Breaking: Our rescue team saves more than 200 dogs from two Oklahoma puppy mills

Breaking: Our rescue team saves more than 200 dogs from two Oklahoma puppy mills

By Sara Amundson and Kitty Block

Early Monday morning, our Animal Rescue Team arrived at two properties in Milburn, Oklahoma, with officers from the Johnston County Sheriff’s Office, who served search warrants as part of an alleged animal cruelty situation. Law enforcement requested our assistance with rescuing potentially hundreds of dogs from two dog breeding operations.

Both breeders have claimed online to be American Kennel Club-affiliated, and one of the breeders currently has puppies listed for sale on the AKC’s Marketplace website. Our team found that dogs and puppies at these two large-scale puppy mills were living without proper veterinary care, some with only spotty access to shelter and clean water, so that they could be bred at high volume and sold online and at a notorious flea market in Canton, Texas, known as Dog Alley, the subject of multiple animal welfare investigations and complaints over the years. This market allows unlicensed, uninspected breeders to sell animals directly to the public in dismal conditions.

As our team members surveyed the properties with law enforcement, they observed dogs of many different breeds living in bare concrete or dirt-bottomed, unsanitary enclosures with no enrichment items, often stepping in their own feces. Veterinarians noted dogs with skin infections, eye issues, nasal discharge and dental disease. One puppy was found in respiratory distress and removed from the property immediately for emergency veterinary care.

Some of the dogs jumped up at the sight of people and leaned their paws on the chain-link sides of their cages. Many were eager for attention and gave responders licks and tail wags as they were removed from their enclosures. Others stared out plaintively, huddling together.

In the coming days, our team will help the dogs get the care and veterinary treatment they need. Responders from RedRover are assisting with the daily care of the animals.

We know that dogs deserve better. No mother dog should never have to live and give birth to her puppies over and over in these conditions, which is why we work to stop the cruelty of puppy mills before it can start, encouraging people to adopt from rescues and shelters, as well as responsible breeders.

We also work to change the system so that existing puppy mills are forced, through strict enforcement of both the federal Animal Welfare Act regulations and state kennel laws, to treat their dogs with care. We are advocating for the passage of federal laws that would make a great difference for dogs in puppy mills. The Better Collaboration, Accountability, and Regulatory Enforcement (CARE) for Animals Act would help federal agencies cooperate to fight animal cruelty and uphold the proper treatment of animals. The Better CARE for Animals Act would augment the relatively limited powers the Department of Justice has under the Animal Welfare Act by providing more enforcement tools, including license revocations, civil penalties and a process for pursuing appropriate seizure/forfeiture in cases in which animals are suffering as a result of animal welfare violations.

Another bill, the Puppy Protection Act, would improve standards of care at dog breeding operations licensed by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. Under the minimal standards now in place, breeders can keep dogs in cramped, wire-floored cages without much protection from the weather. Mother dogs can be bred repeatedly until their bodies are exhausted. Then these dogs are commonly abandoned, sold at auction or even killed. The Puppy Protection Act would require puppy millers to make a reasonable effort to find retired breeding dogs a home or a rescue placement instead of just killing them and would require breeding facilities to include more spacious dog runs, solid floors instead of wire that injures dogs’ paws, and feedings at least twice per day.

You can help stop cruelty to dogs by taking a stand against puppy mills. Urge your legislator to co-sponsor the Better CARE for Animals Act, and ask your representatives to co-sponsor the Puppy Protection Act, which would help save thousands of dogs from suffering.

You can also help to stop puppy mills and support our other efforts to end animal cruelty by donating to our work. Together, we can end the cycle of cruelty from which puppy mills profit for good. 

Kitty Block is President and CEO of the Humane Society of the United States.

Breaking: Our rescue team saves more than 200 dogs from two Oklahoma puppy mills

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