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Dogs Rescued from North Carolina Puppy Mill

The Humane Society of the United States

GOLDSBORO, N.C. — Approximately 300 dogs were rescued in an early-morning raid at a Wayne County puppy mill. The Humane Society of the United States partnered with Wayne County Animal Control to bring an end to the suffering of these neglected animals.

"This rescue mission is the culmination of a year-long investigation into Thornton's Kennels," said Justin Scally, director of the Department of Animal Control for Wayne County. "I can finally rest easy knowing that these animals are no longer living in constant confinement."

The HSUS and Wayne County Animal Control were joined on this operation by volunteers from United Animal Nations, who are overseeing the temporary shelter of the rescued animals. Much-needed supplies are being provided by PetSmart Charities®, which sent its Emergency Relief Waggin' Vehicle® full of donated goods such as wire crates, dog food and medical supplies.

"These animals were denied basic veterinary care and socialization. This terrible cruelty could have been avoided if North Carolina had laws addressing the worst abuses in puppy mills," said Amanda Arrington, North Carolina state director for The HSUS. "We are calling on state lawmakers to crack down on puppy mill cruelty by mandating licenses and inspection for large-scale breeders."

The HSUS put together a response team of nearly 20 staff and volunteers within days of receiving the call for help from Wayne County Animal Control. The HSUS' specially designed animal transport vehicle was used to comfortably carry all of the animals to an emergency shelter.

When rescuers arrived at the property they were greeted by a gruesome scene. The dogs, mainly Lhasa Apso, Shih-Tzus and Chihuahuas, were suffering from serious medical ailments and housed in filthy conditions. Many of the dogs were emaciated, had untreated lacerations, severely matted fur and serious skin and eye infections. They were being housed in unheated cages inside unventilated barns and outhouses. It was obvious that many of these animals had never known life outside their wire cages.

Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding operations that mass produce puppies in factory style settings for sale at pet stores, directly to unsuspecting customers, and over the Internet.

Rescuers are working swiftly to remove all of the animals and transport them to a nearby emergency shelter set up by The HSUS and UAN. Once at the shelter the dogs are being checked by a team of veterinarians and given any necessary immediate medical care. They will remain in the custody of Wayne County Animal Control pending final custody decisions.

"These dogs have may need extensive rehabilitation, but they are already beginning to warm up to their temporary caretakers. I believe they are on their way to leading new lives as loving family pets," said Janell Matthies, UAN emergency services manager.

Residents of North Carolina interested in taking action for animals can sign up for the upcoming Humane Lobby Day, which The HSUS will host on Feb. 12 in Raleigh. Local advocates will gather at the Capitol to lobby for animal welfare legislation – including a puppy mill bill. 

High-quality video and still images will be available upon request. Video opportunities and interviews will be available at the emergency shelter, which is set up at the Wayne County Regional Fairgrounds.

Facts About Puppy Mills

  • Approximately one-third of the nation's 9,000 independent pet stores sell puppies.
  • The HSUS estimates that 2 to 4 million puppy mill puppies are sold each year in the U.S.
  • Puppy mill puppies often have health problems, genetic defects and behavioral issues.
  • Documented puppy mill conditions include over-breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor food and shelter, crowded cages and lack of socialization.
  • Dogs kept for breeding in puppy mills suffer for years in continual confinement. They are bred as often as possible and then destroyed or discarded once they can no longer produce puppies.
  • Pet stores and puppy mills use attractive websites to hide the truth and to dupe the public into thinking that they are dealing with a reputable breeder.
  • Reputable breeders never sell puppies over the Internet or through a pet store and will insist on meeting the family who will be purchasing the dog.
  • Puppy mills contribute to the pet overpopulation problem which results in millions of unwanted dogs euthanized at shelters every year.

For more information, go to humanesociety.org/stoppuppymills.


The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization – backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 30. For more than a half-century, The HSUS has been fighting for the protection of all animals through advocacy, education and hands-on programs. Celebrating animals and confronting cruelty -- On the web at humanesociety.org