Dear Puppy Mill Owners: I’m not sure why I feel compelled to write this letter that doubtless will neither move you nor prompt you to change your ways. After all, these past few months, the numbers of abused dogs taken by the state from people like you has been staggering, and the placement of seized animals has required the cooperation of countless shelters like the Lawrence Humane Society, both in-state and across the nation. You probably don’t care.
But I wanted to let you know how some of your dogs have fared once they were rescued from your filthy prisons. I’ve kept tabs on a few of them.
l Are you the one who bred the curly-haired white female? She’s the one you fed so seldom that she only grew to the size of a 4- to 5-month-old specimen of her breed. You remember her: the one you didn’t groom, who was so matted that when we got her we could hardly tell the front end from the back? We had to shave her right down to her skin. After that we could finally see the extent of the malnutrition. She had the curved posture and the shaky back legs that could hardly support her weight — you know the position. We know you do, because so many of the dogs we got from you looked like that. In fact, on a scale of 1 to 10, this one had a body condition of about 1.5.
Just so you know, she came out OK, but it was a rough go. We put her on a regular diet and treated her for all those different kinds of intestinal worms and ear mites, but her little body was worn down, and she developed pneumonia. We had to call on the resources of the shelter’s Max’s Club fund and on the kindness and expertise of Dr. Bradley’s clinic to pull her through. She spent several days in an oxygen tent and had to go through a regimen of medicines before she could come back to us. She pulled through, though, and she went to a good home.
When you had her, though, how did you do it? I mean seriously — how did you lie down in bed and sleep each night, knowing that all those dogs under your supposed care hadn’t eaten for days? How did you not know that the right thing would have been to surrender the dogs, or to ask for help, instead of keeping them in those cages, letting them wonder if they would ever get another meal?
• Maybe you’re the one who had the older little toy-sized female who was missing an eye? Just so you know, she’s now lost most of the sight in the other one. Fortunately, that didn’t stop a friend of mine from adopting her. Fiona now has a sister of the same breed who seems to know that her new friend can’t see, and she takes care of her. They go out in their yard together, and they’ve learned to play games, and she only gets scared once in a while. That little dog you bred is smart, too. She had the housebreaking down in no time. And unlike you, her new mom loves her.
• Or are you the one who owned the curly brown female who smelled so bad and had worms and ear mites and matted hair? Another friend of mine now has her, and I see her regularly. It took a few weeks, though, to reassure her that this wasn’t just another temporary stop. Often during that time, she’d jump up and put her paws around my friend’s waist, just to get a hug and be told that everything was OK. She was full of wonder when she was let out of the cage and allowed to explore a real house. She’s filling out nicely, now that she gets fed, and she’s been spayed, so she can no longer be forced to continually reproduce for someone’s financial benefit. She’s learned that it’s so much nicer to sleep in clean bedding than in her own filth. Also, we’re not sure what you did to her that makes her so terrified of loud noises. We know you did something, though, and my friend is working her through that as well.
• Oh, and by the way: The pregnant white female who was rescued along with her had her “litter,” except you had starved her so badly, she only whelped one puppy. He’s doing well, though, and they’re both ready for new homes now, too.
I’m glad to know that as part of the state’s ruling against you, you had to agree to never breed dogs again.
But that will never make up for the incredible amount of cruelty you inflicted on those animals.
Just so you know.
— Sue Novak is a board member of the Lawrence Humane Society.