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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Sign up below to receive an emails for puppy mill news and action alerts in your community. 

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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Sign up below to receive an emails for puppy mill news and action alerts in your community. 

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.

Follow Bailing Out Benji on social media

 

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.

What is going on with puppy mills?

Written by Becky Monroe 

 

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

This blog will be done in two parts

Part 1 

A couple weeks ago, a rescue I volunteer for posted one of my blogs about puppy mills and a woman genuinely asked, “Is there anyone trying to stop puppy mills?”

To many of us who follow and support Bailing Out Benji this question might seem preposterous, but I knew the woman was sincere and really didn’t know.

In light of September being Puppy Mill Awareness Month, I thought this would be a great time to talk about a few things: who is trying to stop puppy mills and how, what can individuals do to help and what opportunities are there right here at Bailing Out Benji that people can get involved in to help make a difference. The latter of them will be featured in my next blog.

Who is trying to end puppy mills is probably the easier of the first two questions to answer. There are thousands of people working every day to change the lives of dogs in puppy mills. They could be individuals just doing their part to educate strangers or foster mill survivors whenever they can.

They tend to be groups of animal advocates under the names like Bailing Out Benji, HSUS, ASPCA, National Mill Dog Rescue, Best Friends, Justice for Libre, and so very many more.

Advocacy groups that educate citizens and lobby politicians to create both awareness and change for the puppy mill industry. Many of these groups have been advocating for decades. Sadly, puppy mills are not something new to our country or the world. In fact, puppy mills were introduced around World War II as a way for farmers to earn money. What they have morphed into is a multi-billion dollar industry filled with greed and cruelty. 

To a person who hasn’t been along for the decades of advocating, one might find it hard to understand why the fight to end puppy mills has dragged on for so long without a true end in sight. I mean it would seem obvious to most dog loving Americans that puppy mills are cruel and should be absolved.

I don’t know if there has ever been an actual poll done, now I am thinking we should do one… But, I do believe the majority of the population when presented with the actual facts of puppy mills would agree that they should not exist or, at the very least, exist much differently with far better conditions for the dogs and a much more effective regulatory system governing them

 

So, where do things go wrong?

There are many facets to the puppy mill issue. Dogs in mass breeding facilities are considered agricultural animals. They do not get the same protections afforded pets. Because of this, what we call Big Ag, the major corporations who produce meats like Tyson, Smithfield, Cargill, have a large stake in animal production. If the dogs in mass breeding facilities are regulated to have larger cages, better conditions, more humane treatment, Big Ag fears that would imply pigs, chickens and cows would soon be required to have the same thing. To these businesses that means more money would be required to raise and produce their products and ultimately, could lead to less profit. 

In a multi-trillion dollar industry, that can mean billions of dollars lost.

Big Ag is one of the most predominant fighters when it comes to legislation to improve the conditions for puppy mills. They spend millions of dollars fighting animal advocacy groups (who do not have millions to spend) and lobby their politicians tirelessly to overturn any legislation passed in favor of the dogs.

They are a tough enemy to beat.

The American Kennel Club who claims to be the “Dogs’ Champion” is also one of the predominant groups we see sitting on the other side of the issue fighting against us. 

The AKC does what?

They register every puppy born. (There are other registries such as APRI and ACA, ACR, etc..) For every puppy registered, the AKC, as well as the others, charge a fee. You can imagine the amount of money brought into these organizations by the breeding of dogs, just the AKC, alone, registers a million puppies a year.

If puppy mills ceased to exist, so would a large share of their registration money.

Now, many of us have spent our lives believing that an AKC registered dog meant something, as if the AKC papers proved in some way that the dog was raised in a good home and its parents were happy and healthy.

The sad truth is that they do not mean any of those things. Years ago, after I bought my first dog at an auction for $65 and he came with AKC papers, I learned the hard truth. My dog was sick, matted, afraid for his own life most of the time. He didn’t know what grass was or how to play with a toy or go upstairs. He had had minimal vet care at best and was over 4 years old when I got him and his AKC papers.

I reached out to the AKC numerous times and each time they explained to me that they do not have the resources to inspect every breeder and ultimately, rely only on the paperwork any breeder or backyard breeder or puppy miller sends in. The AKC has no idea where all these puppies come from or the conditions they endure or worse, the condition their parents are in. And if I am being downright frank, they don’t care. 

So, when advocacy groups lobby for legislation to end puppy mills or even city ordinances to shut down stores that sell mass bred puppies, registry organizations like the AKC, APRI and the others fight back hard because they rely on the dollars of all the registrations of these terribly bred puppies. It comes down to money.

