More than half of the kennels cited for violations between 2006 and 2008 continued to break the law. One especially egregious example was a breeder from Oklahoma with 219 adult dogs, who was cited for 29 violations during three inspections — and a year and half later was found with five dead dogs on his property and other dogs so starved they had begun eating one another. “Despite those conditions (the inspector) did not immediately confiscate the surviving dogs and, as a result, 22 additional dogs died before the breeder’s license was finally revoked,” the report said.
Sprinkled throughout the 69-page report are some of the worst photos I’ve seen, including one of a live dog’s leg stripped down to the bone; another of a deep pool of eye-stinging urine and feces festering below an occupied cage and a shot of an enormous cluster of ticks feeding on one small dog’s face.
“This report raises serious concerns about APHIS’s ability to enforce the law, ensure the welfare of animals, and crack down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders,” Durbin said. “While USDA has already begun to make administrative changes, more needs to be done.”
After a delightful few days in Tennessee, catching up with old friends and giving talks about Saving Gracie — thanks to McNeely, Pigott & Fox in Nashville and to Carpe Librum bookstore in Knoxville for hosting me — I returned home to read the most poignant letter yet about a puppy mill rescue. If anyone ever doubted the evils of puppy mills, they won’t after reading Donna Berggren’s story.
“I too have a little Cavalier, Pracilla, a puppymill survivor from a hellhole in Iowa. I found her on Petfinders with an “urgent” note attached from the rescue. When I inquired about her, the rescue person told me I could have her, but that she was emaciated and probably would not survive. I could not drive from Louisville, Ky. to Iowa fast enough.
“I was not prepared for what I found. I had other dogs, all rescues, mostly throw aways, some abused, but none from a mill. She had been shaved all the way down to the skin (even the tail), spayed the day before, she weighed 7 lbs., all ribs and spine, eyes bulging out. She was missing a front toe, and had number 125 tattooed in her ear. She literally spent 6 months on the corner of my couch afraid to move, and rolled over on her back and urinated everytime I had to reach for her to take her to potty, she just went limp. The only way to reach her was with food, which I was feeding every 2-3 hours the first 6 weeks until she gained 8 more pounds. She was so excited about the prospect of being fed again, she would try to spin, but kept falling over she was so weak. HEARTBREAKING!!! She loved for me to hold her and whisper in her ear, but she would not make eye contact for the longest time.
“After 6 months, she finally ventured off the couch and used the doggy-door, but only late at night when it was pitch dark and there were no noises outside. I had never encountered such a fearful little soul. Gradually, she ventured outside in the daytime after a year, and then she found her voice. I cried the first time she barked.
“I write down every time we hit another milestone, such as when she didn’t run when someone comes to visit, the first time she came into a room to see who the new person was, the first time she played with another dog, the first time she snuck up to sniff someone, and finally this week she actually put her paws on a friend’s knees to pick her up!! AWESOME! I cannot tell you how my heart swelled.Every time we turn a new corner , it’s another victory.
“It’s been a 2 year journey so far and she has made tremendous strides. I see such love and excitement in her eyes where fear used to be, and the wonderful cavalier spin. Isn’t this what it’s all about? Was it worth it? Absolutely! Would I do it again? In a heartbeat! I have since adopted 2 move Cavaliers from Lucky Star Cavalier Rescue. Again, I want to thank you for writing this book.”
Thank you, Donna, for telling it like it is.