How the BC SPCA saved 66 dogs from a puppy mill

Ewok, the last dog rescued from a Langley puppy mill, was adopted out last weekend. Here’s how it happened—and why it was so difficult

May 5, 2016

By Dominika Lirette / Photo: BC SPCA

Ewok, a three-and-a-half year old Wheaton Terrier, is having a great week. That’s because on Sunday he was the last of the 66 dogs rescued from a Langley puppy mill in February to be adopted from the BC SPCA. “The biggest challenge with Ewok was the fact that he obviously hadn’t really been socialized,” says Nicole McBain, assistant manager of the BC SPCA Vancouver branch. “A normal dog in a kennel, person comes in, they get up, they’re excited, tail’s wagging,” says McBain. But when animal cruelty officers found the puppy mill dogs in Langley, “there was zero response. They were used to just living in these little crates and that was it.”

He is now living with two other dogs in the loving home of a couple of doctors. And while Ewok may never be fully comfortable around humans, he has come a long way since he arrived at the BC SPCA with open sores on his head and chronic ear infections. “He was one of the most fearful. We did see huge improvements while he was in our care,” says McBain. “Initially things like even just trying to get a collar on him took a lot of time and patience—working to get him used to the idea of someone touching him.”

The BC SPCA hosted an information session to educate and prepare applicants on what to expect when adopting a puppy mill dog. In the end, adult dogs like Ewok were especially hard to find homes for. “A lot of people that had gone in thinking they wanted an adult dog actually ended up submitting applications for a puppy,” says McBain. Even though there were still hundreds of applications, the BC SPCA had to find the best matches that would meet the individual needs of the dogs. Some of the main factors taken into consideration when choosing owners included how much time and flexibility applicants had in their schedules, their previous experience, their living situation, and how willing they were to work on training. “It was quite a process,” McBain says. “Definitely the first time our shelter had seen this kind of volume.”

To help discourage the operation of puppy mills, she recommends adopting dogs from shelters or rescues. However, if you do find yourself in a situation where you are buying a dog and you think the location might be a puppy mill, she says you shouldn’t buy a dog in order to save it. “Unfortunately, that just propagates the whole industry and that’s exactly the wrong thing to do.” Instead, she suggests you leave the premises and call the BC SPCA’s animal cruelty hotline to report what you’ve seen. “The more questions [you] ask and the more information [you] can get, the more [you’re] going to probably see if something doesn’t quite add up.”

McBain’s tips for identifying potential puppy mills:

  1. The breeder is willing to do an adoption or a purchase with no questions. Usually responsible breeders will not approve someone as a home without actually meeting them.
  2. The breeder is unwilling to show you their setup.
  3. The breeder is vague, without giving really specific details about the puppy.

dog 394791 Ewok 3

dog 394791 Ewok

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