Of course there are others who fight against us. The obvious is the pet store industry who needs the puppies to sell and profit from. There are also what I call “ownership groups.” These organizations fight because they don’t want anyone telling them how to own a dog. Setting up regulations for puppy mills implies regulating conditions all dogs should live in and these groups of people have zero tolerance for being told what to do — even though they argue that their dogs mean everything to them.

The answer to that woman’s heartfelt question is, “Yes, lots of people are doing lots of things and have been doing them for lots of years, but we are up against a relatively strong army fighting hard against us at every step.” 

In the last few years, there has been a change of direction. Instead of fighting to improve the conditions of the puppy mills and constantly being stonewalled by Big Ag and the others, animal advocates chose a new path: the pet store and the point of sale.

If the actual purchase of a puppy can be stopped then in turn the demand will lessen and puppy mills will cease to exist. There are two main issues addressed at the point of the purchase. One was to eliminate the selling of mass bred dogs and to only allow pet stores to “sell” puppies or dogs obtained from shelters and rescues.

This type of law has been passed in five states as of today with numerous cities across the United States passing their own similar ordinances. 

Animal welfare advocates wanted to also address the point of sale and to expose the deceptive ways in which pet stores finance the sale of a puppy. Because pet stores charge exorbitant prices for basically mutts (AKA “Designer Dogs”), sometimes in the upper numbers of $5000.00, most consumers are forced to finance their new, fuzzy family member.

The interest rates were unimaginable and the sales techniques were nothing short of consumer fraud, so as a consumer protection issue, pet stores were forced to change their business practices and were exposed for the manipulation and deception they were engaging in.

Both of these issues have mounted to over 400 humane ordinances across the country with 5 states enacting humane laws to make it illegal for pet stores to continue selling mass bred puppies and/or to continue such unlawful business practices that were ultimately ruining the consumer’s personal financial situation.

Everyone who has fought to end puppy mills still wants to see puppy mills go away. They want to see pet stores enact humane business models and only sell rescued puppies and dogs. They will continue to pass these laws and ordinances until we have achieved 100% compliance across the country.

I have always said and will continue to say that while the fight is hard we have one huge thing going for us. We fight out of love and passion. We believe with our hearts that these dogs deserve so much better. None of this is about money for us and that is why I know we will win.

If you are passionate about helping change the lives of dogs in puppy mills, there are so many ways you can get involved. In my next blog in this series, I will talk about all the opportunities available. 

These dogs need us to be their champions. I hope you will join us in our mission. 

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: Leine

Written by Becky Monroe

Meet Leinekugel (AKA Leine)

It seems so appropriate that the first mill survivor I introduce during September, the month of Puppy Mill Awareness, is Leine because his owner, Carol, was the very first puppy mill rescuer I ever met.

Carol went on to teach me so much about not just the cruel business of puppy mills and puppy mill auctions, but also the delicate way in which you earn a mill survivor’s trust and build their confidence to be a well-adjusted, happy dog.

Almost 14 years ago, at a puppy mill auction, Carol and her group bought 12-15 dogs and one of them was Leine for $45. She offered to foster any of them but Leine because he was a Miniature Pinscher and “she wasn’t a fan of that breed.”

Leine spent two weeks in the shelter as she hoped he would find his own foster home. As it turned out, Leine was in the absolute worst emotional state and as fate would have it, Leine would find his way to Carol’s home (and never leave).

At just over a year of age, Leine’s underside was heavily scarred and emotionally he carried scars that included tremendous fear, anxiety and obsessive pacing. As a dog trainer, Carol had had so much experience working with all kinds of dogs, but Leine was a true challenge. He was one of THE most fearful dogs she ever worked with. He would lose his bowel and bladder around people for months. She often questioned his actual quality of life and wondered if she had done the right thing saving him. 

Patience, time, love and confidence building with NO pressure helped develop Leine into the most well-rounded dog. Carol emphasized that she worked at his speed and never put any expectations on Leine.

Eventually, Leine’s true colors started to show. He was really a silly and feisty dog with so much love to give. He made his way to becoming a certified therapy dog! Leine loves kids and other dogs and is constantly stealing hearts.

Carol explained that you can never underestimate the power of time to heal a dog who has suffered trauma. Using techniques that teach confidence building, counter conditioning and putting in the work can help a dog achieve real success.

Leine is now 15 years old and still doing well. He has worked with so many kids and along the way always educates on puppy mills. If Leine could tell us anything he would say, “Give us a chance. Put in the work. Trauma is real and we experienced it and have the symptoms and challenges from surviving it just like humans.” 

