A Tribute to Eddie

Ten years ago the TLC Canine Center of Newell, Iowa, assisted Hearts United for Animals in Auburn, Nebraska, with the rescue of 15 dogs from a frightful place housing an irresponsible breeding operation. The horror of rescuing these animals is indescribable…If I had not seen it, I would have not believed it. Puppy mills are a true indictment of man’s greed and inhumanity, and I do not understand why they are allowed to operate, but this a tribute to one of the dogs rescued that day. Eddie went from victim to victor and his story is best told by his loving human, Mary LaHay, President of Iowa Voters for Companion Animals.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share some very sad news, the loss of our beloved Eddie. Many of you know that Eddie was the small white poodle whose photo graced many IVCA flyers and signs, and who served as our loyal “spokespup” for many years.

Eddie was a puppy mill survivor. My husband and I went to Hearts United for Animals in 2008 to find a companion for Ruby, a young dog we had gotten the year before. While all the other dogs in his yard were clamoring for attention, Eddie sat quietly in the back.

For some reasons, we left that day without adopting a dog, but back home, we both remembered that quiet little poodle. The next week we were on our way back to adopt Eddie. At home, we began to understand more about Eddie’s quiet nature, which was less about serenity and more about having his natural behavior derailed by life in a puppy mill. He often sat expressionless, disinclined to play with Ruby, or even move freely around the yard, and he was clearly distrustful of people. At first he seemed to just tolerate my holding him, but gradually he welcomed and even initiated it, and eventually all that lap time opened him up enough for a recognizable dog to emerge.

Every month brought a new breakthrough—a face that lit up with enthusiasm, unexpected play gestures, a range of vocalizations, a persistent nudge with his paw if you stopped rubbing his chest, a dance in front of the treat jar, and a hilarious figure-8 romp around the yard when I got home and let him out the back door. What an amazing example of the emotional resilience that dogs possess, and how the right care and support can help undo damage from years of neglect and mistreatment. In our home Eddie was clearly happy and carefree, enjoying 9 years with us until his age and health issues finally took their toll.

I share this story both to celebrate Eddie’s transformed life, and to explain how watching this dear little boy blossom transformed me also. It’s what compelled me to launch an effort to clean up Iowa puppy mills. For me, Eddie’s life offers proof that production-driven commercial breeders don’t give a fig about the mental and emotional health of their animals. Too many of these breeders are indifferent to the pain they inflict, too many never give a thought to the way they deform the lives of the dogs they hold captive. That needs to change, and the fight we are fighting is the only way that can happen, however elusive our progress might seem at times. We are on a justice train that is sometimes slow, but always headed in the right direction, so please stay on board for the trip.

Most of you have dogs at home who brighten your lives like Eddie did mine, and I hope you take time every day to actively cherish them. My sweet little boy is gone, replaced now by a profound sadness but also genuine gratitude. We will miss him for a long, long time, and remember him forever. Eddie deserves a legacy that makes a difference for other dogs like him, and I want to see that he gets it.”

We encourage you to do some research on puppy mils, irresponsible breeders, and pet store puppies. What you learn will shock you, and hopefully motivate you to become actively involved, and if you wish to give a donation in memory of Eddie, please contact Mary LaHay at mlahay@iowacva.org. If you would like to know more about Hearts United for Animals where thousands of puppy mill dogs are rehabilitated and re-homed, contact carol@hua.org.


Will You Help the Helpless?


Animal welfare groups across the country are struggling to raise awareness of the plight of hundreds of thousands of puppies suffering in cramped, crude, filthy puppy mills where there is constant breeding of unhealthy and often genetically defective dogs solely for profit. . It is common to find dogs housed in makeshift shelters such as salvaged trucks, semi trailers, or old buildings without heat or adequate ventilation, meaning that the dogs freeze in the winter and die of heat in the summer.. Kept in small cages their entire lives, their fur is matted and filthy, and bodies are covered with sores. Many have bite scars because of the dog fights that occur in such cramped conditions from which there is no escape. They aren’t exercised, and lack socialization or human compassion. They are not provided adequate vet care or nutrition. Adult dogs are bred until their bodies are so worn out that they stop producing or develop serious health problems, at which time they may be shot, abandoned, or sold at auctions. Unfortunately this is a reality for thousands of dogs in Iowa puppy mills.

Iowa is still the second worse state in the entire country for the number of puppy mills, and it seems like everyone “feels bad”, but improvement is slow… until we become involved, really involved, things will not change. As Theodore Roosevelt said, “In a moment of decision, the best thing you can do is the right thing. The worst thing you can do is nothing.” In a world of people who seemingly couldn’t care less about puppy mill dogs, , hopefully excerpts from this letter I am sharing (with permission) from a rescuer to a puppy mill owner, will inspire us all to become people who couldn’t care more! One of the most powerful things we can do is to spread compassion to animals. The power of animal lovers joined together can change animal protection and welfare. Let’s use our power and decide to help the helpless!

“Dear Puppy Miller,

I have been involved in dog rescue essentially my entire life, and for the record, I am not an animal rights activist. I am simply a person who believes in the right of humane treatment for all living beings. What I witnessed on your property was far from humane. Hundreds of terrified ailing faces, imprisoned in their wire confines, some staring at me, but most too fearful to look into my eyes, so unsure of how to interpret human contact. That experience has caused me countless sleepless nights and to this very day, the sadness and the fear in their eyes haunt my very being.

