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Puppy Mill Dogs Find Loving Hands

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Severely neglected dogs begin the healing process with the help of Animal League America’s grooming team

Each time North Shore Animal League America’s Rescue Team returns from a puppy mill rescue, the dogs are welcomed with love and tenderness by our veterinary experts, behavioral specialists and other caring staff members and volunteers. They know fully well that these animals have been kept in tiny wire cages, often for years on end, receiving little if any care.

It’s no surprise, then, that the dogs are typically sad, frightened and unkempt.

But the condition of the dogs who arrived at the safety of Animal League America from our most recent puppy mill rescue shocked even our most seasoned staff members.

“We’ve rescued thousands of dogs from these horrible commercial breeding factories, but I’d rarely seen animals who were as severely neglected as these poor dogs,” says Joanne Yohannan, Senior VP of Operations at Animal League America. “Many of them were covered with thick, matted clumps of fur from head to toe. It’s as if the suffering was written on their bodies.”

The dogs’ condition was especially heartbreaking for our grooming staff, who are among the first to care for the animals we rescue. “This was definitely the worst I’d ever seen,” says Michelle Pope, one of our groomers. “We couldn’t even tell what kind of dogs they were. Many of them couldn’t see because their eyes were covered with fur. They were soaked in urine and feces. Three of the dogs were so matted that they couldn’t even walk.”

Paulette Young, another Animal League America groomer, explains that such horrific neglect isn’t only unsanitary, it’s also a huge health problem. “When we shaved the dogs down, their skin was in terrible shape, with raw sores that were bleeding,” says Paulette. Her voice breaks as she says, “When you think about what they had suffered through before they came to us…well, it’s just incredibly hard to imagine.” 

The dogs were given pain relief medication immediately to help alleviate their discomfort. But the mere process of being groomed, with massive amounts of matted, infested fur removed from their emaciated bodies, provided these sweet animals with such relief that it brought our groomers to tears.

“With any mill rescue, it’s always emotional for us,” says groomer Kayla Stoikos. “At first, you just feel so sad for them, but as soon as they are groomed, they seem so relieved. They run around on the ground wagging their tails with a sense of freedom and happiness. Their skin can finally breathe!”

Many of the dogs actually kissed the groomers as they were being shaved—moments that were filled with joy for all involved. “After everything these dogs have been through, it’s a wonderful indication that they are going to heal both emotionally and physically,” says Paulette. “We’re just so glad that we can help them in that process.”


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