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January 31, 2011

Happy Endings for Discarded Dogs

Joint effort saved more than 100 lives

  • "We couldn't have asked for a better dog to join our family," said King Louie's new owner. "His personality fit right in and we all love him." Happy Dogs Rescue

  • Bodhi's new family says that the young lab is still wary of new people and sudden noises, but seems more comfortable every day. Happy Dogs Rescue

  • Eloise has been afraid of most visitors at her new home, which is not a surprise, considering the lack of socialization at puppy mills. Happy Dogs Rescue

When the phone rang, Michelle Petersen found herself talking with a frantic dog breeder going out of business. He wanted his dogs gone ASAP.

Petersen, the president of Happy Dogs Rescue in Missouri, made two trips to the breeder's property that day, rescuing 22 dogs. She remembers that the dogs "stunk to high heaven" and some were matted and had overgrown toenails. She observed inches-thick accumulated feces, dogs with splayed toes living on wire, and fearful dogs.

"It was exactly like the places we've seen online or in brochures" that portray the inhumane conditions found at puppy mills, Petersen said.

But it didn't end there.

Three days later, Happy Dogs Rescue accepted 11 more dogs from the same puppy mill. Petersen and her volunteers were working hard to care for these dogs when the breeder demanded that Petersen come get the remaining dogs. She valiantly made four more trips to the puppy mill, arriving home with 66 additional dogs.

Saving the lives of 99 dogs in less than two weeks put a monumental strain on Happy Dogs Rescue, and they worked late into the night to set up temporary shelter. In the new group were four females close to whelping. Within days, the number of dogs soared as several of the dogs gave birth.

Born into freedom, these puppies would never know the deprivation their parents endured, but they created even more of a challenge for Happy Dogs Rescue.

HSUS happy to help

Michelle Cascio of The HSUS' Maddie's Fund Puppy Mill Task Force responded immediately with offers of help when a forwarded email from Petersen arrived.

"We want to see positive outcomes for any breeding dogs discarded in Missouri by breeders who choose not to comply with the improved standards of care set out in Prop B. We have resources set aside to support this work," said Cascio.


  • Happy Dogs Rescue racked up over $8,000 in vet bills, leaving the organization financially running on fumes. The HSUS approved a grant from Maddie’s Fund to cover the vet bills.
  • Cascio connected Happy Dogs Rescue with Petsmart Charities for donations of crates and food.
  • HSUS staffers reached out to contacts through Missourians for the Protection of Dogs, and the Humane Society of Missouri transported 55 puppy mill survivors back to St. Louis, where they are sure to receive the continued care they need.

Eloise, Bodhi, King Louis, and more than a hundred other dogs might have been abandoned, killed, or sold to other puppy mills had it not been for Happy Dogs Rescue and Michelle Petersen, the luck of an email finding its way to the experts on our Task Force, the generosity of Maddie's Fund and Petsmart Charities, and the responsiveness of the Humane Society of Missouri.

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