Port Jefferson Station, NEW YORK — Luciana, a nine-year-old Cane Corso Mastiff, was once facing possible euthanization due to her experience at a puppy mill. But thanks to Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center Inc., located in Port Jefferson Station on Long Island, she was given another chance to live out her life.
A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial breeding operation where the primary focus is to profit from the animals not their health. Other animals can also face the same neglect, like cats in “cat mills.” There are currently 10,000 puppy mills in the United States according to the 2014 puppy mill statistics released by the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS), the largest organization in the US protecting animal rights laws.
New York State and local governmental bodies have taken large strides this past year to protect animals. Suffolk County Legislature is currently attempting to pass a bill, No. I.R. 1047-2014, to regulate dog breeders and retail animal stores to ensure animals are not being bought from these mills.
“If the bill was put up to vote today,” said Jay Schneiderman, Suffolk County Legislator for the Second Legislative District, “it would pass unanimously.”
He created this bill that he believes could be used as a national model for other legislatures. The bill is the first of it’s kind according to Schneiderman because it will effectively stop puppy mills while also keeping small businesses running. If a retailer is found to have bought animals from illegal mills, there will be monetary fines charged per animal bought.
He credits the bills success to having both animal advocates and animal retailers sit in the same room and formulate a plan. This cooperation is allowing there to be positive reaction making Legislator Schneiderman wait for the bill to pass in order to effectively protect the animals that are “silent victims” in these mills.
It is hard to determine exactly how many mills are in the nation because the amount of legal structure to shut down mills is absent. Looking at the treatment and living conditions of the animals is the only sure fire way to find mills. Animals from mills can be deviated from other animals because they clearly appear to have not been properly taken care of. They appear emaciated and their fur could be very matted with dirt, while most animals are kept outside in stacked cages for hours with their nutritional needs scarcely met.
Save-A-Pet Animal Rescue and Adoption Center Inc. opened its doors because of a growing concern for the devastatingly large surplus of homeless, abused, and abandoned animals and has successfully found homes for over 10,000 animals. However, Lynne Schoepfer, Save-A-Pet’s Executive Director, wants to urge the public about the growing importance of choosing animals from shelters like hers over animals from large retail stores.
“Don’t shop, adopt,” said Schoepfer. “There’s more animals going to animal retail stores from puppy mills than the public knows about.”
According to Schoepfers experience and research, animals in mills are bred continuously until adults are deemed useless and are most often housed with four to five other animals in rabbit hutches. While the animals have sawdust mixed into food to have a large supply while also filling up the animals stomachs faster. The American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA), there are a number of health risks, genetic and mental, that come with obtaining animals from puppy mills.
Luciana’s journey to the Save-A-Pet shelter begins with her becoming terminally ill with osteosarcoma. The illness caused a troublesome tumor to continuously grow on her front shoulder, hindering her ability to walk. The Save-A-Pet staff believes that she had too many puppy litters in a short time span at her original home, a puppy mill, causing her to become more prone to illness as she aged.
When she made her way to the Islip Animal Shelter and Adopt-A-Pet Center, they began to reach capacity, making euthanization a possibility to make room for other animals that have a higher chance to be adopted. But since her rescue from the Islip Animal Shelter, Luciana would sit behind the main desk in her plush pillow covered in dog hair, while volunteers responded to emails on computers or picked up ringing phones.
Susan Manolakis, Save-A-Pet Volunteer, spends four-days a week behind the desk and spent a great amount of time with Luciana.
“Everybody loved her,” said Manolakis, “she was an inspiration to everyone, truly.”
Save-A-Pet is lucky to have a constant influx of volunteers, like Kathy Dion and Manolakis, to make sure their animals are given adequate care both mentally and physically, whether it is long walks or personal play time sessions.
Volunteers fill silver bowls with Purina brand pet food and water to keep these animals healthy enough for adoption, but there is more on the job description for volunteers at Save-A-Pet.
Dion describes the shelter as a “vortex.” An on going joke used by those who work there because you’re “sucked into” the daily workload. It is hard to say when exactly you’re going to leave.
“I’ll come in before we open to help get ready,” said Kathy Dion, a volunteer at Save-A-Pet for three years. “But I usually spend an extra hour or so after we close making sure we return all emails and phone calls.”
The extra courtesy given to everyone who needs help with his or her animals is important to Save-A-Pet. They are the only animal rescue on Long Island to take back an animal if the person who had adopted from them is unable to take care of them properly, according to Dion. She remembers receiving a phone call of someone being shocked that they would take an animal from another shelter in as their own at Save-A-Pet.
But the long strenuous days are not hard to get through for volunteers like Dion because spending time with animals and helping them live properly makes her feel like “she has done something good at the end of the day,” helping get her out of the rut of daily life.
She’s seen animals come in scarred and unsure how to react to the food bowls or soft strokes as they are petted. But seeing the animals transform and grow personalities while they’re at the shelter makes the adoptions bitter sweet. Manolakis said she and a few other workers have shed tears when animals have left their doors after being adopted into a family.
“Everything we do,” Manolakis said, “is for the animals.”