Meet the Survivors: Lui

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Luis or Lui for short!

It was a fateful, quick decision when Nancy saw a puppy mill survivor in immediate need posted by HavaHeart Rescue. She and her husband had only been volunteers of HavaHeart a few weeks but she knew she needed to help.

Their Shih Tzu, Taz who was rescued from APA, had crossed Rainbow Bridge a month earlier and Nancy felt like it would be good start fostering because they wanted another dog soon. It was also during the pandemic and they felt like it was a perfect time to have a dog in their lives.

Lui, named to honor his Cuban roots, was listed as a purebred Havanese by the breeder. He was a little over 2 years old when he was rescued from the mill as a breeder release.

Eventually, Nancy would have a DNA test done on Lui only to find that he was actually:

      • 42% Havanese
      • 15% Chihuahua
      • 15% Shih Tzu
      •  13% Basset Fauve de Bretagne

She thought it was interesting that a breeder would list Lui as a purebred Havanese when that wasn’t the case at all. 

They agreed to take Lui in as a foster, but had never taken in a puppy mill survivor before and had no idea what to expect.

Lui came to them on a Sunday evening.

He was terrified.

His crate was full of vomit.

His coat was nasty and shaved down to his skin and he smelled awful.

It was as though he had never been bathed his whole life. But, as Nancy said, “He was free.”

She described how he stared at them from his crate just trembling with fear. As they took him from the crate and placed him on the grass, his little paws were rough and sore and his eyes were so sad and vacant.

They were amazed when they realized he had no idea what grass was. He just kept lifting his paws off of it.

For the longest time, Lui refused to eat out of a bowl and would only eat if the kibble was placed directly on the floor.

Nancy had dogs all of her life, but never one like Lui. He was so unlike any dog she had experienced.

Lui is full of love and is eager to be the best dog he can be, but he has so many fears. People, noise, other dogs, cars and wheels all scare him.

At first, the outside and the grass overwhelmed him, but now he loves to run zoomies around the yard.

Nancy and her family have tried numerous things to help Lui acclimate to normal dog life. They tried dog parks to help him socialize, but they didn’t pan out. He went to a training facility to learn to be around other dogs without fear and that helped some. He is also on Fluoxetine (doggy prozac) and wears a sentry calming collar- both of which Nancy believe have helped him cope. 

Lui was made an official part of their family only a month after they began fostering him and he has now been living a beautiful life for almost a year and a half.

He has traveled with them to the Smokies and to Northern Michigan. And, he has flown twice to Florida to enjoy the beach life. He is a great traveler!

While Lui has presented them with challenges, they have learned new ways to manage. He has taught them to be quick, to be aware and to try and channel their inner canine to help him learn, accept and love other humans in return. 

What do you think Lui would want to tell other humans?

“Lui is sweet. First, he would say, ’Thank you’ with a lick and a look with his huge brown eyes. He would then ask for humans to be patient and quiet so he can learn and absorb all he can. Lastly, he would ask that they just love him back like he wants to love them.”

Lui is learning to accept people, so he can join Nancy on spreading the truth about puppy mill atrocities. She said, “People are shocked when they see his before and after pictures.”

Lui will make a heartwarming little billboard to show the truth about puppy mills and pet stores. Not to mention the reality of canine registries. Far from a purebred Havanese – Lui is what most of us would call a mutt!

A lovable mutt for certain!

Nancy ended with, “We love Lui and are so proud of how far he has come. We are along for the journey and are happy to know he is all ours.”

Welcome to your new life Lui – sounds like you won the lottery! 

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story with our supporters, I would love to publish it on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.**

Buyer Beware: Puppyland

Bailing Out Benji 2022
All research and information was done by  Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!
To view the rest of our research, click here.

_______________________________________________

“We don’t buy from puppy mills.”

“All of our puppies come from small, local breeders.”

“We visit every breeder we buy from.”

We have all heard these sentences come from the mouths of pet store owners and their employees. They paint this beautiful picture of puppies running by a pond and parents frolicking in the fresh, green grass… Sadly, 99% of the time that is false. The pet store owners know it, the employees might know it- but the customer is completely in the dark. 

At Bailing Out Benji we extensively research the puppy mill industry and independently audit government health records of companion animals leaving commercial breeding facilities and heading to pet stores, as well as online website sales.

Through our research we have connected more than 400 pet stores across the United States to the commercial breeding facilities they source from and also exposed the nationwide puppy-laundering scheme. Through our research we have determined that the pet stores across the country are buying from some of the largest and most problematic commercial dog breeders and brokers in the midwest. 

Sadly, the Puppyland pet store chain is no different. Puppyland opened their first location in Puyallup, Washington in October 2018 and rapidly expanded across the country.

Puppyland is currently located in the following places: 

13103 Meridian E Suite #104, Puyallup, Washington 98373

Renton- 54 Rainier Ave S Renton, Washington 98057

Olympia- 2615 Capital Mall Drive A1 Olympia , Washington 98502- CLOSED 

3100 E Florence Dr STE 102, Meridian, Idaho 83642

25 NE Interstate 410 Loop Suite 130, San Antonio, Texas 78216- CLOSED

651 I-35BL Ste 410, New Braunfels, Texas 78130

5354 McGinnis Ferry Rd Suite 202, Alpharetta, Georgia 30005

* And soon to be Oregon. 

Advocates worked tirelessly to cut off the puppy mill pipeline in Olympia and San Antonio by passing humane ordinances in 2020. These humane ordinances required pet stores to cut ties with puppy mills and instead partner with rescues and shelters to help the pet overpopulation problem. Instead of tapping into the multi million dollar pet supply and pet services industry, Puppyland chose to close their doors in those cities and reopen elsewhere (Renton & New Braunfels, respectively). 

Like many pet stores across the country, Puppyland sources all of their puppies from a broker instead of from breeders directly. These puppies are ordered from online purchasing programs like Pet XChange and DogOnWeb, then the broker picks the puppies up and transports them to the store.

Since they have opened, Puppyland has exclusively sourced from the large puppy broker JAKS Puppies Inc. out of Britt, Iowa. JAKS was at the center of the national puppy laundering scheme and had their two sham nonprofits shut down in Iowa by the Iowa Attorney General.

While many pet stores order through brokering websites and companies, the act of using a USDA broker adds a layer of secrecy for the public. If a sick puppy is sold through a large broker, it could take an enforcement agency weeks to track down where the animal originated in order to investigate disease outbreaks. 

