The work we do every day requires us to be flexible and pivot at a moment’s notice when challenges arise, and thanks to our in-house experts and our vast network of partners, we are able to ensure the best outcomes for animals. Nothing highlights this better than a recent case in West Virginia, where we helped close down an alleged puppy mill. Despite scarce local resources, including an overflow of animals at the county animal shelter, our staff worked to get all the dogs and cats placed with rescues and within a month almost all of the animals had been adopted.

This case began to unfold in early June, when our Animal Crimes Manager Shalimar Hightower, acting on a tip from a member of the public, contacted law enforcement in Randolph County, West Virginia to request that they check out a breeder with allegedly poor conditions.

After speaking with Shalimar, Randolph County Animal Control of Elkins, West Virginia, and the Randolph County Sheriff’s Office swiftly built a case and served a warrant, seizing dozens of dogs and cats from the property, as well as seven birds. Cruelty charges were filed against the breeder, and all of her animals were released for adoption.

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[media-credit name="Photo by Shalimar Hightower" align="alignright" width="310"]

Among the animals rescued is Nancy, a mother cat who just gave birth to kittens.
Photo by Shalimar Hightower

[/media-credit] Among the animals rescued is Nancy, a mother cat who just gave birth to kittens.[/caption]

But local resources were stretched to their limits, as the Randolph County shelter had already received a flood of unwanted and stray pets over Memorial Day weekend. After hearing that the shelter was at its capacity, our Animal Rescue Team and Stop Puppy Mills Campaign, along with two of our shelter and rescue partners, Angels of Assisi and Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation, sprang into action to help.

Together, we assisted the Randolph County team with removing all of the animals from the puppy mill, as well as most of the dogs and cats from the shelter. Half of the animals were picked up directly by Angels of Assisi, while our staff drove the rest of the dogs and cats back to our Maryland headquarters to be rehomed by Lost Dog and Cat Rescue Foundation of Virginia. In addition to the rescued cats, we offered to take all of the cats at the shelter to help ease the burden on them, and in the end we transported 10 additional cats from the shelter to our rescue partners.

Workers at the shelter appreciated the break. “One of the shelter workers was in tears of gratitude when the HSUS offered to take all the cats in the shelter,” Shalimar said.

Our placement partners are located in communities with a much higher concentration of potential adopters than some rural areas and they recently reported that almost every single dog and cat from the puppy mill and rural shelter had been adopted. A few animals who are undergoing veterinary treatment, including a mother cat who just gave birth to kittens, will be adopted as soon as they are physically ready.

Dozens of families have a new dog or cat, a small shelter is less crowded, and animals from an alleged puppy mill will now sleep in a warm home instead of in a dirty cage. It is wonderful when everything comes together for the benefit of both the animals and their communities, but none of it can happen without you. Please continue to support the important work that our puppy mills campaign does for animals. And if you want to help stop puppy mills in your area, you can download our advocacy guide to find out how you can take action.

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