Five pickup trucks trudge through a muddy, rain-soaked field in the rural Midwest. Stacked haphazardly in the flat beds of these trucks sit a handful of wire crates covered by a giant tarp. Crammed inside these flimsy, rusted crates are terrified dogs fresh out of the nightmare that is living as a breeding machines in a cold, inhumane commercial breeding facility.
The term “living” is used lightly because dogs who are misfortunate enough to have to endure a part of their lives at a place like this certainly isn’t truly full of life. Better known as Puppy Mills, these operations supply so many pet stores across the country with high-priced, pure bred dogs that these operations, more often than not, put profit over animal welfare. Female dogs are imprisoned with the sole purpose of breeding litter after litter, without proper medical care or human contact. The conditions in many of these mills are indescribably cruel — many of the puppy mill dogs we rescue have never been cared for, have never been outside of a cage, have never been held or felt grass under their feet. All they know are the close, cramped cages that confine them day after day, year after year.
As the trucks file into the field one by one, two selfless members of North Shore Animal League America’s Rescue Team eagerly sit in wait. After days of scheduling, hours of preparation and a three-day drive across the country in one of our Mobile Rescue Units, waiting isn’t exactly the easiest thing to do for Off-Site Driver, Dan McNena and Rescue Associate, Karla Agostinello. Exhausted from the traveling, cold and wet from Mother Nature, and outside of their element more than 1,500 miles away from the Animal League’s Port Washington headquarters, the only thing on their minds is rescuing these poor animals from the hands of these mill operators and making sure they never have to endure that kind of pain and suffering again.
This is the dedicated and often times tiresome life of a member of the Off-Site Rescue team here at the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization.
“Our motto here is Rescue, Nurture, Adopt, and I’ve been lucky enough to be involved in all three aspects. As much as I love working with adoptions and working alongside the staff we have here, it’s hard to top the feeling you get when you rescue these animals and take them out of terrible situation like a puppy mill, an over-crowded shelter or emergency disaster relief situation,” said Dan, who said he’s been behind the wheel for close to 50 off-site rescues during his 4 ½ years as a driver.
He continued. “To be able to remove animals from those types of situations and be at the very beginning of the entire adoption process is just a great feeling. Although it feels good every time you complete a successful rescue, in the back of your mind, you know there’s more work to be done. That’s what gives me the fire to keep going and keep pushing to save more and more animals.”
Dan’s co-pilot for this six-day trip to the Midwest, Karla, was on her maiden rescue voyage here at Animal League America. She had worked with off-site rescue teams at another organization, but never since coming on board almost nine years ago as a Veterinarian Technician. Three months ago she decided to get back to her off-site rescue roots. Karla said seeing these animals in the horrible conditions in which most of them are kept at the mills is the biggest difference between being out in the field as part of the rescue team, and working in the shelter.
“It’s mixed emotions for me in a sense. When you’re actually there rescuing the dogs compared to treating them after they arrive in the medical center,” said Karla. “You’re excited and happy that you are able to save these dogs, but as you finish up and the mobile unit pulls away you still think about the ones who are still there and who still need help. This trip allowed me to see that the work never ends and the rescuing efforts can never slow down.”
The dogs who were carefully loaded onto the Mobile Unit by Dan and Karla on that dreary day were the lucky ones. They were transported back to Animal League America’s state-of-the-art facility where they were admitted, fed, examined, treated and groomed to look their best. Hopefully, they will all soon be adopted into loving families, and Dan and Karla will be headed out to one of the other many states Animal League America tackles rescue missions. Whether it be a rescue at a commercial breeding facility, retrieving animals from over-crowded municipal shelters, or saving lost, injured and abandoned animals from disaster zones, North Shore Animal League America will be manned and ready for action.
“There are always trips being planned, rescues being coordinated, so we’re ready to Rock and Roll whenever they need us,” said Dan. “Anything we can do or anywhere we need to travel if it means saving lives.”