Tonight, about two dozen dogs are under the care of the Washington Animal Rescue League. They were rescued from a puppy mill in South Carolina by the Humane Society of the United States.
Now local vets and volunteers are working to rehabilitate the animals for adoption.
The local sheriff’s office discovered more than 200 dogs of various breeds and ages, along with nine horses and nearly 40 chickens and geese, all living in deplorable conditions.
“They’re horrible situations for these animals,” says Mary Jarvis of the Washington Animal Rescue League. “They’re kept like stock animals.”
In a coordinated, nationwide response, volunteers helped transport 23 of the dogs to the Washington Animal Rescue League.
“It’s heartbreaking that these animals were in such conditions,” says Howard Edelstein, a volunteer. “I mean, the husky right here, part of her ears are gone just from fly bites.”
Because of excessive in-breeding and a lack of basic care, many of these animals are suffering from medical problems.
“Ear infections, skin infections, overgrown toenails, dirty coats that haven’t been bathed, things like that,” says Dr. Jenna Randall-Smith of the Washington Animal Rescue League.
After being confined to small crates and rabbit hutches and now, in a completely foreign environment, several appear terrified.
“We’re working to socialize them, maybe hand-feeding, just getting them used to people being around that someone coming toward them is a good thing and not a bad thing,” says Jarvis.
The owner of the puppy mill, 54-year-old Callie Abel, pleaded guilty to seven counts of ill treatment of animals, but as part of a plea agreement, she will likely avoid serving any jail time.
She was reportedly selling the dogs to unsuspecting customers via the internet, a growing problem online.
“They just see cute puppies on a blanket and they think ‘Great. I’ll just buy this dog online,’” says Jarvis.
Vets say a few of the dogs might not ever be ready for adoption and some will need extra rehabilitation in loving foster homes, but many of them are surprisingly well-adjusted.
“And now they’re on their way to a wonderful life and thank goodness, they’ve been through so much,” says Edelstein.
If you’re interested in adopting one of the dogs, WARL officials say it will take a few weeks to do the medical and behavioral evaluations, but for details, you can visit their website.