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July 2, 2009

New Puppy Mill Task Force Scores First Victory for Dogs

The Humane Society of the United States


  • Kenneth and Lillian Wilde's donation made The HSUS' new Puppy Mill Task Force possible.


  • Justin Scally with a dog rescued from horrific conditions at a Lehigh County, Pa. puppy mill. Paul Turner/HSUS.

by Andy MacAlpine

During his first week as deputy manager of The HSUS's new Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force, Justin Scally hit the ground running.

He traveled to a Lehigh County, Pa., puppy mill to help rescue more than 200 dogs. He fielded calls from constituents concerned about nearby puppy mills. He started looking for candidates to join him on the task force. And he is combing through open case files looking for the next one to close—for good.

There is a lot of work to do, but the former director of the Wayne County Department of Animal Control in North Carolina is well positioned now to make a big difference in the lives of puppy mill dogs, thanks to the generous contribution by HSUS benefactors Kenneth and Lillian Wilde.

A special legacy to help dogs in need

The Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force was created with a gift from the Kenneth and Lillian Wilde Estate. In addition to Scally's position, the gift will fund a new caseworker, an investigator, and a national tip line to help staff collect information and provide guidance to local law enforcement agencies.

Using their estate to help animals was a logical step for husband and wife Kenneth and Lillian Wilde, who cared for many pets and strays throughout their lives.

"They never had children, so pets were sort of where they devoted their affection," says Lynne Hook, who shared executor duties for the estate with her husband, Jack, after the two helped care for the elderly couple during their final years.

Donate to our Stop Puppy Mills campaign to help end the cycle of cruelty.

Throughout their 74 years together, the Wildes saved their money—first from a Philadelphia restaurant they owned, later from the night jobs they held for 26 years—and made a few good investments along the way to amass a small fortune.

After Kenneth's death in 2007, Hook helped Lillian get her affairs in order. Lillian wanted a portion of her estate to go to The HSUS as well as to groups that help at-risk children and the elderly. When Lillian died the next summer at age 91, Hook arranged for a meeting with The HSUS. The idea of naming a puppy mill task force after the Wildes seemed perfect.

Expanding the reach of a national campaign

"I remember sitting with her watching the news several times where they would talk about puppies being rescued from either homes or mills," Hook says. "She always got so emotional and very sad that these animals were being kept in these conditions. I thought it would be nice if her money went toward something that, I think, she would feel very passionate about."

The infusion of financial support will increase the number of puppy mill raids by galvanizing the resources of local communities, says Stephanie Shain, director of The HSUS's Puppy Mills Campaign. Another donation expected this year will help pay for research related to other work of the Puppy Mills Campaign.

In the meantime, Scally has plenty to keep him busy. He will work with HSUS emergency services, campaigns, and investigations staff to coordinate the response of local agencies nationwide in the same way that he did in North Carolina. "I've been in their shoes, and I understand what it's like," he says. "It's great to be on the other side and offering that assistance to others now with their cases."

With the formation of the Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force, local rescue efforts will benefit from the resources and attention of a national campaign with a shared goal: to put a stop to the abuses of puppy mills forever.

"I don't think that Lillian and Kenny would have ever dreamed that their name would have been on something like that," Hook says. "They were humble, quiet people. And they would just be very pleased to see it and see how their hard work paid off."

Andy MacAlpine is a writer for All Animals magazine, the bimonthly membership magazine of The Humane Society of the United States.

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