The "101" Department: Rehab Project
The hard work of turning puppy mill dogs into pets yields extraordinary rewards for shelters and adopters
The official on the phone explains the situation: A raid on a puppy mill in your area is imminent, and she expects a seizure of a large number of dogs, most likely in poor condition. Can your shelter take them in? Provide long-term housing while custody issues are resolved? Rehabilitate these fearful, hurting creatures, and get them ready for adoption?
If you’re Suzy Swims, you say “yes.”
Swims, director of operations at the Norfolk SPCA in Virginia, has taken calls like this at least half a dozen times, so she knows exactly what to do when they come in. Her shelter immediately swings into what she calls “puppy mill mode.” Before a single dog arrives, staff and volunteers set up kennels with clean bedding, bowls of fresh food and water, and stuffed animals. They put together an intake station, where each animal will be documented and receive a name band. They establish vaccination and bathing stations, too. The morning after the dogs hit the shelter, the staff comes in a few hours early to take them all out for their first potty break, playtime, and breath of fresh air. It’s the beginning of the dogs’ first steps toward health and socialization. They’re starting a journey that the shelter staff hopes will result in their eventual adoption.