At some level, our work at The HSUS is about transformation. We are pushing a transformation in thought in our society. We want people to recognize animals as individual beings deserving respect and protection. They are not just things, or resources, or commodities, or targets, or economic opportunities in the waiting.
But, in our work, we also are about the task of a more physical transformation. We want to transform the places where animals live, to make them better, enriching, and safer. Atlantic Canada, for example, should not be a killing place for seals, but a safe nursery where people engage seals with cameras and binoculars rather than clubs and rifles.
© The HSUS/Michelle Riley
The dogs were living in ghastly conditions.
And sometimes, we even need to transfer the animals to new places and spaces so that their lives will be transformed.
And that’s what we’ve been hard at doing for the last week with nearly 700 dogs we rescued from a puppy mill in rural Hickman County in Tennessee—the largest puppy mill raid in state history. In total 747 animals were rescued from the property, including horses, donkeys, cats, chickens, parrots, and a goat.
We invited a number of local and national animal welfare groups in to join us in this rescue operation. And after we pulled these suffering animals from their squalid small cages and gave them food and water and comfort, we began the process of shuttling the hundreds of dogs to Atlanta, south Florida, and other communities inviting them in and standing ready to help. And just before midnight late Sunday night, some members of our Emergency Services team set out from Tennessee with nearly 100 of these dogs and headed to our Gaithersburg, Md. headquarters.
A few minutes before the team was set to arrive HSUS staff and volunteers set out to the parking lot to welcome them. Tennessee District Attorney Kim Helper, who helped to build a case against the puppy mill operator, traveled from her state to join us, vowing that her office would aggressively pursue prosecution. It was a delight to be with her, and we are indebted to her for taking on this case, after just two and a half months in office.
As the rigs pulled in everyone broke out in applause. Many were moved to tears. Local camera crews captured the activity. It was a magnificent moment.
© The HSUS/Michelle Riley
Typical of a puppy mill, many breeds were discovered.
One by one the animals were offloaded. A large, bushy black Newfoundland who looked frail and weak from years of breeding, a shy German Shepherd who was scared to leave her cage, litters upon litters of puppies—it seemed to never end, and it was hard to believe that this was just one-seventh of the animals confined on the Tennessee property. On hand were personnel from the Washington Humane Society and the Washington Animal Rescue League, ready to take these dogs to their shelters and to ready them for adoption in the community.
As the transfer of the dogs wrapped up one of our staffers commented that we have some real heroes within this organization. We sent about 70 HSUS staff to conduct the rescue, to care for the dogs, and to begin the process of moving them to their new, bright chapters of their lives. Our efforts were led by Scotlund Haisley, whom you’ve read about before on my blog, Stephanie Shain, who is directing our Stop Puppy Mills campaign, and Leighann McCollum, our Tennessee state director, who was instrumental in bringing this puppy mill to the attention of the DA’s office. And not far from our minds was our friend and supporter Jana Kohl, who is traveling the nation and talking about her book, "A Rare Breed of Love," as part of her crusade to shut down puppy mills.
Take a look at the video message, below, from Scotlund and Steph, and take pride in knowing that it is precisely because of your support that we can conduct these expensive and highly complex operations. Hundreds of dogs have been rescued from horrendous treatment and are now receiving careful care at shelters across the country. All will be adopted, and they’ll be getting a new and better experience with our species.
If you can, please consider a contribution to our emergency rescue efforts to help cover the cost of these interventions and rescues and help us prepare for the next human-caused or natural disaster. Our heroes have many more missions ahead of them. They just need your support.