I have been given permission to print the following
It is the words of a young girl who helped to clean up a puppy
mill..Please read it and give a lot of thought as to where you get your next puppy..
Amboy Puppy Mill Clean-up
The day of Saturday, January 17th, 2004 was a day that changed my life forever. I had
heard about puppy mills, and the horrors that are associated with them. Since I am a
professional dog show handler, I am accustomed to seeing Champions. Of course, I have also
seen dogs that have come from animal shelters, and everything in between.
But NOTHING I had read or seen could have prepared me for what I witnessed that cold,
winter day. I had volunteered to go with my friend Kelly to help groom some of nearly 200
dogs that had been seized from a woman in Amboy, IL., on charges of cruelty and animal
neglect. Kelly had tried to warn me about what we might see, but I could tell from the
look on her face that despite HER twenty years working with dogs of all kinds, she was no
more prepared to face what we found than I was.
When we arrived, there was a lot of confusion - we had about a dozen volunteers from
several local shepherd clubs, and German Shepherd Rescue. (Some people work specifically
with Rescue, devoting countless hours and dollars to save the lives of animals that never
had a fair shot at becoming happy, loving pets.)
Dog show people can have a pretty thick skin - only ONE dog of each breed wins on any
particular day, so getting defeated, while disappointing, is just a fact of life. We
thought we were prepared to see what we saw, but we weren't.
The first thing we noticed was the stench - despite the attempts of the staff at the
shelter to keep the area clean, without our special group of volunteers, they simply did
not have the staff to work on cleaning up these abused and neglected dogs. The German
shepherd dog, is, above all else, a very elegant and dignified breed. They are brave,
noble, and courageous. When 9/11 unfolded, the lead search and rescue dog of all the teams
was a German Shepherd. They are accustomed to saving lives and protecting people.
Yet the 200 dogs we encountered never had anyone to protect them. The group I was with is
normally pretty outgoing, with a great sense of humor, and though we are friends, we are
very competitive in the ring. Yet that day, we were all speechless. No words or even
photos could have prepared any of us for the horrific sight we encountered.
Even if we had been able to speak over the tears we were trying to choke down, we had
nothing to say.
We did mobilize quickly, we all took a duty and started working. I was a bather, and my
friend Kelly was clipping nails. Each dog required a minimum of two bathers, as they were
petrified of water. No amount of shampoo and water could get any one dog clean on the
first bathing. (We went back week after week, and wound up bathing many dogs two or three
times before they were even NEAR to being clean.)
I was working with a volunteer named Rosemary, who had done a lot of this type of
volunteer work. I've done a lot of grooming for the show ring, but this was so very
different. Besides clipping nails, Kelly was also working with the dogs to cut out the
mats and tangles in their fur before they were bathed. Kelly has been grooming for a long
time, first her own dogs for the show ring, and eventually as professional in a grooming
shop, so she has seen a lot of dogs in need of serious grooming.
Though we resolved not to get too attached to any one dog, of course, we did. We were all
wearing Latex gloves, not knowing what we would find under the coats of these abused
animals. We had also brought along complete changes of clothes - not wanting to bring home
any diseases to our dogs, we planned on throwing them out. One of the dogs I work with is
named Worth. Worth is a long haired German Shepherd, so he looks kind of like a mix, or a
wolf. The first dog Kelly worked on had a long coat too, and I could see by the look in
her eyes that this hurt her tremendously, he resembled her beloved dog so very much. She
said she was fine, but I knew better. She first trimmed his nails - they were so long that
he had already suffered permanent damage to the cartilage in his ankles (called hocks) and
would probably not heal for a very long time, if ever. When she started cutting the
tangles out of his coat, she worked very carefully, not wishing to hurt or frighten him. I
saw her frown when she came across a very large mat; she was figuring out what scissors
would be the best to do the job. As she slowly cut the hair down to the skin, I saw her
pull away a tangled mess about the size of a baseball. I'd never seen a knot that big in
my life, and even she looked shocked at what she'd removed. I saw the look on her face
when she realized that this was NOT a piece of hair, but a pile of the dogs stool. I
turned my head, but I heard her gag, trying to keep down the coffee we'd had on the ride
down. I know her better than most people, and though she tried to act tough, I knew she
was crying. More cutting followed, and soon the foor under the dog was covered with at
least ten piles of stool. Even though most of the mess had been cut out, he still smelled
very bad. When I bathed him, the water ran yellowish brown as not only stool, but urine as
well, came out of his coat. I tried not to cry, I tried to keep my own breakfast down.
