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November 30, 2010

Haunted by Sad Eyes in Puppy Mills

Puppy Mill Action Week, Nov. 29 through Dec. 3, celebrates people like Mary Jo Dazey who go the extra mile to help dogs from puppy mills

  • Mary Jo Dazey and her Boston Terrier, Hudson, helped puppy mill survivor Nikki recover. Elaine Mackelden

As the top signature gatherer for Missouri's Proposition B, Mary Jo Dazey was influential in the campaign against cruel puppy mills in that state. For this year's Puppy Mill Action Week, Dazey remembers how—and why—she got involved with this issue.

How did you first learn about puppy mills?  

About five years ago, my family was looking for a dog. I have so many terrible images from that time that I can never erase—so many sad eyes staring at me from cages. There isn't a cold winter or hot summer day when I don't think about those dogs suffering in puppy mills, stuck for their entire lives inside wire cages barely large enough for them to stretch or turn around.

At one breeder's facility, we saw dogs so filthy you couldn't tell what breed they were. When a pair of dogs started fighting, the breeder simply explained, "Oh, my Boston Terriers fight the most," and she crammed the two fighting dogs back into an incredibly small cage.

I knew then that God exposed me to this so I would be a voice for these defenseless creatures. I never visited another breeder.

How did you get involved in the Missourians for the Protection of Dogs/Yes on Prop B campaign? 

A friend asked me if I would help, and I readily agreed. I met so many amazing people throughout Missouri. Countless thousands of everyday citizens in Missouri, from lawyers and doctors to teachers and politicians, are passionate about this issue. They want to end the injustice that has gone on far too long in Missouri.

We have been tricked by pet stores into believing their puppies are raised by loving people. I'm thrilled that this industry has been exposed for what it is. No one should ever buy a dog without seeing how the parent dogs are living.

When you consider that 90 percent of all pet store dogs come from puppy mills, and 30 to 40 percent of those dogs come from Missouri, it's clear why we needed to pass Prop B.

What was your secret for gathering so many signatures? 

After I had gathered 2,000 signatures, I lost track. I was involved in so many other organizations that my husband and I went to at least one or two charitable events a week. I asked everyone at these events for their signature.

People were so eager to sign the petition that many even called me later to ask if their friends could stop at my home to sign the petition. I can't begin to tell you how many people expressed their opinion on how overdue Prop B was, and how they would do anything to help the suffering dogs.

How else did you help with Proposition B after it was certified for the ballot? 

I wrote to my legislators about how important Prop B was and I kept my friends informed about the campaign. I also have a blog, written in the words of my incredibly handsome and intelligent Boston Terrier, Hudson, in which I try to educate people in a humorous way about puppy mill horrors.

I understand you are fostering a puppy mill survivor now. Can you tell me a little about that?

My family just fostered and adopted out an absolute doll of dog, Nikki, who came to us one day after the St. Charles Humane Society rescued her from a puppy mill with over a thousand dogs. I've never felt so moved by a dog before.

When Nikki first came to us, she was completely broken and had a deeply sad look of rejection in her eyes. Having never walked on any surface other than a wire-bottomed cage, she couldn't walk on my tile or marble floors.  If you tried gently to pet her, she would drop to the floor in fear.

Because of the wire cage, Nikki's paws are much wider than those of a normal dog. Her otherwise white paws are permanently stained from standing in her own waste and blood.

Thanks to love and patience—including canine encouragement from Hudson—Nikki is beginning to trust people again. She learned to walk cautiously on all my floors and loves going on walks.

A wonderful couple with another schnauzer adopted Nikki, so she can be loved the rest of her life. I feel it's the very least we, as a society, owe her for the living hell she endured for her first eight years.

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