Thin, fearful Sally greeted our Animal Rescue Team with barks, then gentle sniffs. A mom of three puppies so tiny they hadn’t yet opened their eyes, Sally was housed outdoors in a plastic shelter with no apparent food or water. She stayed nose to nose with her days-old puppies as our rescuers lifted them onto an exam table for a wellness check, a devoted mom whether lying on filthy plastic or a clean towel.

Unlike the millions of mother dogs trapped in inhumane breeding operations across the U.S., Sally got lucky. When authorities requested our help rescuing dogs from a reportedly abusive breeder in North Carolina, we showed up and searched feces-encrusted outdoor pens and a squalid mobile home. What we found was heartbreaking: Dead puppies in a freezer; 114 dogs with ailments such as heartworm and tick-borne disease, severe mange and anemia, open sores and untreated injuries; dogs shot with BB pellets; and several other pregnant or nursing mothers. We removed all the dogs from the property and placed them in a confidential, safe facility or in foster homes.

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Mother dog Sally licks a rescued puppy held by HSUS staff from neglect rescue
Meredith Lee

When we first transported Sally and puppies Twitch, Ella and Dodsie to the facility, she was protective of them, barking when staff and volunteers came near. But she’s learning to trust and approach humans with tail wags, says Katie DeMent, senior manager of animal care. Now chunky and playful, Ella and Dodsie remain with mom, while extra-tiny Twitch is at home with an HSUS staffer receiving temporary one-on-one care.

Although we wish Sally, Twitch, Ella and Dodsie’s origins were unusual, it’s not illegal to breed dogs in this way. Nor was this breeding operation required to be licensed or inspected before selling puppies to the public. Legally, we could only intervene when authorities requested our help after community members reported witnessing animal abuse and buying sick puppies.

Dogs deserve better—tell your representative to support the Puppy Protection Act to help more dogs like Sally.

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