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. 

When you know better…

Written by Becky Monroe

“When you know better, you do better – and I really should have known better” 

Not long after my daughter had to put her puppy mill survivor, Wrigley, down she knew she wanted another dog.

Wrigley was really good for Abby’s anxiety. Having him in her life brought her a lot of comfort.

Abby’s roommate needs the dog to be more of a hypoallergenic breed, which greatly limits the possibilities.

I swallow hard saying this, but Abby was interested in a doodle. Ugh. As an animal advocate I just feel like wanting a doodle tends to represent so much of what we fight against. But as a mom, with a daughter still mourning the loss of her dog, well, you tend to accept things differently.

Of course, my go to is always www.petfinder.com or www.adoptapet.com. to find a rescue animal to adopt. However, doodles are like finding a needle in haystack. I searched all of Tennessee.

I searched Florida where I live. Heck, I even searched parts of IL where I used to live. None to be found. 

With Abby’s sad eyes staring at me, I surrendered all my experience and knowledge about animal welfare and turned to Craigslist.

I went at it fully aware of backyard breeders or even puppy millers using it as a place to sell their puppies. My eyes were wide open when it came to “re-homing” designer bred Shipoos and Maltipoos only 6- 8 weeks old, but in need of “new homes.”

These ads were easily scrolled over. I knew better.

There were many ads of people needing to find homes for their adult dogs. All the typical reasons: moving, landlord issues, behavior issues, new babies, etc…

Those I would explore more. Mostly of them were large breed dogs who shed and just weren’t options in Abby’s situation.

Of course, seeing all of those made my heart hurt. No matter how long I am in this world of animal welfare, I am constantly reminded of how so many dogs need homes. And on Craigslist that included all kinds of animals from parakeets to pigs to rats to snakes. Heartbreaking.

As I scrolled the Nashville area, I found a few doodles. Most were puppies and I hesitated because they sure sounded like backyard breeders. I mean who has a 12 week old doodle sitting around these days? 

But then, just as hope was fading, there he was a black doodle – 10 months old. The listing explained that they loved this guy but had to move to Nashville where they no longer were able to keep him.

Abby already named him Levi. She messaged the number given and asked questions like was he still available? Was he neutered? Potty-trained? Could she come see him? 

All the replies came back and Abby gave it more consideration as the week went on. It just happened that the dog lived close to where she would be visiting friends the following weekend.

But, as the week progressed, she decided it just wasn’t the right time to get a new dog. She messaged saying she was sorry, but the timing wasn’t right.

And of course, once she made that decision, she couldn’t stop thinking about how perfect that dog would be for her.

That Saturday as she was visiting her friends in a different town, she decided to reach out and see if by chance the dog was still available.

Yes, he was! In fact, he had had a meet and greet a few days ago, but the people never showed up. So, Abby quickly responded that she would like to adopt him and could come the next day to get him while she was still in the area.

Because of what happened with the previous meet and greet, they asked for a deposit of $120 to hold him. Abby Venmoed the money.

The next day, her, her roommate and the friend they were visiting excitedly got in the car and drove to the meeting place to pick up who would soon be “Levi.” She was so happy.

The owner had Abby messaged that they would be there earlier if that worked and talked about how they were bringing his crate, his toys and even his life jacket that they had used this summer on the boat. 

And then, no one showed.

No one replied to her messages anymore.

The phone number they had was no longer in service.

The Venmo account was deactivated.

The entire thing was a SCAM.

Abby was heartbroken and mad and freaked out. She even said, “Mom, I hope the dog is okay,”

I said, “Honey, I don’t think there ever was a dog.”

I was in shock. All that effort I put in to make sure it wasn’t a puppy miller or backyard breeder – why hadn’t I thought of a scam?

I quickly googled it and sure enough – it was a total thing. It was happening all the time. Abby was actually lucky that it was only $120 and not $1000 or more.

I am ashamed of what happened – that it happened on my watch to my daughter, but I also thought it was worth my shame to share the incident here.

I have to believe that good people do use Craigslist and other ads to find legit good homes for their pets when they are in a situation like that, but as with anything, there are other people just preying on the kindness of others to make a quick buck.

Doodles, Frenchies, and other designer breeds people usually pay thousands for from good breeders (and bad breeders) are often the ideal target on Craigslist – just like Abby was.

I thought I knew better, but I didn’t and I wanted to use our bad experience to educate others on that possibility and prevent more people from being taken advantage because when you know better, you can do better.

On the bright side, Abby has recently been approved by a great rescue and is working on adopting a dog, maybe even a doodle, in need of a good home. Paws crossed. 

According to the Better Business Bureau, these are the ways to ensure you aren’t falling victim to a scam: 

  • Avoid buying a pet without seeing it in person.
  • Never send cash via money order or Western Union to a stranger.
  • Always use a credit card in case you need to dispute the charges.
  • Do research to get a sense of what a fair price is for the breed you are interested in adopting. Think twice if someone is advertising a purebred dog for free or at a deeply discounted price, it could be a fraudulent offer.
  • Report and learn about fraud in your area at BBB Scam Tracker.

 

What if you’ve been a victim of this fraud?

