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Into the Light

An update on the 120 dogs rescued from a Warren County puppy mill

By: Heather Davis | April 3, 2011

If you haven't already, please read my original post to learn the backstory on this case and these dogs. Also, please watch this great news clip from WSMV News 4 on the outstanding progress of the rescue!

FEATURE PHOTO BY ARC: A Chihuahua pup nestles into soft bedding for the first time.

As you know from my last post, just five days ago 120 dogs were rescued from a Warren County puppy mill by Animal Rescue Corps (ARC). ARC founder Scotlund Haisley and TN State Liaison Peg Petrelli's ARC team assisted Tennessee’s Warren County District Attorney's Office in the rescue of the dogs who were found to be living in deplorable conditions at a puppy mill an hour and a half southeast of Nashville. All of the animals were seized by the Warren County Sheriff’s Office and are now being cared for in a makeshift shelter at the fairgrounds. 

I came on board Day One in a dual capacity: as both a media outlet sharing the story of this rescue as well as a volunteer eager to do what I could to help these dogs transition into a beautiful new life.

But when Haisley and Petrelli asked me to step into the role of Volunteer Shelter Manager, I couldn't say no. So I put on the email autoresponder for Nashville Paw, recruited some pet sitting help for my own pet pals and got to work with the ARC team, which I have to say has already been one of the most rewarding experiences of my life. I am truly honored to be working alongside such high-caliber, compassionate individuals who are devoted to changing the world forever for 120 little sacred lives.

If you had the opportunity to come to the fairgrounds in our first day or two, you'll likely never forget what you saw: frightened, forgotten dogs matted beyond recognition; tiny bodies huddled and trembling in the corners of their new, clean cages, flinching away from the human touch they'd never known; lifeless eyes peering up from the shadows. These dogs came with tick infestations, anemia, ear mites and mange. They came with babies they'd birthed in rusted wire cages filled with their own fecal matter and soaked in urine. They came with all of the signs that they had given up hope, their spirits crushed, the light in their eyes seemingly dimmed forever.

And yet, as we have all experienced, dogs are among the most resilient creatures on the planet. Their ability to transform, to bounce back, to trust, to forgive and to passionately enjoy life has always inspired me to attain that in my own life, but never have I been as inspired as I am by each of these beautiful and incredible canines.

Just four days after their rescue from the uttermost depths of human greed and cruelty, just four days after the overwhelming experience of rescue, transport, new surroundings and massive human interaction, these dogs have already come to life. Thanks to the simple compassions of our community-- soft bedding, nutritious food, clean cages, medical care, grooming and the most simple yet vital part of it all, love-- these dogs have experienced for the very first time what it is to live without pain, suffering, fear and hunger. They have quickly learned that an outstretched hand means cuddle time that they've been desperately craving all their lives. They've learned that the dozens of volunteers who walk their rows every morning and afternoon bring fresh food and soft bedding, warm sweaters and gentle kindness like they've never known. They've left their cages matted in their own feces and returned brand new dogs, feeling comfortable and confident for the first time.

As I stood back yesterday afternoon and watched our amazing and dedicated crew of volunteers enjoying the post-work reward of "snuggle time", I couldn't help but tear up. More than 20 individuals sat around on mounds of donated bedding and dog food, holding in their arms blanketed pups who have never known the joy of simple human bonding. Some dogs sat with their heads buried under the chins of their human companions; others licked their faces while some simply snoozed, finally at peace. It was a beautifully moving sight.  

Even Bo, the once-anxious Great Pyrenees mix who roamed the puppy mill's 40-something acres, was finally at ease in the 10x10 foot indoor run donated by one of our generous volunteers.

By the end of the day, the majority of the Warren County dogs were no longer hidden in the shadows of their cage corners. Instead, they were pouncing at their cage doors, happily barking, tails wagging, eagerly begging for more attention. A few even began to wrestle with the toys in their cages, curious about these strange fuzzy objects that had been placed at their disposal.

The animals who just days ago languished as a cash crop for human greed have finally become, quite simply, dogs-- for the very first time. 

I am incredibly blessed to be a witness to the beauty of this transformation and deeply thank all of the ARC rescuers as well as the sponsors, donors and volunteers for your part in bringing these dogs into the light. May they remain there forevermore.

Please be sure to join our email list for continued updates on the progress of these dogs as they move into foster care.


TO DONATE MONEY: Please visit the ARC website.

TO VOLUNTEER YOUR TIME: We start at 9am each day through Tues, 4/5. Volunteers are taken on a first-come basis; please note that we can only take a certain number of volunteers and that we will have to turn volunteers away once we reach our maximum. Our evening feeding and cleaning starts at 4pm, so if you are turned away in the morning, please come back then to try for the afternoon work. We are located in the red "rabbit barn" at the TN Fairgrounds.

TO DONATE SUPPLIES: (We need blankets, towels, puppy pads, paper towels and gift cards to Home Depot, Lowes and Kinkos): Please pull up outside to our drop-off area. We are located in the red "rabbit barn" at the TN Fairgrounds.

TO FOSTER/ADOPT A DOG: Our court hearing to obtain legal custody of the dogs is this Tues 4/5. After that, we will begin moving dogs into local rescue organizations who have been approved as "placement partners". We will be posting a list of the groups who take the dogs once it is finalized. If you are interested in becoming a placement partner, please email . No adoptions or fostering will be coordinated through ARC; if you wish to foster or adopt a dog, you will need to go through the individual rescue groups.

CHECK IT OUT! Please take a moment to view the following photos and videos and share them with friends... letting others know about puppy mills is the only way we will stop them! While some of the photos are hard to look at, these dogs deserve for the truth of their story to be known. Please help them and the thousands of others suffering in puppy mills by spreading the education!

Photos of the dogs in our shelter after the rescue

Photos of the dogs being rescued by ARC from a puppy mill in Warren County, TN

Video of the dogs being rescued by ARC from a puppy mill in Warren County, TN

WSMV News 4 coverage of the progress being made at our shelter