One of the programs that Bailing Out Benji offers to the public is to research the origins of the puppy they purchased. Since pet stores don’t often disclose that information to the customer before purchase, many families are left looking elsewhere for answers. 

Below you will find a list of breeding facilities that Puppyland has sourced from in the years 2021, 2020, 2019, and 2018. 

    1. AJ’s Angels, Angeline McDuffee. Cushing, Minnesota – had 786 adult breeding dogs and 386 puppies at their latest inspection in October 2021. AJ’s Angels also sent in a letter supporting Puppyland to Washington state legislators. You can view that letter here: AJs Angels Letter
    2. Amos Schwartz. Princeton, Missouri – 25 adult breeding dogs and 24 puppies at their latest inspection in October 2021. We have record of Puppyland buying a Whoodle puppy from Amos Schwartz.
    3. Calvin Kroger, Kroger Kennel. Hudson, South Dakota – 43 adult breeding dogs and 36 puppies at their latest inspection in May 2021. Kroger also testified at a state hearing and admitted to supplying Puppyland. 
    4. David Hershberger. Edgewood, Iowa –  4 adult breeding dogs and 23 puppies at their latest inspection in July 2021. We have record of Puppyland buying a Cocker Spaniel puppy from David Hershberger. 
    5. Francis Wagler. Loogootee, Indiana – 37 adult breeding dogs and 29 puppies at their latest inspection in February 2021. We have record of Puppyland buying a Husky puppy from Francis Wagler.
    6. Gary Simmons. Amity, Missouri – 54 adult breeding dogs, and 50 puppies at their latest inspection in May 2020. We have record of Puppyland buying a Bullmastiff puppy from Gary Simmons. 
    7. Herman Raber. Montgomery, Indiana – 28 adult breeding dogs and 29 puppies at their latest inspection in March 2021. We have record of Puppyland buying a French Bulldog puppy from Herman Raber.
    8. Janet Sloan. Versailles, Missouri – 13 adult breeding dogs and 5 puppies at their latest inspection in May 2021.
    9. John Lambright, Straw Hat Kennel. Hillsburo, Wisconsin- Canceled USDA license but had 33 adult breeding dogs and 36 puppies at their last inspection in November 2018. We have record of Puppyland buying a Shiba Inu puppy from Straw Hat Kennel. 
    10. Jolyn Noethe, JAKS Puppies, Britt Iowa – 179 puppies at their latest inspection in November 2021. Noethe has had as many as 254 puppies on site. JAKS has also started their own “rescue” in order to lie to the public about not being a puppy mill. You can read that information here.  JAKS was also named one of the worst puppy mills in the country. To see where JAKS Puppies buys their dogs from, click here
    11. Lester Troyer. Clark, Missouri – 48 adult breeding dogs and 21 puppies at their latest inspection in March 2021. We have record of Puppyland buying a Shirinian puppy from Lester Troyer. 
    12. Mike Decker, M-J Kennels. Cherokee, Iowa –  105 adult breeding dogs and 56 puppies at their latest inspection in October 2020. We have record of Puppyland buying Klee Kai and Havanese puppies from M-J Kennels. 
    13. Megan Peterson, Crane Canines. Wesley, Iowa – Crane Canines missed their last inspection in November 2021 but had 45 adult breeding dogs and 21 puppies at their latest inspection in August 2019. Peterson testified at a Washington state hearing and admitted to supplying Puppyland. Peterson is also on the board of the now-shuttered sham rescue “Hobo K9 Rescue” alongside JAKS Puppies. 
    14. Reuben Schrock, Premier Kennels. Westby, Wisconsin – Schrock has not been inspected in 2 years. He had 48 adult breeding dogs and 6 puppies at their last inspection in May 2019. We have record of Puppyland buying a King Charles Cavalier puppy from Premier Kennels. 
    15. Terisa Steiber, Rockytopp Kennel. Lansing, Iowa –  87 adult breeding dogs and 24 puppies at their last inspection in September 2021. Steiber also testified at a Washington state hearing and admitted to supplying Puppyland. 
    16. Tim Hostetler. Jamesport, Missouri – Hostetler is not USDA licensed. We have record of Puppyland buying a Bernese Mountain Dog puppy from Tim Hostetler.

This is just a small sampling of the facilities that have been directly connected to Puppyland through sale records. The puppies being sold from Puppyland are likely coming from dozens of additional facilities but due to the lack of transparency provided through broker purchases, we cannot be certain. We do have a list of the breeding facilities that JAKS puppies has sourced from in 2021, 2020 and 2019 that you can view in full here. JAKS sources from hundreds of breeders and then separates those litters to pet stores in at least 17 states. 

As we stated earlier, the list above came from customers who contacted us and wanted to know more about where their puppy was born. Sadly many more customers likely fear coming forward due to the contract that Puppyland requires them to sign upon purchase. Puppyland’s contract states that if customers leave a negative review online, they will not only void their health guarantee, but will require them to pay back any reimbursements issued by Puppyland.

Read that again.

If you are sold a sick puppy and speak out about it, Puppyland can void your warranty and require you to pay them back. Part of their contract also includes a Non-Disclosure and Confidentiality Agreement pertaining to ‘information regarding breeders, veterinarians, treatment, sales, trader secrets, techniques, suppliers, practices, purchases, and contracts’. 

Contract
NDA

Many of the customers who have come forward were unfortunately sold puppies who were sick upon purchase or became sick soon after going home. Those sick puppy reports show that Puppyland has sold puppies in 2021 and 2020 with: 

        1. Worms, Giardia, & Coccidia, despite being treated for these infections numerous times before reaching the store. 
        2. Dermatitis. 
        3. Hip dysplasia. 
        4. Luxating patella. 
        5. Hypertrophic Osteodystrophy. 
        6. Craniomandibular osteopathy. 
        7. Suspected Cerebral Hypoplasia. 
        8. Bilateral entropion. 
        9. Urethral calculus.
        10. Urate bladder stones.
        11. Urethral obstruction. 

Puppyland also offers predatory pet loans to customers who cannot afford the purchase cost of their puppy. In 2019, they sold puppies on lease-to-own financing agreements which prompted state legislators to put an end to pet leases. Since it’s passage, Puppyland has continued to lock families into high interest pet loans, which have reached up to 99% interest. Many families will end up paying $10,000 for their puppy after all of their payments and interest fees. 

So there you have it! Because they are purchasing through a large broker, Puppyland is sourcing puppies from some of the largest commercial breeders in the midwest. By the time these puppies arrive at any of their 5 locations, they have already traveled from breeder to broker, making their total trip well over 1,000 miles. All by the time they are 8 weeks old. 

