Chicago's Anti-Cruelty Society rescued sixty-seven small breed dogs from a puppy mill in March, 2009, acting on a tip that dogs had been discarded in city garbage cans.
Dogs were crowded into bird cages that seemed never to have been cleaned. Cook County Sheriff Tom Dart, shown holding a shivering rescue outside the house, said, "I couldn't believe it: the chaos, the noise, the smell."
The house was pure filth with the accumulation of Newell and Hayes' own trash, and the excretions of the dogs. Dead dogs were found in the back yard.
The urine-amonia stench was strong as soon as the police reached the porch. Dogs were stashed in every corner of the small house, some in playpens.
A nursing mother was found caged in a dark closet. Veterinarian equipment was also found. It appeared that Newell had been operating an illegal dog clinic.
Mostly chihuahuas with a smattering of other small dogs (a Yorkshire terrier, pomeranians, a pug mix, shiz tzus, and minpins) and mixes were removed from the residence.
The animals needed a lot of health care attention. Some of them seemed depressed. Some were overwreight from lack of exercise. One pair of chihuahuas who had been living practically on top of one another in a small bird cage did not want to be separated, but continued to huddle close together.
But others proved very lively and friendly despite all that they had been through. "Dogs are very forgiving," said Robyn Barbiers, president of the Anti-Cruelty Society.
Demetria Newell, 38, was charged with 67 misdemeanor counts of animal cruelty. Her boyfriend David Hayes, 37, was charged with felony posession of marijuana. Also in the house was an unliscensed semi-automatic weapon.
Neighbors had been unaware of what was going on in the house; they thought Newell ran a legitimate dog-grooming business.
When the plight of these rescues hit the evening news, it sparked a overwhelminng influx of adoption interest. After the raid had been on the news, people lined up waiting for the doors to open at the Anti-Cruelty Society, for it had been announced that a half-dozen or so of the rescued dogs would be ready for adoption at once. Even a snake confiscated from the same puppy mill was adopted by a herpetologist.
The dogs were divied up between a couple different shelters (the Anti-Cruelty Society had thirteen; PAWS Chicago took fifteen; five other organizations took a few each) and at all locations the dogs and puppies were adopted out within an hour of being announced as available.
However, something not often noted is how, when media-spurred interest like this occurs, over a third of the dogs will be returned when families or individuals realize they didn't think long enough about if they could care for an animal's needs. So if you miss out on the first rush of interest, get on the wait list.
Still, for toy breeds, at least, there is always a waiting list. It's much sadder when a large-breed puppy mill gets raided and dozens of unadoptable dogs end up in shelters that will have to euthanize many of them.
When the case came to court, Demetria Newell was found not guilty of the many charges, in small part because the dogs had been well fed and properly watered, but in larger part because there was an "anti-hanging judge" (who notoriously has found drivers charged with vehicular homicide not guilty despite the corpses). [Photos by Antonio Perez, Phil Valesquez, and Terance Antonio James.]