On Tuesday morning, our team arrived at a dog breeder’s property in North Carolina. Behind a chain link fence, dozens of Australian shepherds mixes paced back and forth, barking and peering out.

We were on site at the request of the local sheriff’s office to assist in the alleged cruelty case. The Hertford County Sheriff’s Office issued a search and seizure warrant for the property. Our rescue team has been hard at work preparing for this rescue operation—coordinating with veterinarians, planning how to safely and efficiently remove the animals from the property, arranging emergency sheltering and transportation for the animals, and deploying staff—in the weeks since law enforcement requested our assistance.

Leading up to this request for assistance, community members and individuals who reported buying sick puppies from the breeder raised concerns about the conditions on the property and welfare of the dogs and puppies living there.

Protect dogs from cruel puppy mills!

Our team went farther into the property and discovered multiple litters of puppies in outdoor kennels and pens where dogs were housed in groups. There were more than 30 dogs in a single yard, many barking, and some approaching our team cautiously, seemingly eager for affection. Many were pregnant or nursing. Standing pools of water across the yard, which the dogs were seen drinking from, had turned green.

A veterinarian accompanying our team noted some dogs were very thin, even emaciated, and some suffered from apparent skin issues, matting and eye issues. Our team set up a veterinary station to begin treating them as soon as possible.
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

In the mobile home’s kitchen, rescuers discovered a mother dog in a wire crate with five tiny puppies, so young their eyes were still closed. When members of our team reached out to her, she wagged her tail and gave them little licks on their hands. Her food bowl was empty, and the water in her dish was dirty. In the freezer, our team discovered the bodies of dead puppies.

In the dark and dank living room, there were more mother dogs, and young puppies of varying ages wandering among clutter. One brown puppy sat nestled in computer cords and had hair missing on his face. A veterinarian accompanying our team noted some dogs were very thin, even emaciated with hip bones protruding and ribs clearly visible, and some suffered from apparent skin issues, matting and eye issues. Our team set up four veterinary stations to begin evaluating and treating them as soon as possible.

This rescue was possible because people spoke out. People who have bought puppies from this breeder issued complaints that document a history of alleged abuse and neglect: Puppies found suffering from severe lice and flea infestations, severe anemia, demodectic mange, hookworms, roundworms, whipworms and poor body condition.

We are honored to be able to rescue these dogs and transport them to get the care they need.

Our team set up four veterinary stations to evaluate and treat the dogs found at a breeder’s property in North Carolina.
Meredith Lee/The HSUS

No dog should be born into such suffering, which is why we not only assist in the rescue of dogs from horrific situations like this one, but we also raise awareness about problematic breeders and puppy mills. Examples of that are our annual Horrible Hundred report exposing puppy mills across the U.S. and our recently issued report summarizing 15 years’ worth of buyer complaints about pet store puppies and puppy mill puppies; many of these complaints come from people who purchased puppies only to discover heartbreaking signs that the dog had come from an unscrupulous breeder who prioritized profit over the animal welfare. We also advocate for systemic change at the policy and enforcement levels to create a future where no companion animals must endure such treatment.

There’s a chance to help prevent dogs from living in such terrible conditions: Tell your lawmaker to support the Puppy Protection Act of 2023, which would strengthen the standards of care at commercial dog breeding facilities.

Follow Kitty Block on Twitter @HSUSKittyBlock.