these rescued dogs will need extra tender, loving care.

LARGO, Fla. -- Traffic jams are rare on 130th Avenue in this city near St. Petersburg, but this morning, cars are stopped. Some have waited for nearly four hours. The obstacle ahead is not an auto accident -- it's a locked gate.

At 11 a.m., it opens, and the traffic slowly streams through the entrance of SPCA Tampa Bay.

Why?

"Puppy mill dogs," Syeeta Robinson, of Largo, answered for the dozens of people lined up at the shelter's front door for the chance to adopt 10 dogs rescued from a North Carolina puppy mill in February.

"We want to see them."

It rarely fails that dogs rescued from puppy mills go from obscurity in squalid conditions to near-celebrities after TV news broadcasts and newspaper articles highlight their plight.

Shelter workers worry that those media mentions rarely go into detail about the dogs' conditions and the challenges they are bound to face.

"Some of these pets are going to have some extreme medical bills in the future," said Connie Brooks, SPCA Tampa Bay's operations director.

Brooks participated in the Feb. 10 puppy mill raid, in which SPCA Tampa Bay workers helped rescue almost 300 dogs from a commercial kennel in North Carolina. They brought 74 dogs back here to treat and put up for adoption.

The dogs range in age from four months to 12 years and include purebred Poodles, Chihuahuas, Pekingese and Pomeranians. The shelter made 10 available for adoption at a time, because of the number of dogs it had to clean, treat and spay or neuter.

SPCA warns on its Web site that most of the dogs are seriously ill and emaciated with "lacerations, severely matted fur and serious skin and eye infections."

Puppy mills are factory-like breeding operations, where dogs may stay confined in cages for years as they produce litter after litter of puppies later sold in pet stores, through classified ads and over the Internet.

"These pets may never have been outside of cage in their lifetimes," Brooks said.

Two years ago, Brooks adopted a long-haired Chihuahua that had spent its first 10 years in an Arkansas puppy mill.

"She was in the cage with another male," Brooks said. "All they did was breed."

Brooks named her Ladybug. House training took more than a year and she still has accidents. For a year, Ladybug sat in the corner, unused to so much space and afraid to approach anyone.

Ladybug has grown out of her shyness and Brooks believes many puppy mill rescues can hold fairly normal lives.

But she's not surprised that some of the dogs that go home with people once excited to adopt them eventually return.

"Some people just don't have the time, energy or commitment," Brooks said.

Other puppy mill pet owners are not deterred.

"They're cheaper," said Jacques Groleau, whose wife hoped to adopt a Maltese. The $150 adoption fee is a bargain compared with the $2,000 or more price tag these dogs might have had in a commercial store.

Robinson also wanted one of the purebred poodles for herself.

Brooks says she believes that people adopting these dogs have good intentions, but says that demand for certain breeds encourages people to create a supply.

"If people wouldn't care what their dog was, puppy mills wouldn't exist," Brooks said.

Some waiting to adopt seemed not to understand what puppy mills are or why they might be a problem. Byron Fulton of Seminole, Fla. said he had no opinion about the issue. "Somebody's got to breed them, I guess," he said.

Bob Beckley of Madeira Beach, Fla. said he knows people who operate puppy mills. "Some of them are good some of them are not," he said.

Puppy mill rescues and adoptions give shelters a chance to educate people, according to Patrick Kwan, New York State Director of the Humane Society of the United States.

"These animals actually become ambassadors and really put a face on the issue," Kwan said.

He says many people don't realize that the puppies in their local pet store often come from puppy mills, or what terrible conditions those dogs have had to endure.

Brooks' immediate concern is making sure that the dogs here go to good homes. She says that the screening process is no more rigorous for people wanting to adopt rescued puppy mill dogs than for any other dog. But there is much more counseling involved.

"We really don't want pets to leave the shelter with people not understanding what they have ahead of them," Brooks said.

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Comments (659)

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Jessica B.
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Jessica B.
5 years ago

puppy mills need to stop. so wrong...

Good Point | Reply ›

Sarah B.
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Sarah B.
5 years ago

This has got to end. This is not a good place for these animals and these breeders should not have the ability to run such a place. These poor dogs! There should be a law against puppy mills and if you are a breeder the state should be able to do suprise inspections, and actually do them. We must protect the animals because we are the human. It is our duty!

Good Point | Reply ›

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