In honor of Puppy Mill Awareness month, I am super excited to announce our newest segment of Tails and Truths, “Meet the Team!”
Bailing Out Benji’s primary goal has always been to raise awareness of mass breeding and its connection to pet stores. What started as an incredibly small grassroots effort has grown to a National level with volunteers across the country!
We want to take a moment to introduce our supporters to the members of our team. The individuals who help us raise awareness each and every day. While they all possess the passion and dedication to ending puppy mills, they are uniquely different as human beings and we want to recognize and celebrate them!
There are hundreds of volunteers to recognize so it was difficult to decide where to start. However, there is one volunteer whom I personally helped to find Bailing Out Benji through a random, interesting way that will always mean a lot to me.
Peggy Race and I have a mutual business friend who told her about my book. After reading it, she reached out to me and we met for coffee.
After reading the book and learning more about puppy mills, Peggy wanted to get involved and help. At the time, I was not affiliated with Bailing Out Benji but knew that they were branching out and could tell Peggy would be a valuable asset. I told her about the organization and introduced her to Mindi.
Here we are years later and Peggy has become a vital part (Co-Leader) of the Wisconsin team of Bailing Out Benji!
Peggy happily agreed to sit down and share more about herself as our first Meet the Team interviewee!
When did you start volunteering for BOB? I believe it was somewhere around March or April 2017
What state do you represent? Wisconsin
What made you want to be a part of BOB? I was at a point in my life where I was searching for purpose. I was gifted the book, Bark Until Heard. After reading it, I was shocked at what I learned, yet inspired to learn more about puppy mills and to make a difference for the dogs. Prior to reading the book, I had heard about puppy mills but in a sense, I kept a blind eye to the truth. The book connected with me on another level and my journey towards becoming an advocate began.
How did you hear about BOB? After reading Bark Until Heard and learning that the author lived in northern Illinois at that time, I reached out to her and we set up a time to meet. During that get together, Becky mentioned Bailing Out Benji and threw that out as a way I might possibly get involved. Becky connected me to Mindi and the rest is history!
How would you describe what you do for BOB? I am one of the team leads for the WI chapter. I, along with my co-lead, Christin Schubert, hold volunteer meetings to welcome new members. We also schedule and attend tabling events. Periodically, I write up a newsletter for our email supporters. Since 2020, I’ve helped with various pet store ordinances and have provided literature to advocates who are interested in learning more on how they can introduce an ordinance in their town.
What do you enjoy most about BOB? Tabling events are one of my favorite activities. Covid put a dent in those over the past couple years and turned our focus to ordinances. In general, I like attending various events and sharing our message. While I might be educating others, I also find the events educational; especially learning from the experiences of others, whether they purchased a pet store puppy or fostered/adopted a surrendered mill dog.
Describe your life (family, significant other, children, pets, job, hobbies — whatever makes you, you!) My family is basically myself and my three dogs. I’m divorced from my first husband and widowed from my second. Today, my life’s focus is on dogs. I have a thirteen-year-old border collie, who I used to compete in CPE agility events with. I also have a 5-1/2-year-old Cocker Mix who I adopted from the National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado. Deputy was eight months old at the time NMDR took him in. He came from a breeder in Kansas who shut down his business after the state would no longer license him.
My most recent adoptee is Serafina, a six-year-old Yorkie mix. She was a breeder release dog from an Amish breeder in Central WI. Serafina is a foster fail. I foster dogs through Albert’s Dog Lounge, a senior and special needs rescue. She was my eighth foster dog. I love the outdoors and I’m pretty active. My dogs get a couple long walks each day. Deputy and I are currently involved in agility lessons. Outside of dog activities, I would consider writing to be a hobby. I self-published a rhyming picture book inspired by Deputy to help share the message about puppy mills to the younger generation. My memoir was released in August 2021 by Black Rose Writing. I am currently a volunteer writer with Best Friends Animal Society, writing stories about dogs or cats who have been adopted through Best Friends.
For the past 34 years, I’ve been employed by a company that manufactures whole food supplements. I enjoy partaking in volunteer vacations where I can spend time with dogs. I’ve volunteered several times at Best Friends Animal Sanctuary (Utah). I’ve also taken volunteer vacations to the National Mill Dog Rescue (Colorado) and the Animal Rescue Corps (Tennessee), helping care for some of the puppy mill dogs relinquished from the Daniel Gingrich operation in Iowa
What do you think is the most important message about puppy mills the public needs to hear? The pockets of everyone that plays a role in the puppy mill pipeline are being lined by the purchases made by consumers. People need to realize that the cute little puppy in the pet store window, not only has parents who are confined in small areas for their entire breeding life, those puppies are nothing more than a money-making product for the puppy mill pipeline. The mass produced; factory farmed animals need us to be their voice. Since we live in a democratic society, we have been granted the opportunity to be part of legislative change. An opportunity that could alter the world of puppy mills as they exist today.
