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Animal care staff member Rebecca Bartlett and SQSPCA executive director Stacie Haynes speak about their support for the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill on Aug. 17 at the SQSPCA shelter in Index.

Area legislators and animal shelter representatives got together Wednesday to support an end to so-called “puppy mills.”

The Susquehanna Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals hosted area legislators and representatives from the New York State Animal Protection Federation and animal shelters from throughout the region for a press conference in support of the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill.

Legislators and representatives from Otsego, Chenango, Delaware, Herkimer, Oneida and Schoharie counties were present to support bill and to urge Gov. Kathy Hochul to sign it.

Those attending included Stacie Haynes, executive director of Susquehanna SPCA; Anita Vitullo, president and founder of Staffworks and the Staffworks Fund; Libby Post, executive director of the New York State Animal Protection Federation; Cooperstown Mayor Ellen Tillapaugh; state Sen. Peter Oberacker, Assemblyman Brian Miller and Assemblyman Christopher Tague.

“This is an issue of humanity,” Post said. Every year records prove that thousands of puppies from out-of-state “USDA certified” puppy mills are sold to consumers in New York at “astronomical prices,” according to information provided by SQSPCA.

“I have seen a dog with its eyes so matted that they couldn’t see. This bill will help stop cruel treatment of puppy mill dogs that are inflicted with illness and sicknesses and are untreated,” Haynes said.

Victor Jones, owner of an adopted puppy mill dog named Marigold, said the dog would “cower in the corner, wouldn’t make contact and wouldn’t socialize.” After the first week, he said, “We saw drastic improvements with her behavior.”

Many other owners said they experienced similar effects with their adopted companions. “Most puppy mill dogs have to be re-domesticated almost. I like to compare this situation to a human who has lived in a bunker their entire life. These dogs are, unfortunately, never going to be fully normal,” said Sarah Cummings, a counselor and dog trainer at SQSPCA.

Most puppy mills also go as far as killing their animals if shelters don’t take in the dogs, Post said. “Eight months ago we came here and picked up Sophie, a golden retriever who came from an Amish puppy mill and the option was ‘somebody come get her or we’re going to take her out back and shoot her’,” she said.

“My dog Kelly is six-and-a-half years old and at six months she was still struggling to socialize,” said Alene Nygren, an owner of a puppy mill dog. “She was timid had no sign of aggression and she never plays. Her uterus also fell apart when she was spayed and it shows how much they were using her to breed. They also never took care of her teeth so some had to get pulled out.”

According to reports provided by the USDA, enforcement actions have reached new lows and transport records link incoming physically, mentally and medically compromised puppies to commercial puppy mill breeders. The operations are held to extremely low federal Animal Welfare Act standards, according to information provided by the SQSPCA.

“We want the best for members of our family and to put an end to puppy mills that put profit over the well being of our animals and these businesses that are treating dogs like merchandise,” Tague said.

Ten thousand emails have been sent to the governor’s office and 5,000 postcards are being sent to Albany to show support for the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill, Post said.

“The best thing people can do is to educate themselves. Please do your research and ask questions when considering purchasing a dog. Ask where they take the dog to the vet, their diet and their living conditions. Try and find out as much as you can before purchasing a dog from a seller,” Cummings said.

Alexis Ochi, staff writer, can be reached at aochi@thedailystar.com or 607-441-7213.

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