25 puppy mill dogs taste freedom through Project New Beginning

25 puppy mill dogs taste freedom through Project New Beginning
The volunteers for Project New Beginnings work intake for the rescue dogs before they head to their foster homes.

To say that the Chicago English Bulldog Rescue is bursting at the seams these days is a bit of an understatement. CEBR has 19 new dogs in their care from a recent puppy mill rescue – Project New Beginning. And, two of the mamma dogs are expecting babies, which will bump up their numbers even more. It was all in a days work for a rescue that saved a total of 25 puppy mill dogs despite severe weather plaguing the Midwest. (See update at bottom on one of the pregnant bulldogs.)

The Chicago English Bulldog rescue has an extensive track record when it comes to rescuing dogs from puppy mills. Just last spring, the organization rescued 23 English Bulldogs from Debra Pratt’s Iowa puppy mill as part of Project Mercy. Many of those dogs had extensive medical issues, but nothing quite prepared the organization for the tricky aspect during Project New Beginning – traveling with two vanloads of bullies in an Ozark snowstorm.

CEBR hit the road to the auction for Project New Beginnings the first weekend of January while snowstorms covered the Midwest and ice storms hit the south. An Amish puppy miller was going out of business and several other breeders were selling on consignment. Because of the weather, the number of buyers was down considerably – maybe 50 to 60, mainly Amish, a group notorious for their poor treatment of the dogs in their care.

The 25 bullies of Project New Beginning

Project New Beginnings

“We were the only rescue there and a French Bulldog dog rescue that was due to come in from the South got iced in,” says Molly Marino, founder of CEBR. “We bid for them and rescued three dogs for them until they could connect with us. In all, we rescued 25 dogs with another 3 English Bulldogs that were taken in by Illinois Doberman Rescue Plus during Project New Beginning. They have a foster their with bully experience.”

The French Bulldogs were rescued on behalf of the Alabama Boston Terrier and French Bulldog Rescue. Auctions can be tricky for rescues. First of all, other millers are often bidding for the dogs up for sale so that they can continue to use them for breeding. Rescues aren’t really welcome and can run up against resistance from puppy mill owners who dislike the idea of their dogs leaving the breeding pool and going up for adoption.

“I did recognize many millers from past auctions, but we were lucky because English Bulldogs weren’t in demand here,” adds Marino. “All the dogs except one left with us after the auction. It was very sad because Chihuahuas were going for a dollar and beautiful huskies – some puppies – for $30. It was probably due to the weather, but there weren’t as many buyers. Sadly, these dogs are going back into mills.”

A fresh start

A rescue gets to smell life outside the cage during the freedom ride.

A rescue gets to smell life outside the cage during the freedom ride.

“The dogs from the Amish mill had been pretty well cared for, which is unusual,” adds Marino. “They were in far better shape than the dogs we pulled from Pratt’s mill last spring. One of the pregnant bullies came from a backyard breeder. It was obvious she’d spent a lot of time with people and had slept in a bed…that is usually not what we see.”

Along with the two pregnant bullies, there were many cases of dry eye and dogs that were malnourished and had spotty coats. The dogs from Project Mercy had rotting teeth, ear infections, eye ulcers, complications from botched C-sections and some cases of brucellosis. Marino also fostered a dog from that rescue that had her lip bit off in a fight with another dog.

Marino said the bulldogs sold for some of the lowest prices she’s seen at auction. Because there were so many Amish breeders there, she was determined to save as many as possible. Other dogs there were not in as good a shape as those she pulled. There were bull terriers in terrible shape and Rottweilers that were banged up. Some pregnant rotties were missing legs from fights.

Facing the storm and a wave of new puppies

Once they left the auction, the real challenge began for Project New Beginning and The Chicago English Bulldog Rescue. The big storm that preceded the Polar Vortex was blowing through and the CEBR team had to drive through the night on the dark winding, mountain roads through the Ozarks. Marino said it was harrowing to say the least as they slowly drove through the storm on their way home. Once they braved the storm, they were more than prepared for what was ahead.

The dogs are checked in after they arrive in the Chicago Area.

The dogs are checked in after they arrive in the Chicago Area.

“We actually prepare for these types of rescues all year long,” says Marino. “We need a lot of foster homes for rescues like Project New Beginnings and we work with our volunteers to prepare them long before a rescue since many of these dogs have special needs. Once we got home, our ground crew of volunteers was amazing getting dogs ready for fosters. And, we worked in advance with our veterinarian to get all the dogs in right away.”

Along with the puppies on the way, this rescue included several dogs under a year old. Since Chicago English Bulldog Rescue doesn’t normally see that many puppies, priority for puppy adoptions will go to volunteers and prior adopters. Once the puppies come, CEBR has something special on tap – a puppy cam.

Porchetta is one of two pregnant dogs that will be giving birth for the first time outside a puppy mill.

Porchetta is one of two pregnant dogs that will be giving birth for the first time outside a puppy mill.

“A lot of people are excited about the puppies and it’s a great chance for us to show how much work it is to care for them the first several weeks,” says Marino. “I’m fostering one of the moms – Jilly – and I think this is a great way for us to illustrate the special care it takes for bully puppies.”

In the meantime, the Chicago English Bulldog Rescue continues to take in other dogs. Two owner surrenders came into their care around the same time. An 11-year-old dog at Chicago Animal Care and Control that was to be taken in by the organization died before he could be rescued.

Rescues continue

“It’s heartbreaking that we were that close to rescuing the 11-year-old dog and he ended up dying alone in a cell instead of with a foster home,” adds Marino. “We do what we can to help out as many as we can. We get excited about the big rescues and then two months later it really sets in in we still have a lot of dogs.”

For example, the last of the dogs rescued in April for Project Mercy went to their forever homes at the end of last year. CEBR has a wave of applications already for Project New Beginning dogs. Marino says most of these dogs are more social than their average mill dog rescues but all the dogs are still being evaluated prior to adoption.

Update: Porchetta, one of the two pregnant English Bulldogs has lost her litter about 40 days into her pregnancy due to an intense uterine infection (pyometra). She has spent the last three days in ICU and is now recovering at home. The good news is that the foster family quickly spotted that something was wrong and got her to a veterinarian for help, saving her life. Had she remained in the commercial breeding operation, she most likely would have not just lost her litter, but her life.

Meet the dogs

If you'd like to see the slideshow of the dogs from Project New Beginning, please go here. You may help CEBR by donating here and you may follow the updates on their Facebook page. The dogs will also be at The Bully Bowl at the Doggie Depot at 635 & 605 Rogers Street in Downers Grove from Noon until 4 Saturday. Admission to the event is just $5.

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    Raining Cats and Dogs

    I am a crazy cat lady and puppy mill warrior that blogs to advocate and educate about pet issues. In American animal controls, millions of pets are abandoned each year and an estimated 4 million die just because there are not enough homes. It truly seems like it’s Raining Cats and Dogs.

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