To put an end to this cruel industry, we must stop putting money into the pockets of the businesses that are fueling puppy mills. We need the public to always research before they buy their next puppy, because reputable breeders do not sell to pet stores. Other ways to avoid supporting the puppy mill industry includes: 

 – Research and read reviews.

– Ask for a few of their most recent state and/or USDA inspection reports. Make sure they also include the dog count! 

– When choosing a breeder, visit the facility and meet the parent dogs to see where and how they live. 

– Ask questions! Responsible breeders will also have questions for you. They want to make sure their puppy is going to a well-matched home. 

– Lastly, don’t shop at pet stores that sell puppies and or websites and newspapers without meeting the parents first. 

If you bought a puppy from a breeder, pet store or website and want to know more about where it was born, please fill out the form below. 

_______________________________________________

For more ways you can help the dogs trapped in puppy mills, click here.

For more information, please visit our main page Bailing Out Benji . We also have educational materials that you can print to hang up in your own area.

©Bailing Out Benji 2022

All research and information was done by Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such when shared or quoted.

__________________________________________________

22 Ways to be More Humane in 2022

Written by Becky Monroe

Throughout my career, I have been fortunate enough to have been able to work with both domestic and wildlife rescue organizations. For the first blog of this new year, I thought it would be beneficial to share simple things that we can all do to make the world a better place for all animals. 

 I hope that we all find 2022 to be a kinder year for all of us- including our animal friends. 

1. Don’t shop in stores where they sell mass bred animals. We educate about puppy and kitten mills predominantly, but every species of animal that is sold in stores is usually bred in a commercial facility. When possible, please patronize humane pet stores that focus on selling supplies instead of live animals. 

2. Volunteer at a local shelter or rescue (they are always looking for dog walkers, cat groomers, photographers, help with laundry, etc…) Animal welfare organizations are always in need of volunteer help. Whatever strengths or talents you have, they will try to put them to good use! 

3. Organize a collection of dog and cat food for a local food pantry. If your community doesn’t have a pet food pantry- or a regular pantry that accepts pet food- collect donations for your local shelter. 

4. Choose a day a week or a month to not eat any meat. To get started, check out this list of 40 easy vegetarian recipes

5. Foster a pet in need. Fostering is a great way to help your local shelter or rescue. They provide everything you need to be successful and you just provide the care and love while your new friend waits for their forever home! Look for shelters and rescues near you to get started. 

6. Feed the birds all year long and leave water sources out for other wildlife. Leaving food and water out for the animals is especially helpful during the extreme heat and cold weather. Want to take it a step further? Get your yard certified as a safe place for wildlife. 

7. Don’t use retractable leashes and tell your friends and family not to as well. While these are a popular option for many pet owners, they often put pets and people into unsafe situations. 

8. Take part in a 5k walk or run that benefits homeless animals. These are great events to participate in alone or with your pup! 

9. Don’t use glue traps or poison to kill mice/rodents. Not only can your pet get into the poison, but glue traps cause needless suffering. Check out these humane alternatives instead! 

10. Cut up the plastic rings off milk jugs or juice bottles and the plastic rings off soda packs. Those PSAs we all saw when we were younger stuck with most of us but this is a very easy way to protect wildlife. 

11. Volunteer to manage a colony of Trap, Neuter, Return (TNR) cats in your community. TNR is the most humane and effective method known for managing feral and stray cats and reducing their numbers. To view TNR programs, low cost spay/neuter clinics, mobile spay/neuter clinics and other services in your area, click here. 

12. Say no to balloon releases and educate others on how dangerous they are to wildlife and farm animals if let go outside. Balloon releases have become increasingly popular in recent years. While the sentiment is beautiful, they can be very destructive and have deadly effects on the environment, wildlife and marine life. Learn more here

13. Initiate a humane ordinance in your community and help pass a law to prohibit the sale of mass bred pets. More than 400 localities across the United States have passed humane ordinances! Contact Bailing Out Benji today and we can help! 

14. Create a butterfly or honey bee garden. Not only are they beautiful additions to your yard, but you can greatly help the environment and even local gardens and farms by attracting bees and butterflies to your yard! 

15. Make sure your pet’s ID tag is on and up to date. Make sure their microchip is registered to you with all up to date information. The American Humane Association estimates over 10 million dogs and cats are lost or stolen in the U.S. every year. When you microchip your pet, there is a higher chance of them being returned to you. 

16. Never, ever put yourself or any of your body parts in a wild animal’s cage or enclosure at a zoo or wildlife center. Never. Not only can you be severely injured, but the animal may have to be euthanized. 

17. Buy products that are labeled cruelty free. Many puppy mills exist solely to produce beagles for testing facilities. By becoming an ethical shopper, you can ensure that no animal has to suffer because of your purchases. You can often spot these items because they have a symbol of a bunny on the packaging or you can download the cruelty cutter app and scan items real-time in stores! 

18. Volunteer to help with a dog transport. Many rescues need help getting dogs, cats and even wildlife transported safely. Most legs of transport are 1-2 hours. 

19. Use biodegradable products such as straws and silverware instead of plastic. The less items we can send to the dump the better! 

20. Donate unwanted towels, sheets, blankets and other bedding to domestic and wildlife shelters and help provide comfortable bedding to animals in need. 

21. Use more native plants in your landscaping. This is an easy way to help the environment, attract pollinators and cut down on the mowing and upkeep! Check out some easy ways to transition here

22. Join the Bailing Out Benji team and help put an end to puppy mills! We always need more passionate advocates to get involved. Contact us today about volunteering and let’s make your community a more humane place! 

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story with our supporters, I would love to publish it on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.**

Meet the Survivors: Pippa, Juno and Cheetah

Written by Becky Monroe

This week’s “Survivor Blog” is EXTRA special for a few reasons.

We are sharing the story of not one or two, but THREE mill survivors adopted by one family. And, even better — because of these three special dogs, their family has pledged to match the donations made to Bailing Out Benji for the month of December! So, after you read about these cuties, remember that your donation will go twice as far if you make it by the end of this year. 

Close-up of Cheetah

Judith’s children were all grown up and out of the house when she decided that maybe it was time to take on a more challenging dog — one that otherwise might have a hard time being adopted and need extra care. She knew about puppy mills, but never had adopted a survivor before.

She went to New Beginnings Shih Tzu Rescue and was drawn to a dog named, Pippa. However, when they went to visit Pippa in her foster home, it was very obvious that Pippa was bonded with another survivor named Juno. Pippa was always next to Juno or hiding behind her.

