Friday, March 27, 2009

Baxter: From Puppy Mill to Forever Home

On Friday, March 27, at 11:35 pm (EST), ABC's "Nightline" will be investigating puppy mills. ABC Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi and investigators from "Nightline" traveled to Pennsylvania to visit Lancaster County's notorious Amish commercial breeding facilities that have made Pennsylvania "The Puppy Mill Capital of the East."

Alfonsi interviewed, on camera, an Amish breeder while touring his facility -- a first for network television. With approximately 500 dogs housed on his property, this puppy mill owner speaks openly about an industry cloaked in secrecy and suspicion....and the cruel factory farming of man's best friend.

The term "puppy mill" is used to describe a factory farm where dogs are bred in inhumane and unsanitary conditions. Dogs are kept in cages that are far too small to adequately house them, many never leaving the cages during their entire lifetime. These animals are deprived of proper nutrition, veterinary care, and socialization, all for the monetary benefit of the owner.

Commercial pet stores often buy their puppies from the cheapest means possible, which are usually puppy mills. If you purchased a puppy from a pet store, you might have contributed to the puppy mill epidemic.

The biggest sufferers are the unwanted and unsold puppies, as well as the "breeding mothers" and "breeding studs," who produce litter after litter for years. These animals are treated as machines, capable only of breeding. When they are no longer "useful," they are mercilessly killed.

Baxter, the Labradoodle shown above, was a "breeding stud" at Limestone Kennels in Chester County, Pennsylvania (a suburb of Philadelphia). With help from Main Line Animal Rescue -- a leading advocate against puppy mills -- Baxter was rescued by the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) and adopted into a loving home. His story illustrates both the tragedy of puppy mills and the triumph of organizations and individuals who truly love and respect man's best friend.


In July 2008, John Blank, the owner of Limestone Kennels, surrendered nine dogs to Main Line Animal Rescue that were suffering from various health issues. Bill Smith, the Director of Main Line Animal Rescue, brought those animals (including five chocolate labs, one yellow lab, one Shiba Inu, and two Jack Russell Terriers) to the PSPCA for medical evaluation. After thorough exams by PSPCA veterinary staff, the PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement team determined there was enough evidence to further investigate Blank for failing to provide veterinary care for his dogs.

An undercover PSPCA agent visited Limestone Kennels and purchased a three-week-old Yorkshire Terrier puppy from Blank. The legal age for selling puppies in Pennsylvania is seven weeks. When the undercover agent contacted Blank because the puppy was sick, Blank left a voicemail message stating that he "called a man from Texas" and was told that toy breeds (such as Yorkshire Terriers) suffer from low blood sugar, so the dog should be given "one cc of light corn syrup" to "get its sugar back." The puppy died from dehydration, hypothermia, and emaciation.

On July 17, PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement officers obtained a warrant and removed 23 dogs from Limestone Kennels. One dog had an embedded collar, another had an untreated puncture wound to the neck that had abscessed, and others had conjunctivitis. The PSPCA officers also found three-week-old puppies without their mothers. All the dogs were taken to the PSPCA headquarters in Philadelphia, where they received treatment for their illnesses and were later placed for adoption (once they received clearance from veterinary staff).

On July 23, the PSPCA returned to Limestone and removed 66 additional dogs. As a result of the PSPCA investigation and a subsequent investigation by the Pennsylvania Department of Agriculture's Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement, Blank pled guilty to eight counts of animal cruelty, two violations of Pennsylvania's Dog Law, and one summary charge of harassment. Blank's license was permanently revoked and he was placed on two years' probation, during which time he cannot own more than five personal dogs.


In the fall of 2008, Baxter, who was once a "breeding stud" at Limestone Kennels, got a second chance at life -- one that did not revolve around cruelty, profit, and exploitation. A wonderful family adopted him from the PSPCA and Baxter now lives in a loving home where he's learning what it means to be part of a family.

