Grayslake shelter helps rescue 18 dogs from puppy mill

December 7, 2009 5:30:48 PM PST
A passion to rescue dogs from the hands of questionable breeders and the power of social networking combined to create one of the largest and quickest fundraising efforts in Save-A-Pet history.More than 250 people donated nearly $8,000 to buy dogs at an auction in Missouri this past weekend.

An urgent plea for money from Save-A-Pet board President Karen Rappaport went out via e-mail and Facebook, and was quickly shared via other social sites.

"The response was phenomenal," said shelter Director Dana Deutsch. "We got responses from Canada to New Jersey. One person saw the notice on his vegan Web site."

The Grayslake shelter got word of a puppy farm that was going out of business. Hundreds of dogs were up for auction. The animals that weren't purchased were to be destroyed.

Dog auctions are common, but this was the first attended by Save-A-Pet. Shelter leaders say they don't want to contribute to what they say is a profit-driven cycle of abuse.

The breeders, though legal, typically force adult dogs to breed continuously in filthy and dangerous conditions, Deutsch explained.

Save-A-Pet leaders made an exception in this case because the breeder was going out of business. There were Pomeranians, bulldogs, boxers, Maltese and toy poodles among the 232 dogs on the block. Deutsch attended the auction and returned with 18 dogs that will be available for adoption.

Conditions at the Missouri farm were better than most, Deutsch said, but some of the dogs had missing limbs that were chewed off by other dogs in the cramped conditions. Most were dirty and dozens had lice. Attending the sale was an emotional experience.

"At one point, I was really overwhelmed and had a hard time being there," she said. "There were three long rows of wire cages, like chicken coops, just packed with dogs. They were jumping and barking as their paws were pushing through the bottom of the wire cages. They were looking at me with that 'Please help me,' look. It was hard."

Near capacity and low on funds, the intake of the dogs comes at a tough time for the shelter. Ten staff members were laid off this past October. The recession has affected donations at the same time the number of cats and dogs entering the shelter has tripled, officials said.

This weekend's purchase couldn't have happened without the emergency drive, Rapport said.

The dogs will be available for adoption once they receive medical care and are spayed and neutered. Those interested in adoption should call (847) 740-7788 or visit www.save-a-pet-il.org

The power of the Internet continues to impress Rappaport.

"It's just amazing how quickly this all came together," she said. "So many people have stepped up and most of them weren't our regular supporters."

You can read the full story at ABC7's news partner, The Daily Herald or online at www.dailyherald.com

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