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A little over three weeks ago, I visited a Missouri puppy mill in the guise of being a fellow miller in order to purchase Pomeranians that were being "liquidated" by the owner.  

The conditions I saw made this a wretched day.  What's happened since convinces me that even the smallest, most neglected animal can have a profoundly beautiful soul.

Meet Caesar below the jump.

Picture 170

The puppy mill in rural Missouri was typical - way off of the beaten path, sheds and shacks and trailers and the roar of dogs barking, howling and whimpering.  Wire cages stacked three high, allowing feces and urine to drop on the dogs in the cages below.  A chilly day and no heat or protection from the elements for these dogs.  And there were hundreds of them - Jack Russell Terriers, Beagles, Bichon Frises.  Some had cage insanity - dogs that were never allowed to leave their confinement for exercise, going in endless frenzied circles, unaware that anyone was standing nearby.  

In Missouri, it's all business.  The puppy mills in this state export a third of all puppy mill dogs sold in pet stores, over 144,000 per year.  What's sad is that this man's operation is the norm rather than the exception.

He sold me all 15 of his adult Pomeranians, all of them filthy, wet, and crawling with parasites.  He then invited me into an unheated trailer on the property because he 'thought' he had more dogs inside.

Upon entering I saw a litter of Pomeranian puppies laying on a piece of newspaper.  There was no mother present.  He told me they'd been born the night before.  In a corner I spied another puppy, a little older than the litter.  He was covered in feces, looked emaciated and was shivering.  I took all of the puppies, paid him $80 for all of the dogs ("you can make thousands from them" he told me cheerfully) and headed home with the adults and puppies.

None of the newborn puppies survived, despite the best efforts of the staff of my animal hospital.  The largest newborn died first and the vet believed that he had problems in the birth canal, which likely killed the mother.  The others died within the next two days.  None of them lived the week due to exposure and neglect.

I have placed all of the adults into good homes with the exception of two sisters that are currently being fostered by kind-hearted friends.  

That leaves the cold and frightened little five week old puppy I spied in the corner that day.  After I had him - and all the dogs - checked by my vet I took him home.  He was listless and not very responsive.  Upon examination he was missing part of his left ear, and I'm guessing that since he was left to roam in that trailer he approached a nursing mother for food and she bit him, protecting her own puppies.  I don't have his own mother or any of his littermates so I'm assuming none of them survived.

I hand-fed him for a couple of weeks and he started to come around.  I have two puppy mill rescues of my own, Guido and Luigi, and they help me foster my mill rescues and are a big help in socializing them.  The puppy loved them both and followed them throughout the house and learned what it means to live in an actual home.  He began exploring and discovered the joy of toys, and his current favorite is a little yellow duck.  He plays with it for hours.

I waited a couple of weeks and finally named his Caesar, since he's taken to ruling the household.  He's always ready to play or for quiet time in your lap.  He has explored the yard and it frightened him a little.  He's never known grass, just the inside of an unheated trailer.

Picture 147

Caesar never would have survived another day in that trailer without his mother.  He now weighs a whopping 1 pound, 3 ounces and is thriving.  I give him all the credit for his survival, since despite the poor condition he was in when I got him he seems determined to get a second chance - to play with toys, with his new pal Luigi, to eat on a regular basis and sleep in a little bed that must be pure luxury.  He's a tough guy who beat the odds.

Sadly, there are lots of Caesars throughout Missouri who won't survive another day because people buy dogs through pet stores, in flea markets or over the Internet.  There are Caesars who won't survive because we don't hold politician's feet to the fire to legislate the end of the puppy mill system or even require a daily period of exercise for these dogs in many states.  There are Caesars who won't survive because huge dog brokers like Missouri's notorious Hunte Corporation have a host of lobbyists while the Caesars have nothing but a handful of rescue people.  

If you live in Missouri, you can help by joining the mailing list for
the Missouri Alliance for Animal Legislation.  If you don't, perhaps you can purchase holiday cards from their site to help support their efforts to tighten regulations in Missouri puppy mills.

Caesar thanks you.

Originally posted to Dem Beans on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 05:18 PM PST.

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Comment Preferences

  •  Thank you for rescuing Caesar and the others. (14+ / 0-)

    You are an extraordinary person!

  •  Thank you - heartbreaking and heartwarming (7+ / 0-)

    Bless you for helping these little ones.

    Please post a tip jar?  You deserve much mojo.

  •  Thank you for doing what you do. (5+ / 0-)

    He's a little cutie!

    Poor GWB - he must have thought approval ratings were like golf scores.

    by My mom is my hero on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 05:35:28 PM PST

  •  What a tropper! (6+ / 0-)

    And a cute one, at that!  