Baxter's adoptive parent, Janice, shared the following update:

"Baxter has brought such joy to us. He likes to sometimes share a bed with Cocoa and sometimes he likes to take up space on my bed! He loves to just race around the backyard and loves to play ball. When my husband sits down to read, Baxter keeps him company.

You and the others are the voice for those who cannot speak. Thank you for the work you do. I will do my part in the fight against puppy mills by educating people.

When my husband and I walk Baxter around, people often stop and of course I always interject into the conversation Baxter's story.

We will once again march in the Puppy Mill Awareness Day parade."

I hope you will join me tonight to watch "Nightline's" puppy mill investigation (or view it online if you can't stay awake!). If you are involved with animal rescue, if you advocate on behalf of the millions of puppy mill dogs interned in our nation's commercial dog breeding facilities, or if you just simply love animals, you will not want to miss this.

We owe it to Baxter.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Sister Act: Lucy and Maddie

Yesterday I wrote about two sisters who ended up in the same “forever home.” Today’s story is also about two sisters, but believe it or not, they aren’t actually related by blood.

Lucy (in the pink collar) is a Standard Poodle mix who was adopted from the
Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA). Her new sister is Maddie (in the red collar), who had already found her forever home.

The pictures above show the two girls enjoying their “forever yard” during their first week of sisterhood. From the looks of it, it’s hard to believe they weren’t separated at birth!

Here’s an email I received from their mom:

“Lucy came home with us a week ago. While we are working through some health issues with her, she is the sweetest, most beautiful dog. All is going well. She is integrating in well with our other dog, Maddie. It will take some time for them to be best friends, but they are on their way.

Lucy was starved before, but now in one week has gained weight and was potty trained in 1.5 days. Not an accident since then for over a week now. She is even uncrated and has free run of the house at all times, including bed time, where she sleeps right next to us.

We are thrilled with her and I am so glad you do what you do. Truly, Lucy seems so very happy!”

Monday, March 23, 2009

A Tale of Two Sisters

Today's "happy tail" is twice as much fun because it's about two sisters! They were both adopted from the Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA). Here's an update from the sisters' new mom:

"The first picture is Bella (you may remember her as Hazel). She is such an amazing girl, we love her soooo much!!! When we first rescued her she was extremely shy and timid, we couldn't even walk over to her without her cowering. She has since made a huge transformation. She is constantly giving kisses and showing her gratitude. Makes you wonder how somebody could have ever been so hurtful to her. Thank you for saving and caring for Bella, she is a perfect fit.

The second picture is Lilly (you may remember her as Spottsa). She is Bella's sister. When we came to rescue Bella (Hazel), we knew we had to go back and get one more. Wow, what an amazing girl!!! When we first saw her we immediately fell in love, even more so when we found out she was deaf. She has proven to be quite the challenge, but it's getting better and better every day. She is a kissing machine. If you let her, she would lay there and kiss you all day. She and Bella love playing and running around the yard. We wish we had more room, then we would rescue more.

Thank you for taking such great care of our girls. It is obvious the staff forms bonds with the animals. When we brought Bella in to meet Lilly, she was so excited to see everybody there."

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Laundry Day

I was too busy doing laundry last night to post on the blog, but apparently I wasn't the only one doing housework. Here are three Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) pets that were also doing their chores!

Ironically, each of these pets was rescued from very FILTHY situations, but now they have loving -- and clean! -- homes.

The top dog (pun intended!) is Rusty, who was covered in fleas when the PSPCA Humane Law Enforcement Officers rescued him in August 2008. Now he's happy and flea-free with his new family, who adopted him in September. Rusty's parents said he enjoys taking walks at the river and in the park and he loves the water.

Rusty's mom said, "Rusty has learned to give both paws, he did know his left from right, but i got lazy on that one, lol. He waves, speaks, crawls, gives me five, and puts his dukes up! We just started playing hide and seek, he likes that...ok, so do I! As soon as the dollar store gets in hula-hoops, we will be starting some fun with that! I thank the lord for this pup every day."

