Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Journey to Safety

Journey to Safety
By Cathy Scott, Best Friends’ staff writer
Pup My Ride collaborative rescue effort saves more than 150 puppy mill dogs from certain death
When two puppy mill dogs Beatrice and Beauty arrived together at Best Friends’ temporary care center on a Midwestern farm, the pair hung out in their new kennel as if they were long-lost cousins, sleeping and resting against each other. But Beatrice, who had pyometra and a hernia—common afflictions in overbred females—was rushed to a local veterinary hospital for emergency surgery.

Best Friends’ volunteer caregivers, in the meantime, took Beauty under their wing, spending time with her in Beatrice’s absence. Beauty is missing most of her lower jaw, but because she’s able to eat and drink with no signs of discomfort, she’ll move on to foster care and then into a forever home.

Beatrice and Beauty are poster-dog examples of the throw-aways—the ones brokers and breeders can’t sell, the ones scheduled to die. “They’re the ‘scraps’ they can’t sell at auction that get killed afterward,” says rescuer Lisa, who requested that her last name not be used. “No one wants to buy them.”

More than 150 mostly overbred dogs, along with the left-over “scraps” of miscellaneous puppies and adults, are now on the first leg of their journey to new lives as companion animals, all because of Best Friends’ partnership program with rescuers to pull canines large and small, young and old, from puppy mills where they were about to be euthanized.

Dogs like Beatrice and Beauty suffer as breeding dogs, all so they can produce puppies who are eventually sold online and from pet stores. Consumers are led to believe that pet-store puppies come from nice environments, but this rarely—if ever— is the case, says Kelli Ohrtman, a specialist for Best Friends’ Puppies Aren’t Products campaign, which, through its Pup My Ride program, is rescuing puppy-mill canines on a continuing basis as part of Best Friends’ No More Homeless Pets mission.

Dogs like Beatrice, because of her looks and partially missing jaw, aren’t necessarily the type people are drawn to. But that doesn’t matter at Best Friends. “Even if the breeder didn’t feel that Beauty was perfect, we do,” Ohrtman says.

Another prime example of those rejected by breeders—recently saved from certain death through Pup My Ride— are a litter of 9-week-old cocker spaniel/poodle mix puppies.

“The breeder said they didn’t have enough curly hair and not enough poodle in them,” Lisa says. “The broker sent them back because they look too much like full cockers.” One of those breeders had 1,000 dogs on her property the day of the rescue and “needed to get rid of some dogs,” Lisa notes.

Other discards from breeders included two large papillons. “They were breeding them big,” Lisa explains. “They got rid of them because they can’t sell extra-large puppies.” They too were saved during the latest Pup My Ride project.

Two-year-old Uncle Sam, a boxer, came in with a USDA tag on a too-tight metal chain starting to embed around his neck as well as a deformed jaw. “The collar fit him a few pounds ago,” said Pat Whitacre, a dog trainer at Best Friends, as he cut the chain from the dog’s neck.

As for Beatrice, once in a touch-and-go situation, is improving and was cleared for adoption. It was volunteer and Best Friends' member Liz Northcott of Missouri who drove Beatrice to the hospital. “It was an emergency because she had a very bad infection,” Northcott says. Now on the mend, Beatrice is traveling with the others to New York to humane rescue groups, where they’ll be adopted out.

And Beauty, with her deteriorated jaw and rotten teeth—an affliction that’s caused by drinking from water bottles common in commercial facilities—is typical of problems arising as a result of living out their lives as breeding dogs. Other physical ailments include splayed feet and damaged foot pads from living day in and day out on wire-bottomed cages, badly matted and filthy coats, congenital defects such as heart murmurs, extra teeth and dry eye.

Another common problem usually requiring surgeries is hernias. A cocker spaniel named Fancy has a hernia the size of a baseball. Despite the obvious discomfort for the dog, the breeder told the rescuer, “It didn’t bother her the last two litters she had.”

“Of the puppy mill dogs we’ve rescued, a large percentage of them have multiples of these conditions,” Ohrtman says. “The pet stores don’t want them, the breeders don’t want them and the brokers don’t want them.” But Best Friends and their partners, through the latest Pup My Ride project, did.

Besides volunteers on the ground, the rescue project was in large part made possible by Best Friends members Alan and Liz Northcott and the use of their farm, bedrooms for the team, and a 40-by-60-foot steel-frame building that was transformed into the temporary care and housing center for the animals.

“It’s a lot of work, but it’s extremely rewarding,” Ohrtman says, “and we couldn’t have done it without the help and support of the volunteers and everyone who’s part of the program. Every minute of it is worthwhile for the chance to save just one dog’s life, let alone 150.”

Participating Rescue Groups Pup My Ride demonstrates that when caring people work together, we get closer to creating a world with No More Homeless Pets. Along with Best Friends, each of the following groups participated in the Pup My Ride rescue. Please contact them directly to donate supplies, money and your time, or to learn more about dogs available for adoption.

? Animal Rescue Fund of the Hamptons
? Mt. Pleasant Animal Shelter
? Noah’s Ark
? North Shore Animal League
? Sumter Disaster Animal Response Team, Inc.

View Video of the Rescue
Meet Beatrice, Beauty and other dogs that are part of the Pup My Ride rescue. Please click video image below.

For More Information
Pup My Ride is a Best Friends program to get dogs out of shelters and puppy mills and into areas where they are most likely to find their forever homes. We deliver the pups to local partners with highly successful adoption programs capable of finding homes for many dogs at a time.

To learn more about Pup My Ride, please click here.
Read about the previous Pup My Ride rescue in which more than 200 dogs were saved.
Visit Best Friends’ Puppies Aren’t Products campaign to learn more about puppy mills.
How You Can Help
Adopt don’t shop. Many purebred dogs are available for adoption. Search by breed at Petfinder.com for your next family member.
Help rescue more dogs from puppy mills by donating to Puppies Aren’t Products campaign to fund future Pup My Ride programs.

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