If you visited the website of Mason Creek Kennel in North Carolina, you'd be greeted by photos of adorable puppies–everything from Boston terriers, to Yorkies, to Pomeranians, to "designer" mixes and many other small breeds. The descriptions on the site boast about "comprehensive care," "AKC accreditation," and "healthy, happy" puppies.
But today's rescue of nearly 300 dogs from this property is a painful reminder of just how easy it is for puppy mills to hide the filthy, cruel conditions their dogs are forced to live in–a subject that I hit in The Bond, along with the fact that the American Kennel Club has sat on the sidelines while these problems have spiraled out of control. The HSUS Animal Rescue Team is there today helping Caldwell County Animal Control remove these dogs from an appalling situation.
Though photos on the website show fluffy, healthy-looking puppies, what they don't show are the buildings filled with dogs in cramped wire cages, many suffering from feces-matted fur, rotting teeth, and infections.
Our director of animal cruelty investigations, Adam Parascandola, described one building with dozens of cages where nursing mother dogs were kept with their puppies. Though at least these dogs had more protection from the elements than the others kept in outdoor cages, the accumulated urine and feces had created such harsh ammonia fumes that rescuers had to wear masks to protect their lungs. The wire floors of the cages allowed the puppies' paws to fall through the gaps and get stuck.
The scene inside another building was even more disturbing. Stepping across a dangerously rotten floor, rescuers found long rows of cages that were completely empty–except for two skeletons of dead dogs.
Customers who came to this kennel to buy puppies probably came to the house near the front of the property, where a front porch with a porch swing looks charming and appealing. But these people would have had no idea what lay at the end of the long driveway, where the barn and other buildings held hundreds of filthy, mistreated dogs. Neither would the families who bought puppies over the Internet from this puppy mill, taken in by the claims of healthy and well-treated pets.
Our team is transporting the animals to a nearby emergency shelter, where they'll receive veterinary exams and necessary care. Animal control officers from Catawba, Union, and Burke, as well as volunteers from Saving Grace Pet Adoptions, Charlotte Humane Society, North Carolina Voters for Animal Welfare, and CARA of Lee County are assisting on the scene.
The HSUS is also working to strengthen the laws against puppy mills in North Carolina to prevent suffering like this, but special interests have stifled past legislation to license commercial dog breeders and set basic standards of care. We hope that today's rescue allows us to close the argument and to pass this legislation and protect dogs. And we're working to close a loophole in the federal Animal Welfare Act that allows puppy mills selling directly to the public, such as over the Internet, to evade even the most minimal animal welfare standards.
Finally, this case illustrates why it's so important to adopt a dog from your local animal shelter or find a reputable breeder who will show you where the dogs and their parents are kept. If you buy a puppy over the Internet or from a pet store, you may be supporting a squalid facility like this one. At least one statement on the kennel's website could not be more true: "Searching for and adopting the perfect puppy into your home and hearts is one of the most important decisions and commitments you will ever make."