The second dog is Mary Todd Lincoln, an 8-year-old pug who came to the Pennsylvania SPCA's Danville Adoption Center in December 2008 from a breeding kennel that was shut down. She hadn't bathed in years, her eyes were full of gunk from ulcers that were never treated, and she had four teeth growing out of one spot -- along with an impacted hairball. Mary Todd Lincoln was quickly adopted and now she lives with four other dogs in Philadelphia.

Mary Todd Lincoln's dad writes, "Mary Todd is the perfect dog. Once the PSPCA veterinary staff removed her impacted teeth (and hairball), her pain disappeared and she became more energetic and affectionate. She loves giving kisses to everyone. On Valentine's Day, she worked in the PSPCA's "Smooch-a-Pooch" kissing booth and gave kisses for $1 a peck. She did very well! We're so happy that she's part of our family and she's no longer being exploited in a breeding kennel."

Last but not least, the kitty hiding in the laundry is Jake Oscar Beckett. He is a five-month-old kitten with Cerebellar Hypoplasia, a neurological disorder. He has tremors and occasionally falls over while walking. Jake was saved by a 10-year-old boy who heard him crying, tied up in a plastic bag, buried in a trash can on collection day. He and his mother brought Jake to the PSPCA and now he's in a loving foster home.

Jake's foster mom explained, "His moniker, Jake Oscar Beckett, came to him based on (1) his disorder (we call him "Shakey Jake"), (2) where he was found (in a trash can), and (3) the patron saint for the date that he was found."

Monday, March 16, 2009

The Big Bang Theory

Have you ever watched "The Big Bang Theory" on CBS? There's a character named Sheldon who's as socially dysunctional as he is adorable.

The Sheldon pictured above is just plain adorable!

This little guy and four of his siblings were brought to the Pennsylvania SPCA's (PSPCA) adoption center in Danville. Unfortunately, the pups' mother was never spayed and when she gave birth to her litter, the owner could not keep all the puppies. Last week, one of the pups found a new home.

Dee emailed the following update:

"My husband was very moved with the new pup, who he named Sheldon, after a character on the TV program, 'The Big Bang Theory.' He is a sweet, lovable, playful bundle of joy. Everyone loves him.

We live on a 30-acre horse farm and have a large pond that Sheldon is just going to love.

Thanks PSPCA for matching us up! He has a forever home with us, wish we could take them all home."

Everyone at the PSPCA is thrilled that Sheldon found a loving home! To meet the other animals waiting for their forever homes, visit our website:

Friday, March 13, 2009

Life with the Little Dingo

Sonny is a one-year-old dog who was picked up by animal control in January. The poor thing was hit by a car and had a broken leg and grease stains to prove it. He was transferred to the Pennsylvania SPCA, who treated his injury and nursed him back to health.

A month later, Sonny was adopted by Scott, who sent me the following update:

"About three weeks ago I took home a wonderful Lab/Pit mix named Sonny, and I am happy to report that he is happy and well loved in his new home.

Sonny was at the PSPCA recuperating from a broken leg after being hit by a car. Luckily while applying for a different dog that unfortunately did not get along with our other dog during the meet and greet, we were introduced to Sonny by the
behaviorist, Nicole.

Needless to say it was love at first site, and now I couldn’t imagine life without the little Dingo (that's his nickname)!

After a few weeks of adjustment, Sonny is happy and loved by everyone he meets. I cannot tell you how many compliments he gets on his amazing temperament and awesome personality. Every person he meets can't help but invite him up on their lap for a little scratch and a kiss.

So I just wanted to say on behalf of our family and Sonny (the newest member), thank you for introducing us and blessing us with such a bubbly happy puppy!"

Thursday, March 12, 2009

Window Shopping at Doggie Style

The Pennsylvania SPCA (PSPCA) has been working with Doggie Style, a pet boutique in Philadelphia, to find loving homes for cats.

