September is National Puppy Mill Awareness Month, and the protestors who have been gathering outside the Puppy Experience in Aquebogue to raise awareness plan to be out again on both Saturday and Sunday.
For months, protestors have gathered on Route 25 to educate about puppy mills, holding signs stating that many pet stores purchase dogs from puppy mills.
Recently, the owner of the Puppy Experience spoke out and his attorney sent a cease and desist letter, saying litigation could be the next step.
In early September, the police were called after a complaint was made that protestors were parking in the nearby Aquebogue Elementary School lot.
But those who gather every weekend are working to raise awareness about the "horror" of puppy mills -- and to make a difference, said Barbara Dennihy, of the Companion Animal Protection Society,
The lab, she said, went bankrupt after six months. "They locked the door and left," Dennihy said. "A janitor found the 30 dogs abandoned and called local rescue groups."
Local rescue groups on Long Island took ten of the dogs, Dennihy said, and, after vetting, spaying and grooming, the dogs were put up for adoption.
"Molly had many medical issues," Dennihy said, including a necrotic uterus, from overbreeding and "severe" dental issues. "Had she not been rescued she would have died of a ruptured uterus within days. Three days after I adopted her she had to have emergency dental surgery done. All her teeth were pulled from rot except seven."
Today, Dennihy said, Molly "is a wonderful dog and very loved."
The Kent Animal Shelter in Riverhead also participated in a puppy mill rescue this year. Executive Director Pam Green said 20 dogs were brought to the Kent Animal Shelter as part of a coordinated effort with the Utah-based Best Friends Animal Society. The puppies, she said, came from Missouri, "the puppy mill capital of the world."
Other areas known for puppy mills include Iowa, Green said; four times a year, Kent participates in similar puppy mill transports.
Some of the dogs, Green said, have social problems. "They've been living in a cage sometimes no larger than 3 x 3," she said. Some of the pups, Green added, live their entire lives in cages. "They die in puppy mills," she said.
Other problems puppy mill rescue dogs face include dental issues and difficulty becoming accustomed to life outside of a cage. "They're shy," she said. "And they're not familiar with grass -- they don't walk well on grass at first."
Green, who also has a puppy mill rescue named Frodo, said some dogs have genetic issues including heart murmurs due to close breeding.
In order to put the brakes on puppy mill proliferation, public education is important, Green said. Often, breeder dogs are used to create new "designer" mixed breeds, such as "morkies." The pups, Green said, are sold on the internet and in pet shops "It's a billion dollar industry," she said. Once the breeder dogs outlive their usefulness, many are sent to auction or euthanized. "A lot of people just don't get it -- we're not talking about the puppies; we're talking about their parents."
Dennihy added that a puppy mill is "a commercial dog breeding facility that mass produces puppies for retail pet stores and internet sales. Emphasis is about profit , not animal welfare."
Breeding dogs, Dennihy said are often kept in substandard conditions, kept in cages, and get little exercise or socialization -- with "no veterinary care" and poor nutrition and little or no shelter from the elements.
Females, she said, are bred each cycle with no rest between litters for years.
"Puppy Mill Awareness Month was created to raise awareness about the horror of puppy mills and their connection to retail pet stores and internet sales. This month the motto 'Don't shop, adopt' takes on even more meaning," Dennihy said.
Consumers looking for a specific dogs may consider adoption from a shelter or breed specific rescue group, Dennihy said. "Many consumers do not realize there are breed specific rescue groups across the country. If a family is looking for a poodle or a Great Dane there is a specific rescue group with plenty of dogs for adoption."
Of the ongoing quest to raise awareness, Dennihy said, "CAPS will continue to educate, investigate and lobby for legislation."
Do you have a puppy mill rescue? What do you think of the protests in Aquebogue? Share your thoughts in the comments section.