This poor baby had never had the benefit of a bath in his entire life, and we estimated
him to be about five years old.
Yet despite his appalling condition, we could not help but love him. The cruelty and
neglect he'd suffered at the hands of his owner had brought him to a near-death physical
condition - he was so light that I could pick him up easily. A full grown male shepherd
weighs at least 80 pounds - and most are actually closer to 90. This boy could not have
been more than 50m lbs. Not only could I count the ribs on him, I could count the vertebra
in his spine. He was eager to take cookies from me, and when I looked into his magnetic,
fluid eyes, all I could see was his gratitude for cleaning him up and making him feel
better. He gently leaned over and ran his tongue down my cheek several times, thanking me
with his kisses. I felt my heart shatter with each kiss he gave me.
From there, it only got worse - we bathed females that were not even a year old, yet and
already had puppies. Though we had tried to keep our spirits up with each other, there
came a time where we just couldn't pretend anymore. We had already learned that some of
the dogs that had been seized had already died. Autopsy results showed nothing but dirt
and rocks in their stomachs. Most of the dead were young puppies, barely old enough to be
weaned. A mother that is not nourished properly cannot feed her young - she may have milk,
but the quantity and quality is very poor. Though most people don't realize this, a mother
dog DOES know how many puppies she's had - I've seen a new mother nervously count all her
babies - when my friends dog had puppies, she had been carrying twelve, and the last puppy
was stillborn. We took the puppy away, for burial, but she knew he was gone. For several
days, she kept going to the sink in the bathroom, which was where we had wrapped the poor
little dead boy in a towel and put him in a box until we could bury him. She stood by the
sink and cried for days, loving the 11 remaining healthy pups, but she knew quite well
that one was gone.
After many hours that day, we reached our breaking point - we simply could not look at
these beautiful dogs that had suffered only cruelty at the hands of mankind. In this case,
the abuser was a 40 year old woman who considered herself a "breeder".
Shockingly, she did not believe that she had done ANYTHING wrong! She fought and screamed
at her arrest, and tried very hard to prevent the authorities from taking the dead any
dying animals from her property.
It seemed as though we'd groomed so many, but at the end of the day, the number of dogs
we'd actually groomed only amounted to about ten. When we heard that, our hearts
sank...there were so many left to do, and we felt like we didn't even make a dent. Worst
of all, these dogs were completely unaware that they had been treated so badly. Not a
single one had a poor temperament, despite the cruelly they'd suffered, they had excellent
temperaments and wagged their tails at the smallest bit of love we showed them. Even
though they'd suffered the worst kind of inhumane treatment possible, they were still
friendly and affectionate. If we thought our hearts were broken fresh with each dog we
cleaned up, we were wrong. These dogs were so grateful for the little attention they'd
gotten, that when we had to put them back in their crates at the shelter, we could easily
see them slouch down, eyes cast downward, at being locked up again. They shrank before our
very eyes. Of course we all wanted to take home as many as we could, but legally they
still belonged to the woman who had so openly showed utter disregard for their health and
well-being. The only good thing that we could say that was that because the dogs were so
nice and sweet, they were very adoptable and would not need to be killed. Some would call
it euthanasia, or putting a dog down, but frankly, a dead dog is a dead dog. Call it
whatever you want, but the dogs that died were killed by her greed.
And it was on that very day that I truly understood what hate felt like - hate for this
woman who had hurt so many innocent animals, and broken the hearts of many people who had,
out of ignorance or sympathy, bought a dog from her. Dogs that would soon die from her
outrageous breeding practices.
I had heard of puppy mills before, but no picture or article can truly demonstrate the
horror of the conditions these dogs live with - and they only live as long as they can
continue to produce litter after litter. Once they can no longer breed, they are killed.
As these so-called breeders have no regard for their lives to begin with, they are far too
cheap to even have a vet use regular methods of euthanasia (which are humane - the dog is
given an overdose of sedative and simply falls asleep, gently.) The dogs are either shot
or not fed; for these people with no conscience, it is far cheaper to simply not feed a
dog than to even "waste" the money on a bullet. This, my friends, is a puppy
mill. If you see a puppy for sale in a pet shop, I can virtually guarantee that the puppy
came from this kind of background. These puppy mill dogs come from pet stores, brokers,
and sometimes even from shelters. If you see an ad in the paper and meet up with someone
who is "helping a friend sell their puppies", you are getting a puppy mill dog.