Doggie Style has a storefront window display showcasing adoptable cats. If you walk past the store, you’re bound to see one climbing a cat tower, sunbathing, or taking a cat-nap.

Here are two emails I received from people whose cats made their debut in Doggie Style’s window.

From Aliya (who adopted Loki, in the top picture):

"I adopted a little gray female cat from you guys about three weeks ago. I named her Loki and she's doing really well. There were the expected histrionics as my resident cat, Buddy, got used to his new sister. They share the foot of my bed now without too much fanfare, although Buddy doesn't particularly like Loki using his tail as a play thing. Loki loves milk caps and chases them with much gusto through my apartment. I've attached a picture of Loki in a bag. She's still a little shy but almost militant in her desire to curl up between my legs at bedtime. Thanks for the good kitty!"

From Kim (who adopted Ethan, in the bottom picture):

"Ethan is a great addition to our home. We were worried because he reacted negatively towards dogs at Doggie Style, where he was adopted from. We have a Shepard Husky (Dakota) and 3 other cats. I knew there was something special there and it worked out nicely. He's an older cat and will live out his crotchity years in comfort. He only hisses at Dakota once in a while and I think he kind of likes him! His best friend in the house is Bones, a stray we found a few years ago. They run around like maniacs. He just jumped into my lap and said "thanks!" Here is a picture of Ethan and Ella watching “kitty tv.” I was so happy when I found him up there with her as this is "her "spot!"

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

From Distress to Success

If the purpose of this blog is to feature Pennsylvania SPCA success stories, then it's time to talk about Jeffrey, who is one of our greatest accomplishments.

Last summer Pennsylvania SPCA Humane Law Enforcement Officers found Jeffrey, a 3-year-old Standard Poodle mix, abandoned in a backyard in Philadelphia. He was sitting next to a dead dog but was too weak and too emaciated to move. Jeffrey was hours away from being next.

He was rushed to the Critical Care Unit at the PSPCA Veterinary Hospital. The veterinary staff shaved off his matted fur and cleaned out the maggots eating away at his decaying ears. He received the first of two blood transfusions. It was July, the thick of summer, but Jeffrey was freezing. He weighed only nine pounds. Swaddled in blankets, he rested on heating pads and struggled to stay alert.

Those first few hours were critical, but Jeffrey held on. And he continued to hold on for weeks as he grew stronger and regained his health. Like an infant learning to walk, he took baby steps, walking farther and farther each day. His hair started to grow back. The maggots in his ears disappeared. He was becoming a dog again.

On August 20, Philadelphia District Attorney Lynn Abraham held a press conference at the PSPCA to announce Barbara Paul's appointment as the city's Assisant District Attorney handling all cruelty and neglect cases. Jeffrey attended. He WALKED across the stage.

Things were on the up and up for Jeffrey, but there was still a long road ahead. It took months of rehabilitation for him to heal, both physically and mentally. He wasn't ready for adoption. Besides, the right match hadn't come along yet.

In December a couple came to the PSPCA to meet the infamous Jeffrey.

It was a match.

On January 3, 2009, Jeffrey's long process of healing, waiting, and hoping finally came to an end! That day, he walked out of the shelter alongside a loving family who welcomed him into their home. Jeffrey -- who was abandoned in a backyard, left to die alongside another dog who had already passed -- now had a yard of his own!

To signify his fresh start, the couple gave Jeffrey a new name: Tucker.

Looking at the picture above, it's hard to believe that the dog playing the snow is the same dog who was swaddled in blankets, resting on heating pads in the middle of the summer.

Miracles happen every day at the PSPCA, but Jeffrey/Tucker belongs in a category of his own. Talk about a success story!

Monday, March 9, 2009

It's a Girl!

A few days ago, one of our devoted Pennsylvania SPCA volunteers became the proud new mother of a baby girl named Katie. 

Did I mention that Katie is a cat? And she's not really a baby -- she's almost 19 years old?

Here's the scoop on how this miracle came about....