The foster home felt Pippa would be okay as an only dog and would eventually come into her own. It was never their intention to adopt two challenging dogs, but as a licensed mental health therapist, Judith just knew that separating the two could be devastating for Pippa.

Juno was bred as an “Imperial Shih Tzu” which doesn’t actually exist, but is a way for breeders to use a fancy term to attract unknowing consumers. Juno was smaller in size and not nearly as anxious as Pippa.

Pippa on the left - Juno on the right

While not part of her plan, they left that day with both dogs because they felt it was the right thing to do for both of them.

Judith took Juno, the less nervous of the two, to a shy dog class. After all Juno could do was shake and vomit, Judith realized quickly these dogs would definitely be challenging.

Juno and Pippa struggled with most things outside. Pippa was terrified of the garden hose which they determined suggested that the dogs had been hosed down while in the puppy mill.

With her professional expertise, Judith knew not to push the dogs or to expect them to be “normal.” They just patiently loved them and let them grow at their pace.

“We met them where they were at. I think this is the most important thing of all,” said Judith.

Pippa and Juno squashed in the same bed

Judith believes that Pippa suffered from canine PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder) and put her expertise to practice when working with her.

Sadly, Juno only lived for 18 months after her adoption.

Pippa went into a deep depression and they knew immediately that Pippa would need a companion. They adopted Cheetah.

Cheetah was also a puppy mill survivor but probably not a purebred Shih Tzu.

At her first dental appointment, Cheetah’s top jaw broke due to malnourishment in the mill. She had very few teeth and her tongue stuck out all of the time. Despite her physical scars, Cheetah was a happy-go-lucky dog and likely a bit brain damaged. Her vocal cords had also been cut in the mill.

All of the dogs they adopted had varying scars from years of neglect and malnourishment. One eye, few teeth, no vocal cords — making it hard to determine their actual ages.

Yet, the physical characteristics made them little billboards every time they were out in public. Judith always educated people on where the dogs came from and what puppy mills are. 

Cheetah on the left - Pippa on th right

Judith had explained to me that she used her expertise to help transition the dogs to normal life. While not every dog is the same, a few things helped Pippa, Juno and Cheetah feel comfortable in their new lives. A few of these were:

They found a groomer who would come to their home. The dogs really had a lot of issues being groomed. Judith had hoped she could do it all herself, but quickly realized she was not skilled enough to make that work. Luckily, the groomer they found was patient and compassionate and by doing it at home brought the dogs some comfort.

Their vet eventually went into mobile practice and this helped their dogs, too.

They realized that kenneling the dogs, if they went out of town, was not going to be an option for them. They relied solely on pet sitters in their home to make the dogs feel more comfortable.

They were told the dogs were potty trained, but they realized this was not the case. And, in the years they had the dogs, potty training was never completely effective, so the dogs wore diapers and they used potty pads throughout the house. 

Pippa and a toy

As with the majority of mill survivors, neither Pippa, Juno or Cheetah exhibited many normal dog behaviors.

Toys weren’t something any of them found pleasure in, but Pippa, the most traumatized of all, did love to play catch. They could throw soft toys for hours. “It was the one time when it seemed like the effects of the trauma dropped away and she showed pure joy. Joy that was felt by us, too,” Judith explained.

Pippa always wanted to be in the smallest bed and always snuggled up with Juno or Cheetah. Neither of them ever seemed to mind. They would always move over and make room for her.

One of the most rewarding days was when Pippa was with Cheetah and she actually went to the door to see who was there.

Judith proudly shared, “They all made such progress showing immense courage and resilience and eventually trusting us.” 

Cheetah in her favorite sleep position

Cheetah was the last one to pass away. In total, they only had the three dogs less than 5 1/2 years. “But, what joy they gave us!”

“I promised each of my dear, sweet dogs that their experiences in puppy mills would not be in vain. That I would be their voice. Bailing Out Benji has given me the chance to make good on that promise.” — Judith 

Judith will be matching all donations up to $5000 through December. Please consider making a donation to help Bailing Out Benji continue their mission to fight the cruel puppy mill industry so that dogs like Pippa, Juno and Cheetah never have to suffer again. 

Pippa and Juno in the snow for the first time

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story, I would love to publish in on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.**

12 Reasons Why NOT to Buy the Holiday Puppy in a Store or Online

Written by Becky Monroe

The 12 Days Reasons of Christmas: Why NOT to Buy a Puppy at a Pet Store or Online

ALL of the animals pictured below were ADOPTED!

1) There are hundreds of dogs in shelters and rescues in need of homes. Dogs who would love a snuggly Christmas morning with a new family to love. You can search on sites like petfinder.com or adoptapet.com and look specifically for the breed or breeds of dogs you would like to adopt. There really are purebred dogs in shelters and rescues. In fact, there are actual breed rescues for nearly every breed of dog out there. You can search for a breed rescue by typing in the desired breed, the word rescue and your state. 

2) Purchasing anything in a store that sells mass bred puppies, kittens, bunnies means you are supporting inhumane business practices. These stores put profit above the well-being of the animals they sell. 

3) Registries like AKC (American Kennel Club), APR (America’s Pet Registry), etc that are supposed to guarantee the lineage (and the health) of your puppy MEAN NOTHING. The AKC and others have no idea the conditions the puppy is born into or do anything to verify the information the breeder submits is accurate. They are only looking to collect the registration fee. 

4) Pet stores and on-line brokerages like to boast that their puppies come from USDA licensed facilities as if that means these kennels are kept to high standards and your puppy will be healthy and well-adjusted. The truth is the majority of breeders who sell their puppies and are USDA licensed also have multiple violations and some have even made the HSUS Horrible Hundred list with violations such as dead dogs on site, emaciated dogs, open wounds, eye infections, etc. Unfortunately, the inspections are too few and the repeated violations are too many and almost all these USDA licensed facilities would be considered inhumane to the typical dog owner. 

5) The prices pet stores and on-line brokers charge for mixed breed puppies is insane. There is no reason to pay that kind of money for a dog. You can adopt one for a fraction of the cost AND your pet will come spayed or neutered and have all its vaccines. Adoption is a win-win. 

6) Pet stores, the AKC, and on-line brokers all fight against animal advocates on most legislation created to improve the lives of dogs including breeding dogs. These organizations and businesses continue to put their profits ahead of the well-being of dogs. 

7) There have been contagious diseases spread from mass breeding facilities to pet stores and then to the consumers who bought the puppies. The lack of veterinary care in these breeding facilities can lead directly to human illness. 

