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Laura Springborn, 38, was arrested in Detroit in May 2010, charged with felony abandonment and neglect of more than two-dozen small dogs, mainly chihuahuas and minpins. Held on a $25,000 bond, Springborn was facing a possible four-year prison term, though realistically these cases plead out with the criminals getting very little punishment beyond the hassle of having to face the law at all.

Using her Stockbridge pet store as an outlet, Springborn had been operating a puppy mill, which unfortunately is a legal business, however seedy. Legal, that is, up to the point where actual neglect is in play. A general welfare investigation early in April revealed the conditions cruelly breached the law. The animals were underwatered, malnourished, and their fur matted with feces in their filthy cages.

The case is emblematic of several problems in the pet trade broadly. Pet stores very frequently are fronts for veritable torture franchises. Such a high percentage of pet shops in Michigan have serious problems of animal care that the Michigan Humane Society began a campaign entirely against obtaining any dog from a pet shop, as the likelihood of a customer having supported only a good business that never caused any injury to pets is very slight.

The further connection between pet shops and puppy mills enlarges the problem. If the worst thing that happened to those dogs was limited contact with humans due to under-staffing for too many animals, it'd be bad enough. But dogs are shipped off too young and unweaned; they are minimally cared for and health is poor; and they are generally inbred which increases the chances of a number of congenital diseases associated with the given breed.

Then again, puppy mills are frequently impossible to distinguish from mentally ill hoarders, who will have dozens or even hundreds of ill-cared for dogs whether or not selling some of them. Alas, some independent rescue organizations are themselves all too often mere fronts for hoarders struggling more to disguise their illness as they take in more and more dogs!

Small breeds like chihuahuas, minpins, maltese, are the commonest victims because a great many can fit into small filthy hovels, back rooms, or unventillated sheds. But back-yard open-air out-of-control breeders and hoarders can have the largest dogs, and are in great part responsible for the population explosion of unwanted pitbulls.

For Springborn's dogs, they had lived with her in her cluttered increasingly unsanitary home. So she herself slogged through urine and feces to get from room to room. Fortunately, by the time the arrest papers were prepared, most of her confiscated dogs had already been placed in homes by Animal Control and the Humane Society of Livingston County. Bluebell (in her jacket, above) and stub-tailed Eleanor (who seemed to be about ten years old) are two of these dogs, shown after being cared for by the Society.

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