Last summer, the Pennsylvania SPCA Humane Law Enforcement Officers rescued a cat from a horrible case of cruelty and neglect. The cat's cage was overflowing with feces and debris and the cat was emaciated and covered with fleas.

When the cat arrived at the PSPCA, a very special volunteer, Vienna, started working with her. She named the cat "Kate" after a famous supermodel known for her "hungry-looking" appearance. Over time she became "Katie Cat."

Vienna recalls:

"I work with cats as a volunteer at the PSPCA. About 6 months ago I started working with Katie because she was aggressive. I believe her behavior was due to fear and the stress of the shelter environment. Slowly she became used to human contact and we were able to take the “caution” sign off of her cage.

As I worked with her I started to notice she was wasting away physically. She just wouldn’t eat. One day I took her from room to room in the shelter to see if there was an environment she was most likely to eat in. I found that she would eat if she was away from the sound of barking dogs. Oddly enough the loud sound of roosters crowing didn’t bother her.

Since there wasn’t a cats-only room I could put her in, I called my husband and asked if we could foster her. He said yes.

Initially Katie couldn’t be picked up because she was so emaciated that her bones would move in our hands. It turned out that in addition to stress, she was undiagnosed with hyperthyroidism. Once on medication and in a quiet room she had all to herself, she began to eat and gain weight. Unfortunately however she still had blood in her stools and she was losing fur.

But in a matter of months, Katie got to a healthy weight and not only did her fur grow back but it became soft and shiny."

After months of serving as a foster parent, Vienna officially adopted Katie Cat! Congratulations to the proud parent of a "baby" girl!

Friday, March 6, 2009

Love at First Sight

When Maggie first came to the Pennsylvania SPCA as a stray, her eyes told a story of loneliness and neglect. The 3-year-old Chihuahua mix was knocking on death's door and could barely move. It hurt to blink.

Vikki, a PSPCA volunteer, spotted Maggie while she was walking dogs at the shelter. Vikki saw something special in Maggie's eyes. She saw hope. And Maggie, looking out of her one functioning eye, saw a friend.

Vikki also saw an opportunity to give this sick, stray dog a new life. So she adopted Maggie and nursed her back to health.

A few days ago, I saw Vikki and Maggie in the Pennsylvania SPCA lobby. Maggie was here to have her stitches removed. Our wonderful veterinary staff had operated on Maggie's eye, preventing further damage and discomfort. Maggie looked as bright and shiny as the hot pink sweater she was wearing!

Yesterday I received an email from Vikki:

"Maggie looks 100% better now that she got all fixed up by your SPCA Docs there! We have 2 other dogs and 3 cats. Maggie loves them all, but mostly sticks by my side (LITERALLY!!!). I lOVE her sooooo much! It really was 'love at first sight.' Maggie is just what I needed. She's come a Long Way Baby!!"

Judging by the picture above, it looks like everyone is doing just fine!

Thursday, March 5, 2009

Sage: Wise Through Experience

Sage: (adj.) wise through experience

It's the perfect name for a dog who's had its share of less-than-perfect experiences.

Sage (formerly known as Hennessey) was surrendered to the Pennsylvania SPCA in August because her owner could no longer afford to care for her. She was adopted in October and then returned 21 days later when her adopter fell on hard times. The poor dog had two strikes against her through no fault of her own, but she never gave up hope.

Exactly one month later, right before Thanksgiving, Sage finally found her real forever home.

And as an added bonus, Sage's forever home came with a sister named Keystone, a Rottweiler who took Sage under her wing (her paw??). Now the two of them are best friends.

Mike, their owner, said, "Sage loves playing with the other dogs, especially Keystone. They get along really well and are good sharers, as you can see in the photo."

True to her name, Sage's experiences have certainly made her wise -- and she can recognize a good thing when she sees it!

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Third Time's a Charm

If patience is a virtue, then the Pennsylvania SPCA is full of saints.

