More than 120 dogs that were living in horrendous conditions at an unlicensed puppy mill in Tennessee were rescued and taken to the State Fairgrounds by Animal Rescue Corps and the Warren County Sherriff’s Office on March 29.
The case began when Animal Rescue Corps (ARC) received a tip concerning the welfare of the dogs.
“These animals were suffering from starvation and various untreated illnesses. We got here just in time for some of them,” said Scotlund Haisley, president of ARC. “Every year, the estimated 10,000-plus puppy mills in the U.S. produce more than 4 million puppies while millions are killed in shelters.”
Mr. Haisley took time from the exhausting efforts to care for the seized dogs to give a personal account of the rescue mission.
ARC rescuers found Chihuahuas, Pomeranians, Brussels Grissons and other small breeds living outdoors in crowded 2×3 foot rusted rabbit hutches on the property of Wilma Jones.
Haisley said the conditions “were among the worst he’s ever seen.”
The dogs all showed signs of neglect with overgrown nails, severely matted fur, bad teeth, untreated infections, burns from being soaked in urine and fecal packs. Some had “significant medical issues” and all of them were “extremely thin.”
As the rescue team released the breeding mothers from each cage, they came across seven deceased dogs.
One small dog broke their hearts when the team found her squeezed between the bodies of two dogs that had died as she tried to keep herself warm.
Many of the dogs were covered with a pink stain that came from the rust on their wire cages. Haisley said, “When the dogs were washed the black dirt and rust just kept running off their fur.”
Newborn puppies and their nursing mothers were found living in the basement of Ms. Jones’ home. The level of ammonia coming from the dogs’ urine was so strong the Hazmat team wouldn’t allow rescuers inside to help the animals until they neutralized the fumes.
Haisley is proud of ARC’s rescue mission, “The majority of the dogs were adults and breeding mothers that have been trapped on the property their whole lives. Now they have the opportunity for a better life.”
Haisley also said, “We haven’t lost any of our charges since seizing the dogs and their numbers keep rising because several litters have been born at the fairgrounds.”
The dogs will remain at the Tennessee State Fairgrounds until Tuesday when Wilma Jones will be charged by District Attorney Lisa Zavogiannis with violations of county and state cruelty laws. Ms. Jones contends that she “loves her dogs greatly.”
If ARC is given custody of the animals, the plan is to eventually place them with local animal shelter partners and rescue groups that will ultimately find new homes for the dogs.
In the meantime, 24 hour care is being provided. Each dog is receiving veterinary care, grooming and socialization. Haisley said the surrounding community has been very supportive and brought blankets, towels and food.
“An army of local and national volunteers are cleaning cages, feeding the dogs, teaching them how to walk on a leash and doing whatever needs to be done. Local groomers have taken time away from their businesses to bath the dogs and cut away their matted fur.”
But Haisley says, “The best job at the Fairgrounds is the crew who gets to socialize the dogs. They are resilient and caring and the dogs are eating up the attention.”
ARC estimates the entire cost for the rescue mission and rehabilitation of the dogs to be $65,000. That includes temporary housing for volunteers, food, generators to keep everyone warm, transportation and more.
Here is a non-graphic video of the rescue.
Photo from: Animal Rescue Corps