Puppy mill dogs rescued in big sky country

By on August 10, 2016 with 31 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Just a few days ago, in Lincoln County, Montana, law enforcement officials and HSUS Animal Rescue Team members discovered dozens of animals in dire need. By the end of the day, these rescuers had saved 53 dogs—mostly poodles bred for sale through a personal website and Facebook presence. Some of the dogs were heavily matted, and when rescuers felt beneath their fur they realized the animals were also dangerously underweight. The dogs, ranging in age from several months old to adults, were also suffering from untreated eye, ear, and dental infections.

Lincoln County Animal Care and Control authorities had tried to work with the owner to address conditions at the property over the previous several months. Ultimately, however, they decided to remove the dogs to safety, along with six thin and underweight donkeys. The county will care for the animals until the final disposition of the case.

The HSUS provided some financial assistance for the care of the animals, and PetSmart Charities™ also provided food, supplies, and financial support.

Our founders envisioned The HSUS stepping in to support local humane societies and law enforcement authorities wherever and whenever our organization was in a position to offer services and resources not available to them, or when the situation in play overtaxed their capacity. We’ve been at this for a while, and every time we become involved in such an effort I marvel at the length and substance of our reach as an animal rescue entity.

The outcome at Lincoln County is 100 percent great for the animals involved, but cases like this are indicators of a larger problem. As Wendy Hergenraeder, our Montana state director, observed, “the conditions we witnessed are typical for commercial dog breeding facilities in Montana, since the state does not have any laws to regulate puppy mills.” Montana is among just 16 states without specific regulations for puppy mills, such as a requirement to provide basic care. We cannot rescue our way out of this problem, and when it comes to puppy mill operators, the law must speak and forbid them from treating dogs in terrible ways.

There’s not just a moral argument, but an economic one, too. Large-scale cases like this one can be an enormous financial burden on communities like Lincoln County. Unlike a majority of states in the country, Montana also lacks effective laws to provide for the costs of caring for animals seized in a cruelty case. So that cost burden, day in and day out, typically falls on the taxpayers, the goodwill of the community, or upon animal welfare groups that had been warning about these problems and had no part in contributing to the mess.

The HSUS has worked with many states to pass laws to put that financial burden on the suspected perpetrators of animal cruelty or suffering. This makes it easier for local law enforcement officials to take action on such cases and results in more animals being saved from neglect and cruelty.

There is work here for Montana’s legislature, which should take steps to address cost of care issues, as well as to redress the lack of puppy mill regulations that allowed the situation in Lincoln County to get so bad, and continues to place other animals in the state at risk every day.

Animal Rescue and Care, Companion Animals

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  1. Marian F. McAleenan says:

    Great job, as always. What would the animals do without you!


  2. Robert Schultz says:

    Aside from the general horror at finding out about these atrocities, I ask why so many articles say something to the effect of “over many months, authorities monitored the situation?” Why does it seem to take “many months” or longer to take action? Why not one warning and if nothing changes in a week, arrest these people and shut down their operation.

    In those “many months” the animals suffer, hour by hour, day after day. What the hell?!?

  3. Concerned Pet Owner says:

    Where’s the documentation? All we have is your hearsay and according to the owner, you don’t even have the numbers right.

    Theft of animals is theft. These animals are now being warehoused is horrible conditions outside of theit home. In bona fide deplorable conditions without any familiar faces

  4. Kim Vierra says:

    YOU ARE COMPLETELY MISLEADING THE PUBLIC, H.S.U.S.!!! These dogs pictured are NOT EVEN PICTURES FROM THE POODLES STOLEN FROM THE BREEDER IN Lincoln County MT.!! Adonai Poodkes is NOT A PUPPY MILL!!This woman has a heart of gold, and breeds only the highest quality of poodles for confirmation, temperment, health , etc! She has imported dogs from other countries to make her line even better! Please know the facts before you take sides! Adonai Poodkes were STOLEN FROM THEIR OWNER! !

