Flawdogs of Missouri Rescues Puppy Mill Refugees

Talk about your news of the weird. A couple of weeks ago a woman from the town of Wentzville, which is thirty minutes or so northwest from St. Louis, Missouri, was convicted of assault with a dead Chihuahua. The detail of the news story reads something like this:

“A Wentzville woman could get up to 18 months in jail and a $1,500 fine for hitting another woman over the head with a dead Chihuahua puppy. The woman was found guilty of third-degree assault and trespassing at a trial at the St. Charles County Courthouse on September 6, 2006. Sentencing will be later this month. The trial featured x-rays of the dead dog and testimony from the victim that she had been repeatedly struck over the head with the dead dog.”

The dispute began when Lisa Hopfer purchased the puppy and took it to a veterinarian, who after examining the pooch, claimed that it was only four weeks old and needed to be returned to its mother. Ms. Hopfer maintains that the woman who sold her the puppy claimed that it was six weeks old and weaned. Sometime during the night, the puppy expired and early the next morning is when the assault occurred. The victim of the assault has since moved out of the area to Alabama.

I certainly wouldn’t advocate taking the law into your own hands and assaulting someone with a dead puppy, and I don’t know all of the details of the case, but the incident made me think of some of the unscrupulous practices of some of the “puppy mills” here in the state of Missouri.

Puppy mills are profit-driven enterprises that typically fail to provide adequate veterinary care, diet, exercise, and shelter. Large mills house up to 1,000 dogs in rusted chicken cages heaped three or four tiers high. Urine and feces seep into the lower cages. Dogs held at the top swelter in the summer and freeze in the winter. Smaller mills may house 50 or more dogs in squalid kennel runs.

There are some 5,000-puppy mills nationwide, mostly in Missouri, Nebraska, Kansas, Iowa, Arkansas, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania. Missouri is the leader of this pack with an estimated $40 million a year in puppy mill profits. The mills are breeding grounds for disease. Investigators have found parasite-infested dogs with coccida, giardia, parvovirus, and distemper.

Sally Ives is the former director of the Open Door Animal Sanctuary in House Springs, Missouri. (Which happens to be where I adopted my dog Max, many years ago.) She now is the director of Flawdogs, which specializes in saving puppy mill refugees.

Flawdogs will take in any dog that the mills will release, and believe it or not, some of the animals are rejected because of a flawed coat, inability to breed, or from being too large or small. The sad thing is that brokers purchase puppy mill dogs for resale to some 3,500 U.S. pet outlets. Some half-million puppies make the trip from mill to broker to pet shop in the U.S. and Canada each year.

There are some ways you can help. Visit Flawdogs by calling (636) 274-2511 to make an appointment to adopt a dog, or see them when they are at the Arnold Petco every Sunday from 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Maybe if the woman with the Chihuahua problem had went to Flawdogs in the first place, things might have turned out a little differently.

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