  • File a report with BBB’s Scam Tracker
  • Complain at Petscams.com
  • Complain to the Federal Trade CommissionCall 1-877-FTC-HELP
  • Homeland Security Investigations at the Department of Homeland Security also handles international fraud. Call 866-DHS-2-ICE (866-347-2423) (from U.S. and Canada)
  • In Canada, call the Canadian Antifraud Centre: Toll Free 1-888-495-8501
  • If you sent money through Western Union, MoneyGram or a Green Dot MoneyPak, you should contact those companies directly. They can offer information about the transactions, and download their complaints into the FTC’s Consumer Sentinel database, which is used by police around the country.

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please email me at bmonroe@bailingoutbenji.com

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

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Meet the Survivors: Wrigley

Written by Becky Monroe

Last week I flew to Nashville to comfort my 22 year old daughter, Abby, who had to put her very own first dog, Wrigley, down.

Wrigley was a 9 year old Shih Tzu whom she just adopted this March. She only had him 7 months. Wrigley was rescued from a mass breeding situation. He had lived in it almost 9 years — nearly his whole life.

As one can imagine being my daughter, Abby was raised with dogs and more specifically the latter part of her life she was raised with puppy mill survivors. So, when Krissy, A Bars to Beds rescuer, posted pics of Wrigley needing a home and I suggested my college senior might be interested, Krissy put her at the top of the list. Even though not every rescue would consider a college senior an ideal candidate for puppy mill survivor, Krissy knew that Abby came with a lot of experience.

I wasn’t there the day Abby picked up Wrigley (formerly known as Stuffing), so when Abby called and told me Wrigley was so sweet and was running around her dad’s yard, I panicked! “Running free?!!!” Immediately, I was mom-yelling at her, “Abby, get that dog on a leash, get him a harness. He is a HUGE flight risk! You should know that!”

Abby calmly replied, “Mom, I KNOW, but Wrigley is nothing like Thorp or Penelope or Alice… Honest. He is pretty calm and doesn’t leave my side. It is fine, I promise.” 

And for quite a few months that was Wrigley. He was this adorable, super-chill guy who went absolutely everywhere with Abby. He flew down to Florida for Easter. He went to parties at WKU. Hung at bonfires. He boated all summer. Enjoyed Farmer’s Markets. Even made the big move to Abby’s first adult apartment north of Nashville this summer. He took on college road trips to Alabama and Ole Miss this fall and he was happy to sit in his stroller and take in all the trendy sites in Nashville. Heck, he even went to Abby’s school as she began her first teaching job.

Wrigley was everything to Abby and for the first time in his life, Wrigley had his own family. I am certain Abby was everything to Wrigley.

As a parent, you never really know what you are actually teaching your children. Abby’s love for Wrigley showed me that I did teach her how to be compassionate towards animals.

Wrigley came with a few medical issues. As a Shih Tzu raised in a puppy mill, his eyes were in poor shape. He needed prescription meds numerous times a day. He had some arthritis, but overall, he was in fair shape. 

Sadly, as their short months together transpired, Wrigley’s arthritis grew intensely worse. There were days he couldn’t even stand up. He began doing less and less. Abby carried him outside to potty and took him to three different vets for opinions. All of which said his body was just tired. He took pain meds and anti-inflammatory medications. And every night, Abby snuggled with him in her bed.

When we saw him about a month ago, we felt like it was Wrigley’s time, but Abby wasn’t ready. How could she be? She’d only had him 6 months.

Last week she was able to see how much he was struggling. He wasn’t drinking any water and he was barely able to move.

I think the almost 9 years in a puppy mill really took a toll on him. Picturing him in some kind of rabbit hutch day in and day out. Never having a chance to stretch his legs and run free. His little bones never had a chance to develop properly.

I feel bad for Abby that her first dog was only able to share 7 months with her, but I also think it was the best 7 months of his life. In such a short time, Abby showed him so much. I think Wrigley experienced more in such a short time than some dogs do in 10-15 years 

I am so proud of her. Taking in a mill survivor is never an easy journey. Whether it be emotional baggage or the physical scars or the medical needs they bring with them, it takes a special soul to care for an animal who needs more than most others.

Abby was about 10 years old when we took in our first mill survivor, Thorp. I remember how confused she was when she met him. “Why doesn’t he act like our dog, Buddy,” she asked.

Thorp’s shaking and anxiety made her worry about him and what could be wrong with him. Eventually, she saw Thorp become a certified therapy dog and bring so much calm and happiness to kids with special needs. I think that stuck with her and she realized what a gift mill survivors can be.

Wrigley was a gift to her. He stood by her side as she faced some of the most monumental moments of her life. He was there as she graduated college. He was there when she moved to her first place on her own. And, he was there when she started her 4th grade teaching position in a new town far from home.

Nobody hopes to only have a dog for 7 months, but it is truly miraculous the impact a dog can make in such a short time and the imprint of love they can leave on your soul. Abby will always have that thanks to Wrigley.

If Wrigley could tell us something, I think he would beg us to keep fighting for the dogs still stuck in the mills especially the ones who have been there so very long. He only had less than a year of freedom and while he was lucky to have experienced so much love and life in those short months, he would surely have wanted to get out of the mill so much sooner — or better yet — never have been there in the first place. 