8) It has been proven that the stress and anxiety of the puppy’s mother who is suffering for years in the mill can affect the puppy in the womb. This can mean that the puppy bought in the pet store can exhibit traits of anxiety, fear, aggression, etc. A pet store puppy is not always an emotionally well-balanced puppy. 

9) Beyond the prices of the puppies are the financing options the pet stores offer for consumers to afford the over-priced dog. Charging exorbitant interest while making monthly payments seem affordable, pet stores often create financial bankruptcy situations for families who were only hoping to add a furry pet to their family. 

10) There are endless stories of pet store puppies who are so sick after coming home with their new owner. These stories are made more tragic when consumers realize that they are forced to only go to the pet store’s chosen vet if they want the medical treatment covered by the pet store. Often, these vets protect the pet stores and offer minimal solutions to improve the pet’s health and, instead, offer a replacement puppy instead of taking the time and spending the resources on caring for the puppy the family bought and fell in love with. Too many times, these puppies pass away and not only are the families dealing with the death of a puppy they loved, they now still have to pay for the puppy and all of the medical expenses incurred. 

11) Puppies sold in pet stores and on-line are taken from their mother far too early, so that they can get to the store or the new family when they are still small and cute. Puppies should stay with their mothers well into their 12th week so they learn proper socialization from her and their siblings and at that age, they are more likely to be a healthy weight for travel and better able to fight off illness. 

12) Buying puppies on-line and in pet stores contributes to the perpetual cycle of mass breeding which is 100% inhumane. Five states have passed laws that will now prevent pet stores from selling mass-bred puppies and hopefully, more states will follow, but until then, consumers making better choices and adopting or researching to find a good breeder will help end the cruelty.

 

Puppy mills exist because the public is funding them — as we change that — we change everything 

 

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story, I would love to publish in on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.** 

 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media! 

Buyer Beware: “Mother Dog Rescue”

©Bailing Out Benji 2021
All research and information was done by  Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!
To view the rest of our research, click here.

 

National Puppy-Laundering Scheme

We all know that puppy mills are shady; really shady. Besides making a living off of the suffering of living, breathing dogs, their job is to deceive the public. No one wants to support a puppy mill. Thanks to organizations like ours, we have made their lives a little harder in both aspects. Especially when it comes to exposing their business practices to the public. 

In recent years, it has become a trend for cities and states to pass legislation banning the retail sale of dogs and cats in pet stores from commercial breeders (puppy mills). Instead, these stores must get their puppies from rescues and shelters to help the homeless animals in their communities, as opposed to aiding in the pet overpopulation problem. That sounds wonderful, right? Bailing Out Benji has helped pass countless ordinances across the country on both the city and statewide level and have helped thousands of homeless animals find their forever homes. 

Unfortunately- where there is a will, there is a way and puppy mill owners sure have the will to want to make as much money as possible, while doing as little work as possible. Now these puppy mill brokering organizations are turning into  501c3 “nonprofit”  “rescues” in order to still sell puppies in towns with retail bans and in order to deceive the public.

Our investigations into two sham rescues in Iowa ( Hobo K9 Rescue and Rescue Pets Iowa ) led to the Iowa Attorney General shutting them down, and our investigation into a sham Missouri rescue ( Pet Connect Rescue ) led to lawsuits and the passage of a stronger statewide bill in California. Other investigations that we have done (Dogs to the Rescue Ohio) have led to major news networks covering the story. Our work is never done, it seems, as every time we help shut down one of these fake rescues, another one pops up. 

Dog Mother's official IRS nonprofit information

Mother Dog Rescue AKA Dog Mother Rescue Society located in Iberia, Missouri is no stranger to the sham rescue world. They have been connected to the sham rescue industry since 2018 when they were included in a Chicago Tribune expose and they continue to sell puppies to stores in cities and states that have legislation prohibiting that. Interestingly enough, Mother Dog Rescue is operated by Allison Hedgpeth, who also operates Lonewolf Kennels, a puppy brokering facility that has been recognized twice by the HSUS for being an example of one of the worst puppy mills in the country.

 In 2020, Hedgpeth actually instructed all of their employees to refuse USDA inspections, which is in clear violation of the Animal Welfare Act which requires USDA visits to be unannounced. Many facilities try this tactic when they know they won’t pass inspection. By delaying the inspection, they have more time to get ready. 

Lonewolf Kennels' USDA information

According to our research, Mother Dog Rescue has sold over 110 puppies and 3 adult dogs to just one Illinois pet store Pocket Puppies AKA Little Paw Animal Rescue from March 2021 to July 2021. This is the very same store that was exposed by the Chicago Tribune in 2018 for their connection to sham rescues. Pocket Puppies has since started their own sham rescue in order to skirt the 2021 Illinois law that prohibits pet stores from sourcing animals from commercial dog breeders. That means the puppies sold here are being laundered through one breeder or broker and two sham rescues before being sold to the public in a store. 

PLEASE NOTE:

-Before an animal is transported out of state, a veterinarian, accredited by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA), must examine the animal for signs of “infectious, contagious or communicable disease” and, if no disease is found, sign the certificate for approval to transport. 

According to our research, more than 600 commercially bred puppies have been laundered through Mother Dog Rescue from 2019-2021 so they can be labeled as ‘rescue puppies’. Because CVIs are only required when animals cross state lines, that ‘600 puppies’ number is not exhaustive. It does not even begin to cover the Missouri breeders that are also selling through Mother Dog. 

So far we have connected Mother Dog Rescue to the following breeding facilities: 

      1. Bob Mackey operates TLC Breeds out of Sayre, Oklahoma and had 253 adult breeding dogs and 82 puppies at the time of their last USDA inspection on December 17, 2020. TLC Breeds is the main out-of-state supplier to Mother Dog Rescue with more than 480 puppies coming from this facility between 2019-2021. We also have record of Mackey selling puppies to pet stores in at least 7 different states. 
      2. Larry Harris operates Elm Creek Kennel AKA Elm Creek Bulldogs in Keota, Oklahoma. Harris operates this facility without a USDA license, although they appear to be providing enough breeds and selling through stores so they likely require one. We have record of this facility selling frenchies, english bulldogs, and morkies to Mother Dog Rescue in 2020 and 2021. We have filed a complaint with the USDA regarding this facility.
      3. Mary Ferrell of Nardin (Blackwell), Oklahoma also operates a breeding facility that doesn’t hold a USDA license. Ferrell does sell yorkies through PuppyFind.com and sells the same breed to Mother Dog Rescue from 2019-2021. 
      4. Sherri Gillum operates Lakeview Kennels out of Unionville, Missouri and had 42 adult breeding dogs and 37 puppies at the time of her March 2021 inspection. While Gillum is in Missouri, all of her puppies have Iowa CVIs and they are being signed off by the same veterinarian who oversaw one of the worst puppy mills in history. 

