In March, I shared with you this photo of a dog who was rescued from a puppy mill in Caldwell County, North Carolina, along with more than 30 others. This week, the breeder responsible for her condition pleaded guilty to animal cruelty and was sentenced to 18 months probation. She is also prohibited from owning or possessing animals for sale during this period.

This is a positive outcome to a case that shocked so many Americans and threw into sharp focus the horror animals endure in puppy mills. When the dog was found by her rescuers, she was all skin and bones, riddled with parasites and lethargic. She was also pregnant with seven puppies, four of whom died at birth; the remaining three required hospitalization and round-the-clock care to survive.

The animals were taken in by the Caldwell County Animal Shelter and the staff there did a tremendous job caring for the dogs, which was not easy since many had serious health issues.

[Dogs shot, starved and neglected: HSUS’s eighth Horrible Hundred report delves into the cruel world of puppy mills]

Unfortunately, a major obstacle in getting justice for these animals was North Carolina’s lack of a puppy mill law. After her arrest the breeder was only charged for two misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty and it was unclear if she would ever be brought to justice. For nine months our puppy mills and animal rescue teams kept up the pressure on local law enforcement authorities to ensure that the case was taken to court. We turned on the media spotlight and featured the breeder—who was linked to the American Kennel Club—on the cover of our latest annual Horrible Hundred puppy mills report highlighting some of the most problem mills in the United States.

We also assisted the local shelter, which is in a rural and underserved area, with food donations and grants to help care for the dogs.

With our local partners, we were able to secure the best justice possible for these animals under existing law. But we realize that North Carolina – like many other states -- needs stronger laws so that no breeder who denies animals the most basic needs gets away with just a misdemeanor charge. Organizations like the AKC have consistently fought the creation of such laws, but with your support we will not rest until we have changed that.

With the conclusion of this case, the dogs, who had been in legal limbo since their rescue last year, can now be adopted out. Many of the dogs are now eight-month-old puppies who have lived in the shelter since birth, and they deserve a chance at a loving home.

[No good news for dogs as AKC announces its most popular breeds]

We are happy that these animals, who have endured so much suffering, will move on to a better future. The HSUS will help transport them to our trusted shelter and rescue partners next week, and we’ll be sure to keep you updated on their journey to their forever families.

P.S. The U.S. Department of Agriculture has just filed charges against Jeff Lowe who now owns Joe Exotic's roadside zoo, GW Exotics, in Wynnewood, Oklahoma. The allegations include failure and/or refusal to provide access to USDA inspectors for the purpose of conducting inspections at his roadside zoo, repeated failures to maintain records that fully and correctly disclose the acquisition and disposition of animals, repeated failures to handle animals carefully, and repeated failures to provide adequate veterinary care to animals. We hope that the agency will next revoke his license permanently and confiscate the animals in his care. We’ll continue to bring you further updates on the blog.