**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. 

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The Critical Component of Law in Animal Welfare

Written by Becky Monroe

“Animal Welfare” the words alone imply kindness to animals, but implication is not enough. Neither is a desire or empathy towards animal suffering. Without actual law, any acts, no matter how volatile and cruel, are simply admissible.

I think the majority of people have compassion towards domestic animals. While it happens too often, maliciousness towards domestic animals like dogs, cats and rabbits is something most people agree is cruel and should be illegal. Many of us have witnessed what we believed to be the inhumane treatment of an animal and took steps to do something about it. Whether it was a dog in a hot car, a dog in a yard in freezing temperatures with frozen water and dismal shelter, or a dog tethered to a tree day in and day out, we have all witnessed varying acts of what we deem neglectful treatment towards animals and we passionately want to do something about it and make sure that animal is cared for appropriately.

We believe what we are doing is righteous because our dogs share our home, our bed and sometimes even a seat at the dinner table. We insure every day that they are comfortable, not in pain and have full stomachs — sometimes putting their needs above our own.

To us, the treatment of animals is never up for debate — it is simply a way of life.

However, sadly, what we come to realize is that it is NOT a way of life for everyone, but without laws in place even the most heinous of acts towards animals can go without punishment or even consequence.

“Innocent until proven guilty” is the American way and crimes that perpetrate cruelty to animals are no different. In fact, many times, crimes against animals are impracticable to punish legally.

While new animal welfare laws are often being introduced in legislation and others are being re-written to be more extensive, there are numerous hurdles for them to overcome.

For every piece of legislation intended to provide safety to animals or improve their well-being there is a group lobbying against it. It took the Michael Vick case to make dog fighting a federal offense. It has taken decades to improve the lives of breeding dogs and we still are not there.

Things that the common voter would find to be the abominable treatment of animals are still legal in many states, just recently they created law that makes crushing an animal illegal – JUST RECENTLY.

Perhaps, one of the biggest hurdles for animal legislation is that MOST PEOPLE ASSUME acts of cruelty towards animals are already illegal. It is not until they call in an incident and realize there is nothing the local authorities can do because there is no law in the books that makes it a crime.

We want to believe that people are inherently good and I do, personally, believe that to be true. However, I have spent enough years in animal welfare to know with 100% certainty that the ones who are not good, the ones who have no compassion for animals, can be downright evil and without laws in the books, these people not only partake in cruel and neglectful behaviors towards animals, they never have to pay the price for doing so. They walk away — able to do it again. 

Just yesterday, a friend posted about the testing done on Beagles. It had been made public through what I would consider a political ploy, but nonetheless, all of a sudden we see a surge of people outraged by the treatment of these lab Beagles.

I explained to my friend that unnecessary, cruel testing on Beagles (and many other animals) has been going on forever and that animal advocates have been fighting to stop it for years. The Beagle Freedom Project has made this very topic their organization’s mission. She was astounded that something so awful could be legal.

Perhaps, that is the part of the real problem with animal welfare law — too many people assume that “xyz cruelty” is already illegal, so they fail to recognize the importance of putting actual laws into place.

From puppy mills to lab testing to animal neglect — there are so many areas of animal welfare that are left without the necessary lawful guidelines to keep animals safe.

And even when there are laws in place, they tend to consistently fall short of total protection for the animals. There always seems to be cracks in which perpetrators find their way out.

Many of us are watching a critical trial play out in Iowa dealing with a puppy miller known to have reprehensible conditions at his facilities along with sick and dying dogs. As this case continues to make the news, the general public is asking how is he not in jail for the cruelty and neglect he has inflicted on the dogs.

Sadly, in the arena of puppy mills, there are numerous reasons he is not in jail (yet). But, in general, the standards of care in mass breeding facilities are so minimal and the governing body, the USDA, so short staffed and often willing to look the other way, provide puppy millers with the perfect opportunity to continue these odious operations legally.

A few years back, a neighbor my parents knew of went to jail. He had two large breed dogs living in his home. Days would go by and no one would see the animals outside nor would they see anyone in the home. Numerous neighbors called the police and animal services concerned for the dogs well-being.

Animal services found that the girlfriend of the neighbor was coming every few days to feed the dogs and make sure they had water. Regardless of the cruel implications of that, according to local ordinances, that was all that was necessary.

I describe all these situations as a way to raise awareness — not to just the cruelty to animals, but more so to the importance of having laws in place to PREVENT the cruelty and when necessary to PUNISH those adequately for the pain they have inflicted on the helpless, voiceless animal.

It is imperative that as citizens who believe in compassion towards animals that we don’t assume acts of cruelty are already illegal or take for granted that someone else is doing something about them.

We live in very uncertain political times and now, more than ever, it is critical that we reach out to our representatives and let them know what legislation is important to us. Kindness to all living creatures makes a strong foundation for a world full of love and peace, but we CANNOT simply rest on these as beliefs, we must pursue them into law. 

**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! 

 

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Meet the Survivors: Nutmeg

Written by Becky Monroe

This week’s special pup is Nutmeg. While her name makes me smile, Nutmeg’s journey reminds us all again just how devastating puppy mill life can be.

Nutmeg’s mom, Liz, saw her on-line through National Mill Dog Rescue in Colorado. As Liz explained to me there was just something about her that spoke to her and she knew she had to help this little dog.