The Nationwide Puppy Laundering Scheme has affected thousands of customers who thought that they were adopting puppies from legitimate rescues. Many lawsuits have happened in the past and even more are coming down the line. This type of operation is the definition of consumer and charity fraud. 

What can you do? 

If this information angers you, you can file a complaint with the Missouri Attorney General and let them know about the charity and consumer fraud that is currently happening in their state. 

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As animal advocates, it is not only our job to continue exposing the shady practices of pet stores and puppy mills, but to continue with educating the public about how to humanely and ethically acquire a pet. 

Here are few tips to avoid supporting puppy mills through pet stores. 

  1. Is there signage in the store connecting the pet store to a rescue or shelter?  Humane pet stores are proud of their rescue partners and would have flyers, business cards and signage pointing out the relationship. 
  2. Is the rescue or shelter hosting adoption events at the store? Shelters and rescues jump on the opportunity to host adoption events where the public can meet their adoptable animals face-to-face. Legitimate rescues and shelters would be actively hosting adoption events to ensure their pets are seen and find their forever homes.
  3. Does the rescue or shelter have a Facebook page, website and use pet adoption websites? Legitimate rescues have all of these things. All of them! Fact checking their existence is as easy as picking up your phone and searching for them. But it is up to you to do just that. 
  4. Is the rescue in your area? Rescues don’t ship their puppies to other states to get adopted site unseen. And if they do, they aren’t legitimate. If you are in a pet store and the puppies are being sourced from out of state- RUN, don’t walk away. 
  5. Are there adoption contracts for the animal and are they fully vetted? Again, legitimate rescues and shelters do not send out unaltered puppies/kittens to be sold to anyone who walks in with money. They also require adoption contracts to ensure the pet is going to a forever family, with a return clause in case it doesn’t work out.

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©Bailing Out Benji 2021
All research and information was done by  Bailing Out Benji and must be cited as such when shared or quoted!
To view the rest of our research, click here.

To those consumers that have bought a family member and are wondering about their actual background, please feel free to fill out the form below with any questions and information that you have and we will confidentially research the breeder your puppy came from.

This research can be extremely costly, please consider making a donation to help us continue exposing the puppy mill industry. Every dollar helps us!

What a Mill Dog Needs

Written by Becky Monroe

Rehoming Puppy Mill Survivors Takes Time 

Recently, there was a monumental puppy mill shutdown and, for the first time ever, the owner was required to hand over the dogs to rescues.

Over 500 dogs of varying breeds were surrendered to a village of shelters and rescues in the midwest – all with the intent to find them the loving homes they always deserved.

Bailing Out Benji, along with the rescues taking in the dogs, have all received tons of interest in adopting the dogs. And like anything else, confusion, criticism and misunderstandings followed.

I have found that many people don’t truly comprehend the needs of puppy mill survivors and in this case many people have been unhappy with how slow the process is to get them available for adoption.

I would like to address this as well as why not everyone who applies is qualified to adopt a mill survivor. 

I try to present the unique and often very challenging needs of mill survivors in our “Meet the Mill Survivor” segments, but perhaps the happy endings of these dogs are the true take away.

Let me be clear… long before the happy endings of these dogs are the hard, emotional days where many adopters or fosters want to just throw up their hands and cry in their pillows and admit defeat.

Many of us are able to envision a puppy mill: a dreadful place where the profits of breeding the dogs come long before their health and emotional well-being. We picture the tiny kennels stacked on top of each other. We see the emptiness in the dogs’ eyes. We understand the environment they come from, but we don’t always understand or fairly estimate the damage this environment does to the dogs, especially the ones who have endured it for years.

Maybe we even know of dogs who have found freedom and were afraid of grass or stairs or toys or feared human touch, but yet, believe this is the exception, not the rule.

This is not the exception. These are the rules. Mill survivors require special care, special homes, special owners. 

This is not to say only a few people can handle a puppy mill survivor, because I, personally, have learned the opposite. I have seen many people rise to the challenge of loving a puppy mill survivor and become puppy mill educators who advocate on their dog’s behalf every chance they get.

It is just that taking in a mill survivor is likely to be an experience unlike any someone has had before. The mere idea that a dog shakes uncontrollably at the sight of a human hand or has no idea how to drink from a water dish, is beyond comprehension for the most seasoned of dog owners.

Our Alice, spent hours hiding behind the washing machine or hiding behind books on shelves doing all she could to be invisible. Months upon months passed before she didn’t run from me. To this day, 4 years later, loud noises of any kind make her retreat under beds or into dark rooms to hide.

When you have a dog like this, your life changes. I never put silverware or dishes away without being overly conscious of the noise I make. Every fork, plate and glass gets puts away with as little noise as possible.

I don’t clap my hands or shout at the TV during football games. Alice eats all her meals on a placemat because she will not eat out of a bowl. And when I put her food on that mat, I am careful to quietly dish it out. Any noise will deter her from eating at all.

All of these habits were life changes for us. They are things we live with because we know they are what Alice needs to be safe and secure. 

In the 4 years we have had Alice, she has come a long way, but to a stranger they would find her a timid, odd dog. Alice is 10 years old now and it is unlikely she will ever be a completely normal, emotionally well-balanced dog.

There are many dogs like Alice coming from the recent mill. They will need time to decompress, to learn to trust human beings, to feel comfortable in a home environment and with a family.

There will also be dogs who need urgent and extensive medical care after not receiving any for so long. Some of these dogs will need specific medical care for years to come. They might have chronic eye issues, arthritic issues, teeth issues, etc. Often the prolonged medical care of mill survivors can be both emotionally and financially draining.

These are all the types of dogs who will not be up for adoption immediately. It would be unfair to the dog and the adopter to place these animals quickly.

In fact, when I see rescues place dogs coming from puppy mills shortly after they come in – I am often wary.

Puppy mill survivors tend to be huge flight risks. Their fear of humans or life outside of a cage can be extreme and during transports or in new homes with owners who don’t fully understand this, they often escape and are near impossible to recover. This is always my biggest concern.

They have no reason to trust a human being so why would they come when called or allow a human to catch them? These are the types of things rescues and shelters are trying to avoid and why they take the time they do to foster the dog first and have an extensive application process. 

