WISCONSIN PUPPY MILL PROJECT
Our Drive to Save Lives:
(Click on any photo on this page for larger view & caption)
"We cannot create a 'no kill' society until we shut down puppy mills, and implement both aggressive spay/neuter programs to prevent unwanted animals and major 'responsible pet ownership' campaigns to educate the public. [Some no-kill shelters] just turn away those they don't have room for...and others must come in and clean up the mess."
On 24 April 2006, the task force of five highly-qualified volunteers arrived at the Adams home. Team members included, in addition to Eilene Ribbens Rohde: Tammy Harris, manager of the Sheboygan County Humane Society (SCHS); Dana Lubach, SCHS Team Leader for Dogs and Certified Humane Officer; Dr. Rick Lord, SCHS vet and Certified Humane Officer; and Jessica Pacey, vet assistant and Certified Humane Officer.
The Washington County Humane Society (WCHS) would later assist with follow-up visits and transportation for several dogs to their facility for placement. Conspicuous by their absence were representatives from the shelter from whom John Adams had acquired 16 dogs directly and two indirectly.
Once onsite, the Team had quite a surprise waiting for them: John had originally admitted to having 20 - 30 dogs, then revised his estimate upward to "around 60." Dog after dog after dog was brought out to be examined, and the total number for the day was acutally 75! To their credit, the Adamses knew every one of them by name.
Due to the sheer number of animals, record keeping would be one of the Team's most challenging tasks. All dogs must be tracked and monitored through the process of completing the rescue. The Team set up an "assembly line" of sorts, assigning each dog a number, and creating an intake form for each, listing name, age, where the dog originally came from, obvious health problems, and any other notes either observed or provided by the Adamses. The volunteer photographer then snapped a picture of each dog before passing him/her and his/her intake form along to the vet team for examination and shots.
Only a few of the animals had been to a vet in the past two years, and only a few had current rabies vaccines. Dr. Lord and his assistant, Jessica, examined each dog briefly, checked heart, lungs, and teeth, drew blood for heartworm tests, and administered a rabies vaccine and a distemper series to each dog who was old enough, then microchipped each. All data -- vaccine types and dates, specific health comments, further treatment needed, and microchip numbers-- were entered on the forms.
In general, the dogs were in good condition and were of average body weight and condition. However, only 17 had been spayed or neutered, most were in need of grooming and bathing, and several had dental issues. Miraculously, only ONE tested positive for heartworm.
Dogs ranged in age from 16-year-old Willard, who supervised the entire process, to a litter of one month old pups, born onsite to one of the puppy mill "rescues." Most were husky or husky mixes, but there were also a variety of other breeds and mixes including beagle, pit bull, rottweiler, border collie, yellow labrador retriever, and schipperke. (Please see our Photo Album for faces, ages, and breed heritage.)
However, most of the adolescents were shy or frightened, and one or two were downright terrified of handling. They had never worn collars nor had been leash walked. Some of the adult dogs were also shy or submissive. Because of the sheer number treated in one day, comprehensive physical or temperament evaluation of each dog was impossible.
Due to the cooperation of the Adamses, the lack of physical neglect, and their obviously genuine affection for the dogs, the county animal control officer decided that the couple should be allowed to choose 15 to keep, provided that all dogs who remained on the property were up to date on their rabies vaccinations and licenses. Attempting to prevent another "pup-ulation explosion" in the future, the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project picked up the tab for spaying and neutering the seven unaltered dogs who would remain with the Adamses, as well as any other vet work that the 15 needed.
The total veterinary cost for the 15 dogs remaining with the Adamses was $1,260. Altogether, an estimated additional $8,500 will be needed to take care of the one heartworm treatment, nearly 60 spays / neuters, and other veterinary needs of the dogs removed from the Adamses. (Any and all donations toward these bills will be gratefully accepted! See How You Can Help for info.)
Footnote: After all of this, the county still granted the Adamses a kennel license in May 06 and told them that where they live, "they can have as many dogs as they want."