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Happy Endings for North Carolina Puppy Mill Survivors

Former Puppy Mill Owner's Trial Heard Today

The Humane Society of the United States

  • Turtle, a 13 year old Shih Tzu who had lived his entire life in a cramped, unventilated cage, could hardly walk when he was rescued and was in a great deal of discomfort. Tracy Gould

  • Chloe was a malnourished "breeder" Chihuahua who delivered two puppies several days after the raid. Gina Dunwell-Rushing

  • When you look at the well-groomed pet she is today, it’s hard to imagine that Nonie was rescued from a life of misery and squalor. Marsha Stevens-Pino

As the former owner of a North Carolina puppy mill is appearing in court today charged with 12 counts of animal cruelty, the dogs she is accused of abusing are thriving in the loving care of their new families.

Nonie, Turtle and Chloe were all used to breed the puppies sold by Thornton's Kennels in Wayne County, N.C. Their suffering ended in February when The Humane Society of the United States and Wayne County Animal Control rescued almost 300 dogs from deplorable conditions. Many suffered from serious medical ailments including imbedded chain collars, ringworm and eye and skin infections. Six months later, most of these dogs have been adopted into permanent homes that will provide them with the love, respect and companionship they deserve.

Nonie

Nonie (labeled "No Name" on her paper work) was a heavily matted and malnourished "breeder" Maltese who lived in one of the many filthy, cold, cramped cages in the puppy mill for the first years of her life. Due to the large number of animals rescued, Nonie was one of many who were moved to shelters in other states to avoid overcrowding local agencies. She was transported to the SPCA of Tampa Bay, Fla. where her new life began. Soon after, a nice couple came to meet her. Nonie hobbled over to them and fell into their arms — it was love at first sight.

Nonie was in poor condition. She was diagnosed with dislocated knees and her paws were still stained and burned from years of standing in her own urine. She had also lost a lot of fur.

Today, Nonie is a new dog. Her adopter, Marsha Stevens-Pino, reports that Nonie's fur has grown back white and fluffy and she looks taller now that her dislocated knees have been treated. Nonie has learned what treats are, how to eat from people's hands and now knows what it means to go for a walk. Her favorite activity however, seems to be the simple pleasure of a good tummy rub.

Turtle

Turtle, a 13-year-old Shih Tzu who had lived his entire life in a cramped, unventilated cage, could hardly walk when he arrived at the SPCA Tampa Bay shelter. Turtle was blind and suffered from chronic pain from glaucoma. One eye was shrunken due to scarring and the other eye was so large that he could no longer blink. Turtle needed his eyes removed to stop the pain.

Turtle was taken to a veterinary ophthalmologist, Dr. Thomas Miller, who was so touched by Turtle's plight that he performed the surgery at no cost. There, Turtle caught the attention of a technician, Tracy Gould. Turtle would lick everyone's chins as if to say "thank you for taking the time to pick me up." After a lot of Turtle's convincing chin licks and tail wags, Gould knew he was meant to join her family.

Despite losing his eyes and the trauma of his past, Turtle seems to have adjusted perfectly with the family's two other dogs, two cats and rabbit. He has figured out what toys are and how to play with them and is learning how to walk on a leash, but still prefers to be carried. Turtle endured 13 years of neglect, but has finally found peace and a loving family to call his own.

Chloe

Chloe was a 1-year-old malnourished "breeder" Chihuahua who delivered two puppies several days after the raid. Because of Chloe's poor physical condition, only one puppy survived. About one week later, Chloe's milk dried up. The North Carolina rescue group that was caring for Chloe was able to find another mother dog willing to resume feeding the puppy.

A local TV station that covered the puppy mill story featured Chloe's picture on the news. When Gina Dunwell-Rushing saw her, she knew Chloe would be the perfect addition to her family. When she met Chloe, the young Chihuahua was missing a lot of hair and was very frightened of people and everyday noises. When fed she would devour her food as if she feared it would be taken away at any moment.

After months of loving care, Chloe has a beautiful, thick, curly coat of hair and has learned to trust her new family. She is still learning that she doesn't have to devour her food, as she probably had to fight for it in the puppy mill. Chloe now knows how it feels to be loved and adored and enjoys running in the grass under the sunshine — something she never experienced during her life in the puppy mill.

Virginia Thornton, the owner of Thornton's Kennels, is schedule to appear in Wayne County criminal court today. Representatives of The Humane Society of the United States Wilde Puppy Mill Task Force will be testifying for the prosecution in the case.

Puppy Mill Facts

  • Dogs at puppy mills typically receive little to no medical care, live in squalid conditions with no exercise, socialization or human interaction and are confined inside cramped wire cages for life.
  • Breeding dogs at puppy mills must endure constant breeding cycles and are typically confined for years on end, without ever becoming part of a family.
  • Dogs from puppy mills are sold in pet stores, online and directly to consumers with little to no regard for the dog's health, genetic history or future welfare. Consumers should never buy a puppy from a pet store or Internet site; instead visit an animal shelter or screen a breeder's facility in person.
  • Louisiana, Pennsylvania and Virginia passed laws in 2008, and Arizona, Indiana, Oregon, Tennessee and Washington State have passed laws this year to crack down on abusive puppy mills.

To learn more about puppy mills, visit humanesociety.org/puppymills.

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The Humane Society of the United States is the nation's largest animal protection organization — backed by 11 million Americans, or one of every 28. 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.