Carol summed up her experience with Leine, “When we rescue mill dogs, they can learn there is more to life. They don’t have to live in fear forever or be haunted by or defined by their past. Please get help from a professional trainer, if you need it. Be patient and teach the dog life is great and they can move beyond their early trauma.”

Leine is still a warrior. Diagnosed with kidney failure two years ago, he is still running and going strong.

A true testament to the saying, ”We don’t always get the dogs we want, we get the dogs we need.” Leine has taught Carol so much about enjoying life to the fullest and never taking a single day for granted. 

 

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 whenever a new blog is posted. 
 

September 30th- National Puppy Mill Survivor Day

 

This day was created in September 2021 by Bailing Out Benji

 

 

In partnership with the National Day Archives, Bailing Out Benji has officially deemed September 30th as ‘National Puppy Mill Survivor Day’. 

 

 

When is National Puppy Mill Survivor Day?

This day will take place on September 30th of each calendar year.

 

What is National Puppy Mill Survivor Day?

National Puppy Mill Survivor Day is a day to honor all of the dogs who were rescued from the puppy mill industry, as well as those who never found freedom.

Puppy Mill Survivor Day falls on the last day of Puppy Mill Awareness Month (September) and seeks to raise awareness about the connection between puppy mills and the pet stores and online websites they sell through.

 

Why is this day being celebrated or observed? 

National Puppy Mill Survivor Day helps shine a light on the dogs who were rescued from the cruel puppy mill industry. It allows their adopted families to celebrate how far they have come and talk about what they endured.

These dogs were invisible victims for so many years and deserve to have their stories told to the world. 

This day is also in observance of all of the dogs, cats, rabbits and other victims of the commercial breeding industry that never found freedom. 

 

How should this day be celebrated or observed?

We suggest celebrating by posting photos of your puppy mill survivor and sharing their story on all forms of social media using the hashtags:

#NationalPuppyMillSurvivorDay

 #EndPuppyMills

 #BailingOutBenji 

You can also tag the rescue you adopted them from and tag Bailing Out Benji as a way that the public can get involved to help end this cruel industry. You can also provide resources for education about what puppy mills are. 

What is a puppy mill? 

Where do pet stores and websites get their puppies? 

How is the USDA involved? 

How can I help? 

Where can I learn more? 

 

 

This day was created in September 2021 by Bailing Out Benji

Born with a Heart for Animals

Written by Becky Monroe

Charlotte Maxwell-Jones, founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, plays with rescued dogs in Kabul, Afghanistan, in 2019. (Kabul Small Animal Rescue)

Born with a Heart for Animals

 

I had other plans for this week’s blog, but yesterday I learned the tragic news that Charlotte Maxwell- Jones, founder of Kabul Small Animal Rescue, had to make a gut wrenching, possible life threatening decision to stay in Afghanistan with her rescued dogs or flee the country without them.

I felt like I had to give her this week’s time – I can’t think of a single thing more deserving.

When I spoke to a friend about how sick and saddened I was over this news, she said, “How do you know her?”

I do not know Charlotte at all. I have never met her. I knew little of her work until recently.

But, I know her heart and I cannot begin to fathom how shattered it must be after all of her attempts to leave Kabul with all her animals and staff tragically failed.

I cannot begin to understand the situation in Kabul. The fear, the terror, the chaos, the death and destruction, the fate that lies ahead… that I will never be able to envision or truly relate to.

I can in my own small way relate to what it is like to have to leave helpless animals behind. For every auction I attended, there are dogs whose faces I still see when I close my eyes.

When I worked at Animal Control and held the head of the dogs and cats we euthanized, I can still see their tails wag as I walked them into the room or felt them purr before placing them on the table. Those are moments I will never forget.

I have a dear friend, Peggy, whom I met through a pet store protest. We have kept in touch for the last few years and yesterday we just kept messaging each other our heartbreak.

It is hard for others to understand these hearts we are born with. Often, we can be criticized for loving animals more than people.

Our conversation ended with us agreeing on this statement, “Sometimes I resent the heart I was born with and other days I am grateful for it.”

I wonder what kind of day this is for Charlotte?

There are a thousand political things I could say. Faults I could find. Blame I would like to place, but truthfully, right now in this moment, none of that matters.

What I feel is the most important thing of all is that as animal advocate, we pray for Charlotte and her staff and the animals left behind.

