“We rarely get puppies, but when we do they’re always in bad shape,” Strader said. “When we got a call earlier in the week about the beagle puppies, there were 30 of them. Over half of them died before we got there to pick them up. Most of them were only 5 to 6 weeks old.”
In most states, large-scale breeding operations can legally keep hundreds of dogs in cages for their entire lives for the sake of selling puppies, as long as the animals have basic food, water and shelter. This makes mill rescues a “tough balance,” Strader said, as rescue organizations can’t technically try to shut down or raid a mill that is considered legal under USDA standards, even when the dogs’ welfare is compromised.
And those are just operations that sell wholesale to pet shops — facilities that sell their dogs face-to-face to the public are not regulated under any federal humane care facility standards. However, the team can still report breeders in more serious cases.
“We have connections with close to 200 breeders now that have surrendered their dogs to us. We support change on every level, but we also want to save as many dogs as possible,” Strader said. “I will tell the stories of these dogs until the day I die.”