Delaware Valley rescue provides sanctuary for puppy mill survivors


We wrote yesterday about the decision by the Chester County SPCA not to reveal the name of - or charge - the farmer who was found with 24 puppies and adult dogs crammed in a filthy shed.

For those who rescue puppy mill dogs this presents a daily dilemma: keep quiet about the abuser in the hope of rescuing more dogs or identify the abusers and risk being cut off.

I know it torments many of those on the front lines of the battle to close puppy mills. In eight years of covering the issue, I have found some rescuers have even been reluctant to be quoted by name in the fear that their breeder connections would end.

Delaware Valley Golden Retriever Rescue is among the groups in southeastern Pennsylvania that saves puppy mill dogs. This is no small task. These animals have rarely if ever, had vet care. Their only contact with humans is when they are dragged out of their hutches for breeding. Their road back can require months or more of socialization.

DVGRR recently posted a disturbing video showing what happens when the hutch door is opened and a dog is freed for the first time in months or years.

These two survivors were young, a 12-week-old puppy with a heart murmur and a young female, no doubt destined for years in the hutch had she not given birth to a litter of still born pups.

They had lived in outdoor hutches with wire flooring at a kennel licensed by the state. Remember the 2008 Pennsylvania dog law changes mandating exercise, vet care, ammonia and temperature controls, affected only commercial kennels,, those selling more than 60 dogs a year.Everyone else, and that is the bulk of breeding kennels - hundreds of them - fell under the earlier law which has no such provisions.

The good folks at DVGRR declined to identify the breeder or the county in which they were located.

The report of the rescue of Amber and Leroy from DVGRR:

Dennis called about 10 minutes out to let staff know he was coming in with two dogs that were "really in bad shape." We're used to this, but there was something in Dennis's voice that sounded different. 

When he opened the hatch, there shook a 12-week-young puppy and a young female. They were not related (directly) and the female was given up because her last litter of pups were all stillborn. The puppy was surrendered because he has a heart murmur. Presumably, the balance of the puppies have been sold to uneducated purchasers or picked up by a broker for sale in pet stores. The farmer told Dennis, "You're doing good work. You really help us breeders."

The photo shows the living arrangements. Dennis counted about 8 females and more hutches than are shown in the photo. To the right looks like a water tank. We don't know if the huge propane tank is for the hutches or the farmer's home. Cement under the hutches is where the feces and urine fall. Dennis said the stench was almost unbearable. The adults leave the confines of the hutch to be bred. Life outside of ten square feet is nothing but fear and panic.

The video below shows what happens to the parents of pet store puppies.

Based on behavior, these dogs were never out of the hutch. When these dogs are exposed to "freedom," they don't know what to do; hence, Amber ran into the fences. SHE WAS NOT HURT. This is typical behavior. When she tired, and Dennis took the lead, she pancaked... again, typical behavior. The dogs sometimes have to be dragged. If we try to lift, they flail and do "alligator rolls" and stand to be injured if they fall from the handler's arms. After a few days at Golden Gateway, you can start to see the change.

Watch the amazing progress of Amber here and Leroy here.

DVGRR did the math on this kennel: estimates that eight females bred twice a year produced litters of five puppies each sold at minimum of $400.equals an annual income of $32,000 - likely unreported.

DVGRR is set to hold the grand opening of the Lynn Glennon Sanctuary in Reinholds Apr. 5. Click here for details about the event. This facility is dedicated to providing comfortable housing for senior dogs and puppy mills survivors who may require long-term care.

And speaking of long term care, don't forget your local shelter at tax refund time. Many shelter directors I have spoken to in southeastern Pennsylvania lately say the grueling winter took its toll on their resources. The steady flow of stray and surrendered animals didn't take a winter break, but the cold and ice kept away potential adopters so there were more than the usual number of mouths to feed. Plus, shelters needed extra help to plow snow and extra heat to keep pets warm and that has left them with sky-high fiuel bills this spring.