It’s estimated by the Humane Society of the United States, (HSUS), that there are 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. with 167,000 dogs in captivity. These are female dogs. Most of them won’t get out alive.
The majority of puppy mills are regulated and licensed by the USDA. The USDA enforces the minimum of care regulations put forth by the Animal Welfare Act. These are the most basic requirements such as food water and shelter.
This allows puppy mill owners to have hundreds of dogs at their disposal to breed at whim; all for their greed. These dogs receive little to no human attention and affection. They live in cages where they receive little to no exercise or socialization.
The dogs bred at these mills are sold at pet stores and through other retailers. Some mills fall under the radar, resulting in extremely sick and starving dogs. Dogs like a boxer named Tracy who was saved by a veterinarian in Pennsylvania from certain death.
Dawn Karam is the president of Adopt a Boxer Rescue. She first clapped eyes on Tracy, a 4-year-old boxer a few days before Christmas. Tracy was extremely thin, sick and very weak. Darn didn’t think she’d survive. The sweet girl nearly fell over when she attempted to walk.
Tracy was brought to a local vet by her Amish puppy mill owner because she was no longer getting pregnant: “He asked the vet if they could fix her up enough to be bred again, and if they couldn’t, the only thing he’d pay for was to have her euthanized,” Dawn told The Dodo. “Greed is an awful thing, and this is all it was.”
The vet knew Tracy wasn’t in any condition to have puppies. He knew she needed immediate medical attention. He called Adopt a Boxer, who agreed to cover any medical expenses.
Treacy was treated for pancreatitis, but within two days, showed no signs of improvement. The poor pooch was taken to an emergency vet clinic, but the cause of her illness remained unknown.
“Her chance of living seemed very grim,” Dawn said. “She wouldn’t eat, and all of her symptoms seemed to point to some neurological ailment, like a brain tumor, but the tests found nothing. The day before Christmas Eve, we knew we had to bring her to the only other people who could give her more help.”
Where did volunteers take Tracy? To Ryan Veterinary Hospital at the University of Pennsylvania. After a few more tests, the vets concluded she suffered from one thing: starvation.
“Every bit of her imbalance, every bit of her condition was because she was locked in a cage on that mill and deprived of the simplest thing that any pet needs,” Dawn said. “She was only 37 pounds — a female boxer is supposed to be at least 20 pounds more than that.”
A feeding tube helped improve Tracy’s outlook. The tube was removed when the dog began eating small, frequent meals. After four days of this routine, Tracy was well enough to be moved into a foster home. She was placed with an experienced volunteer from Adopt a Boxer.
“She’s been with her foster, Rachael Hubbard, for only a week now but it is like night and day,” Dawn said. “She is comfortable, eating well and has already gained back 10 pounds.”
At her new home, Tracy is receiving plenty of TLC; she’s hanging out with four other boxer buddies. One fellow rescue dog is Angus. The new environment was first scary for Tracy, but she’s grown more confident each day, comforted by her new siblings.
“The only socialization she got was when the owners would go into her cage to take the puppies out to take photos of them for their sales posts,” Dawn said. “Mill dogs live for other dogs because that’s all they know — so she’s definitely learning how to be a dog through watching what the others do and how they react to things. If they’re OK, then she’s OK too.”
Of the dogs unlucky to be rescued from puppy mills, dawn says: “Most mill moms and mill dads will not make it out alive.
“Although she was in poor shape by the time she got help, she’s one of the lucky ones.”
One ray of hope we can take from this story is that Tracy is gaining strength each day. The Pennsylvania SPCA has opened an active investigation into the puppy mill she came from.
If you’re disgusted by the deplorable and unacceptable conditions of puppy mills and the helpless dogs in captivity, you might be wondering how you can help. Dawn offers these words: “If people didn’t buy puppies from pet stores or online, there would be no demand, and there would be no mill dads or mill moms like Tracy.
“The Millers continue to do this because they can — but we can stop this. In the meantime, giving these dogs the best life is the best revenge.”
Dawn’s right; but rescuing these abused dogs takes money. You can help save them by donating to Adopt a Boxer or another dog rescue group; you can give funds to assist those organizations charged with investigating puppy mills too. You can also support your local ASPCA or HSUS organizations.
Won’t it be awesome when no dog needs to be rescued and no puppy mills need to be shut down? If we all stand up and speak out and do our part, whatever that might be, it will happen.