Puppy Mill Dogs Feel Grass For The Very First Time

<p>North Shore Animal League<span></span></p>

Last Saturday, 93 furry lives were changed forever.

The little dogs were all different: Some were Shih Tzus, some were poodles, some had long matted hair and some had short coats. Some of the dogs lay quietly, while others paced nervously and whined in their crates. But, all the dogs had one thing in common - they had just been rescued from miserable lives in puppy mills.

North Shore Animal League

Nearly one hundred dogs arrived at the North Shore Animal League America from puppy mills all over Oklahoma. They had all been used for breeding, spending their lives locked in cages, forced to have litter after litter of puppies for sale in pet stores.

"Some of them have never felt grass before," Cindy Szczudlo, rescue manager at North Shore, told The Dodo.

Kaveri, an 8-year-old Japanese chin, takes in her new surroundings (North Shore Animal League)

Szczudlo watched Saturday morning as the dogs were unloaded from the transport that had brought them to safety, ferrying the dogs from Oklahoma to their temporary home at North Shore, just outside of New York City.

Dogs used for breeding in puppy mills are severely neglected, their health and well-being is ignored for years and, when they've had so many litters that they can't keep going, the puppy mills often kill them.

North Shore Animal League

"These are the moms and the dads of the babies in the pet stores," Szczudlo explained, adding that people who go out and purchase puppies in shops don't realize that they're "supporting the industry that does this to the parents."

North Shore works with discreet rescuers in Oklahoma to quietly save the dogs and get them to the shelter, where they can be adopted and loved for the first time. But the dogs often bear the wounds of their time at the puppy mill and need lots of care before they can find families.

Catatonk, a 1-year-old Morkie, was a little nervous (North Shore Animal League)

"They have never had a chance to live in a home," Szczudlo said. "They've lived their whole life in a cage." When the dogs arrive at North Shore, they're often "matted, filthy, with eye-infections, ear-infections, bad teeth," she said.

Sometimes their eyes are so painfully infected that they have to be removed, Szczudlo said.

North Shore Animal League

The rescued dogs also have to adjust to being around humans, even those who are there to care for them. One dog in particular from Saturday's rescue stuck with Szczudlo.

"There was one sweet little poodle who was just shaking ... just shaking constantly ... and my director held her and wrapped her in a towel and she finally stopped," she said. "It just goes to show all she needed was a little love and affection and to understand she was in a safe place."

North Shore Animal League

The 93 dogs who arrived at North Shore on Saturday will be available for adoption starting this Friday and Szczudlo knows from experience that, given the chance, they'll make loving and sweet pets.

"Although these dogs have had a rough start to their life, they're not broken animals, they're wonderful dogs," Szczudlo said. "Just look in their eyes and know they have real souls. They just want to be loved."

Elbe, a 10-year-old Yorkie, gets a cuddle (North Shore Animal League)

These sweet dogs are finally getting the chance, for the first time in their lives, to be pets. But puppy mills will continue for as long as people keep buying pets in stores, which means countless more dogs will suffer to breed puppies.

"People just need to really open their eyes and see what's going on behind the scenes," Szczudlo said.

Click here to find out what you can do to help stop puppy mills in your state.