    • Kathy schoolfield says:

      Did the owner steal them in this condition or did she fix them up for the cameras. Any dog cared about would not look like this. It would be in the house, snug and not wet like these poor animals. The owner may be the salt of the earth, but she doesn’t know how to take care of animals. They shouldn’t be wet and matted. Not good for their skin. They will hopefully get a home that truly treats them like family


  5. Meg says:

    How about showing the real dogs that were taken by you rather than a fraudulent photo?? Wow, I hope Cathie hires the best attorney and this humane society brought out in public by their actions! Show a video of you at this home removing all the “horrible conditions” of her pups. Let’s see the true raid and how horrible the dogs condition were – your initial article said you can’t show the dogs…. WHY?? Dogs don’t care if you post their picture. Pictures /video speak louder than words. (Not pictures of dogs that do not belong to Cathie)

    • Wayne Pacelle says:

      Hi Meg,
      This is the blog editor. Because this is an ongoing investigation, we are not able to release photos and footage from the actual location, and the caption has been updated to reflect that more clearly. However, it should be noted that Lincoln County Animal Care and Control authorities had tried to work with the owner to address conditions at the property over the previous several months. Ultimately, however, they decided to remove the dogs to safety, along with six thin and underweight donkeys. The Lincoln County Sheriff’s office requested assistance from The HSUS, and our Animal Rescue Team went in to help.

      • Karen Z Peiffer says:

        Thank you EVERYONE for all that you all do from the coordination of volunteers to the organization of undercover agents to a multitude of vet visits to litigation to finding homes to everything in between. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

        In the heart of puppy mill country…Lancaster County, PA

        Karen Peiffer

    • Jenny says:

      Why would you bother to try to support a puppy mill? Any puppy mill? Any time animals and a way to profit from them conflict, the profits win and food, medical care and decent environments lose.

    • None says:

      Really omg

  6. Terri Watkins says:

    These pictures are not of Cathie’s dogs. What kind of crap are you trying to pull? Let’s hear what your true motive is and why the vendetta against Cathie. They are so many true puppy mills and dogs in need. But you waste time, money, and resources on a respected breeder whose dogs are healthy and well cared for.

    • Wayne Pacelle says:

      Hi Terri – this is the blog editor. You are correct, the photo is from a previous rescue in North Carolina as there were no photos taken from this rescue. The caption has been updated to reflect that.

  7. Juli Hopfer says:

    Is this picture a picture of the dogs actually taken from the puppy mill in Libby, Lincoln County?

  8. Jina Harrell says:

    Puppy mills need to be shut down absolutely everywhere.

  9. Sally says:

    Every night I post something from the national puppy mill web site. They work hard to help close all puppy mills. I have made my friends aware and active in talking about it. We believe in adopt don’t shop which would be good to help close them. We need better laws and fines or time served for abusers.people should not be able to claim dogs as livestock. Sick people out there.

  10. Lori Brescia says:

    Ty for being there for these pups. Shame on Montana and all states that have no laws to protect the innocent. America is just not so beautiful anymore. Lawmakers have let greed take over. So shameful

  11. Andrea Morris says:

    A letter I have just written to Missoula media….
    Jacks Pet Center in Great Falls
    Lynn Morris
    to news
    12 minutes agoDetails
    I know this is Missoula however I wanted to give it my best shot at a chance that somehow maybe in someway this could also alert awareness to the horrific conditions at Jacks Pet Center, the ongoing investigations there of animal cruelty especially now that something like this has surfaced. The people of Montana deserve to know the truth about this business and exploitation of for one example, those monkeys. No matter where one lives. Having a career as a veterinary technician for 18 years, I can honestly say that ranks up there as being one of the worst animal environment /abuse cases I’ve ever seen. The Facebook comments alone clearly mention the many other animals that are for sale and the horrible conditions they are in as well. I have been in contact with the county veterinarian, the county commissioners office, the US Department of agriculture, animal control, the local police, congressmen all of the way up the chain to the president of the United States. Believe it or not, they have all written me back with concerns as well. The laws in Montana need to change. I’m at the point of not knowing what else to possibly do.
    I’m going to try and attach some of the grim circumstances the pictures I had taken to show. To never see sunlight, nothing for mental stimulation in an enclosure that is approximately 8 X 10 (being generous) to house at least 6 capuchin primates. Feces smeared all over the glass, and nowhere for them to escape their own waste. The owner does not sell them and refuses to give them up to anyone that could give them a proper and healthy environment, not only for them but for the employees as well. Claiming how much she “loves” them, yet it is a quite clever tactic for bringing in more customers! There are many diseases, even minor cold symptoms humans and primates could potentially share. I’m absolutely astonished the health department does nothing.
    I appreciate your time taken to read this, and still have faith that in someway something could be done for them…even if it is a small chance to bring awareness.
    Pictures may be sent separately if I’m unable to attach.
    PS, the Great Falls Tribune declined any possible help as I had written them also.
    Andrea Morris
    (406) 565-3460