Our animals come to the shelter, often from neglectful and abusive situations, looking for a second chance at life. They wait in their kennels for someone to see them and fall in love. Every footstep they hear and every smiling face they see is a ray of hope, a chance that life will get better. And when they are finally adopted, they can rest their furry little heads knowing that the past is behind them.

Unless, of course, they are returned.

Maybe the family had unrealistic expectations about housebreaking a puppy. Maybe they had a change in lifestyle and could no longer commit to routine veterinary care. Maybe they had a baby. Maybe they moved. Or maybe they no longer wanted a pet. Maybe just that particular pet.

We see it all too often. And sadly, once an animal has been returned, it's even harder to find someone to look past this spot on its permanent record. "Returned" is a label no animal wants to have.

For that reason, the Pennsylvania SPCA gives "two paws up" to all the adopters who gave an animal a second -- excuse me, a THIRD! -- chance at finding a real forever home.

And to the patient animals (some of whom are pictured above) who never gave up hope....the third time's a charm!

Monday, March 2, 2009

Confessions of a Foster Parent

Confession: I'm in love with an older man.

His name is Sarge and he's my 14-and-a-half-year-old foster dog. The old man deserved a warm home to live out his golden years and I was happy to give that to him. 

Sarge, who came home last week, is the second dog I've fostered. My first foster dog was a Cocker Spaniel named Nancy Reagan, who is now a permanent member of my family. 

Have you ever considered fostering? 

The Pennsylvania SPCA could not exist without its amazing network of foster parents. Some foster animals need socialization before they can be adopted. Others need a loving home to heal their wounds and improve their health. Some are in protective custody and cannot be adopted out until their former owners are prosecuted. And, of course, there are always kittens and puppies who are not old enough to be adopted yet.

Foster animals benefit from a stable home environment with a loving foster parent to care for them. The shelter benefits, too, by making room for other animals who are ready to find their forever homes. 

The Pennsylvania SPCA's Foster Care Volunteer program is looking for special people to provide caring homes for animals in need. 

Foster parents should have experience with animals or be available for training. Foster parents need to be at least 16 years old and be willing to bring their foster pets to the shelter for inoculations and, if necessary, medical treatment (all of which is provided, free of charge, by the Pennsylvania SPCA).

In exchange, the foster care parent has first chance to adopt the animal when it's ready or to arrange adoptions with qualified owners. Foster caregivers are also entitled to bring up to four of their own pets for free inoculations and routine medical care at the Pennsylvania SPCA's animal hospital

Do you have room in your heart and your home to foster an animal in need? If so, please contact Ray Little (Director of Adoptions, Rescue, and Foster Care) at (215) 426-6300 or For more information, visit the Volunteer section of our website.

On behalf of my foster dog, Sarge.....thank you!

PS: Have you fostered an animal in the past, or are you currently a foster parent? Email me your story at, I'd love to hear it!

Sunday, March 1, 2009

Who's Smiling Now?

Smiley, a 5-year-old Doberman mix, is not the only one smiling this weekend. That's because Smiley found a new home on Saturday!

I have to hand it to him, Smiley is one PATIENT boy. He originally came to the shelter as a stray three years ago. He was adopted, but then his owners (with whom he lived for two years) moved away and didn't take Smiley with them, so he was back in the kennels without a family or a home.

After a few months another person adopted Smiley. And once again, Smiley was returned: after a month, his owner decided he didn't want a dog anymore. So it was back to square one. Again.

Poor Smiley needed a lucky break, so we nominated him to participate in a national contest called "Bounce's 15 Most Lovable Shelter Pets." Animal lovers around the country fell in love with Smiley, leaving him messages of encouragement and complimenting his million-dollar smile. But still, no takers.

On Saturday, February 28, Smiley's luck turned around: a young couple walked into the shelter and adopted him!

It has been three years since Smiley found his way into the Pennsylvania SPCA as a stray; one year since his first adoptive family moved away without him; and three months since his second adoptive family returned him.

It has been 24 hours since Smiley learned that the third time's a charm. Good luck, Smiley! We are so happy for you!

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