I know all too well how frustrating and exhausting the adoption process can be. (We can talk about that in another blog) However, when it comes to mill survivors who have spent a significant amount of their life in a breeding facility, it is critical to give them extra time before adopting them out.

All of that said, if you find yourself willing and ready for the challenge, I believe with all my heart that adopting a mill survivor is the most rewarding experience a dog loving person can have. The bond you share can be incredible. The transformations they make can be so rewarding.

I know mine changed my life in wonderful ways I never could have predicted.

Please, be patient as these beautiful souls adapt to the overwhelming world outside of a cage. These particular dogs lived in one of the worst mills. We can only imagine the horrors they have endured.

And these rescues who have taken them all in – deserve your understanding. They have been tasked with one of the largest puppy mill placements ever.

I am grateful for the number of people applying to adopt these dogs who have suffered so much. I hope that anyone who is able to make a puppy mill survivor a part of their family, will share their story, so that we can continue to educate everyone on the truth behind the pet store. 

**Just a reminder – if you would like to share your Mill Survivor’s story, I would love to publish in on Tails and Truths! Just email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com.** 

Make a donation below to help our nonprofit continue our important work fighting puppy mills. 

A look back on 2021

2021 was still a very tough year for so many of us across the country, but thanks to all of your support we were able to make so much progress for the animals trapped in puppy mills. Join us for our “2021 Year in Review” below and help us celebrate all of the wins for the puppy mill dogs!

We also devoted a special episode of our podcast to this, if you would rather watch or listen to us as we go more in-depth. 

Bailing Out Benji is one of the most effective animal welfare organizations in the United States that is devoted solely to ending the cruelty inside of puppy stores, puppy mills, kitten mills and even small animal mills. Our approach to this is unlike any other.

We educate with kindness and compassion instead of using graphic and sad imagery. 

We advocate for change using facts and data instead of generalizations. 

And we extensively research the puppy mill industry in connection to the pet stores and online websites they sell through. We do this to not only to educate consumers but to provide up-to-date research on the industry to policy makers in order to create lasting change for the animals. 

 

If you are able to send an end-of-the-year gift to our nonprofit, all donations are matched and will be used to help us continue fighting the cruel puppy mill industry. 

 

RESEARCH

In 2021 we combed through nearly 100,000 sale records in order to connect 406 pet stores in 35 states to the hundreds of breeding facilities they source from. We also connected the same puppy mills to online websites, brokers and sham rescues. Our website is now home to the largest puppy mill and pet store database in the nation and has educated millions of people about how to avoid buying a puppy mill puppy. 

Our research is one-of-a-kind and has been instrumental in educating policy makers who went on to pass ordinances and laws that protect animals in puppy mills. 

ADVOCACY

In 2021, 31 localities have passed humane ordinances on the local or state level in order to curb puppy mill sales in pet stores. These ordinances have a direct effect on the puppy mill industry and will cause the downsizing and closure of many puppy mills across the country. Not only did two states (Illinois and Washington) pass state-wide bills that curb puppy mill sales in retail stores, but localities like Orange County, Florida and Manatee County, Florida passed strict ordinances that will cause numerous pet stores to go humane. Another important thing to note is that both Idaho and Kentucky had their first ordinances pass this year! Colorado also passed a pet store transparency bill and Maryland continues to pass bills that prohibit puppy sales in pet stores and online brokers. 

Our research and advocacy efforts have been crucial in many of the ordinances and bills passed this year. When policy makers can look at actual research and documentation regarding their local puppy mill problem, they are able to better combat the arguments from the pet industry. 

Below is a list of localities that passed ordinances this year. 

        1. Port St. Lucie, FL 
        2. Lacey, WA 
        3. Oak Forest, IL 
        4. Tumwater, WA 
        5. North Adams, MA
        6. Columbus, IN 
        7. Springfield, MA 
        8. The State of Washington (House Bill 1424)
        9. Appleton, WI 
        10. Vail, CO 
        11. Euless, TX 
        12. Cloquet, MN 
        13. Boise, ID 
        14. North Aurora, IL 
        15. Fort Atkinson, WI 
        16. College Station, TX 
        17. Orange County, FL 
        18. Manatee County, FL 
        19. The State of Illinois (House Bill 1711)
        20. Fauquier County, VA 
        21. Dyer, IN –
        22. Sherman, TX 
        23. Highland, IN 
        24. Superior, CO 
        25. Riverhead, NY 
        26. Elizabethtown, KY 
        27. Kaysville, UT 
        28. Crown Point, IN
        29. Horry County, SC (unincorporated areas) 
        30. Opelika, AL 
        31. Bloomington, IN

If you want to see more change happening in your state, please contact us today about becoming a volunteer! 

EDUCATION

Even though the majority of our in-person events were cancelled this year, our teams still found innovative and effective ways to educate the public about puppy mills. Paired with our website, podcast and our public PSAs, we have educated millions of people about this industry. We also had an amazing author join our team. Becky Monroe, Bark Until Heard, has joined our volunteer team and releases weekly blogs that feature puppy mill survivors and breaks down the puppy mill industry for our readers in a very personal way. 

Many of our teams also dusted off their protest signs and began peacefully educating about puppy mills in front of puppy-selling pet stores! No matter what event our volunteers want to do, we make sure they have all of the tools and supplies they need to be successful! 

 

Outside of educational events, our podcast “Truth, Lies and Puppy Mills” has educated more than 30,000 advocates about the puppy mill industry. In 2021 we used our platform to give the public a real-time look at a problematic puppy mill (Daniel Gingerich) and followed the case from complaint to court to rescue. This was the first time in history that the USDA allowed for 500+ dogs to be rescued from a commercial dog breeding facility instead of being auctioned off to other puppy mills. That was in large part due to the public pressure and media presence surrounding this case. 

We also interviewed many other industry experts including advocates from CARE, Best Friends Animal Society, the HSUS Midwest Animal Resq and National Mill Dog Rescue. 

End of Year Educational PSAs

If you are a longtime supporter of our nonprofit, then you know that we focus heavily on educating with big PSAs during the months of November and December. Our research shows that more puppies are sold during this time of year than any other. This winter we are reaching more than 5 million people with our educational ads and we couldn’t be more thrilled! 

On November 27th, 2021 we ran this half-page ad in the New York Times. This was a first time for us, but we educated several million people through print and by sharing on social media afterwards. We also partnered with The Times to run educational ads on their podcast ‘The Daily’ as well as online ads on their articles. 

