A southwest Virginia puppy mill has been busted. Housing more than 600 breeding females, the site is now seeing a huge rescue operation. The owner has agreed to surrender nearly 1,000 dogs for treatment and possible adoption.
"I can't even describe the amazing outpouring of support," Carroll County Administrator Gary Larrowe says. He has estimated that as many as 120 people are involved at any given time. Pet store chain PetSmart has sent a tractor-trailer load of supplies.
"I'm not sure what we would have done with 1,000 dogs otherwise," he says.
The dogs, including hundreds of puppies, are being removed from Horton's Pups in Hillsville and taken to an emergency operations center set up nearby. The center is manned by veterinarians helping on a volunteer basis and others, according to Larrowe.
Junior Horton, the owner of the mill, has been breeding dogs for more than 20 years. He told authorities that he had a license to have as many as 500 dogs. He might eventually face charges that include animal cruelty. Yet he has cooperated as authorities work to remove the dogs from his farm, treat them and send them on to shelters.
"What Mr. Horton has done is taken 980-plus animals to the pound," Larrowe says.
In negotiations with county officials, Horton could be able to keep 200 dogs if he secures the proper licensing and complies with federal laws for dog breeders, Larrowe gives.
The mill was first uncovered by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS)during a five-month investigation into puppy mills in the state. Local animal rights groups made sure the county was aware of the report, and the county then sought state help.
Now, a state emergency operations official is coordinating the processing of the animals as they are removed from the farm. The Red Cross is providing meals and other assistance to scores of volunteers involved. In addition, animal shelters up and down the East Coast have been prepped for arrivals.
The dogs, once cleared for release, will be sent to shelters from as far away as Fort Lauderdale, Fla., to upstate New York, the Humane Society's John Snyder was reported.
Many of the dogs were discovered in cages made of chicken wire-type fencing and wood framing, Snyder said. The animals largely appeared to be in good shape, Larrowe informed, although many were denied the socialization that produces good pets.
Horton's Pups was one of several puppy mills featured in a 7½-minute video report produced by the HSUS . It had said that that of the more than 900 dog breeders in Virginia, only 16 had licenses.
According to the HSUS, hundreds of dogs are living in seemingly endless rows of cages, small, crowded kennels or even basements across Virginia. Hundreds of commercial breeders are mass-producing dogs with little or no oversight and few—if any—safeguards for the health and well-being of the animals. Investigators have found breeding dogs and puppies living in cramped, filthy cages, in urine-soaked trailers and in ramshackle kennels without basic sanitation, clean water, veterinary care or even the most primitive protection from the elements.