    -7.62, -7.28 "We told the truth. We obeyed the law. We kept the peace." - Walter Mondale

    by luckylizard on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 05:35:30 PM PST

  •  Also Another "Amish" Scam (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, Ice Blue, joyful, cany

    They are also in the puppy mill business, shielded by their homespun image.

  •  Heartbreaking. (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, joyful, kayfromsouth, Ebby

    My mother just bought a golden retriever from a breeder.  While I don't think the breeder operates a mill like the one you describe, I am totally opposed to buying from breeders at all, and every time she tries to tell me about her new puppy, I just cut her off.

    There are so many animals in the world already who need good homes.  The idea of paying thousands of dollars for a pure bred sickens me.  

    All three of my cats are rescue cats, and I wouldn't have it any other way.

    Bless you for saving those poor creatures.

    Hope you enjoyed it, Sarah, 'cause we just kicked your silly winking folksy lipsticked ass back to Alaska. Now shut the fuck up and stay there. Also.

    by Kaili Joy Gray on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 05:45:43 PM PST

    •  There are breeders and then there are breeders. (1+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      SciVo

      The breeder we bought our Gordon setters from showed hers, and had the ribbons to prove it.  If you wanted one of her puppies, you had to get on her waiting list.  When the list was long enough, she'd have one of her bitches bred.  Mamas got a good rest between litters.

      We always got the puppies who she decided, for whatever reason, were not to be shown.  We still had to undergo a lenghty interview, and we usually had to promise to have them neutered.  They still made wonderful pets.

      Then there's the other kind.  I wish dog buyers would realize that the word "purebred" alone doesn't mean squat.

      A jackass can kick down a barn but it takes a carpenter to build one.--Sam Rayburn (D-TX)

      by Ice Blue on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 11:49:21 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Sometimes (0+ / 0-)

      you want a specific animal for a specific purpose.  When I start raising goats in the hills, I want a proper Guardian Dog breed, and you don't find those on street corners.  Labs, who constitute 90% or more of the rescues around here (and up there), have high prey-drive making them unsuitable for flock guardian work.  And my neighbor's Blue Heelers, while they've tried to take on a local bear, didn't come out so well from the experience.

      That being the case, I have tracked down a breeder who lives and breathes his dogs and won't part with them except to people who PROVE that they have the proper attitude and resources to care for them appropriately.  In addition to a two-page application for a puppy, I've already been through an hour's inquest by phone, and the deal won't be settled without a personal visit and evaluation.  And I wouldn't have it any other way.  There are breeders and breeders, and the trouble they take to place their animals with the right buyers, tells you volumes about how they value them.

  •  How did you hear about the liquidation? (2+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, joyful

    Do these creeps actually advertise that way?

    Now, go spread some peace, love and understanding. Use force if necessary. - Phil N DeBlanc

    by lineatus on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 05:50:23 PM PST

    •  No (5+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Halcyon, Ice Blue, nonnie9999, joyful, lineatus

      Sometimes they advertise through auctions, where they auction off their older breeding stock to people who sell the dogs to research labs or other millers.

      I have a friend who does Pug rescue, and she has a good network out when a miller is clearing out a breed.  She knows that I foster Pomeranian mill rescues and rang me up when she heard this guy was liquidating his Poms.  She went with me, which was a big help, and fostered a couple of the dogs until I found homes for them.

      you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

      by Dem Beans on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 05:54:13 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

      •  Why would a mill (4+ / 0-)
        Recommended by:
        Dem Beans, Ice Blue, joyful, lineatus

        'liquidate' a breed? Because of lack of popularity?

        Bless you.

        Pennsylvania has a new kennel law designed to get rid of the mills, if not regulate them into humane treatment. My neighbor has a hobby kennel because they are fox hunters. He just received a 22-page form to fill out, including questions about what they use to wash out the bowls. Requirement to have a fire alarm system wired to the house from the kennel, etc. He's pissed, because they've never sold a single puppy. He doesn't think he needs to be regulated, but I've seen enormous mounds of poop there, and since his wife got Lyme disease, they hardly ever hunt or let the dogs out. They don't have a single pet hound in their house.

        •  I would guess a couple of reasons... (5+ / 0-)
          Recommended by:
          Halcyon, Ice Blue, nonnie9999, joyful, lineatus

          Some of the female Poms I rescued weren't breed standard - they probably were from accidental litters with one of his other breeds.  Once a miller has crossbred enough generations they stop getting paid big bucks by the brokers because they can't sell the dogs as purebred.  So, he probably liquidated his Pom stock because his sloppy breeding tainted his line - and I use tainted only in reference to breed standard.  The dogs themselves were beautiful, at least to me.

          He looked to be about 60 and he told me he was thinking of getting out of the puppy business - let's hope this happens - so he might have just wanted to reduce his overall numbers.  