Nutmeg looked terrified and sad and having grown up with Pekingese, Liz felt a connection. She drove three hours to meet her. Nutmeg had arrived at NMDR only two weeks prior and was rescued with other Pekingese. When Liz got to their kennel, all the Pekingese were visibly scared, but still eager to come to the front of the kennel and see her, everyone, but Nutmeg.

Nutmeg had ran to the back as fast as she could, so scared she defecated on her way. She cowered in the back hoping no one would see her. Luckily, Liz only had eyes her for her and regardless of Nutmeg’s reaction, Liz knew all along she would be taking her home.

Never having a puppy mill survivor, Liz wasn’t as prepared for all that would transpire with Nutmeg. Poor Nutmeg was ravished with medical conditions. She suffered from pyometra (a severely infected uterus – common in mass bred dogs), multiple tumors, ear infections, eye issues, rotted teeth, open sores, puncture wounds and lacerations. This sweet little girl had endured NINE years of pain and suffering in a Missouri puppy mill.

If all of that wasn’t enough, at her first vet visit with Liz, she became so frightened, she tweaked her back and became unable to bear any weight on her hind legs.

Liz was already smitten with Nutmeg and while overwhelmed with all Nutmeg’s care entailed, Liz stood next to her through the night working with the best orthopedic surgeon creating a treatment plan that would be the least invasive to Nutmeg, but would provide her with the best opportunity for success.

While going through the scans with the specialist, Liz fully realized the damage done to Nutmeg after so many years in a puppy mill. There was evidence of degenerative disc disease, severe arthritis, luxating patellas, abnormally small organs, and structural abnormalities of her knees, legs and hips.

All of these issues are common with puppy mill survivors. Between the inadequate cage size they are stuck in all of their lives, lack of exercise, poor diet and minimal to no veterinary care, puppy mill survivors do not thrive like normal dogs.

With Liz’s love for Nutmeg and Nutmeg’s desire to live, she began intensive therapies that included everything under the sun! Laser, water, physical and massage therapies all helped Nutmeg regain the use of her back legs! She could walk, run and roll on her back again!

Nutmeg’s physical issues, unfortunately, didn’t all come to an end there. She battled multiple cancer scares and two serious bouts of hemorrhagic gastroenteritis. This is a life-threatening condition with sudden unexplained hemorrhaging. The vet believed Nutmeg acquired it from the amount of stress and anxiety she endured at the mill. Nutmeg spent nights in the ICU and suffered the attacks twice. She was placed on a prescription diet to prevent the illness.

Even with ALL OF THOSE medical issues, Liz told me that Nutmeg’s emotional baggage was even worse. She was absolutely terrified of all people and especially men – even other animals. Like most survivors, her coping mechanism was to shake and cower. Nutmeg’s was so severe she often defecated.

Of course, all of the normal things for dogs like toys, blankets, beds, grass and stairs were not normal to a dog who had spent nearly a decade in a cage at the hands of cruel people. Nutmeg was afraid of them all. Her fears were so severe even a trainer told Liz she couldn’t help her.

Liz admitted that there were times she just wasn’t sure she could do it anymore. She questioned if she was the right person to help Nutmeg. However, she also realized that it wasn’t necessarily having the right skills or training that would improve Nutmeg’s life. It was the ability to offer unconditional love and patience that would ultimately change Nutmeg’s life. That was something Liz could definitely offer the little dog she fell for instantly on-line.

Over the years, Nutmeg blossomed into a spunky little girl full of personality. After all she had been through, there she was dancing in the kitchen and playfully burying herself in soft, comfy blankets. She loved to lay in the sun. (I have found this to be a trait of mill survivors. I feel like for years they lived in dark barns and feeling the sun on their bodies is comforting to them.)

Nutmeg loved her dad and her dog sitter.

She never learned to drink from a water bowl. (Many mills offer dogs water through a rabbit bottle because it is easier for the breeder. However, this is not a healthy way for dogs to drink.)

It took years for her to be potty trained, she was hand fed twice a day and walking on a leash just wasn’t her thing.

Liz said, “But that was all okay with us. She was finally happy and healthy and that’s all that ever mattered.”

Because of Liz and her husband, Nutmeg overcame so much.

Sadly, between the time Liz submitted Nutmeg’s initial story and the time I was getting ready to write it, Nutmeg crossed Rainbow Bridge right before her 15th birthday. Like many of us whose lives have been blessed with a special mill survivor, Liz was devastated.

In the six short years Liz had her, Nutmeg was able to feel all the love she had missed out on for so long. Her suffering and her fears were replaced by cuddles and compassion. No matter what happened, in the end, Nutmeg knew what it was like to be part of a wonderful family.

What would Nutmeg want to tell us humans?

“She would want people to know the horrors of puppy mills and how, in the US, they are very much legal, despite most of us agreeing they are inhumane. She would have also wanted people to know that even if some puppy mill rescues aren’t ‘normal’ in the same sense of a traditionally well-adjusted dog, that mill rescues can still live happy lives and create their new ‘normal’ if you can be patient with them and accept that as being enough.”

In her nearly 6 years of freedom, Nutmeg taught Liz so much about the puppy mill industry and all the laws that need to be changed. 

