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The dogs seen in tight quarters in these cages may look pitiful but they're now clean, fed, groomed, attended to medically, and in the care of the Humane Society of Young County, finally gaining some sociability, and quite aware that their lives have just improved dramatically. When adopted, life should at long last be good indeed.

The Humane Society shut down a rat-infested puppymill near Graham, Texas, the first week of January, 2010. "All their water was frozen; they didn't have anything to drink; and there were feces everywhere," said Christy Lanham, President of the Society. Some of the dogs had toe-nails grown so long that they'd curled under and dug into the pads of the dogs' feet. None had ever been vaccinated. Several were pregnant.

Seventy-one dogs were rescued, exclusively small breeds: chihuahuas, yorkies, lhasa apsos, shih tzus and dachshunds. An entire litter of toy poodles lay atop a pile of filth. Eight house-dogs were left behind since not observably neglected.

The operators of the puppymill were not expected to have charges placed against them, as they gave up ownership of the dogs willingly, and claimed that they were just old feebs who let the dog breeding "get away from them" and they couldn't handle it mentally, emotionally, or physically.

This claim of "it got away from me and I was overwhelmed" is as common among puppymill villains and animal hoarders as "this is the first time I ever did this" from the mouths of child molestors, and I think it deserves a great deal more questioning. I don't believe it's sincere, which isn't to say such people aren't crazy. But if they knew right from wrong, they should stand trial.

As I write this article, the sheriff's department hasn't said they're ending their investigation, but so far it looks like "We're old; we're helpless" just might get them off.

Such an excuse isn't credible, however, and they should not have been permitted to keep even the eight indoor dogs. Hell, I'm old; I'm a basketcase; but I would not be so inhumane as to allow this to happen to dogs in my care. I'd call a no-kill shelter to help me find good homes long before I'd leave them unwatered in freezing weather by the dozens.

Dog or cat hoarding is a sickness that frequently translates into abuse. And that has nothing to do with having gotten old, so they're just flimflamming to get away with criminal behavior they're known to have been getting away with for at least twenty years!

Kim Baxter, helping to remove the dogs, had one of the most emotional moments in her career of animal rescue when she opened a cage and a chihuahua flew up out of the feces right into her arms as if to say "Oh god thank you thank you thank you!"

Texas has been a big center of puppymill operations, but the Young County Humane Society has made serious inroads against this cruel industry. One of the worst cases was in 2007 when 100 chihuahuas, yorkies, shih tzus, poms, boxers, and miniature dachshunds were rescued from a feces-covered barn, from cages stacked one upon another, dogs covered in ticks, fleas, and beset by flies, wasps, and even black widow spiders.

The most disturbing discovery during the investigation of that case was a water-filled pit with the decomposing remains of about a dozen dogs thrown in, and other dog carcasses scattered around the property. No caretaker was found on the property; it appeared someone came by the isolated barn every few days to feed and hose-down the very sick animals.

Laws aren't very strong in stopping puppymills. In terms of criminal fines and jail time, it's never much. A very few states have been strengthening these laws, but the majority have so few regulations as to what constitutes a healthy, properly run kennel that in the main it's entirely unregulated.

Facepage for the Human Society of Young County

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Young County

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