Nearly 30 dogs from an alleged puppy mill, along with a deceased horse, were removed from a home in Nauvoo Thursday.The Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) and the Walker County Sheriff's Office …
Nearly 30 dogs from an alleged puppy mill, along with a deceased horse, were removed from a home in Nauvoo Thursday.
The Greater Birmingham Humane Society (GBHS) and the Walker County Sheriff's Office arrived at the residence Thursday morning, after receiving a tip of a downed horse and a suspected puppy mill on the property. GBHS CEO Allison Black Cornelius said officers and GBHS staff couldn't have known the horror that awaited them.
She said an alarming tip about conditions at the Nauvoo property first came in on Sunday.
"They said a horse was down on the property and dogs were feeding off of the horse. They did not think the horse was dead. They just thought the horse was down," Cornelius said. "That upset us a lot. They also stated there was a puppy mill on the property."
The caller did not provide an exact location at the time, and it took a few days to determine exactly where the property was located, since it was hidden from the roadway.
At the request of the Walker County Sheriff's Office, GBHS went to the home in question Thursday with officers. Cornelius said a foul stench was detected as those responding made their way down the driveway of the property.
It was quickly determined the ill horse initially reported had perished, and 27 Boston terriers, French bulldogs and Frenchtons were seized.
Aside from a terrible smell inside and outside the home, crates and cages were observed without bottoms. Many of the dogs had injuries and were malnourished.
"In my opinion, these are the indicators of what we would define as a puppy mill," Cornelius said. "The inside of the house was in disarray. There was a very, very strong urine and fecal smell. There was quite a lot of clutter. It was a mess, and the smell was overwhelming bad."
GBHS veterinarian Shelby Agnew has since examined all of the dogs, and a necropsy has been performed on the horse to determine its cause of death. Due to Walker County's recent distemper outbreak, all of the dogs will also have to be tested for exposure to the disease.
A hearing will later be held to determine if GBHS will receive full custody of the dogs and what charges may be filed against their owners. According to Alabama law, a court hearing is typically set between 20 and 30 days following the seizure of animals.
Cornelius said situations like the one in Nauvoo could be prevented if puppy mill legislation was in place. California recently became the first state to ban puppy mills, and pet stores are restricted from selling any animal unless it comes from an animal shelter, rescue group or adoption center.
According to the Animal Legal Defense Fund, Alabama is ranked in the bottom tier (38th) for legislation relating to the welfare of animals.
When thinking about the nature of puppy mills, Cornelius describes a "triple bottom line issue." Aside from a lack of humane treatment of animals, she said puppy mills have an environmental impact and negatively affect consumers' rights by some puppy mills operating as a business while not having to pay sales tax.
A business license could not be found for the breeding operation in Nauvoo.
"When they do get caught and shut down, all of that cost is passed on to taxpayers," Cornelius said.
She added, "GBHS is not against breeders. We just want people to purchase animals from responsible breeders that they have done a thorough check on."
If GBHS does receive custody of the dogs, Cornelius said she would like them to potentially be adopted out in Walker County, since so many of its residents have inquired about helping the dogs since the seizure.
Cornelius said GBHS has received tips in the past of puppy mills in Walker County, and she would like the public to know the common indicators of a puppy mill operation.
"A puppy mill is not a warehouse. People think it's a big warehouse or a big barn. The definition of a puppy mill is simply breeders that put the profits of the operation above the health of the animals they're selling," she said. "They do that by not getting good health care for their animals and keeping their animals in unsafe and unsanitary conditions."