How Can Anyone Dump Puppies on the Side of the Road?

These special needs pups were found in deplorable condition.

Freddie and Emeline, foster puppies
Freddie (left) and Emeline love to snuggle.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

I’ve been struggling today with humanity.

Yesterday I picked up my latest foster dogs—two special needs puppies that have vision and hearing impairments. Freddie and Emeline were found wandering on the side of the road in rural Missouri in an area known for lots of breeding facilities.

These little Australian shepherds were nearly emaciated when they were first rescued. They are all bones except for their huge, swollen bellies thanks to a serious infestation of hookworms. Their fur is dull and dry and they have a skin infection resulting in thick scabs on their legs, ears, and near their tails.

But they are sweet and happy and want to be held, pressing their frail bodies close to humans for comfort and love.

My heart aches for the pain and suffering that these babies have endured in their 8 or 9 weeks of life. They were rescued by Speak!, a rescue that focuses on dogs with special needs. The puppies immediately went to the emergency vet and were given IV fluids for dehydration and medication for their severe worm infestation and diarrhea.

Now they are receiving regular, healthy meals and medicine for their ailments. But as is the case way too often with special needs puppies, someone likely thought they were worthless and just discarded them.

Who can do that? Pick up two puppies, open the car door, leave them in the grass, and drive away?

Preventable Impairments

puppies on rescue ride in crate
Emeline and Freddie on their ride to Mary Jo's house.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

Freddie and Emeline are double merles. Merle is a pretty, colorful, swirly pattern in a dog’s coat. When two dogs with a merle gene are bred together, there’s a one in four chance that their puppies will be blind, deaf, or both.

Sometimes this breeding happens by accident. Other times, it occurs because disreputable breeders can get more money for merle dogs and are willing to take the chance that they’ll end up with unsellable special needs puppies.

I’ve fostered more than 40 puppies and dogs. About half of them have had special needs. (Many of them recently met for a puppy reunion.)

Sometimes these puppies have been dropped off at shelters or veterinarian offices in hopes that someone will save them. Sometimes, they’ve been found by a good Samaritan who fortunately spotted them along a road.

A couple of these puppies still had their breeder collars on when they were rescued. Some came with paperwork that showed they had immunizations and deworming done. But other times, they are left to fend for themselves.

Like these babies.

Emeline's name, by the way, means "peaceful home," because that's what she deserves. And Freddie, well, he was named for friendly and talented Atlanta Braves first baseman, Freddie Freeman, who was busy winning a World Series when the puppies were found.

Looking for Attention

foster puppies in the sun
Emeline and Freddie enjoy some sun.

Mary Jo DiLonardo

I know so many people in rescue have seen it all, but for me, Freddie and Emmy are the worst I’ve ever witnessed. Their tiny hip bones are jutting out from their backs and you can feel all their ribs. Their white fur is lusterless and brittle when it should be shiny and fluffy. They have discharge from their eyes that makes them look so sad. And they have oozing from the crusty scabs on their bodies.

Although they were skittish when they were first rescued, they have come out of their shell. They bounce around my legs in the house and in the yard, making sure to stay in constant touch, not wanting to wander off too far.

I gave them a bath with medicated shampoo and they each stood perfectly still in the tub. Emmy moaned as I massaged in the suds, seemingly so happy with the attention and gentle touch.

Toys are fine, but they'd much rather sit in someone's lap than play tug or chew on a teething ring.

Puppy Mills and Puppy Dumping

These puppies were picked up on the side of the road in rural Neosho, Missouri.

There is a large concentration of puppy mills around Neosho, according to John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign.

In 2021 for the ninth consecutive year, Missouri was at the top of the “Horrible Hundred,” the Humane Society of the United States' annual report documenting puppy mills. A puppy mill is a dog-breeding facility with the primary goal of making money. To maximize profits, some breeders make dogs live in terrible conditions.

"Scores of puppy mills operate in that area," Goodwin tells Treehugger. "Even the two remaining dog auctions are in that general area. The dog auctions are sales where puppy mills sell each other breeding stock."

Some of the largest puppy brokers have been headquartered in Newton County, as well as neighboring McDonald County, he says.

"A puppy broker buys puppies from mills and then resells them to pet stores," Goodwin says. "It’s easier for a pet store to go to one broker, rather than 10 mills, so that’s why they exist."

It's not unusual for puppies—like my new fosters—to be discarded.

"Puppy mills produce several million puppies a year, and because mill operators are far from being the most conscientious breeders, they end up with a lot of puppies who are poorly bred, have deformities or congenital problems, or are otherwise hard to sell," Goodwin says.

"Pet stores are constantly sending puppies back to the mills they came from. That’s usually a death sentence and an inevitable consequence of the puppy mill to pet store business model."

The HSUS says one of the best things animal advocates can do it support legislation that prohibits the sale of puppies in pet stores. Then puppy mills lose one of their most lucrative markets.

When rescue groups post photos of puppies they've saved, they inevitably get asked how these puppy mill breeders are allowed to get away with this.

"Law enforcement agencies can’t go on someone’s property without probable cause so they need reliable tips to get a warrant before they can even begin to rescue the dogs. When a puppy mill gets licensed by the state, inspectors can come by to do their inspection, but they do not have arrest powers. They can only issue citations," Goodwin explains.

"Add to that the fact that it’s virtually impossible to catch a puppy mill owner who is dumping puppies on the side of the road, in some remote area, and you can see why these problems continue."

Thank goodness for the person in Neosho who spotted these puppies and scooped them up before they starved or froze, were attacked by another animal, or hit by a car. They have some healing to do, but now they are safe and loved and will soon be looking for forever homes where all they know is a full belly, warmth, and happiness.

You can follow Mary Jo and her foster puppy adventures on Instagram @brodiebestboy.

View Article Sources
  1. "What is a Double Merle?" Double Merles.

  2. "The Horrible Hundred 2021." Humane Society Of The Untied States, 2021.

  3. "Stopping Puppy Mills." The Human Society of The United States.

  4. John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign