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The Ruff Report: Dogs and Rescue

One of nation's 'worst' puppy mills busted

Three hundred and seventy-one dogs, imprisoned in feces-covered makeshift plywood pens with rusty metal doors and in old metal shopping carts lacking solid footing, have been rescued from a breeder in Washington in what is being described as one of the nation's worst and largest puppy mills.

The dogs, all miniature American Eskimos, are suffering from severe skin infections, rotting teeth and heart murmurs while some may need to have limbs amputated, according to Seattle Humane Society chief executive officer Brenda Barnette.

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The conditions were so bad that many dogs will need foster care to help them adapt to family living, Ms. Barnette said told Love of Dogs. "These rescued pups need time in loving foster homes for socialization. We want to teach them what it is like to be a cherished pet before they are adopted into homes of their own."

The Seattle Humane Society is caring for 90 of the dogs.

Benton County Sheriff's Office, with the assistance of the Humane Society of the United States, seized the dogs from Sun Valley Kennel in Kennewick. Ella Stewart, who was recently charged with misdemeanor animal cruelty, is the owner and operator.

"None of these dogs have felt the security of solid ground beneath them nor the comfort of a loving home," Dan Paul, Washington state director for the Humane Society of the United States, states in a media release.

"This is definitely one of the worst cases we have seen because of the conditions they were kept in," added Inga Gibson of the Humane Society of the United States' West Coast regional office. "It's one of the largest in Washington state and close to one of the largest in the country."

Temporary kennels to provide the dogs with medical treatment have been set up at the Benton County Fairgrounds. Because of the magnitude of the bust, several animal welfare organizations have offered to shelter and care for the dogs, including the Oregon Humane Society, where 95 dogs were taken to its shelter in Portland.

"Life for these animals has taken a dramatic turn for the better," Oregon Humane Society official Barbara Baugnon told Love of Dogs.

"These dogs (photos at left from the Oregon Humane Society) are ready for a new homes where they can be members of a family instead of being abused and mistreated so their owner could make a profit," she added.

Some dogs are quickly adapting and can be soon placed into homes while others will need special training to make the transition to a new life, Ms. Baugnon said.

Some of the rescued dogs have special behavioral issues related to neglect. Many are shy toward people and unaccustomed to being handled, lack leash and house training, and are overwhelmed.

"We will probably have about 10 of them that will stick around for a month waiting for a perfect match," Ms. Baugnon said. "But the good news is while they are waiting, our volunteers work one on one with them earning their trust, teaching them to walk on a leash and getting them hopefully house trained. That is tricky in a shelter environment."

The Oregon Humane Society estimates the cost of caring for the dogs just for their first five days at the shelter - which includes spay and neuter operations, vaccines, identification microchips and medical care - will be $61,731.

Ms. Baugnon says most people fail to realize the huge expense that is involved in shutting down puppy mills. "I really don’t believe that people who buy puppies from pet stores understand that they are supporting an industry that doesn’t care about humane treatment of pets," she said. "Or about the financial repercussions of the agencies that clean up behind them."

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For more information about adopting the dogs or making donations to help with their care and rehabilitation, visit the Seattle Humane Society and Oregon Humane Society.

Other animal welfare organizations that are sheltering the rescued dogs are: Spokane Humane Society, Spokane County Regional Animal Protection, SpokAnimal Care (Washington), Blue Mountain Humane Society (Walla Walla, Wash.), Benton-Franklin Humane Society (Kennewick, Wash), Multnomah County Animal Control (Troutdale, Ore.), American Eskimo Heart Bandits (Fresno. Calif.), Progressive Animal Welfare Society (Lynnwood, Wash).

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