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Monday, February 15, 2016

"I have several rescue stories, but this one is probably one of my proudest moments"

Two years ago, I received an urgent text message that the USDA was doing a raid on a breeder about 25 miles east of Mitchell.  They hadn't planned on it taking as long as it did and had no place to overnight 17(possibly more, I can't remember) dogs.  Some mama's, puppies, and younger dogs.  We wrangled together a few of us and a local dog boarding place agreed to let us bring the dogs there.  We worked until 1 or 2 a.m.  My heart broke several times that night.  The last picture of the lab and her babies will always haunt me, I can still see her face!  All the mama's were completely scared, they had no idea what love or human contact was like.  These poor dogs were basically frozen and would not move in or out of kennels.  It was heart wrenching.  The looks on their faces were just utter terror!  The younger dogs and puppies were going to be fine, I could just tell.  A couple of Goldens were VERY deformed around their mouths, obviously from over bred parents would be my guess.

Anyway, we went out to the kennel the next morning and all the dogs had been transported to rescues in Sioux Falls, Brookings and Minnesota.  All but a mama Cocker Spaniel and her 4 day old puppies!  No one had tagged them for rescue.  My friend and I looked at each other and I just said, I'll take them.  We had never had day old puppies before, but our vet and other said it would be okay, mama does most of the work for the first few weeks.  So after our vet check we hauled Mama Maggie and her babies to our home!  We named the pups Kramer, Scooter, Nicki and Anna.  Too adorable for words.

It was obvious that Maggie was going to take some work!  She had never been out of a kennel, never been groomed, etc.  The first picture I attached is what she looked like when we got her.  We decided to let her stay in our wire kennel for a few days, until she got a bit more comfy.  Every night I would lay inside that kennel (well half of me anyway haha) and just talk to her and pet her.  She would just gaze into my eyes as if she was saying I want to trust you, I want to love you but I am scared.  After a few days we set up a play pen for Maggie and the pups.  The first day she had no idea what to do.  No roof over her head and space to move around.  After that she was like, wow this is cool!  We would take her out of the play pen to get a break from the puppies and she started to slowly come up to us on her own.  We would just sit down in our kitchen quietly and patiently waiting for her to realize she was going to be okay and life was going to be AWESOME!  

One of our supporters graciously offered to pay for a spa day for our girl Maggie.  I had previous appointment set up for one of my dogs, so we just decided to take Maggie in instead.  Now, we had to figure out how to get her groomed but still be able to nurse the week old babes!  We did it in two shifts, so Maggie was able to come home and nurse.  While she was gone, I had a heater and lots and lots of blankets for the babies.  I think I may have been more nervous about the whole thing then Maggie.  The 2nd picture is Maggie after her spa day.  I literally had tears when they carried her out!  GORGEOUS, and you could tell she was a little proud of herself!  It was such a fantastic day!

Maggie started roaming around the kitchen without any fear, but you still had to approach slowly.  The first time she laid her head in my lap, yes you guessed it, more tears!  When the puppies were about 3 to 4 weeks old, you could tell she was ready to have more time away from them, but she still wouldn't come up the 3 stairs to our living room area.  We would just sit at the top of the steps and she would lay down at the base.  It took awhile, but she finally did it!  She came up the stairs!  It was very amazing to see my dogs (we had 5 at the time, now 6) with her.  It was like they knew she was special and they didn't push her at all.  Pretty soon she was coming upstairs on a regular basis, but always had to be next to me.  If she got nervous or scared she would just go back to her comfort zone, the kitchen.  She was such a good mama, who knows how many liters that poor girl had!  

When the puppies were about 6 or 7 weeks old, we decided to let Maggie sleep upstairs with us.  We set up a little bed area in our room and she knew immediately that was for her!  I don't think Maggie ever slept, and I am not exaggerating one bit.  She was always awake.  One night I was laying in bed, Maggie was on her pillow and all of a sudden I heard her let out the biggest sigh I have ever heard from a dog.  About a half hour later, she was snoring!  It was so amazing, I just laid in bed with a big old smile on my face!

We had the pups until they were 8 weeks old.  I couldn't have hand picked their families any better if I tried.  After they all went to their new homes it was like Maggie knew she was free!  We got her spay done, waited for about another month and I finally felt she was ready to be adopted.  We had a lot of applicants, mainly because they liked her story, but she was going to have a very special home.  Finally, I received an application along with a 3 page letter from a lady in Sioux Falls.  My gut was telling me this was it!  She already had a breeder dog that was pretty much the same as Maggie.  She came over once with her friend, and then once with her current dog.  Maggie was petrified, but after a few minutes everyone was liking each other and Maggie went up to her new mama and put her head on her lap!  YES!  The cool thing is that Maggie actually helped her other dog too.  Jennifer's dog kind of took Maggie under her wing and showed her the ropes once they all got home.  

