A small pool filled with green slime was Cinder’s only drinking water when animal control officers in Somerset County, Maryland, rescued her from a large-scale breeding operation earlier this year. She had been living without access to food, clean water or adequate veterinary care—left in a dark, filthy kennel, devoid of any human interaction. Her fur was caked with feces and badly matted, and she hung her head and tucked her tail beneath her, unsure whether to trust the people who had come to help. 

But with a few soft words of encouragement and gentle touches from the officers, Cinder started to let her sweet disposition show, hesitantly leaning in for a few more scratches behind her ears.

Before and after photos of Cinder, a German shepherd rescued from a puppy mill
Kati Martin; Somerset County Animal Control

Cinder was one of 40 German shepherds seized from the property and transported to Somerset County Animal Control for care and veterinary treatment; 14 puppies were born after the rescue. The breeder has been charged with animal cruelty. 

The Humane Society of the United States provided grants to help with the dogs’ care, including spay/neuter surgeries, and placed some of the animals with its Shelter and Rescue Partners for adoption. Shalimar Hightower, animal crimes manager for the HSUS Animal Rescue Team, says this type of support is vital in the fight against puppy mills because it provides relief to under-resourced shelters and allows law enforcement to pursue cruelty cases knowing help is available after the animals are seized. 

“We are able to assess their needs, offer funding that assists with the significant medical care and provide safe and proper placement for these darlings who would have otherwise been pushed through a vicious cycle,” Hightower says. 

Today Cinder is learning how to play with toys and adjusting to the good life in her new home on Maryland’s Eastern Shore. She loves to explore outdoors, soaking up the sun, and snooze on her warm, fluffy bed where she can keep a sleepy eye on the household, which includes two cats and a toddler. When she’s in a silly mood, she’ll roll onto her back and let people tickle her tummy. 

She’s “a sweetheart through and through,” her family says, and they’re thrilled to be giving her the loving care she’s long deserved. 

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