And for Nutmeg, beyond her success of overcoming so many challenges, she was featured on calendars, leggings, blogs and social media posts educating others on the horrors she endured and so many others still do today in puppy mills.

Run free Nutmeg!! I hope you find my Thorp and the two of you share stories about how much you were loved. 

**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. 

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Animals and Me: It was never a choice

Written by Becky Monroe

Life is always coming up with unexpected ways that require us to reflect on our surroundings. Recently, some personal things happened within my family that were upsetting and I found myself hugging my rescued Frenchie, Agatha.

Her squishy little rolls are so calming to gently squeeze and her soft coat is so soothing to pet. She laid there looking at me with those bulldog eyes and for a moment I could feel this sense of unconditional love staring back at me.

Animals have been my thing since I can remember. Lost ones, stray ones, hurt ones, they all seemed to fill a void I could never quite put my finger on. They gave me purpose and as I got older they became the essence of my passion for animal welfare.

Today, though, it was just my dog healing my wound.

People often criticize animal advocates for choosing animals over people. I am not here to argue that, though I can’t help but reiterate Mahatma Gandhi’s quote, “The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”

Which to me means, if you are treating animals right, you are treating people right, too.

I don’t think it is a choice one or the other. I just think that for many people like me, who find solace and love in relationships with animals, it is a matter of never being let down by animals and also finding purpose in our own pain to ease the pain and suffering for them.

Of course not all animal advocates have childhoods to heal or painful experiences they bury in rescued animals, but I think there is something about advocating for animals and physically transforming their lives that transforms our own. 

How many times have we heard “man’s best friend?” Or, have heard how humans experience hundreds of relationships in a day, but a dog only has you. Or, the simple moment you return home from a ten minute errand and your dog comes running at you, tail wagging as if you were gone forever and he missed you more than life itself? 

There is just something about loving an animal and feeling the way it loves you back that is unlike any other relationship .

Animals rarely let us down. Sure they have accidents. They might eat the sofa or our favorite shoes, but they don’t hurt us in the way people do.

They get bored somedays and once in a while they just need to really go to the bathroom, but they don’t intentionally choose to make us mad.

We become their world. In the best situations that means comfy beds, yummy food, fun walks, and a safe, loving home. That is what people like me hope for all domestic animals.

And, when that isn’t the case and instead they have suffered in the hands of humans, people, like me are the first to scoop them up and hold them close and do everything we can to erase the past and give them a new future.

I have done that more times than I can count – though I can practically recall each animal, each story and each transformation.

No, not all animal rescuers have shattered pasts or broken hearts, but perhaps those who do find peace in helping animals as a way of giving something that they never had: unconditional love. They know all too well what it feels like to live without it and so they pursue the most neglected, unwanted animal in hopes of making them whole and healing their own hearts along the way.

Animals never judge. They don’t discriminate. They are just as content living on the street as they are living in a mansion – as long as they have their human and are loved.

Since I can recall, I have always looked at animals as if they had souls. I mean long before I even understood that premise. I believed my whole life that animals felt the same things I did. When I was 12 years old, I wrote a letter to the editor of a science magazine that they published asking the question, “If rabbits are so much like humans that we use them to test makeup on, doesn’t that mean they would feel pain, too?”

Advocating for species who cannot be their own voice seems to me the essence of advocacy altogether.

In the opening of my book, I describe this moment, “I am like two or three years old and my mom bought a donkey piñata for my birthday party. It is my turn as the birthday girl to go first and whack the donkey. I start crying hysterically because I don’t want to hurt the donkey.”

The picture in my photo album of that birthday is of me all blotchy faced from crying.

I would argue I never chose animals. I feel like I was born this way with this love and compassion for animals and ultimately, as I got older I realized that having them in my life was essential to my well-being and maybe that was THE plan all along.

When I think about my 50 years on this planet and the ups and downs I have faced, I do believe it was my entourage of animals who helped me get through the tough times. Whether it was my first dog, Spunky or my guinea pigs, Muffet, Muffin and Skunkers; my gerbils, Raggedy Ann and Andy; my ducks, Donald and Daisy; my first dog, Kailey when I got married or the dog who changed everything, Thorp – animals have been the presence in my life that made the difference. I think between the lessons they taught me and their love they made me a stronger person and a better human.

Not only were they there to snuggle or confide in, but later in life they literally led me down the path to make a life out of doing what I love.

I guess the thing about choosing animals or being chosen by them is that it is not a choice. I can’t think of a single animal advocate who would ever say, “I chose to rescue animals.” All of us have these stories about loving stuffed animals more than dolls, or saving stuffed animals at garage sales or playing school using stuffed animals, the list goes on and on.

I don’t think many of us a remember a specific day or moment where we chose animals.

There is just something inherent in our nature and in our hearts. I wouldn’t change it for the world.

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. 

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Meet the Survivors: Casey

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Casey “Casey Girl”

Many times when people think of puppy mills they immediately think of small breeds like Shih Tzu, Poodles, and Yorkshire Terriers. We often see pictures of puppy mill cages that are small and would seem unlikely to house larger breeds.

The sad reality is that any large breed dogs in high demand will also be found in puppy mills.