Guest blogger Lynda Schoenfelder lives in Mitchell and is a volunteer for The Mitchell Animal Rescue Site, Oglala Pet Project and many others.

Saturday, February 13, 2016

"I got a dog from the pet store and it had to be put down because it was so sick."

"I got a dog from the pet store and it had to be put down because it was so sick."

Disease, fleas, worms, disfigurement, etc. are complaints that people who bought a puppy mill dog have in common. No one expects to buy a puppy mill dog, but the fact is many of them are “hidden in plain sight” in pet stores and online ads promising cuteness and the latest or rarest breed. However, after the puppy is brought home, symptoms of disease start to appear and the reality of the horrid conditions they came from come to light. And without standards for facilities many times the consumer ends up paying a high vet bill – or worse, having to deal with the death of their new pet.

This is not an uncommon thing to hear. And when you are a fellow pet owner, you really feel for the people that have been duped. Duped into buying a dog from a place that provides inadequate to no care for the animals they are in charge of. Commonly known as "puppy mills," these facilities are a breeding ground for disease, neglect, abuse, and behavior problems in unsocialized animals.

Sometimes ads will say you can't see the facility because of a variety of reasons. That should be a red flag. If the parent dogs are not able to be handled, let alone seen, that should also cause concern to a potential buyer. Behavior traits can be inherited from parent dogs. Furthermore, removing animals from their mother too soon can have severe consequences for their personality and socialization.

I believe people who buy dogs instead of adopt do so with the same intentions as adopters, to welcome a new furry family member to enjoy and love. With this being the end goal, I believe we need to be aware that many breeding dogs’ lives are full of pain. Animals used for breeding should be protected by laws for – at the very least – basic standards of care.

Treating animals humanely is a practice anyone can get behind. Many reputable breeders already practice responsible breeding and provide proper facilities, feed, and veterinary care for their animals. However, South Dakota needs laws that allows prosecution of the breeders who don’t provide adequate care for their animals. Please join met in supporting SB 157, a law that protects humane treatment of animals.

Guest blogger Missy John is an animal control officer in Sioux Falls.  Missy is an advocate for SDFACT and offers help and advice on many animal cruelty issues we encounter.

Thursday, February 4, 2016

Urge South Dakota Legislators to Enact SB 157

A bill to establish basic standards of care for commercial breeding operations

For more than 3 years our SDFACT supporters have been asking us to work on a bill to address the cruelties of South Dakota puppy mills. In researching the issue in South Dakota, we identified the need for basic standards of care to be outlined in state law. Standards will assist law enforcement when investigating these troublesome large scale commercial breeding operations and also provide protections for responsible dog and cat breeders in our state.

According to the federal website, South Dakota has 43 USDA Class A Breeders, the 11th most in the country. Additional large scale commercial breeding operations not licensed with the USDA also exist.  Although the U.S. Department of Agriculture licenses and inspects large scale commercial breeding operations that sell to pet stores, the USDA’s own Office of Inspector General (OIG) released a report confirming that USDA inspectors regularly ignore horrific suffering at commercial dog breeding facilities and allow the facilities to continue to operate, unimpeded, despite repeated violations of the Federal Animal Welfare Act.  The USDA admits that its laws are not humane standards, but merely survival standards and that a USDA license is not a seal of approval.

While SB 157 does not implement a state licensing and inspection program common in other states, it does address the immediate need of humane officers and sheriff’s deputies tasked with investigating commercial breeding operation complaints. Currently state law provides no standards of care, only a definition of a commercial breeding operation and the guidelines for investigating such operations. This section of code was revised more than 10 years ago through a joint effort of South Dakota breeders and animal shelters. 

SB 157 simply adds a few basic standards of care to this existing section. The bill will require primary enclosures to have solid flooring to protect the dogs’ feet and legs from injury; primary enclosures to be placed no higher than forty-two inches above the floor and cannot be stacked on top of other cages. A written program of veterinary care including a vaccination schedule, practices for disease control and prevention and an annual physical examination by a licensed veterinarian.

Many animal protection organizations would like South Dakota’s Department of Agriculture to implement a state licensing and inspection program but many breeders argue state inspections are not needed. SB 157 truly represents a compromise and it is a solution SD FACT supports. We urge South Dakota Legislators to enact SB 157. This bill will provide basic standards of care for law enforcement investigating complaints and also enhance the quality of life for dogs and cats living in the large scale commercial breeding operations of South Dakota. #MakeSDPuppyMillsMoreHumane  #SDFACTPAC