Thanks to a generous donation, we are also running our 30 second PSA on Hulu in Ohio! We targeted specific communities that have a lot of puppy mills or puppy-selling stores. 

Very soon we will be announcing additional billboards and ads that we are running. 

When we say that we truly could not do this work without you, we mean it. Although you will often see us working alongside some of the nation’s biggest nonprofits, we are doing so with a budget that is a small fraction of theirs. We are blessed to have grant funding that provides us with two devoted staff members, so 100% of every donation raised goes towards our research, education and advocacy efforts. 

If you are able to give this month, please consider making us your charity of choice. Our work is referenced in news rooms, classrooms  and policy rooms across the country because we are so dependable. When you donate to us, you are investing in a future with no more puppy mills. 

Thank you so much for your support. Today and Always. 

Mindi Callison (Executive Director), Ashly Dale (Director of Operations) and our volunteers in your state and across the country. 

Goldie’s Act

December 7, 2021

Written by Mindi Callison

 

Iowa Congresswoman says ‘Enough’. 

In response to the horrific puppy mill owned by Daniel Gingerich of Seymour, Iowa, US Representative Cindy Axne has introduced a bill into Congress that would require the USDA to more effectively do its job.

As you might recall, Gingerich received nearly 200 USDA violations in 2021, all while still selling puppies to pet stores. Even though we are thrilled that 500 dogs were rescued, countless more needlessly suffered and died at the hands of a federally licensed breeder. 

Goldie’s Act (H.R.6100) was named after a severely emaciated Golden Retriever that suffered for months on end while USDA inspectors did nothing more than document her deteriorating health conditions. Goldie left this earth without ever knowing the love or kindness of a family. 

Today we are asking you to help us make sure that no animal ever has to suffer inside of a licensed and inspected puppy mill ever again. 

Eleanor (pictured) is another golden retriever who was rescued from Maple Hill Puppies in 2021. Click on the image to learn more about her story.

Goldie’s Act (H.R.6100) is a new bill that has been introduced into Congress and it will explicitly require the USDA to:

-Conduct more frequent and meaningful inspections,

-Confiscate animals that are suffering,

-Impose penalties for violations, and

-Share inspection information in a timely manner with local law enforcement.

You can view the bill language in full here. Please contact your US Representative today and urge them to support Goldie’s Act.

You can contact your US House Representative directly or use our easy action alert form with a pre-drafted email here

What Else You Can Do:

Educate:

In 2021, our research helped advocates across the country pass more than 30 humane pet store ordinances and 4 state bills that either curb puppy mill sales or provide transparency to the customer. We combed through nearly 100,000 sale records in order to connect 406 pet stores in 35 states to the hundreds of breeding facilities they source from. 

You can help the dogs trapped in puppy mills right now by educating your friends and family about puppy mills and pet stores in your community. Sadly, the public keeps puppy mills in business and December is prime puppy-buying season. 

 

Advocate

Being a voice for the dogs trapped in puppy mills doesn’t have to stop at social media. There are many ways that you can actively help end puppy mills. One of the most effective things you can do is contact your own city council members and ask them to pass a humane ordinance that prohibits pet stores from selling puppies from puppy mills. Daniel Gingerich was allowed to sell more than 500 puppies in 2021 to pet stores across the country while he was forcing unimaginable cruelty on the dogs in his care. Ending the puppy mill to pet store pipeline is crucial and we can help! Contact us today to learn more. 

 

Donate

We will continue researching and fighting this cruel industry and expect to have even more of an impact in 2022 but we can’t continue our important work without you

Thanks to an amazing supporter, all donations made today through the end of December will be matched up to $5,000. In honor of puppy mill survivors Juno, Pippa, & Cheetah, the Judith Neal Family in Wisconsin is asking you to make a donation in honor of all of the puppy mill dogs who deserve to know love, kindness and dignity before they leave this earth. 

If you are able to give, please consider donating in honor of Goldie, Juno, Pippa and Cheetah or your own puppy mill survivors. 

 

Thank you so much for your support today and every day. Together we can end puppy mill suffering once and for all. 

Meet the Survivors: Willow

Written by Becky Monroe

Sweet Willow’s story starts young… she was only 6 months old when the puppy miller decided to breed her. In a twisted fate of luck and misfortune, Willow suffered a vaginal prolapse during breeding and the puppy miller brought her to the vet where they explained she needed to be spayed. He decided euthanasia would be better, but fortunately Mixed Breed Rescue in Grafton, Ohio quickly offered to come get her and make sure she received the medical attention she desperately needed.

On behalf of the rescue, Sara came right away only to find a tremendously scared, skittish and sad Standard Poodle who needed emergency surgery right after they picked her up.

The day after the surgery, Sara and her family decided they would be Willow’s foster and see her through the next few weeks.

She spent the first of them completely terrified of humans. However, Willow found safety and companionship with their 1 year old Labrador, Sully. They bonded immediately and with Sully’s help, Willow quickly learned that humans were not all bad. 

Two months passed as they watch Willow transform into a happier and healthy dog. It was time for her to find a family of her own.

They sifted through applications and even did one “Meet and Greet” that did not go well for Willow. They soon came to the realization that Willow was already home – with them. They officially adopted her and couldn’t picture their lives without her in it.

Sully and Willow now both offer companionship to other fostered mill survivors who come into their home. They teach them what they need to succeed in their new lives.

Sara says they hope to foster more mill survivors until one day there are no more puppy mills. Something Willow hopes for, too.

Willow is about 2 1/2 years old now and has come so far from the petrified puppy she once was. Sara explained that Willow’s humans use their voice often to speak up about puppy mills and make sure people know the truth by sharing Willow’s story.

Willow enjoys going everywhere and anywhere these days – nothing holds her back. She recently participated in Bailing Out Benji’s first “Miles for Mill Dogs 5k” with her human mom.

“We couldn’t be prouder of the dog she has blossomed into,” Sara said. 

A note from Becky:

As the author of the column, I can’t help but add I find this beautiful story filled with such poetic irony… imagining Willow being bred with a Labrador to make infamous doodles – only to later find the biggest comfort in her life, Sully, a yellow lab. I am so grateful you were rescued, Willow and got the family and love you have always deserved.

Please, as you read these stories and wish for puppy mills to close, consider making a donation to Bailing Out Benji, so we can continue to educate consumers and lawmakers on these truths and create the change needed to put an end to these inhumane operations.

This is the week of Giving Tuesday and every dollar donated will make a big difference for those who have no voice.