My friend Darcy approached me in mock indignation last night, minutes before Symphonic Choir’s first rehearsal of the season was about to get under way.
“I want you to know, your book had me bawling my eyes out,” she said. “And I took it with me on vacation.”
OK, guilty: Saving Gracie is not exactly a beach read. But Darcy had to admit, reading the book cleared up a long-standing mystery in her family. Until now, she and her husband had never understood why their 10-year-old Australian shepherd/border collie mix — a “bossie,” as Darcy called it — has lived its life distrusting and scared. Then she told me where her family got the dog, and there was no doubt: her bossie’s the product of a puppy mill.
Conversations like this remind me how many Americans have no idea puppy mills exist. Once they learn about their existence, the reaction is always the same: Outrage. Horror. Finally, anger that helpless, sentient animals could be subjected to such abject misery.
Most days I can curb my own emotions about puppy mills. I couldn’t have devoted four years to this book otherwise. Yet every now and then a story comes along that jolts me out of my clinical mindset. A story that surfaced yesterday is the latest example. It seems that when Romulus, N.Y., breeder David Yoder decided to stop breeding Bichons, Boston Terriers, poodles and Maltese, he cooked up his own method for “depopulating” his kennel: He attached one end of an exhaust pipe to a wooden whelping box and the other to a farm engine, and proceeded to gas to death some 93 dogs, a half dozen or so at a time.
The gruesome deed took place sometime after June 29, when a federal inspector ordered Yoder, an Amish farmer, to have his dogs treated for Brucellosis. When the inspector returned to the kennel on July 15 the 78 dogs and 15 puppies had been killed. Federally licensed breeders are forbidden to euthanize their own dogs, and yet no charges have been brought against the breeder.
The incident came to light when a board member for the Seneca County SPCA stumbled across it while she was reading kennel inspection reports on the U.S. Department of Agriculture website. “I just lost it,” she told the newspaper. Charges could still be brought against the breeders; it’s up to the Seneca County sheriff and district attorney to make that call.
There seems to be no end to cold-blooded breeders like Yoder. And yes, the depravity of this incident will stay with me for a good while.
Read the full story here: