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Rescuing dogs from puppy mills

05/08/2008

By Kathy Mehuron

Three years ago our family decided that our dog needed a canine companion. I had been told that we could get any breed of dog from a breed's rescue organization. We thought that it made sense to adopt a dog that really needs a home instead of spending a great deal of money on another puppy. Our dog, "Dingo," is an Australian cattle dog and we thought it would be fun to get an Australian shepherd as his buddy. I Googled the breed and the rescue organization came right up. We contacted them, The Central Vermont Humane Society and the North Country Animal League, and described the dog we hoped to find. We also filled out an application for adoption for each organization. A month later we had exactly what we were looking for, a year-old mini Australian shepherd that was a purebred animal. The Australian Shepherd Rescue only asked for $200 to help cover her spaying and other veterinarian costs.

We were told that our new dog "Sydney" came from a puppy mill. I had never heard that term before and a little research left me shocked that such a practice exists in our country. These places mass-produce purebred dogs for pet stores. There are many reputable breeders, such as the farm where we had purchased our first dog, but the mills treat dogs as a cash crop.

 "Sydney" was born in a windowless shack filled with wire cages. A mother dog is in the cage and is made to breed as often as possible. These mothers often don't know how to walk. The dogs above rain waste products on the dogs below them. By the time that Sydney was rescued she was coated in her own and other dog's urine and feces. She had to be shaved because her skin was infected. It took many months of medical care to cure the ear infections caused by the conditions of the mill. She was going to be destroyed by the mill because she has two different colored eyes. I was told that even though she is a gorgeous purebred, having one blue eye and one amber-colored eye freaks some people out.

We have really enjoyed her the past three years and we decided to adopt another dog that was a lap dog. Spring is a great time of year to start training a puppy. I found a wonderful organization on the Internet that makes trips to the puppy mills. I was delighted that the group is right here in Vermont! The founding members make trips themselves to puppy mills and bring back as many as they can provide foster care for. They found us a purebred, nine-week-old Pomeranian who is a delight. They have other beautiful puppies and dogs that they have rescued directly from the puppy mills.

Our very own Valley veterinarian Roy Hadden has helped to make it possible for the rescued dogs to have medical care and spay/neutering. He also regularly volunteers for the Humane Society. It is very generous of Roy and greatly appreciated.

I encourage anyone who is thinking about a new pet to contact a rescue organization. Because my experience is limited to my three dogs, there are many pet rescues that I don't know about but are easy to find via the Internet. Our local animal shelters are listed in the phone book and are happy to work with you to adopt a pet. Summer is coming and this is a wonderful time to train your new best friend.

Mehuron lives in Waitsfield.
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