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Survivors are Stars at Puppy Mill Awareness Day

The Humane Society of the United States

Stevie Puppy Mill Awareness Day 2009

HSUS

Rescue Ink, a band of tough, tattooed animal advocates featured in a new series on the National Geographic channel—along with Victoria Stilwell, host of Animal Planet’s "It's Me or the Dog"—were a few of the celebrities present at the 6th annual Puppy Mill Awareness Day in Lancaster, Pa., Sept. 19.

But the real stars of the show were the dogs, many of whom were puppy mill survivors with the battle scars to prove it. Dogs like Jessie, a three-legged beagle, and Stevie Wonder-ful (pictired above), a six-month-old pomeranian who lost both eyes due to severe infections that went untreated at the puppy mill where she was born.

Stevie has recovered and is now living with a loving family, which brought her to Puppy Mill Awareness Day to show support for the hundreds of thousands of dogs still confined in puppy mills across the country.

The main event

The HSUS co-sponsored the event in conjunction with other humane organizations. Scores of rescue groups and anti-puppy mill groups turned out for the event.

An estimated 1,500 dog lovers gathered to celebrate the successes over the last year in fighting puppy mills and to raise awareness about the inherent cruelty involved in the industry. In addition to a day of inspiring speeches, attendees took part in a march against cruelty, a parade of rescued dogs and networked for still more reform of the nation’s commercial puppy-producing industry.

The event also featured music, raffles, a lunch donated by Whole Foods, a hero-of-the-year award (presented to Bill Smith of Main Line Animal Rescue), and more. Speakers included Stilwell, Chris DeRose of Last Chance for Animals, and Stephanie Shain, senior director of The HSUS’ puppy mills campaign.

In addition, Justin Scally, manager of The HSUS' Wilde Puppy Mill Task force, announced the creation of a nationwide puppy mill tip line that The HSUS will activate later this fall.

Tipping point

"The issue of puppy mills has reached a tipping point over the past few years," said Shain. "A few years ago, not many people were educated about the issue. But there is a new awareness of puppy mills in the U.S. today, and the public will no longer stand for puppy mill cruelty."

In the last two years alone, The HSUS has seen new bills passed to crack down on puppy mills in 11 different states and has rescued more than 4,500 dogs from puppy mills. It's incredible to see this kind of progress."