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August 31, 2009

Puppy Mill Pups Rescued

Madison animal welfare center welcomes 120 dogs from Midwest puppy mills

by Dan Goldberg/For The Star-Ledger
Monday August 24, 2009, 7:22 PM


Blowfish, a chihuahua-mix, is processed animal welfare workers today. More than 100 unwanted dogs from Midwestern puppy mills arrived at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare Center in Madison to be rehabilitated and adopted.

MADISON -- One by one they came off the motor home, like little furry footballs being passed from handler to handler.

The 120 dogs that arrived today at St. Hubert's Animal Welfare in Madison squeaked and squirmed as they were welcomed to the Garden State by some 70 volunteers who came to help unload, tag and care for the animals that were rescued from puppy mills throughout the Midwest. The kennel on wheels contained several breeds, including English setters, French bulldogs and Italian greyhounds.

There were pugs and silky terriers, poodles and goldendoodles.

"Some we will adopt out real quickly," said Elizabeth McCorkle, St. Hubert's president. "Some will take a little longer."

No matter how long it takes, McCorkle promised these dogs would receive the care and love that had been denied them for most of their lives.


Darrell Rhodes, of Colorado Springs, carries a bulldog to the waiting volunteers on Aug. 24, 2009.

Volunteers beamed as they carried the dogs out of the van, kissing and cooing over the animals that are being given their first chance as pets instead of products.

"The perils of puppy mills are unimaginable," McCorkle said in a prepared statement. "We're so gratified to participate in the rescue of these dogs."

Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies. Mills sell these purebreds to pet stores.

The parent dogs are kept in cramped quarters and rarely experience life outside the mill, according to the Humane Society, which opposes puppy mills.

Most are neglected, used only for reproduction and given just enough care to keep them alive.

"I understand people want purebred puppies, but their parents should be treated well," said Theresa Strader, a nurse who helped found National Mill Dog Rescue in February 2007 and spent five days transporting the dogs nearly 2,000 miles.

The neglect was evident on many of the dogs.

Mouths had rotted, nails were overgrown. Human contact seemed foreign and cause for alarm as several dogs trembled in the hands of their handlers.

"Some dogs live in puppy mills their entire lives," said Roger Messick, whose Noah's Ark animal shelter also rescued 15 dogs from Midwestern mills. "They are only kept to make more puppies."

When mill dogs are no longer productive, Messick said, they are either euthanized, sold at auctions or given to organizations like National Mill Dog Rescue, which transports them to shelters across the country.


Gail Duane, of Chatham, is handed a puppy to be processed.

McCorkle said the entire event was organized in the last two weeks. Jackie Fahey, the shelter's director of animal welfare services, contacted National Mill Dog Rescue, and informed them St. Hubert's had room to house dogs and the ability to ready them for adoption.

Strader and Darrell Rhodes, who drove with her, began their journey Thursday morning. A series of 20-hour days ensued as the pair traveled from Colorado to Missouri to Arkansas picking up dogs.

"It was an odyssey," said Strader. "It's all about adrenaline at this point. I'm just so happy to see them out."

After the dogs were unloaded, they were numbered, inoculated and received a physical examination. The staff at St. Hubert's and Noah's Ark will spend some time socializing the animals and preparing them for adoption.

St. Hubert's will place a list of the dogs on its Web site on Friday after they have been spayed and neutered. Noah's Ark will also provide information on its Web site.

Both Messick and McCorkle said they were confident that all the dogs would find loving homes.

"One of the main things I have learned," McCorkle said, "is that this is a great community."

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