BENEFITING: STICKNEY TOY BREED RESCUE
What Is a Puppy Mill?
A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.
Puppy mill puppies are typically sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified.
What Problems Are Common to Puppy Mill Dogs?
Illness, disease, fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are common characteristics of dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:
- Heart disease
- Kidney disease
- Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
- Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
- Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
- Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
- Respiratory disorders
On top of that, puppies often arrive in pet stores—and their new homes—with diseases or infirmities. These can include:
- Upper respiratory infections
- Kennel cough
- Intestinal parasites
- Chronic diarrhea
How Are Animals Treated at Puppy Mills?
Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns. Breeder dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements—or crammed inside filthy structures where they never get the chance to feel the sun or a gust of fresh air on their faces.
How Often Are Dogs Bred in Puppy Mills?
In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When, after a few years, they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. The mom and dad of the puppy in the pet store window are unlikely to make it out of the mill alive—and neither will the many puppies born with overt physical problems that make them unsalable to pet stores.
So Who is Mary Stickney?
For years, Mary Stickney took in lost and abandoned dogs.
Then in 1998, when she got a computer and access to the Internet, she learned about puppy mills - mass breeding facilities where dogs produce litters every six months.
And the rural Cortland woman knew she had to rescue them.
Since then she has operated Stickney's Toy Breed Rescue, providing shelter, care and rehabilitation to discarded breeding stock of puppy mills.
Nearly all of the 30 dogs in her home are older; most had never been seen by a veterinarian, much less given a bath or had their toenails clipped. Nearly all are malnourished, have rotting teeth and have spent their lives in wire cages absent human contact other than being picked up by the scruff of their neck.
When they come to Stickney's, they are terrified. They can't be touched - let alone pet and held.
"They don't understand love and attention," Stickney said.
They are not housebroken. They don't know how to drink water out of a bowl. And they have no idea what it is like to stand on grass or walk on a leash.
At Stickney's they are given all the time they need to adapt. On average, it takes about one year for a dog to learn how to trust Stickney and her small cadre of volunteers.
Some never come around.
And some are too old or too sick - like Hilda, who has a massive tumor in her belly.
Those dogs will never leave; Stickney gives them sanctuary.
"They deserve to have a home of their own," Stickney said.
At "Mary's House," as she refers to her place online (www.maryshouse.us), they have the freedom to roam, toys to play with, doggie doors to go in and out. If they want, they can cuddle. If they'd rather watch from afar, that's OK.
Most are not cute. In fact, most are big for their breed, toothless from decay, and homely.
Last year, Stickney found homes for 128 dogs, homes and families that best suited the needs of the dogs.
She spent $10,000 on food, vet bills, medication and care, she said. Most of Kim and Mary Stickney's income goes to their rescue work. Donations and volunteers fund the rest.
She has fought for legislative reform to stop puppy mills or at least improve the care and conditions these dogs are living under. It's an ongoing battle. Stickney admits frustration. But defeat is not an option. These dogs and this mission are life. "They had nothing, so we give them everything," Stickney said.