Additional Comment: I also think that people should look beyond the cute little face in the pet store window. I wonder how many people even question the living conditions of a puppy in the pet store. They spend their day on living/lying on pvc coated grid style cage flooring. I remember seeing puppies in Janesville Furry Babies in baby cribs without fresh water available…although, I was told the employees offer water frequently. In Petland, puppies are usually left to drink from rabbit type watering bottle where they get small drops of water rather than lapping up water from a bowl as a dog should. While that is all visible to the pet shop consumer, I have to wonder what conditions are like and the care that is provided after the store closes.
What do you think is the biggest challenge facing us in ending mass breeding? In a sense, I think its two-fold. Mass breeding is legal and therefore, without strict legislation and enforcement, it will remain that way. But I do believe the biggest challenge is the profitability side of the industry. If the industry suddenly starting losing dollars, we would see puppy mills start fading away. Changing consumer perception is not always an easy road to traverse.
What keeps you inspired/motivated to keep fighting? The animals who are still trapped and need our help.
What is one (or more) of the favorite things you have done, participated in, helped with, etc since becoming a part of BOB? That’s a tough one. Certainly being part of a team that helped pass the first pet store ordinance in the state of Wisconsin in my hometown of Whitewater was very exciting. That helped get the ball rolling in Wisconsin and to date, seven cities now have these local ordinances on the books. Being that I’m a person who loves to learn and enjoys finding out the finer details of various things, I have a couple of other very memorable situations that stick with me. Back in 2019, in my quest to learn more about the entire commercial dog breeding industry, I attended a dog auction in Iowa. The auction was a kennel dispersal. I believe the breeder had 2 or 3 different breeding facilities and was closing that one down. Being able to walk through an actual puppy mill and see the various housing units….several small dogs in cages and whelping pens for the moms and pups, really drove home the message that these dogs are viewed as nothing more than factory farmed animals. In fact, I am still haunted by the image of a cocker spaniel who ran circles in its cage as it chased its shadow on the ground. It truly broke my heart to see how confinement just can drive a dog stir crazy. During that trip, I was accompanied by Christin Schubert (co-team lead) and my sister Paula Brown (also a BOB volunteer). The day prior to the auction, Mindi C. (she did not attend the auction) met us and drove us past several larger Iowa puppy mills. Ironically, one of those mills had more dogs housed on the property than the number of residents in the city. Driving past, I snapped a couple photos of dogs living in wire cages that protruded off the end of a run-down barn. Three weeks later, Christin and I went to Racine Petland, once again doing our homework, and the owner handed her a lethargic looking Cavapoo puppy. I did, what any consumer should do and asked about the parents. The owner brought out a binder and told us who the breeder was. Lo and behold, the puppy had come from the same property that Mindi had driven us past, the one I had photos of. Not only that, Petland Racine plays breeder videos in their store and on their website. They make the breeder properties they source from look spacious and immaculate. When I asked to see the video of that breeder’s property, I was told they didn’t have one but they told me they had personally visited the property and “it was as beautiful as the videos playing in the store.” I was dumbfounded when I heard that. I followed up with Mindi the following day, asking how can the store can legally do that, she said, that’s one of the reasons why we have the slogan, “Don’t buy the lies.”
Any goals, dreams, hopes you want to share? Of course, I would like nothing better than to see a Statewide Pet Store Ordinance in Wisconsin. Even with that, it would not help the parent dogs who sit trapped in WI mills producing puppies to be sent out of state to other less regulated communities. Ideally, there would be federal limits placed on the number of breeding dogs any person could own as well as limits to breeding cycles. My hope is that one day we will live in a humane world and I believe that future lies with today’s youth.
Any messages you want to pass on? Anyone can make a difference. I’m a shy, introvert and it took me over a year to get up the courage to approach my council representative regarding a pet store ordinance. Once I got over that first hurdle (my own mental roadblock) things just naturally transpired. I would say, that if you believe in something, then believe you have what it takes to make a difference….you don’t need to be an advocate. Just educating one person can make a difference. Because every person who educates another individual creates an opportunity where that knowledge can be exponentially shared.
Thank you, Peggy, for all of your truly amazing contributions to Bailing Out Benji! Your tireless efforts have really helped to educate so many people in Wisconsin and have helped put an end to selling mass bred puppies in many areas of the state!
Your books are helping to share the truth and your love of fostering is saving animals’ lives. We are so very proud to have you on our team!
Peggy’s books, since she humbly did not mention them, are Deputy Paws and the Puppy Mill Cause and Desiree, The Music of My Soul. I have read both and they are equally brilliant and beautiful.
If you are a current volunteer for Bailing Out Benji, I would love to feature you! Please email me at firstname.lastname@example.org for more information!