  12. Juli says:

    As a native Montanan and native Libby/Lincoln County resident, I very much appreciate the HSUS stepping with assistance to remove these animals. However, the dogs pictured in this blog are not those removed. You would have been better served to not post a pic than post one of dogs from another case.

    • Wayne Pacelle says:

      Hi Juli – This is the blog editor. You are correct, this is from a previous rescue as there were no photos taken at this rescue. I can update to reflect that. Thank you!

      • Pam says:

        There were pictures taken but they didn’t show any abuse or neglect. The “starving” donkey pictures are still floating around and they clearly show the donkeys in good weight.

  13. Lani says:

    Unlike a majority of states in the country, Montana also lacks effective laws to provide for the costs of caring for animals seized in a cruelty case. So that cost burden, day in and day out, typically falls on the taxpayers, the goodwill of the community, or upon animal welfare groups that had been warning about these problems and had no part in contributing to the mess.
    As Quoted above…..
    It is also these people that can change the laws so that the animals don’t suffer…when you take out of peoples pockets maybe they will start making some changes!!!

  14. Ellen says:

    Is there a way to contact someone to see if they need foster homes or help taking an animal? I would love to help.

  15. al smith says:

    The HSUS has more than enough ready cash to care for all of thes animals and many many more.. they are a cut and run agency..

  16. Pam says:

    Why do you keep saying you can’t show pictures of the dogs? You claim it is because this is an active investigation, yet yesterday had no problem with showing dogs that were taken in Ohio as it was happening. What is the real reason? Is it because the dogs when taken looked fine?

  17. Denise Berube says:

    Great job closing down a mill and for the ignorant people defending the Miller, shame on you! Let’s put you in a cage and breed the hell out of you! Dogs should not be made to live that way. They are companion animals who deserve a loving home. I hope Cathie gets a nice taste of karma along with the losers defending her. Interbred animals! (I’m NOT referring to the dogs)

  18. Anita Stone says:

    Close ALL puppy mills through out the country. Including the Amish. God’s creatures should not be abused for human gain.

  19. SueZ says:

    So what can we do as private citizens to change the laws and /or get local authorities to clamp down on known puppy mills?

  20. Crime in the US says:

    There were pictures taken but they didn’t show any abuse or neglect. The Dogs & “starving” donkey pictures are still around and they clearly show the donkeys in good weight and the dogs healthy. HSUS is using your donations to take one state at a time. Don’t be ignorant! Do some investigation!!
    Many have asked me about Adonai Poodles, some info
    As I was looking for a real Poodle not terribly inbreed like all of the rest in the US!! I did not buy one only because I wanted an original part color Puddle!
    That is the ONLY reason!
    Her only crime was attempting to make a place where local children could visit and interact safely with healthy animals and have fun!!
    She was only raided because HSUS is trying to set an example in Montana… and she is 60+ years old without the funds to defend herself..

  21. Kathy schoolfield says:

    No one needs to have a puppy mill. It’s just torture for all the dogs. The never get socialized or know love unconditionally. I don’t have the answer, but the way it’s
    done is not right. The animals are mistreated. I think the miller’s have too many to give them what they need, exercise, grooming, attention. Something to get the puppies accustom to people. Make their living quarters larger, so they can play together. Make their quarters as they are supposed to be. No wire, plenty of shelter from the heat and rain. There are quite a few things that would make the animals more comfortable and not cost a lot of money. Why is nothing ever done to help them. Another thing you could do is fire the old miller’s and hire some new

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