I think we need to all take a moment to breathe and to recognize the immense compassion Charlotte represents. The absolute willingness to not only follow her heart and her passion but to ultimately risk her own life in the name of animal rescue. It is apparent she just couldn’t betray her mission or the souls she has tried for so long to save.

The critics will chime in that she chose animals over her own life as if that was her choice to make.

I believe Charlotte was born with a heart only a small population of people will ever come to understand. Like many of us, we never chose animals by conscious choice. We just feel in our souls a duty to protect them, to provide better for them. We will choose them every single time because we don’t know another way.

I saw this poem the other day and it certainly encompasses Charlotte Maxwell-Jones and the work she does and will hopefully continue to do:

To Love a Rescuer…

To love a rescuer you must love all of her.

You must love the scars covering her body from panicked and hurt animals she was trying to help.

You must love her fractured heart, that has been broken so many times she no longer even takes the time to mend the pieces.

To love a rescuer, you must embrace her grit and determination, and know that although she fights a war she can never win, she can and does win a few battles.

You must love the tears she will shed over those she lost.

You must give her comfort that she refuses to accept, as she blames herself for things she could have never foreseen.

To love a rescuer you must acknowledge the rage she feels towards the world at times, and know that anger is driven by a love of life too few have.

You must give her space and room to cry and mourn for the losses that others have caused out of carelessness or cruelty.

To love a rescuer you must understand her passion to heal and save is a calling, not a choice.

You must accept that to save animals is part of her soul and without that she could never be happy.

To love a rescuer you must be patient. You must accept her work comes first. She will forgo sleep, forgo food, forgo her life for animals in need. She will work tirelessly until her body and mind fail her completely and she cannot go on.

To love a rescuer, you must be strong.

You must not be threatened by her focus and love of animals. You must accept that the things you love about her, the strength and convictions and loyalty are also what drives her sense of duty to animals in need; you cannot have one without the other.

To love a rescuer you must never ask her to choose, because she will, and it will not be you. –Author Unknown

My thoughts and prayers go to Charlotte,  her staff, the animals in her care and to all those left in Afghanistan. It is my genuine hope that somehow kindness and love will prevail under these heinous times.

May those willing to sacrifice in the name of their passion – in the name of those with no voice – in the name of those who are helpless, give us the courage to follow our desire to make the world a better place for ALL those who live in it.

As of August 30th, an update on Kabul Small Animal Rescue and Charlotte was provided by SPCA International. Please keep them all in your thoughts and prayers in the tumultuous days ahead. 

Buyer Beware: Little Paw Animal “Rescue”

©Bailing Out Benji 2021

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

In recent years, advocates across the country have been pushing for stronger regulation regarding puppy mill sales in their cities and states. These humane ordinances are being worked on in nearly every state across the country and they explicitly prevent pet stores from partnering with puppy mills or puppy mill brokers for puppy and kitten sales. 

The most recent state to pass legislation like this was Illinois. The bill passed in May 2021 and was signed into law in August 2021. The stores have 180 days to transition to a humane pet store model and partner with legitimate shelters or rescues for pet adoptions or they will be forced to close their doors. As you can imagine, the 20 or so pet stores in Illinois were not happy. They spent exorbitant amounts of money on lobbyists and advertising to get this bill defeated and later vetoed but in the end, the public support for this won out. The bill was signed into law. 

At present, several pet stores have already opened locations in the state of Indiana and others are looking to relocate to Wisconsin. One pet store owner, who has been at the center of controversy for years, has a different plan.

Lane Boron of Pocket Puppies (Chicago and Arlington Heights) is looking to be the next ‘rescue’ in the nationwide puppy laundering scheme that has already been exposed and litigated in numerous states. Boron has been a key player in the sham rescue world since its inception. 

When Chicago passed a humane ordinance in 2014, Boron first sued the city, lost the suit, and then partnered with his longtime puppy supplier, JAKS Puppies in Iowa, to start the country’s first ever shame rescue. Without going too into detail, Hobo K9 was immediately discovered as a front for JAKS and after our reporting and subsequent lawsuit in California and an expose by the Chicago Tribune. Both of the fake rescues set up by JAKS were shut down and fined by the Iowa Attorney General in 2020 and were forbidden from reopening another nonprofit rescue. Be sure to click on the hyperlinks to learn more about that story. 

Once Hobo K9 and Rescue Pets Iowa shuttered their doors, Pocket Puppies proceeded to just sell directly from puppy mills and ignore the stronger city ordinance that was passed in Chicago this year. The visits from Chicago Animal Care and Control resulted in 37 violations and thousands of dollars in fines. Each violation reportedly carries a fine from $500 to $1,000. Additional fines were filed by the City of Chicago Department of Business Affairs and Consumer Protection. Boron finally shut his pet store doors and was looking for a new opportunity. 

