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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

Dogs rescued from 'constant confinement' in rehab

The rehabilitation process has begun for 283 dogs who were rescued from "constant confinement" and cramped, squalid conditions at an alleged puppy mill in North Carolina, and animal welfare officials hope to begin placing them into homes in the coming weeks.

The dogs - mainly Lhasa Apso, Shih-Tzus and Chihuahuas - have been turned over by the kennel operator to the Humane Society of the United States.

"Today's surrender is a victory for these 283 dogs, who will soon be on their way to becoming the treasured pets they were always meant to be," HSUS official Scotlund Haisley states in a media release. "But The Humane Society of the United States strongly urges local law enforcement to pursue criminal charges against the mill owner and bar her from breeding dogs in the future."

Two puppies died on the day of the rescue and the rest of the dogs were emaciated, had untreated lacerations, suffered from skin and eye infections and some had outgrown their collars, HSUS said.

Wayne County Animal Control, which initiated the the bust at Thornton's Kennels in Mount Olive after a year-long investigation, called in HSUS, United Animal Nations and PetSmart Charities to help rescue and care for these dogs. HSUS and UAN volunteers set up a nearby emergency shelter, where the dogs were taken they and are being checked by veterinarians and given medical care.

"I am amazed at the unprecedented outpouring of compassion and dedication that we have seen in this rescue mission," said Justin Scally, director of the Department of Animal Control for Wayne County. "It would have been impossible for us to save these animals without the support of all of the organizations and volunteers involved."

On the day of the bust, Scally said he was relieved that the dogs no longer had to live in deplorable circumstances. "I can finally rest easy knowing that these animals are no longer living in constant confinement," he said.

The dogs were living in unheated cages inside unventilated barns and outhouses, and many apparently had never known life outside their wire cages.

The dogs will be taken in the next few days to animal humane groups across the region where they will begin the social and physical rehabilitation necessary to ready them for their new lives as family pets.

"These dogs have may need extensive rehabilitation, but they are already beginning to warm up to their temporary caretakers," UAN emergency services manager Janell Matthies said. "I believe they are on their way to leading new lives as loving family pets."

Amanda Arrington, the North Carolina state director for HSUS, says the puppy mill bust is an example of the need for tougher state regulations on breeders. She said lawmakers need to mandate licenses and inspection for large-scale breeders.

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"These animals were denied basic veterinary care and socialization," Arrington said. "This terrible cruelty could have been avoided if North Carolina had laws addressing the worst abuses in puppy mills."

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