As the world’s largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization, North Shore Animal League America has been at the forefront of saving the lives of innocent animals since 1944. We pride ourselves on rescuing homeless dogs, cats, puppies, and kittens from overpopulated municipal shelters in all areas of the country, as well as right here in the New York City region.
In the Midwest, where the commercial breeding facilities are most abundant, we focus our energy on rescuing dogs and puppies from living lives of inhumanity inside puppy mills. Since 1997, our Rescue Team makes an average of five rescue trips per year to these areas, saving upwards of 450 animals in the process.
One of the groups we have been collaborating steadily with to make these rescues possible is National Mill Dog Rescue. Based in Peyton, Colorado, the non-profit organization was established in 2007 by longtime animal welfare advocate Theresa Strader. Since its inception, they have rescued more than 12,000 dogs, many of whom suffer from severe physical and emotional scars as a result of their past lives. Animal League America is proud to have over 2,000 rescue partners like National Mill Dog Rescue, who help us save the lives of 18,000 companion animals each year – without collaboration & support from so many dedicated groups, countless animals would perish never knowing what it’s like to have a loving family and live in a responsible home.
“Working with National Mill Dog Rescue has been a true mission of passion for both organizations. Theresa epitomizes the true meaning of collaboration to saves the lives of innocent animals,” said Joanne Yohannan, Senior Vice President of Operations for North Shore Animal league America. “Together, we’ve managed to save thousands of lives over the years & give these animals the life they deserve in loving homes”. Theresa’s start in rescuing mill dogs is a true inspiration to all & we are honored to share her story here.
Resilient Greyhound Survives Years of Neglect to Spark Lifesaving Movement
“Dogs have always been the center of great things in my life.” – Theresa Strader, Founder of National Mill Dog Rescue
As a traveling pediatric nurse, Theresa Strader was always on the move, living in various cities around the United States including New York, Florida, Louisiana, Arizona, Washington, California and Colorado. In 2007, while living in Colorado, the lifelong dog lover and part-time rescuer, received an urgent email from a small rescue group in Ohio. The subject line read; “50 Dying Greyhounds in Desperate Need.”
As she carefully read the body of the email, her stomach grew more unsettled with every second that passed. Not only were the lives of 50 Italian Greyhounds on the line, but a total of 561 dogs and puppies were up for auction as a Missouri puppy mill prepared to cease operation. Before her eyes could make it to the end of the email, her brain began devising a plan to rescue as many of these helpless dogs as humanly possible.
“Any time I traveled for work I would find the nearest local shelter to volunteer. During this particular instance I was in Colorado, but received an email saying there was a mill in Missouri going out of business and all of the dogs would be up for auction,” said Theresa. “Five seconds after I stepped foot inside the first building, I realized just how bad these poor animals had it. It was at that point that I knew I was going to rescue as many of those dogs as I could. It’s also when I realized that there was so much more work to be done.”
Theresa returned back to her home with 13 resilient survivors, each with a variety of physical and mental ailments that came with living their entire lives in horrific conditions. One of those dogs was Lily, a fragile Italian Greyhound who spent the first seven years of her life in an old barn which doubled as a commercial breeding facility. Confined to a wire cage inside a foul smelling barn, Lily’s fragile body endured years of abuse as she birthed litter after litter for the sole purpose of making money for her captors.
“How Lily was able to forgive and grow after going through so much is beyond me. She’s a true testament to how amazing mill dogs are. My husband and I used her resiliency and forgiving nature as inspiration to find it within ourselves to build relationships with 200 commercial breeders in five states. Forming these connections gave us the backing we needed to make a difference in the lives of these dogs. National Mill Dog Rescue is a product of Lily’s intestinal fortitude”
Even after her rescue, Lily suffered the effects of spending all of her life trapped inside a puppy mill. Due to years of no dental care, poor quality food, rabbit bottle watering and no appropriate chew toys, the roof of Lily’s mouth and lower jaw, had rotted away. Her chest was riddled with mammary tumors and she was terrified of people. Sadly, she only got to enjoy 15 months in her new home before her body gave out, but it was undoubtedly the most love and affection she ever felt.
She passed away at home, peacefully, in the arms of her loving dad with her family gathered around, in May 2008, but not before enjoying the type of life that all dogs should enjoy. In time, Lily found courage and her disfigured little body not only educated countless people about the horrors of the puppy mill industry, but it began a lifesaving movement that has created a safe haven for thousands of dogs in desperate need of a fresh start.
“Ten years ago I would receive emails every couple of days with at least 1,000 dogs on a list. All of these dogs were passed their primes in the eyes of the breeders and were set to be euthanized if they weren’t purchased at auction or rescued from the mills. Truly a disturbing reality that hit me like a ton of bricks,” said Theresa. “Today, I’m proud to say that those lists have drastically been reduced to just 20-30 dogs every couple of days. The rescues are much more manageable and give me hope that the work we are all doing together is paying off. Organizations like Animal League America and National Mill Dog are filled with amazing people who truly care about the animals, so every animal we save is headed for much better days. ”