RAW has spent years trying to enlighten the public to the “rescues” like the one featured in this article
Rescues that vilify breeders, demand that the public “adopt not shop” and then “shop” in the shadows without following regulations need to be exposed, charges filed, and their non-profit status’ revoked!
“The business model and practices of National Mill Dog Rescue, besides raising serious questions about the whole concept of “puppy mill rescue,” show how easy it is for breeders and nonprofits to subvert the laws often described as “puppy mill bans” that have been spreading across the nation for more than a decade.
Two agencies in Colorado — the state Department of Regulatory Agencies and a division of the state Department of Agriculture — have opened investigations into the nonprofit following complaints that Jene Nelson, National Mill’s former marketing director-turned-whistleblower, filed with the state in early 2019. Those complaints allege that National Mill has trafficked dogs across state lines without legally required veterinary paperwork, falsified rabies certificates prior to dogs being offered for adoption or transferred to other shelters, and more than once delayed or failed to provide needed veterinary treatment.
National Mill’s business model doesn’t focus on breeding kennels that are shutting down. The nonprofit’s version of “rescue” actually helps kennels that stay in business, National Mill insiders said. National Mill often works hand-in-glove with commercial kennels — including at least three breeders on the “Horrible Hundred” lists from the Humane Society of the United States.
Often, National Mill gets the dogs straight from the kennels; the group also has paid to buy dogs from breeders through middlemen such as dog auctioneers.
Many of the dogs that National Mill adopts out are among the most popular purebreds, including beagles, Chihuahuas, dachshunds, Siberian huskies, poodles, Shih Tzus and Yorkshire terriers, as well as some of the most desired designer cross-breeds, like goldendoodles and labradoodles. In other words, they are exactly the kind of dogs that commercial breeders are in the business of selling.
“This is a dog-buying and distributing company that is posing as a rescue,” said Cindy McKeon, who served as National Mill’s facilities manager from 2011 to 2013. “It’s possible that some of them [breeders] aren’t being paid, but she’s making room for them to breed more, and she’s making a fortune by assisting these breeders.”
HuffPost obtained National Mill’s internal assessments of 919 dogs received from breeders from March 2017 to December 2018. According to the volunteers who described the incoming dogs, less than 1 in 10 were sick, injured or genetically deformed, or appeared scared or terrified. Two-thirds of the dogs were described positively with words that ranged from “sweet” and “friendly” to “gives kisses,” “playful” and “outgoing.” A few of the dogs arrived from breeders already housebroken, leash-trained, and spayed or neutered, according to the documents. One 5-year-old Shih Tzu entered the program able to give high fives on command.
According to National Mill’s Animal Care Program report for the first 11 months of 2018, which covered 1,133 dogs, by far the most common “procedure” that incoming pups required before being put up for adoption was bathing. Nevertheless, according to unofficial minutes taken at a November 2018 meeting of National Mill’s directors, the nonprofit decided to focus its year-end fundraising letter on dogs’ medical needs. At the same meeting, outside veterinary bills were described as being low, at just over $5,000. The appeal letter that went out to thousands of National Mill supporters opened with an update signed by Strader. The first paragraph reads: “Your on-going, generous support of our mission allowed us to rescue and care for well over 1,000 puppy mill survivors across the year. We are so passionate about serving this deeply exploited population of dogs, who often require extensive medical and/or behavioral care as we prepare them for life as beloved family members.”
Equally noteworthy are the ages of dogs that National Mill collects from breeders. According to records HuffPost obtained documenting 942 dogs picked up between February 2017 and December 2018, most of National Mill’s “rescues” were not elderly dogs who were bred well into their senior years. Instead, 64% of the dogs were 5 or younger, 22% were 6 months or younger, and 84% were 7 or younger. Senior-age dogs, those 10 and older that could have been overbred for years past their prime, represented just 5% of the dogs taken in during that nearly two-year period, the documents show.
A half-dozen past staffers and volunteers also questioned the way Strader has handled the nonprofit’s “rescue mission” expenses. She increased the number of dogs collected from breeders and then transferred to other shelters, according to numerous former volunteers. Sometimes, those shelters were in resort areas such as Missouri’s Lake of the Ozarks and Aspen, Colorado. Strader, they said, would take a select group of National Mill insiders, and sometimes family members, along for the doggie deliveries, paying for hotel rooms, meals and other expenses on the nonprofit’s dime and making a vacation of it. The wasteful spending gnawed at their consciences, they said.
Prior to the recently launched Colorado investigations, National Mill faced regulatory scrutiny at least once before, in March 2017. An inspector from Colorado’s Pet Animal Care Facilities Act (PACFA) program cited the nonprofit for failing to comply with nine different state regulations. The violations ranged from housing intact male and female dogs together to having kennels with rusty sharp-edged panels that could injure a dog. One of the most serious “direct” violations cited National Mill for transferring 62 dogs from Kansas to Colorado without first obtaining the required certificates of veterinary inspection, or CVIs, stating that the dogs were healthy and did not pose a risk of spreading disease in Colorado. according to numerous interviews and open-records requests in seven states, National Mill regularly took dogs across state lines without the required certificates. Although emails obtained by HuffPost show that Colorado’s inspector took Strader’s word that National Mill was following the rules on CVIs, the nonprofit was routinely doing the opposite. “This is a big issue for me,” said the Colorado official, who noted that he cannot discuss open investigations, including the ongoing inquiry into National Mill. “If we can prove that there is imminent harm to the public, I believe that importation of sick dogs, if they’re knowingly doing it, would rise to a summary suspension.””