How do I know this? Because I show dogs, know many good, reputable breeders, and can tell
you that every good breeder I know would NEVER sell their beloved puppies through a pet
shop or broker. A good breeder will work very very hard to make sure she is selling her
puppy to a good home. And, if for any reason it doesn't work out, she will take the puppy
back before letting you try to find a home for the puppy. Most "papers" that you
get with a puppy from a pet store are falsified papers. Pedigrees mean less than nothing,
if you don't know how to read them.
Sadly, many pet store dogs are NOT even purebred, even if they DO have papers. They are
not healthy, were taken from their mothers far too young, and suffer serious psychological
problems. Because people continue to buy from pet stores and brokers, puppy mills will
continue to exist. To add even more bad news, you will often pay much more for a pet store
puppy of questionable lineage than you would pay for a pet dog from a good breeder. I do
not know one single breeder who has ever made money on a litter - the cost of breeding and
taking good care of your puppies is much higher than the money you will make selling your
To add even worse news, people frequently pay top dollar for mixed breed dogs. Right now,
there are people who are breeding poodles with Labradore retrievers or golden retrievers,
called "Goldendoodles" or "Labradoodles" and charging nearly $1,000
for these pups! They aren't even a BREED! My own dog, Ginger, is a Champion, not just in
the United States but Canada too, and I certainly wasn't charged $1,000 for her! Kelly,
the girl who I train with, has had five German Shepherds - and to date, all but one has
been shown in some area of competitive dog sports. From temperament certifications to
obedience titles and American Championships, these dogs have done it all. The only one who
doesn't get shown is little Cheyenne, a tiny female who was rescued and is so very timid
that she doesn't even like to leave the house. Cheyenne's mother was found wandering the
streets of Indianapolis, very pregnant, and very neglected. The woman who found her owns a
nearby shelter, and found her wandering the streets in the winter 4 ½ years ago, and
brought her back to her shelter to give birth and to put the puppies up for adoption.
Kelly gets both purebred dogs with great lineage, when she's ready to start another dog on
their way to a championship, as well as rescuing dogs who have been abandoned, abused, or
At this point, I will be telling you some of the horrible statistics of puppy mill dogs,
and I will show you photos of the dead bodies of the dogs who die from lack of care. Awful
as these pictures will be be, let me tell you that they do not even begin to touch on just
how sad and angry you would be if you spent even one half day doing the rescue work that I
did when this woman was finally arrested and brought to justice. Thankfully, animal
cruelty is now a felony, and not a misdemeanor.
(Rest of speech)
In closing, let me tell you that YOU can make a difference! Don't buy dogs from pet
stores, don't buy them from brokers, and tell everyone you can about where these dogs
actually come from and the conditions that they live in. If you want a purebred dog, I
recommend that you contact breed rescue for that breed - you will be able to get a great
dog that really needs a home. Pedigrees and papers are only as good as the honor of the
person who gives them to you. As a professional handler, I have handled dogs that come
from the top lines in the country. And all my clients tell me this...the ONLY reason you
EVER really need to have your purebred dog registered is if you intend to show your dog -
you need the dogs registration number. The AKC is only a breed registry - they
accept your dogs registration application ([provided it's filled out correctly) and
give your dog a number. That number is used only when you enter a dog in a show, for
identification purposes. That is all the AKC does - they do NOT police bad breeders, and
do not and cannot tell you who is a good breeder or a bad breeder.
If you have your heart set on a particular breed, go through rescue, or go to a dog show
and talk to people who show that breed. It will take every one of us who wants a dog to
help rid the world of puppy mills - but if you really love dogs, you will want to help in
this effort. Your part is easy - just don't EVER buy from a pet shop or broker. When there
is no longer a demand, there will be no supply. Then, and only then, will we have made the
world a better place for "man's best friend". As I stroke the velvet ears of
Jovan, the Shepherd I show, I can look into his deep eyes and know, that for his sake, and
every other dog I've met or shown, the effort is worth it. We can make difference, and we
are young enough that we can do this and see the results in our lifetime.
So please, won't you join me in making the world better for Man's best friend?
Written by Melissa Chavez, age 14. The article was passed along by Melissa's mentor, Kelly