The news spread like wildfire last week through Colorado’s community of animal advocacy organizations: Denver-based puppy mill Prairie Bark Kennels
was finally closing down.
PBK, as the breeding operation has commonly been referred to, operated the household pet equivalent of a factory farm
. The breeders’ more than 250 dogs were confined to a windowless building on PBK’s grounds, each one restricted to a small wire kennel for more than 23 hours every day. As with other puppy mill operations (a synopsis of which can be found in this 2007 Newsweek article
), viable females were forced to breed every time they came into heat, putting extreme stress on the dogs’ systems. Ironically, many of the puppies produced by this and other mills end up in pet stores across the country, available for purchase as family pets by individuals who have no understanding of the circumstances in which the dogs are born.
The announcement of PBK’s liquidation meant that at least one Denver operation would no longer be supporting this inhumane practice. Yet the operation’s dogs were still at risk. On May 6, PBK loaded the dogs onto a tractor trailer for a 12-hour trip to Missouri, where they were to be auctioned off to other breeders.
At the end of the journey, however, the dogs were met by an auction group with very different intentions. After hearing of PBK’s auction plans, Mike Stabler, executive director of Boulder-based nonprofit Rocky Mountain Animal Defense
(RMAD,) released an email asking for donations to provide volunteers with Last Chance for Animals
with the means of purchasing the dogs for adoption. Within the span of a few days, the request had generated more than $14,000 towards buying and providing veterinary care for 56 purebred PBK dogs. The dogs were brought back to Colorado where they were put up for adoption at the Denver Dumb Friends League
on Sunday morning.
The success of the rescue movement came as an unexpected but welcome happy ending to the PBK puppy mill tale. In a press release for RMAD, Stabler described the outpouring of donations and support as “tremendous,” adding that he’d “never seen anything like [it].” Chris DeRose, president and founder of Last Chance for Animals, believes the response reflects changing times. In the same release, DeRose said that “the exposure of puppy mills is becoming well known all over the U.S., and people will no longer accept buying from puppy mills when rescue dogs … need homes.”
While the closure of Prairie Bark Kennels signifies an end to one such commercial breeding operation in the U.S., puppy mills remain a pressing issue. After witnessing what he described as a “livestock auction” for the PBK dogs, rescue volunteer Kent Sarff emphasized the importance of continuing to spread the word, ending his comments for the RMAD release with the mantra “Adopt, don’t shop.” It’s one that could make all the difference in the lives of puppy mill dogs.