Vol 4 No 2

Spring 2002

Front Page

Features in this Issue:

Operation Golden Bells at Christmas

Old Gold Shines Brightest

Happy News

Letters to GRRI

GRRI NEWS Archives

Operation Golden Bells at Christmas:
Special Journey to Happily Ever After ...
for More than 50 Puppymill Goldens

One of the saddest truths in the canine world is that there are puppymills -- harsh factory style dog breeding farms that are incomprehensible to those of us who care about responsible breeding, and who consider our dogs to be intelligent, feeling creatures deserving of safe, comfortable and well loved lives.

How do puppymills thrive?
Most puppymills own hundreds of dogs of various breeds, and produce thousands of puppies per year without applying the fundamental hallmarks of selective breeding and companion animal care -- such as screening for inheritable diseases and temperament problems; or providing proper nutrition, adequate housing, or appropriate veterinary care.  With virtually none of the standard and humane considerations at play, puppymilling is a very lucrative business model.

Are puppymills regulated?
Although puppymills are licensed by the USDA, most fly under the radar of USDA inspectors, who are already overburdened with their primary role -- overseeing the nation's food supply.  It's no surprise, then, that conditions at most puppymills are substandard or worse.

Where are puppymills? 
In this part of the country, Pennsylvania leads the list.  But the midwest is the most prolific puppymill region.

How do these puppies reach consumers? 
The millers sell them to puppy brokers, who then transport and sell them to pet shops nationwide, where consumers buy them at a high retail price, and without knowing the abysmal conditions they perpetuate through their purchase.

Why are consumers confused?
Most of these puppies are registered with the AKC, which gives people the misgotten impression that they have been bred with care and concern.  But the AKC is not a regulatory agency -- and in this context, they are simply a listing service that assigns each puppy a unique registration number and tabulates the number of dogs registered each year by breed.

What does this have to do with Operation Golden Bells at Christmas?
Another harsh reality is that there are puppymill auctions.  When millers go out of business, or simply want to clear out their *inventory*, they contract with auctioneers who sell the dogs to the highest bidder.

Again, humane issues such as inheritable diseases, temperament, proper nutrition, adequate housing and appropriate vet care are ignored in these auctions.  The only concern is profit -- for the miller, the auctioneer, and the buyer -- who most often buys the stock for his or her own puppymill.

Such was the case in early December, when members of the national Golden rescue community became aware of an upcoming auction only one week away; an auction that listed a very large number of Goldens for sale.

What should rescue do about puppymill auctions?
This is a difficult question with no easy answers -- and it remains a hotly debated issue.

On the one hand, rescue is all about taking animals out of bad situations and putting them into better ones ... so should rescue attend auctions, buy the dogs, spay and neuter them, get them all the veterinary care they deserve, and find them new loving homes?

On the other hand, by participating in auctions, is rescue doing the very thing it deplores -- putting money in the hands of puppymillers and auctioneers, thereby perpetuating their activities?

What did Golden rescue do about the Goldens at the auction?
Ultimately, rescuers decided they couldn't turn their backs on these dogs.  The greater good -- saving so many dogs and the offspring they would have produced from almost certain puppymill futures -- outweighed the persistent (and still gnawing) disdain rescuers had about providing financial gain to the miller and the auctioneer.

How did it all play out?
In record time.  Within 5 days, the Golden rescue community raised and collected the funds necessary to purchase the dogs and provide them with immediate veterinary care; set up a team of volunteers to attend the auction, bid, buy, and then transport the Goldens away; established staging areas offsite for initial pre-screening of the dogs and emergency care; identified  rescue groups around the country who would take responsibility for further care and placement of the dogs; set up the transportation schemes to get the dogs to their ultimate rescue group destinations; and then, quite simply, hoped for the best.

Operation Golden Bells at Christmas was a go.

A long but successful day.
The Golden Bells volunteers began their auction day at dawn ... by midnight, and by the light of car headlights, they had more than 50 Goldens in their care, including puppies and females in various stages of pregnancy.  Some of the dogs had open wounds that needed attention; some were significantly stressed; most had multiple parasites; but all were destined for better futures.

Golden rescue groups from around the country helped.
Among them was GRRI-NJ.  Our volunteers were unanimous in supporting this operation, and our group was one of the many financial donors who made this effort possible.  We also made arrangements to take in as many as five of the rescued Goldens and provide them with foster homes, medical care and placement with loving adopters, but thanks to the many other groups participating, just two required GRRI's help.  Both of them arrived to us just before Christmas, on December 19th, 2001.

Poor Freedom was an especially sad case.  Three-years-old and still intact for breeding purposes, he came to us skinny, malnourished, heartworm positive and filled with intestinal parasites.  Behaviorally, he was completely naive to the world, unhappy, excessively timid and fearful, and totally unsocialized to home life.  Freedom didn't even have a name when he was rescued -- he had been given his very appropriate name by the volunteers who had freed him from his puppymill life.

