16 puppy mill rescues happily wag tails at PALS

Sixteen dogs got a fresh start last Saturday when volunteers from Poweshiek Animal League Shelter (PALS) rescued them at a puppy mill auction at Mettoville Kennels, located in Mexico, Missouri. With $1600 from private donations—money raised specifically for this puppy mill auction—PALS purchased 16 dogs, effectively saving them from the confines of puppy mill life.

PALS Puppies

Shane Donegan plays with two dogs that were purchased from a puppy mill auction in Missouri - Aaron Barker

The auction, featuring over 800 dogs of different breeds—including Chihuahuas, Dachshunds, Ba-Shars, and Shih Tzus, from as young as 12-weeks old—and prices ranging from $200 to $2000, marked the closing of Mettoville Kennels. But this hardly meant freedom or loving homes for the dogs, as many auction dogs wind up in other puppy mills, according to the Humane Society of the United States’ website.

Along with PALS, many different animal rescue organizations came to the auction, from as far as California, New York, and Texas, to save the pups and dogs from continuing their lives with other commercial breeders.

“We’re just one of thousands of organizations that want to stop the animals from being euthanized on a daily basis and to allow animals to be what they’re supposed to be, and that’s to be family pets, not breed stock,” said PALS president Wendy Kadner.

Puppy mills, also known as commercial breeders, operate purely for maximizing profit from breeding dogs. Often with the philosophy of “pregnancy for profit,” female dogs in puppy mills are bred continuously until their death. Most puppy mill dogs live out their life breeding in small wire cages outdoors and are deprived of humane care such as shelter from the elements, clean water and sanitation and veterinary care.

Kadner explained that puppy mills are in operation due to consumer demand for specific breeds of dogs, which presents a profitable opportunity for commercial breeders. The issue is complicated by the fact that currently, the supply of dogs far exceeds the demand while puppy mills seek to produce the ‘ideal dog.’ The constant breeding then leads to countless puppy mill dogs living in substandard conditions, as well as strays and euthanasia.

“We’re part of the problem in that we want that Yorkie or Bishon or French Bulldog, the specialty dogs, and we’ll pay the 5, 6, 800 dollars to go get them,” Kadner said. “[Puppy mills] have so many animals living in terrible conditions to bring that perfect one to the table so that they can get so much money.”

Our neighboring state of Missouri has about 1000 puppy mills, the largest number of puppy mills in the country, according to Kadner. A puppy mill legislation was on the ballot for Missouri voters on Tuesday’s elections, when Proposition B, the Puppy Mill Cruelty Prevention Act, was passed.  This widely contested new law requires all dog breeders to provide humane standards of care, including restriction to breeding no more than 50 dogs at a time, annual veterinary examinations, prohibition of wire cages, access to the indoors and outdoors, daily cleaning of dog pens, and more, according to the Associated Press.

Just across state lines from Missouri, Illinois also ranks in the top three states with the highest number of puppy mills, along with Pennsylvania. Kadner hopes that organizations like PALS can help puppy mill dogs while reducing the number of unwanted animals in general.

Kadner explained that PALS as an organization typically does not focus its effort on puppy mills. But this auction was a unique case in that it was one of the largest auctions in history and was conveniently located only four hours away.

“When causes come up, we will certainly take a look and evaluate, ‘How can we contribute to the greater good?,’ and in this case we thought we could help,” she said.

PALS, which has rescued over 1500 dogs since it was founded in 2004, is currently focusing its efforts locally. The board of supervisors is in the process of seeking further funding for the Shelter. At present PALS receives no money from the county and is run solely through fundraising efforts, grants, and a yearly amount of $1000 from the city of Grinnell.

“We’re working with ways to get in touch with the city government to say as the board of supervisors, ‘How can we keep PALS going long term and is there anything we can get from the city or from the county to help with those efforts,’” Kadner said.

PALS also has some furry fundraisers for the winter, including Santa Paws on Dec. 4, where people and their pets can be photographed with Santa. The following day on Dec. 5, PALS, in collaboration with three other animal shelters, will host an adoption day in Iowa City, with the idea of bringing the animals “home for the holidays.”

The Shelter is open to the public every Saturday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m. As a completely volunteer-run organization, PALS is always in need of more volunteers, according to Kadner. For more information about donating or volunteering, please visit the PALS website.