          The new Pennsylvania law was a big win, and hopefully it'll curb the worst abuses in the Amish community.

          you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

          by Dem Beans on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 07:12:25 PM PST

          [ Parent ]

  •  You are a kindred soul, dear Dem Beans! (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, Ice Blue, nonnie9999, Ming Vase

    Bless you and thank you for this diary.  I am a moderator at nopuppymills.com and I can testify to your story - and worse.  The truth of what goes on at these commercial breeding facilities will shatter even the strongest spirit.

    Please, fellow Kossacks, please don't buy a puppy from a pet store, even when the employees tell you that the dogs come from "USDA-licensed and inspected facilities." USDA-licensed = A PUPPY MILL!  Plain and simple.

    THIS is how the parents of a cute puppy live their entire lives in that USDA-licensed facility:

    238-2

    Would you have guessed that poor creature was a poodle?  This was a 'reject' dumped on the side of a county road by a USDA-licensed Missouri breeder.  (Fortunately, this angel and the other abandoned dogs found with her were taken into rescue.)  No charges were filed against the breeder, because she signed the dogs over to the authorities.  And so the cycle continues...

    •  very nice to meet you (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Ice Blue, joyful

      I'll have to check out your forum.  

      There never seems to be a penalty for these breeders, does there?  The look in the eyes of that poodle is utterly haunting.

      Since just about all of the dogs I got from this miller were young - between 1 and 3 - I asked him where his older dogs were.  He gave me a blank look and shrugged.  You know he 'disposes' of his older breeding stock either via auction or through more nefarious means.  I don't know how some people live with themselves.

      you don't need a weatherman to know which way the wind blows

      by Dem Beans on Fri Dec 05, 2008 at 08:25:57 PM PST

      [ Parent ]

    •  Jesus H. Christ! (2+ / 0-)
      Recommended by:
      Dem Beans, joyful

      That's a DOG?!?!?!?

      Upon first seeing the image before reading your comment, I thought it was some sort of cartoon creature / caricature! It sickens me to think any living thing could be treated so poorly by us "superior" humans ...

      "Imprisonment... is a series of cubes!" ~ Sen. Ted "Toobz" Stevens (AK-Felon)

      by The Werewolf Prophet on Sun Dec 07, 2008 at 10:26:40 AM PST

      [ Parent ]

  •  Wow (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    sberel, Dem Beans, joyful, cany

    Thank you for this diary, and for what you do.

  •  How do these people live with themselves (7+ / 0-)

    treating animals this way??

    I too foster small breeds, and our group recently got some shih tzus from -- you guessed it-- a puppy mill in Missouri.  Thanks for letting me know about the organization trying to get some laws for humane treatment in Missouri.  I will forego buying a few  Xmas presents and send a donation instead.

    We need Special Prosecutors. NOW.

    by CalDoc on Sat Dec 06, 2008 at 10:50:24 PM PST

  •  That poor dog. (5+ / 0-)

    Those haunting eyes.

    While it is rarer, since there is less money in it, "kitten mills" do exist. It's not as large scale, but these are cats bred with no thought to genetics, in backyard operations where the cats are confined, not socialized, and not cared for properly.

    I tell everyone I know NOT TO BUY FROM PET SHOPS. These are animals who often have serious genetic problems.

    My brother-in-law got a puppy from a pet shop as an impulse purchase by his now ex-wife. She's a lovely Shiba Inu, but subject to horrible skin allergies and requires prednisone shots every few months. I don't know if she will reach her proper lifespan; so many have to be put down.

    Bless you and the other adopters. I'm sure you will be rewarded many times over.

    WereBear
    Pootie fan? Me too! Check out my cat advice blog.
    The Way of Cats

    by WereBear on Sun Dec 07, 2008 at 05:50:03 AM PST

  •  I want you to know (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, joyful, SciMathGuy, Ebby

    that this diary inspired me to get serious about adopting a shelter kitteh very soon.  Maybe today if I get my act in gear and have another cup of coffee :)

    My last kitteh died just over a year ago, and I've been hearing about how many are turning up at the shelters because of the economic crisis.  I think I'm ready again now.  And the kittehs seem to be ready too.

    Darwinic pilgrims claim the image fills them with an overwhelming feeling of logic. --The Onion

    by mem from somerville on Sun Dec 07, 2008 at 06:26:56 AM PST

  •  Bless you. Really. Bless you. n/t (4+ / 0-)
    Recommended by:
    Dem Beans, Yasuragi, Onomastic, Ebby

    Fucketh not with the MF diary, for you have but 5 HR, and we (collectively) have hundreds.

    by SciMathGuy on Sun Dec 07, 2008 at 12:33:47 PM PST

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