OLIVE TOWNSHIP, Mich. (WOOD) — After a tip and a long drive to and from Alabama, 36 dogs are recovering in Michigan after being rescued from an alleged puppy mill.
Jen Self-Aulgur, the executive director of the Harbor Humane Society, told News 8 that the agency was tipped off to the problem on May 5 by the Bissell Pet Foundation and within a matter of hours had a team on the road.
“(The Bissell Pet Foundation) had received a call from a partner organization in Alabama who had been on the case of a puppy mill that was discovered. Unfortunately, that humane society was facing some issues of their own where they couldn’t take those dogs. So they reached out to the Bissell Pet Foundation to see if they had any partners that would be willing to help,” Self-Aulgur said.
Thirty-six adult dogs were recovered from the home. All of them are doodles: a mix of poodle and another breed. In this case, the dogs were mostly Aussiedoodles (mixed with an Australian shepherd) or Labradoodles (mixed with a Labrador retriever).
Harbor Humane Society kept nine of the dogs. The other 27 were taken in by four partner agencies across the region: the Muskegon Humane Society, the Humane Society of West Michigan, the Al-Van Humane Society and Kalamazoo SPCA.
When the dogs were recovered, they were in rough shape. Self-Aulgur said they showed the typical signs of a puppy mill.
“These dogs were severely matted. They all had to be shaved down,” Self-Aulgur said. “They obviously weren’t given great medical treatment, so you have some skin infection issues, a lot of ear infections, things like that.”
Self-Aulgur said that none of the nine dogs treated by Harbor Humane Society had heartworms, which are commonly found in poorly treated dogs from the South. She suspected it was one of the few lucky breaks the dogs caught from their harsh living conditions.
“I highly suspect their coats were so matted that probably a mosquito couldn’t even find a way to bite them,” she said.
Shelters in Michigan can’t legally accept animals from out of state that aren’t fully immunized, so the dogs were updated on their shots before making the trip. The dogs also received medical exams and will be spayed or neutered.
All nine dogs at the Harbor Humane Society have been adopted and will go home to their new families later this week. Self-Aulgur said it’s important for those families to understand what challenges they will face when rescuing a dog from a puppy mill.
“It’s definitely not for everyone,” she said. “They’ve missed out on those key years of socialization, so you have a dog that’s frightened of their own shadow or frightened of noises. They may not have walked on carpet or tile before. You have dogs who have no concept of potty training. They just went to the bathroom wherever they wanted. They are going to be uncomfortable and shy and not used to things. We say, ‘They don’t know how to dog.’”
That’s not to say the dogs aren’t friendly or can’t become loving family pets.
“They’re just not used to humans. They’ve lived outside with dogs. They’re very comfortable with other dogs and they’re very, very nice but very shy. They’re very unsure of what people’s intentions are towards them,” Self-Aulgur said.
While these nine don’t need more help, plenty more will. Self-Aulgur encourages people who want to help to connect with local animal shelters, see what’s on their wish lists and donate to support them. Volunteers and foster families are also a huge help for animal shelters.
Finally, she said, adopt your next pet from a shelter if at all possible instead of going to a boutique or breeder.
“For people that really want that purebred pet, you can find purebreds in shelters, you can find them through rescue groups,” Self-Aulgur told News 8. “But for people that still want to go to a breeder, we just ask that people go to a responsible breeder. … Typically, you go to their house, you meet the mom, you meet the puppies. And if you’re not meeting the mom and you’re not seeing where these puppies were raised, I think there’s a high likelihood that you’re supporting an industry that is making profit off of cruelty to animals.”