Freedom was so frightened of the human world that he crawled on his belly instead of walking.  A person merely rising to a standing position was enough to cause him to run or cower for cover.  He refused treats if they were still in a person's hand, and wouldn't eat at all unless no one was in the room.  With all his health and behavior problems, Freedom just broke our hearts.

His foster Mom, Teri Stewart, took excellent care of him, seeing him through his treatment for intestinal parasites, two rounds heartworm treatment, as well as a neuter.  Her own animals  -- four other Goldens and three cats  -- all accepted him readily into the fold.  And Freedom even found a special pal in one of her dogs, goofy Taz.  Freedom declared the crate (open door only, please) his safety zone, and would retreat there whenever he became frightened, snuggling with Taz for security.

Teri also showed him what it meant to live in a kind human household, and little by little, he was getting the message.  He would jump on her bed in the morning and lick her face, and even wag his tail -- things most of us take for granted with loving and playful dogs like Goldens, but which were genuine milestones for a sad dog like Freedom.

Still,  what Freedom really needed was a loving forever home ... a family who could provide him with the long term security, care and training he would need to become a happy dog someday.  And he found a great one.

Ann & Stewart Fellman had one other dog, a 10-year-old cocker, and all the time, love and commitment necessary to bring him Freedom out of his shell.  Freedom went home with the Fellman's in mid February, where he will no doubt be spoiled rotten, just as he should be.

Thank you Teri, for giving Freedom a new chance at life, and Ann & Stewart, for making this special dog a special part of your family!

When 10-month-old Dora was rescued from the auction, she too had no name, was intact for breeding purposes, and was literally skin and bones.  By the time she arrived at GRRI, she'd already begun treatment for hookworm and been spayed, but still had whip worms, infections on both thighs and one nipple, and teeth that were so bad that without treatment, she had a good chance of losing them.  Continuing vet care was a priority.

Behaviorally, she was very timid and fearful of her new surroundings.  One of the first things she did at her foster home was jump on the couch and try to fly through the picture window that's right behind it. When that failed, she laid down and refused to move, eat, or relieve herself.  That lasted several days.

It seemed that she considered the sofa her territory, so one of the things her foster parents, Heather & Joe Vena, did was to take turns sleeping at night with her there.  It took a full week, but eventually Dora began to warm up -- to not only accept affection and play, but to initiate it as well, including fun and games with their other two Goldens, Kati and Cali.

Eventually, she also discovered the joys of good healthy food, and started eating with relish and filling out.  She also got lessons on housebreaking, and began to realize that a crate is actually a safe comfortable place to be when her family can't be with her.

Watching Dora bloom under their care, her foster family fell head over heels and decided Dora was home to stay; they adopted her in January.

Heather & Joe tell us that Dora's excitement over even the simplest things warms their heart and makes them laugh.  All three Goldens keep Heather & Joe company in their bedroom every night now, and Dora even acts as the house alarm clock, waking them up with a paw on the face!

Dora is still very much a puppy -- perhaps more so than the typical Golden her age, since her first 10 months were so deprived.  She still has occasional accidents in the house, likes to fetch and chew all kinds of things she shouldn't, and needs more training on the basics of good doggie manners -- but they're working on that with her every day, with lots of love to guide the way.

Thank you, Heather & Joe, for giving Dora the wonderful home she deserves!

A BIG Thank You!
All of us at GRRI-NJ would like to extend our personal thanks to all the rescue groups and individuals who made this possible, and most especially, the intrepid Operation Golden Bells volunteers who worked their hearts out to make this operation a success.  It's been a privilege to be a part of your amazing efforts!

And to all of our other adopters, volunteers and supporters, its thanks to YOU that GRRI can help dogs like Freedom, Dora, and the many other Goldens that need us.  Thank you for all you do.

What Can YOU Do About Puppymills?

Learn more about puppymills and help educate others  -- let your search engine be your guide.  The web is filled with informative sites that will tell you and show you the truths about puppymills. 

Encourage the media to cover the issue.  Last year, Dateline NBC did two superb features on the subject, no doubt helping to educate hundreds of thousands of viewers.  For a list of media in your area visit:

Spay and neuter your pets.  It makes sense for lots of reasons -- health and pet overpopulation chief among them.  But when you have PUREBRED dogs, spaying and neutering also prevents your dogs from becoming puppymill breeding stock if they are lost or stolen.  (Yes, THIS happens!)

NEVER buy a puppy in a pet store, and shop for supplies ONLY in pet stores that DON'T sell puppies.  Remember:  With every pet store purchase, you send a message to the entire puppymill trade.