This week’s survivor is a sweet Golden Retriever named Casey or lovingly called “Casey Girl” by her family. She was rescued at 4 1/2 years old by a Golden Retriever rescue called Golden Retrievers in Need, GRIN.

Casey was adopted by a family who never experienced a mill survivor. They had gotten their other dog as a puppy and Casey taught them so much about everything.

Big or not, mill survivors all share the common fears of people and doorways. Casey was no different. It took eight months before her family no longer needed to carry her through the doorway to outside. Casey also found safety in corners, where she would often hide in hopes that no one would see her. 

It has taken time, but luckily Casey’s curious nature helped to push her beyond her fears. Today, she likes to be involved and with her people and is everyone’s shadow. A completely different dog than who they adopted.

Her family has come to so many realizations after having Casey in their lives. Knowing Casey’s background and seeing her make bits of progress along the way, they appreciate the little things like Casey playing with a toy or how happy she is when they come home.

They believe Casey is so thankful to have been rescued and to get this second chance at life. They feel like they have all been given a second chance with Casey in their lives.

Casey’s mom, Denisa, told me, “After being mistreated by humans and losing trust in them, perhaps even feeling pain at the hands of humans, she came into our home ready to start over, to love and to trust again and to live the life she has always deserved.”

Casey’s family said that adopting her really opened their eyes to not feeling like you need a puppy to find joy in owning a dog – or training a perfect one. Older dogs, even ones with a tragic history, can become everything you ever wanted if you can give them a chance. 

“Casey is so calm and easy going and listens so much better than her brother whom we have had since he was a puppy. It is completely mind-blowing to me that coming from living in a puppy mill with no training, she knows so much. I think she is just so thankful to be here and leave her old life behind, ” Denisa explained.

Like most mill survivors, Casey opened her family’s eyes to the truth about puppy mills. They have been inspired to educate others on the breeding dogs stuck in the mills and the horrible lives they live.

Denisa said that they are often stopped and asked about Casey because she is so much smaller than a “normal” Golden Retriever. Denisa describes to them how Casey was forced to live the first 4 years of her life in a cage too small for her breed which caused her legs to be deformed and made her small.

These details help people to understand the true horrors of mass breeding and the types of conditions these dogs are forced to live in for years, sometime forever.

Denisa has been able to use Casey as a way to open up dialogue about the Amish puppy mills in Ohio and to shed light on the importance of rescuing a dog and not buying one from a pet store. She said she loves to see people’s reaction when she tells them, “We rescued a Golden Retriever. Yes, you can rescue a purebred dog. There are rescues for every breed.” 

If Casey could tell us anything, what would she say? 

“Casey would tell people to give second chances. She would teach them about forgiveness and compassion.”

Casey has the hugest heart and is the sweetest dog. Her motherly instinct is still so strong that whenever her brother whimpers, she is right there checking on him. And, whenever anyone is having bad day, she is right there giving them love.

Her family is over the moon to have her. They make sure to celebrate all of her successes and feel so lucky share their lives with her and to be able to offer her a kind of happiness and love she never experienced before.

Congrats to Casey on getting her second chance and for teaching all of us the importance of giving them to others – especially dogs with unfair histories. 

**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. 

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What you can do to help end puppy mills

“What the Heck is Going on with Puppy Mills and What Can You do to Help?”

Part 2

Written by Becky Monroe
 

In the spirit of Puppy Mill Awareness month, it seems only appropriate to share the many opportunities there are to help the dogs stuck in puppy mils. If you haven’t read the first installment of the series, you can do so here

What can you do to help?

There are so many things individuals can do without even joining a specific group. Just educating others on the truth about pet stores and on-line puppy sales and where these puppies come from and the inhumane conditions their parents endure.

There are so many people who still do not know this truth.

You can educate friends and family on adopting their next dog from a local shelter or rescue. You can let them know about on-line resources like petfinder.com and adoptapet.com where hundred of shelters and rescues post their dogs in need of homes.

You can make sure to only buy your pets’ necessities from stores who practice humane business models and don’t sell animals.  

You can volunteer and foster for a local shelter or rescue and help save the lives of other dogs waiting for homes of their own. Fostering and Adopting are big ways to help end puppy mills. 

If ending puppy mills and educating others on this issue is really important to you, you can join the hundreds of Bailing Out Benji volunteers across the United States! We have teams in so many of the states and are always looking to add more.

Our teams take on all kinds of projects and goals. Whether it is setting up educational tables at festivals, fairs, or conventions (these do not have to be dog related events) or going into schools and libraries to teach children about puppy mills, our teams look for ways to get involved in their communities and raise awareness.

If you want to show your passion for ending puppy mills, our teams across the country put together protests to educate the public about the reality of pet store puppies. The protests can be weekly, monthly or at the organizer’s choosing and can be an hour to all day, whatever works for you. Bailing Out Benji is happy to help put together signage.

Joining in on a parade and handing on information to the crowd is a great way to get the message out! Bailing Out Benji has lots of flyers to share for events like these.

