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Hundreds Of German Shepherds Found 'Begging' To Be Saved From Puppy Mill

"Some of them knew that their freedom ride was there ... and they'd come out with their tails wagging" 🐕💕

The dogs had to get out of there.

On a property in Candler County, Georgia, more than 160 German shepherds were locked up in filthy, muddy pens so they could be bred and have their puppies sold for profit.

They didn’t have adequate food, water or shelter, and they’d never experienced any form of love or attention.

Atlanta Humane Society

Once local residents became aware of this puppy mill, which was illegally run by a woman named Belinda Powell, they started contacting authorities and urging them to shut her operation down. Powell ran an additional puppy mill on a property in Montgomery County, Georgia, which also had more than 100 German shepherds.

German shepherd in filthy pen
Atlanta Humane Society

Help finally arrived for the dogs in early January. Powell was arrested, and local authorities, working with multiple rescue groups, started to take the dogs off the property.

Jessica Rock, director of legal advocacy and law enforcement support at the Atlanta Humane Society, was part of the team who went to the Candler County property.

Desperate looking dogs trapped inside pen
Atlanta Humane Society

“I’ve seen my fair share of people who run puppy mills … but this particular lady clearly had no concern for these animals’ well-being,” Rock told The Dodo. “The pictures can be gut-wrenching themselves, but when you actually got out to these crime scenes and see these animals, and see the suffering in their faces and the conditions that they’re living in, it’s way worse.”

German shepherd trapped in filthy pen
Atlanta Humane Society

When the rescuers arrived, the dogs started to howl all at the same time, according to Rock.

“It’s eerie,” Rock said. “I don't know why they do that … but the amount of dogs that you hear, basically begging for help, is just haunting. You know you're getting them out of there and doing the right thing, but at the same time, you’re just so horrified that they have been living in these conditions for their entire lives.”

Sad looking dog inside pen
Atlanta Humane Society

While some dogs appeared to be getting enough food, others were weak and emaciated.

“What happens when you put multiple dogs in a pen is that you have ones who are the bullies and ones who are the stronger ones,” Rock said. “So if you throw a bunch of food into the pen, or even if you have automatic feeders in the pen, the bullies will eat the food, and you’re going to have dogs in there who are not getting proper nutrition.”

German shepherd dogs at puppy mill
Atlanta Humane Society

Understandably, many dogs were timid and scared of the rescuers, but others were a little braver.

“Some of them knew that their freedom ride was there the day that we were there, and they'd come out with their tails wagging,” Rock said.

Dog jumping up into rescuer's arms
Atlanta Humane Society

Rock and a whole team of rescuers from various organizations worked tirelessly to remove each and every dog from the property, get them medical help and put them into shelters or foster homes.

“It’s been an undertaking,” Rock said. “I think we were down there for four days working this case. I can put my game face on, and I can do what needs to be done to get those animals out of there, but then when I come home and decompress a little bit ... that’s when I start getting emotional about it.”

Yet everyone’s hard work paid off — most of the dogs have completely transformed since being rescued. Some dogs have even been adopted by loving families already.

“It’s amazing to see pictures very shortly after, where dogs who had nothing but fear and desperation in their eyes, all of a sudden have smiles on their faces,” Rock said. “It’s amazing to see how resilient dogs are.”

Rescued German shepherd in new home
A rescued German shepherd enjoying her new home | Atlanta Humane Society

Rock is also deeply moved by how many people worked together to make this rescue possible.

“It took a lot of people — law enforcement, local individuals who cared about these dogs, animal control officers, Atlanta Humane Society, the Humane Society of the United States, other rescue organizations, and just other people who were pulled in from different offices to help us with the paperwork,” Rock said. “To see all of those people come together for the sole purpose of saving these dogs was just amazing.”

To help these rescued German shepherds, you can make a donation to Atlanta Humane Society. You can also contact the organization if you’re interested in adopting a dog.