 

Sham Rescue: Little Paw Rescue Foundation

Lane Boron had already secured his sham rescue name and license number in 2018, just in case he needed to rely on it. To our knowledge, his rescue was never actually used and it is currently ‘not in good standing’ with the State of Illinois. Fast forward to August 2021, the time has come for Lane to become a rescue fully and continue selling puppies from commercial breeders. 

Pocket Puppies has always had a second location in Arlington, Heights (1457 E. Palatine Rd.) which sold puppies from commercial breeders, like his Chicago location. Now that the state of Illinois has passed this bill, Boron has approached the Arlington Heights city council and Planning Commission in order to have his business be recognized as a rescue. Except Boron has no plans to actually help homeless animals. 

How do we know that he plans running his rescue the same way that he did his store?

From his own words, of course!

Below is the correspondence Boron sent to the commission to describe his business model. As you can see from the highlighted areas, Boron plans to source exclusively from ‘transport companies’ and will not be taking in owner surrenders. As you know, transport companies are not sources for animals. This is Lane Boron’s personal loophole to the state bill. He isn’t sourcing from commercial breeders or commercial brokers- instead he will be sourcing directly from the transport vans that deliver those commercially bred puppies from stores. This information can be independently verified through the Arlington Heights Website. 

 

According to the Illinois Department of Agriculture Pocket Puppies sourced their puppies from the following facilities in 2020 and 2021:

  • Alisa Breedlove, Breedlove’s Unique Kennel. Waynesville, Missouri- 119 adult breeding dogs and 56 puppies.
  • Barbara Poor, B&J Kennels. Novelty, Missouri- a puppy broker with 19 adult breeding dogs on their property. 
  • Bob Mackey, TLC Breeds. Sayre, Oklahoma- 253 adult breeding dogs and 82 puppies. 
  • Brittani and Jesse Hedgpeth, Empire Pets. Iberia, Missouri- 31 adult breeding dogs. The Hedgbeths also own a transport company, Transport Central, with Josh and Kallie Bateman. The Batemans have been named one of the worst puppy mill transport companies in the country twice due to violations. Hedgpeth is also related to Allison Hedgbeth who operates the sham rescue “Mother Dog Rescue” in Iberia, Missouri. 
  • Debra Marris. Okemah, Oklahoma- is not licensed by the USDA. 
  • Dorace Burton, Grace Kennel. Lebanon, Missouri- 37 adult breeding dogs and 34 puppies. 
  • June Kaiser, Doggies Down Under Kennel. Brumley, Missouri- 69 adult breeding dogs. 
  • Kim Gray. Lebanon, Missouri- 5 adult breeding dogs. 
  • Larry Harris- Keota, Oklahoma- is not licensed by the USDA. 
  • Marcee Bryant and John Bryant, Puppy Junction. Seneca, Missouri- 93 adult breeding dogs and 30 puppies. This facility skipped their 2021 USDA inspection. 
  • Pam Owen. Lebanon, Missouri- 57 adult breeding dogs. 
  • Pauline Thomas, Nature’s Best Pet Shop. Lebanon, Missouri- 13 adult breeding dogs. 
  • Rhonda Pope, Pope Kennel. Freeburg, Missouri- 109 adult breeding dogs and 55 puppies. 
  • Sherri Gillum, Lakeview Kennels. Unionville, Missouri- 42 adult breeding dogs and 27 puppies. 
  • Susie Reid, Cedar Woods Kennel. Lebanon, Missouri- 56 adult breeding dogs and 28 puppies. 

Clearly, several of the facilities currently supplying Pocket Puppies appear to be large commercial breeders and not rescues. It is also very concerning that one of the facilities (Empire Pets) also owns a transport company and has ties to a fake rescue. 

What can you do? 

Right now we need advocates to contact the Arlington Heights City Council as well as the Arlington Heights Planning and Community Development Committee and politely urge them to not allow this sham operation to begin business in clear defiance of the state bill. 

Planning and Community Development Director: 

Charles Perkins: planningmail@vah.com, 847.368.5200

Arlington Heights Village Board:

Fill out this online form.  

You can also file a complaint with the Illinois Attorney General’s Office and share this information with them. 

As always, we will continue monitoring this situation and will be working behind the scenes to make sure this pet store is not allowed to operate a sham rescue in the state of Illinois. 

©Bailing Out Benji 2021

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

 

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

 

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