If you are good at organizing events and raising money for a cause you care about, we always love to have volunteers who help us fundraise, so we can keep our educating and awareness going. Events like trivia nights at local bars where the establishments will often donate a portion of the proceeds to us. The Virginia team had a fun event called “Beers for Benji Yappy Hour” and set up an educational table, raffles, and had a local shelter bring adoptable dogs. The ideas are endless and if you love to be creative and get people together in the name of dogs, we would love to have you on the team. 

Our teams get involved in introducing humane ordinances to cities and towns as well as getting involved at the state level with lobbying for legislation. And, don’t feel like you need to be an expert at puppy mill statistics or information. Bailing Out Benji is a plethora of facts and figures on this cruel industry. We are always willing to share our information, so that our volunteers are well-informed and well-prepared for any meetings they need to attend or initiate.

You don’t even have to leave your home – Letters to the Editor that help educate your community on puppy mills and what local residents can do to get involved. Perhaps, a letter inviting people to join in on Puppy Mill Awareness Month?

We have a podcast that addresses all types of truths and lies about the puppy mill industry by speaking with varying people with all kinds of animal backgrounds and having open and honest discussions about the issues.

Our teams work on endless research so that when someone wants to either expose a pet store for selling a sick puppy or wants to introduce a humane ordinance in a city, they have all the information they need to make their case effectively.

If I am just talking from my own experience, what I love about Bailing Out Benji is its inclusiveness. They are so welcoming and so eager to help volunteers find what they are good at and use that to help further their cause.

They don’t believe everyone fits in a certain round peg. They appreciate our differences and our different opinions and understand it is those differences that ultimately make us a leading animal advocacy organization.

If you have been wondering what you can do to make a difference in this fight against puppy mills, let this be your sign. Join Bailing Out Benji as we make the next giant strides to a puppy mill free America.

As someone who has been engaged in this fight for nearly 15 years now, we are on the brink of real change. Your support and involvement WILL make a difference not just for the millions of animals prisoners in mills right now, but it will make a difference in your own life – allowing you that chance to pursue what you are passionate about and giving you the resources and support to make things better for the animals we all love so dearly.

Lastly, one thing you can do today, September 30, is post your puppy mill survivor on social media with the any of these #BailingOutBenji #EndPuppyMills #NationalPuppyMillSurvivorDay Let’s put faces to all the thousands of dogs still hoping to one day get a chance at freedom. Let’s educate and let’s end puppy mills for good.

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please 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! 

 

Sign up below to receive an email when there is puppy mill news or action alerts in your community.

USDA files lawsuit against Daniel Gingerich

BREAKING: IOWA PUPPY MILL SUED BY THE USDA FOR 120+ VIOLATIONS IN 2021

For media inquiries contact:

Mindi Callison, mindi@bailingoutbenji.com

Daniel Gingerich's puppy mill. Photo taken by Bailing Out Benji and cannot be used without permission.

 

In August 2021, Bailing Out Benji first reported that Daniel Gingerich of Seymour, Iowa had received more than 89 federal violations that included dead and dying dogs at his breeding facility, “Maple Hill Puppies”. Gingerich is licensed by the USDA (42-A-1632) and is registered with the State of Iowa ( IA-11571).

Within weeks, the number of violations Gingerich received skyrocketed to more than 120, which were documented by the USDA inspector.

While these violations were ongoing, Gingerich sold puppies to private customers and more than 30 pet stores across the country. During the weeks that passed, no charges were pressed against Gingerich, although many of his violations broke Iowa’s animal cruelty and neglect code.

With a temporary 21 day suspension looming, no animals were confiscated by the State of Iowa or the USDA. Instead, Gingerich was allowed to auction off the majority of his dogs at an auction house in Missouri. One of the dogs who was purchased by a rescue at the dog auction had been documented to have had a home-surgery performed by Gingerich wherein her uterus was removed, artificially inseminated and sewed back up with fishing line- resulting in severe pyometra and infection. 

Bailing Out Benji is forever grateful for Havaheart Rescue and their willingness to come forward with this story and file complaints on behalf of Eleanor. 

Eleanor, Havaheart Rescue

USDA Lawsuit

This week, as Gingerich’s 21 day suspension was nearing its end, the USDA announced a federal lawsuit against Daniel Gingerich for his numerous violations, in what appears to be the first step to revoke his license permanently.

This 67 page complaint details Gingerich’s numerous violations. You can view the full document here: Daniel Gingerich USDA Complaint

 

According to the complaint: 

“The gravity of the violations alleged in this complaint is great. They include the failure and/or refusal to provide access to APHIS inspectors for the purpose of conducting inspections to determine compliance with the Act, the Regulations, and the standards issued under the Act (9 C.F.R. Part 3) (Standards), repeated failures to: maintain records or forms that fully and correctly disclose the acquisition and disposition of animals; identify dogs and puppies; handle animals carefully; provide adequate veterinary care to animals, resulting in harm and death to those animals; and to provide adequate food, water, shelter, housing and sanitary living conditions to animals, resulting in harm to those animals.”

The USDA goes on to say that Gingerich “has not shown good faith” and refuses to provide the address for the additional illegal facilities he owns. It was noted that Gingerich was hiding dogs on at least 5 properties spread across Iowa. At this time, Bailing Out Benji has reason to believe that there are still animals on Gingerich’s numerous properties and those animals are in danger. 

