You've probably heard about the horrific hoarding/puppy mill situation that was uncovered this week in Allegan County, Michigan, in which 352 (now nearly 400 after several litters were birthed) dogs were rescued from a couple's small--really small--home. You can watch a news clip here. The couple has been arrested on felony charges of animal cruelty.
This is the kind of news story that clenches around you, drowns you in anger and pity. Or it does me, anyway.
But let's take a step back.
These dogs were rescued. They are getting the grooming, healthcare, and love they were deprived. Fortunately, not a single one has had to be euthanized, which means there are 400 dogs that now have the chance to find a family that will love and care for them. So many people have voluteered to help that the shelter that has taken these dogs has had to turn some away and ask them to come back later. Requests to adopt these dogs have come from as far away as New York and Florida. Money, gas cards, and pet care supplies have been pouring in, and professional groomers have closed their shops to help clean the dogs up.
Legislation has been introduced at the state level to prevent this kind of situation from happening again.
None of these means what happened or how the dogs were treated is okay. I'm not a generous enough person to forgive anyone who would do this, regardless of the circumstances. (I'm trying really, really hard not to rant about just how angry this story has made me.)
I do believe, however, that these 400 dogs were very, very lucky. So many pets will suffer their entire lifetimes in squalor and neglect in hoarding situations or mills. Because of this high-profile case, how many well-intentioned families will refrain from buying the puppy from the store window and adopt instead? How many more people will volunteer at shelters--not just those involved in the Allegan County case, but all over the country?
I'm hoping that the outrage this mill has created will fuel so, so much more good. I hope it will inspire people to get their dogs from reputable breeders. I hope it will inspire people to consider adopting their next pet. I hope more people will become educated about puppy mills, and that this will become a culture where we get pets not just for what they can give us (cuddles and unconditional love), but for what we can give them (a long, loved, enriched life where the dog can be a dog, and not a decoration or a "baby").
I'm hoping people will remember that there are two lucky dogs in every person-dog relationship, and one of them is you.
(True: The Puppy Mill Project in Illinois is dedicated to educating people about puppy mills and what local pet stores are supplied by them. Even better, they help pet stores transition to being supplied by shelters instead.)
(Also true: Prada is getting a big hug tonight.)
Shout out to my friend Pamela for bringing this story to my attention. She tells me they've raised over $10k in 24 hours. If you want to help, you can get donation info here or here.