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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

285 dogs rescued from deplorable conditions

About 285 small-breed dogs living in poorly ventilated, waste-encrusted pens with little food and water have been rescued from a suspected puppy mill in Sparta, Tenn.

The dogs - mostly Boston and Jack Russell terriers, Pomeranians, Shih-Tzus, Chihuahuas, Poodles, Miniature Pinschers and Schnauzers - were being housed in enclosed buildings and were suffering from matting, sores and mange, according to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals.

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"The mass breeding of animals in puppy mills causes tragic suffering for the animals that are trapped in those inhumane situations, and it adds to the already critical problem of pet overpopulation," ASPCA official Debrah Schnackenberg states in a media release.

The dogs are under the custody of the White County Sheriff’s Department and have been taken to a nearby emergency shelter staffed by the American Humane Association.

The White County Sheriff's Department requested help with the bust from the ASPCA. The Nashville Humane Association also assisted in the seizure and sheltering operations.

Mary Pat Boatfield, executive director of the Nashville Humane Association, says her organization is ready to provide the rehabilitation support the dogs will need so they eventually can be placed into homes. "We have a dedicated animal behaviorist experienced with puppy mill dogs that does our assessment, provides behavioral and re-homing recommendations," she told Love of Dogs.

The behaviorist works with adopters for at least 3 months to assist with house training and to help the dogs get acclimated into "a world they have never known," Boatfield said.

"We plan to take whatever time it takes for our professional resource team to assess the dogs, provide medical care, spay/neuter and microchip them all," Boatfield said. "We will release them for adoption as they go through the process and are ready to take on a new world."

The Nashville Humane Association has plenty of experience rehabilitating dogs that have been rescued. The association has previously participated in rescues at Pine Bluffs Kennels in Hickman County, where 700 dogs were seized in June, and Sumner County, were 300 dogs were seized.

"We have been able to successfully place our puppy-mill pets using many resources," Boatfield said. "We have found that providing this intense support is expensive, but the positive results require an intensive focused approach.

The investigation of the Sparta breeding operation began in September, when a consumer who had visited the property to purchase a dog reported horrible conditions to the White County Humane Society. The Humane Society of the United States, which had also received complaints, alerted the sheriff’s department. The sheriff’s department then enlisted the ASPCA’s support.

"We are glad that local authorities have taken action in this case, and we urge the authorities in other communities to move swiftly and take similar action whenever evidence of puppy mills is brought to their attention," Schnackenberg said.

PetSmart Charities has been providing sheltering supplies for the rescued dogs, but Boatfield said contributions - such as cash or gift cards, supplies and especially bath towels for grooming - are welcomed. The gifts should be designated to the White County Pets. Visit for more information about contributions and adoption.

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Contributions also can be made to the ASPC, which incurred major expenses for the rescue operation, Boatfield said. Visit for more information.

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