“We are very grateful for the USDA and the measures they seem to be taking to permanently revoke Daniel Gingerich’s license,” Mindi Callison of Bailing Out Benji said, “ However, we are very saddened that the Wayne County Sheriff and the State of Iowa have neglected to press animal cruelty or neglect charges against this person for their crimes against the animals. There could very well be animals still suffering on his various properties and our state needs to take action to rescue them and provide them with the care they deserve.”

Iowa’s animal cruelty and neglect code was updated in 2020 through HF737, The Community Pet and Protection Act. This law stopped short of making animal torture a first offense felony. Iowa is currently the only state in the nation where animal torture isn’t a first offense felony.

With the USDA stating that Gingerich’s refusal of veterinary care and adequate food, water, shelter, housing and sanitary conditions resulted in the ‘harm and death to those animals’, we firmly believe that charges need to be filed and our nonprofit will continue fighting to make sure that happens. 

We will continue monitoring this situation and will keep the public updated on what is happening with this facility.

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

 

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Meet the Survivors: Evan

Written by Becky Monroe

Evan, one of the luckier mill survivors, was rescued at just 3 months old! His foster mom was looking for a dog for her own mom. She wanted to help a puppy mill survivor because she had worked with so many before and wanted to give that second chance to another one.

Missy began scouring rescues in southern IL who took in dogs from puppy mills. She saw a picture on-line of Evan, a Schnauzer/Poodle mix, and his description read, “Very shy.”

His story was that he and his sister came from a puppy mill bust in Missouri.

Missy had worked with numerous puppy mill survivors, so she felt confident she could help Evan. There was something about his face and the way he was hiding it as well as his sullen body language. She couldn’t get him out of her head.

She felt called to help him and knew her pack of 6 well-adjusted pups would help welcome Evan to the family and teach him all the dog things he likely did not know.

Missy made the 12 hour round trip to meet Evan. He was a pot-bellied little guy. The rescuer told Missy that Evan had a rough night because his sister was adopted the night before and he missed having her nearby.

On the long ride home, Evan sat on a blanket in the front seat hiding his head from Missy most of the time. It was sadly apparent that Evan was very afraid of people and didn’t have much faith in the human race.

They stopped on the way home to get gas and Missy put a collar and leash on Evan and brought him to the grass to go potty. Everything was so unfamiliar to him — even the grass made him uncomfortable. He army crawled all over the place trying to get away.

When Missy picked him up, he pooped all over. Missy said she felt absolutely terrible for him and knew his road to recovery would be long.

How horribly tragic that at just 3 months old, he was already so terrified of everything.

When Evan arrived at his new home with Missy and was let out with the other dogs in the securely fenced yard, Evan army crawled to the far back corner to hide. Poor Evan just had no clue how to be a puppy. 

Gabe, a Maltese, who was one of Missy’s sweetest, most angelic dogs, became Evan’s mentor and helped Evan conquer so many of his fears. The two became so inseparable that whenever Gabe was called to come, Evan came, too. And whenever Evan would come on command, Missy would say, “Yay!” At one point, Evan started to think his name was ‘Yay’!

Gabe slowly taught Evan that humans were actually okay and that he could trust them.

Missy explained, “We had to be extremely patient, structured and positive with him. We did not want to foster his insecurity, but also had to have compassion for him. It was a fine line.”

Today, at 11 years old, Evan continues to happily live with Missy’s mom. He is still nervous around new people — especially men. Whenever someone new comes to the house, Evan will hide. After they are there for a while, he will warm up and want attention, jumping on laps and needing to be pet. They just tell people to ignore him the first few minutes and wait for him to come to them. Sure seems like Evan has earned his right to have life on his terms these days.

Missy said that her time fostering Evan really taught her the importance of extreme patience. It also made her aware of not feeling sorry for him or leaning in to his insecurities.

What would Evan tell others? “QUIT purchasing dogs from puppy mills! You have no idea the trauma the breeding dogs through.”

Missy said that Evan taught her how quickly these dogs can be mentally affected by their environment. He was just a baby and yet was already so afraid.

(There has been some research done suggesting that the puppies of dogs in mass breeding facilities can inherit their mamas’ learned fears and other emotions from being exposed to such horrendous conditions. This translates to puppies sold in pet stores and on-line who at such young ages already have such strong emotional and behavioral issues.)

Evan has some special accomplishments. He can howl along to the Happy Birthday song when people sing it. She says it is super cute to watch. Evan is so sweet and tolerant that Missy used him to practice all her veterinary technician holds while she was going through school. Evan loves little kids and can fly on an airplane without making a sound. 

Missy is so proud of the dog Evan became. “He is THE sweetest, a total angel,” she says and even though he is officially her mom’s dog now, he will forever be Missy’s soulmate dog.

 

Just a reminder that September 30th is National Puppy Mill Survivor Day and Bailing Out Benji would like everyone to post photos of their survivors on social media and share their stories using these hashtags:

#NationalPuppyMillSurvivorDay

#EndPuppyMills

#BailingOutBenji 

Tails and Truths would like to continue to showcase mill survivor transformations as a way to put faces to the thousands of dogs still prisoners in breeding facilities. If you would like to share your mill dog’s story, please 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! 

 

Sign up below to receive an email when there is puppy mill news or action alerts in your community.