I am completely aware that you were operating within USDA standards and that many of your dogs are AKC registered—what a despicable thought this is. I am also aware that in your circles, commercial breeding dogs are considered livestock. Dogs are not livestock…years ago, man domesticated dogs to be our protectors, hunters, herders, guardians, but most of all our companions.

I focus on just one of your dogs, Lily, that I brought home with me. It was agonizing for our family to watch her survive through four surgeries to remove mammary tumors, to attempt to repair her decaying face, and to spay her, removing the papery black, pus filled organ that was once her uterus. How selfish of you to never see her pain, just dollars. You spent more than forty years of your God given life, using dogs for personal gain. No regard to their physical or mental well-being, just cashing in on their ability to reproduce. Think about the thousands of dogs that passed through your hands—you robbed them of the simply joys they so deserve…a good meal, a warm, comfortable place to sleep, medical attention, and most of all, a human companion to make their lives whole. In our home, Lily learned about being a family member, being a dog, being worthy, being loved. She changed our lives forever, and she died as a direct result of the neglect she suffered for seven years in your care. How many others have suffered the same fate? Your industry has been hidden far to long. The word is out. The days are numbered. People like you will soon venture out into fields of honest work and leave the care of God’s creatures to those of us who truly care.”

To see the complete story of Lily and other puppy mill dogs,  go to http://milldogrescue.org

If you are really concerned about the plight of Iowa dogs, we invite you to mark Saturday, October 3, on your calendar. The TLC, 602 East Chaney Street, Newell, Iowa is hosting an informational meeting and a PIZZA PARTY!!! Come join us at noon for pizza, and learn the facts about Iowa dogs. We are privileged to have Mary Lahay, President of Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, as our honored guest. Mary will share specific ways you can be involved in making life better for Iowa dogs.

Please RSVP that you will join us for free pizza and inspiration – call 712-272-3553 or e-mail plarsen@rconnect.com

There may be times when it seems we are powerless to prevent injustice, but there must never be a time when we fail to try…A small body of determined spirits fired by an unquenchable faith in their mission can alter the course of history—Gandhi


Sometimes It’s Hard To Make Lemonade

A well-known cliché admonishes us to make lemonade if we are given lemons. In other words, when we are faced with a bad situation, we should work to make it better. Great solution for humans, but for our companion animals, that’s not an option. They have no voice; they have no choice; they are totally dependent on humans, and sadly, many humans value monetary gain more highly than the welfare of man’s best friends.

Iowa still ranks as the second worst state in the entire country for puppy mills, and puppy mills are certainly lemons…actually worse than lemons…as animal welfare groups and non- profit grass roots organizations such as Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, have discovered the last few years. (And if you don’t live in Iowa, a little research will probably reveal the existence of mills in your state).

What an irony it is that in our country where we spend BILLIONS of dollars on pets every year, a nation where more than half of us share our lives with companion animals, that millions of creatures that we claim to love are born and live in misery in shockingly squalid conditions where they are mass produced for profit each year. Some never survive, and the ones who do are usually scarred, emotionally and physically. The females are bred and bred and bred, over and over and over, to produce litter after litter after litter, resulting in hundreds of thousands of puppies churned out every year for sale at pet stores, over the internet, and through newspaper ads. This cruelty will stop only when people stop buying puppy mill puppies, and we pass better legislation to ensure better care. .

If you want a dog in your life, please understand these facts:

  • Reputable breeders care where their puppies go and interview potential adopters. They don’t sell through pet stores, and not through newspaper ads, Craig’s List, or internet sites without meeting and interviewing the prospective family.
  • “Purebred” documents aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Even the American Kennel Association admits that it “cannot guarantee the quality of health of the dogs in its registry.”
  • A “USDA inspected” breeder does not necessarily mean a good breeder. The USDA establishes only minimum standards, and many USDA licensed puppy mills operate under deplorable conditions with known violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Puppy mill puppies often have medical problems, but pet retailers don’t care that poor breeding and lack of socialization may lead to behavior problems throughout the dogs’ lives. They count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won’t be returned.
  • Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop buying puppy mill dogs. The bottom line is money… If the mills don’t make money, they will close…so it is up to you and me!

One way to improve the plight of these dogs is to enact AND ENFORCE standards of care for the animals and standards of practice for their sale. Sometimes it seems that our government believes it is doing enough—it’s up to us—“We the people”—to become involved. Don’t close your eyes, and say, “It’s sad, but what can I do?” Animal welfare and rescue groups are struggling to pass better legislation, but if things are ever to really change for the animals that we claim to love so much, WE must ALL join the cause.

Canine victims suffer deprivation and death in nightmare puppy mills. That’s a fact. If life gives you a lemon, you can make lemonade, that’s a fact…BUT if the lemon is rotten, it’s best to just get rid of it…that’s a fact. Puppy mills are rotten… let’s get rid of them. If you live in Iowa, join Iowa Voters for Companion Animals to keep updated on current animal welfare legislation (mlahay@iowavca.org ) If you live elsewhere, find a grass roots animal welfare group that monitors legislation. Keep informed (and educate your friends and neighbors) concerning your legislators’ track records. Let them know your concerns. “WE THE PEOPLE” have the power, but we must use it.