The rescue of 84 Great Danes from a 15,000-square-foot mansion in a resort community in central New Hampshire was as surprising as it was dramatic. The juxtaposition of a pricey neighborhood and a huge house packed with animals living in filth and squalor reminds us that there are hard-hearted and troubled people everywhere – people who lose control and fall short when it comes to their animal care responsibilities. Responders did not just find feces on the floor and on the wires cages; the walls were splattered with it. Despite the dogs’ size and strength, the toxic atmosphere produced infections, open sores and cuts, and an array of other health crises.
Now, these dogs are in our hands even as the alleged perpetrator running the dog-selling operation from her home has vowed to fight the charges. We don’t know how long the court proceedings will take, but they could drag on for the rest of the year and into 2018. As a consequence, the cost of care for these animals may run into the hundreds of thousands of dollars, as we hold and care for them in an emergency shelter. Because she refuses to surrender them, we can’t yet send them to placement partners or foster care.
Yesterday, we released a video that captures more details of how the raid occurred and the environment in which the dogs lived. We hate what happened to these dogs, but we are not shrinking from our duty and our desire to turn their lives around.
But with thousands of substandard and inhumane commercial breeding operations churning out puppies for the pet trade, it’s clear that we cannot rescue our way out of the puppy mill problem. We must convince people to make better, more informed choices when they get a dog, or any animal for that matter, and that’s why we are shouting from the rooftops about the wayward ways of the mills. The best alternative when you’re in the market for a dog is to adopt from a shelter or rescue group. If you go to a breeder, make sure it’s a humane-minded one, and that you make the effort to see the parents of the offspring.
We must also enact stronger state and federal policies to prevent ongoing mistreatment of animals in commercial breeding operations. The federal Animal Welfare Act regulations for large-scale dog breeding operations are more akin to survival standards than animal welfare rules. And as this nightmare of a situation at the mansion demonstrates, New Hampshire’s laws are in need of a massive overhaul.
This breeder was not federally licensed, and may not have been covered under New Hampshire law, which requires licensure and inspection only for breeders selling 50 individual puppies or 10 litters in a year—a threshold that allows many commercial breeders to escape any oversight or regulation. What’s more, even when regulated, the animal welfare standards are not strong enough and do not provide enough safety for dogs.
New Hampshire also needs a serious approach for dealing with the enormous costs associated with caring for mass animal rescues like the one we encountered. The HSUS is absorbing costs to rehabilitate and care for the Great Danes, in part as a service to the town of Wolfeboro. But The HSUS and its supporters should not have to bear these costs. Twenty other states have found solutions to this problem, ensuring that private humane organizations and taxpayers are not stuck with the bill, while still protecting the rights of defendants. The New Hampshire legislature must work to pass a comprehensive cost of animal care law that would place the cost to care for animals seized in a cruelty investigation on the shoulders of the person responsible for the crisis.
We are calling on New Hampshire Governor Chris Sununu, whose track record for animal welfare has been strong in his first year, to work up a new legal framework to require stronger breeding standards, to cover more large-scale breeders, and to place the burden of costs on these individuals when the animal care situations they create spiral out of control.
You can call Gov. Sununu and ask him to take this action in light of this case. The only reminder you’ll need in order to make that call comes in the form of this short video, which shows what’s at stake for animals.