Puppies Rescued Among Filth, Junk, and a Dead Chicken

'For a moment you feel relieved' but know it will happen again.

rescued border collie puppies in crate
Puppies on their rescue ride.

Speak Rescue and Sanctuary

The dirt driveway and dusty yard were lined with old machinery, overturned dirty buckets, rusty scraps of metal, and sodden cardboard. On one side was a dilapidated chicken coop with rotting wood doors, broken screens, and a dead chicken on the rusted metal roof.

Scampering about in fear were three border collie puppies.

The rescue ride is supposed to be the happy part. When animal rescue groups pick up a pup, there are often grinning, happy photos of the animal in the car, on the way to a new life.

But this rescue was one of the most difficult. 

The director of Speak Rescue and Sanctuary made this trip once before to rural Missouri. The last time there were two puppies in a pen filled with stagnant water, old parts, and lots of feces. One of those puppies is now in an amazing home, but the other didn’t make it. He had a deadly infectious disease that couldn’t be treated.

The puppies were all raised on a rural farm where there’s nothing and no one for miles. Their two parents slink around the property, growling and barking at strangers. The puppies are absolutely petrified of people. They tried desperately to escape back into the coop, where some dog food was scattered among endless piles of chicken and puppy poop.

Eventually, the three pups were rounded up and safely spirited away. We—I foster for Speak Rescue and Sanctuary—offered to spay and neuter the parents and the owner just laughed. If the puppies survive, sometimes he sells them. Sometimes, they just don’t survive.

What Rescuers Can Do

In the animal rescue world, days like this are heart-wrenching. We feel helpless because there’s so little we can do.

People get angry and ask why don’t we just herd all the dogs into our cars and race away. Why don’t we demand that the authorities do something? It’s just not that easy. Although this backyard breeder isn’t a puppy mill, the same general principles apply.

“On the issue of ‘why don’t we just take them’ it is because doing so would cause us to be arrested and the dogs to simply be returned to the abusive situation,” John Goodwin, senior director of the Humane Society of the United States’ Stop Puppy Mills campaign, tells Treehugger.

“That would make the puppy mill owner the victim and us the bad guys, which only sets the dogs back. But, if the situation is so bad that it violates cruelty laws, it is important to work with law enforcement to make a rescue happen.”

And those do happen, particularly in cases where there are so many dogs confined in filth in tiny cages, where they are deprived of a clean environment, adequate healthy food, and loads of clean water.

But it can be difficult to get authorities to investigate, often because they are so overwhelmed with requests and other cases.

“Sometimes law enforcement will take a case, but they won’t tell the complainant how things are progressing. That is how it should be, as too many people get on Facebook and report on what they have heard is going on, and that compromises a case,” Goodwin says.

“Other times law enforcement is ambivalent, and some work needs to be done to coax them into taking action. That has to be done in a way that builds relationships with the cops, as opposed to attacking them for not moving fast enough.”

Change the Laws

scared, rescued puppies
Petrified puppies after rescue.

Speak Rescue and Sanctuary

One way to help is to work to change the laws that regulate puppy mills.

“Most people are shocked when they find out what happens in puppy mills and want to do something to help the dogs,” Goodwin says. “We encourage people to speak with their state legislators about taking action to stop puppy mill cruelty. That might come in the form of a bill that sets higher standards of care for the dogs or prohibits the sale of the puppies in pet stores.”

And another great step is to adopt from shelters and rescues. When you buy from a pet store or through an online website, there’s a good chance those puppies were born in a mill.

“Rescues such as these are emotionally draining,” says Speak director Judy Duhr, who saved the puppies.

“The conditions literally make you sick to your stomach while you try to fight back the tears but once you drive away with the pups, for a moment you feel relieved, proud, and somewhat joyful, until that horrible thought of how it will happen again and how there are so many animals currently suffering and not enough is being done to change the laws to protect them.”

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

Why This Matters to Treehugger

At Treehugger, we are advocates of animal welfare, including our pets and other domestic animals. We hope stories like this one will highlight to our readers the importance of adopting rescue pets instead of shopping from breeders or pet stores.  Learn more about how to support local animal shelters.