Puppy mills are a plague. The dogs are often small breeds like Yorkshire terriers, poodles, Chihuahuas, or “designer” mixes. Sadly, the mills abuse larger dogs, too. This week, we joined the Lewis and Clark Humane Society, the Jefferson County Sheriff’s Office, and the Jefferson County Attorney to rescue more than 160 Malamutes from a Montana puppy mill.
Similar in appearance to huskies, these dogs were living in outdoor pens with little or no food or water, and many of them are severely underweight. Consumers who reportedly bought sick puppies from the mill were the ones who alerted local authorities, who then called in HSUS and our Animal Rescue Team.
Our deputy manager of animal cruelty investigations, Ashley Mauceri, sent this report from the scene.
To reach the property, we drove up a long, winding driveway on the side of a steep hill. The dogs were kept in what seemed like an endless maze of chain-link pens, with no food in sight and only buckets full of moldy, black water. Many of the pens were filthy and strewn with metal debris and trash.
We didn’t even find food bowls inside the pens, leaving us to wonder if anyone ever came inside the enclosures. The dogs seemed desperate for attention as well as food—many are emaciated under their thick, unkempt fur. They came up to the edge of their pens, a little unsure of what was happening, but as soon as we had them in our arms, most of them immediately relaxed as if they knew everything would be all right. As I lifted one dog after another, I felt how disturbingly light they were for such large dogs.
I saw several litters of puppies shivering in the chilly weather. If we hadn’t gotten there before winter, they may not have survived. We found animals with parts of their ears missing, open sores, and other injuries. While the owner of this puppy mill was selling dogs as “show-quality” over the Internet and through newspaper ads, the truth is they were lacking even basic care. These dogs deserved so much better. The owner has been arrested and charged with animal cruelty and other crimes.
Many of the female dogs were pregnant—we found one cowering in a corner, her body almost skin and bones, her belly huge with puppies. We rushed her to a veterinary hospital for urgent care. As more puppies are born, the number of dogs will continue to rise, and we’ll be providing financial support to the Lewis and Clark Humane Society as they care for the dogs at their shelter. Their lives have already improved with a warm place to sleep and food to eat, and we hope that things will only keep getting better for them.
P.S. This Montana mill was selling puppies over the Internet and underscores once again the need for more oversight of puppy mills selling directly to the public. Please sign our petition today urging the Obama administration to close a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act regulations that allows Internet puppy sellers to escape federal oversight.