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.
BAXTER'S NEW LIFE:
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.