You may have seen this photo before. It was taken last August at the scene of a dog fighting raid, and it has been used in ASPCA advertisements all around the Internet and on TV. It can be hard to look at—a small, vulnerable puppy tied to a heavy chain, alone and cowering in fear. With just the quick snap of a camera, this single moment captured so much about the fatal sport of dog fighting, and this puppy became the face of abused animals everywhere.
But Timmy’s story doesn’t end there. This sweet puppy was placed in foster homes that helped train him to become a well-adjusted pet. His final foster parents, Brian and Nadine DeCicco, just couldn’t give the little pup up and adopted him this past May. “We didn’t have any concerns about bringing a dog who had been associated with fighting into our home,” says Brian. “We’ve both had dogs our whole lives and know that they can reflect the way they are treated. Both of our previous dogs were pit mixes and they are just so unbelievably affectionate.”
Timmy now lives with Brian and Nadine in Maryland, where he is safe, happy and well-fed. “These dogs show amazing resiliency and forgiveness after being treated so poorly. They just want to be loved,” says Brian. Timmy spends his days snuggling with his family, snoozing in his “pita pocket” bed, playing tug-of-war with the neighbor’s Mastiff, and letting out his puppy energy—energy that at one time was restricted to a heavy collar and chain.
It’s hard to believe that Timmy is the same dog from that first photo. Fortunately, he will never have to worry about growing up to become a fighting dog, like so many generations of dogs tied to that very same chain before him.
Advocates, today is No Pet Store Puppies Day. Last week, we gave you a glimpse into the process of behavioral rehabilitation for one particular dog, Dusty, who was terrified of everyone and everything after a life spent in a puppy mill. Read the rest of Dusty’s story, as told by our staff behavior experts, to see the amazing progress puppy mill survivors like him can make.
April 15, 2014: We are continuing to work with Dusty on his fear of seeing people while he’s on a leash. The rehabilitation center is lucky to have volunteers who come in on regular basis and act as unfamiliar people for our dogs in treatment. Today, I took Dusty on a walk to meet one of our volunteers and asked her to toss treats to him during the encounter. If we do this enough times, most dogs start to associate strangers they see on walks with yummy treats! Dusty is making extraordinary progress and we expect him to graduate from our program soon. He is sure to make a lucky family very happy!
May 1, 2014: Dusty graduated from our program today! He’s been placed with a rescue group, Rescuzilla, and will be living in a foster home in Queens, New York!
May 9, 2014: Rescuzilla tells us Dusty blew them all away with how quickly he warmed up to his new home. In the first couple of days, he was already comfortable being walked and held—even by his foster parent’s niece and nephew!
June 1, 2014:Dusty has found his forever home! A veterinary technician in New Jersey saw him on Petfinder and fell in love instantly. She has two other rescued Chihuahuas. One of Dusty’s rescue sisters is even sassier than he is, and the adopter was so happy to see the three of them get along so seamlessly in just the first few hours after Dusty came home! His new family says that he loves his new dad—but is a mama’s boy at heart. He is just what they were looking for.
Dusty’s journey is happily over, but there are many more dogs like him—is there room in your heart and home for one? Raja, Apple and Gustavo—three dogs seized from the same puppy mill as Dusty—have likewise graduated from the ASPCA's Behavioral Rehabilitation Center and are now waiting for their forever families.
Thousands of dogs spend their entire lives in puppy mills—where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. They live in overcrowded, unsanitary conditions for years on end, and may suffer from behavioral, congenital and hereditary problems as a result of irresponsible breeding practices. Their puppies are sometimes sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age.
The ASPCA estimates that there are between 6,000 and 10,000 commercial breeding facilities in the U.S. That means that as many as tens of thousands of dogs are enduring lives of abuse and neglect—all in the name of profit—and we refuse to rest until every single mill dog is safe.
If you are ready to stand with us against puppy mills, join us this Monday, July 21, as we celebrate No Pet Store Puppies Day. We believe that no dog should suffer for profit, and we are making progress toward ending this abuse. But we can’t do it alone. Here are five ways you can help puppy mill dogs on No Pet Store Puppies Day.
1. Watch and share our latest video about why puppy mills are no laughing matter to spread awareness about pet store puppies.
In January, the ASPCA was called in to assist with the rescuing, sheltering and placement of more than 40 dogs from a large, substandard breeding facility in Nancy, Kentucky. The dogs were discovered in filthy, deplorable conditions, with little or no shelter from the below-freezing temperature. Many suffered from untreated medical conditions. Others were living in overcrowded conditions inside the home, without proper care or socialization. While 37 of the dogs rescued were placed into local shelters for adoption, six others were suffering from deeper psychological trauma that meant they couldn’t be placed in new homes just yet.
Dusty Bottoms, a three-pound, tan-and-white Chihuahua, was one of these dogs. ASPCA experts at the scene noticed immediately how fearful Dusty was. When they reached into his cage, he would cower against the back of the enclosure to avoid contact at all costs and would yelp and cry even without being touched. Dusty and five other pups like him were transferred to the ASPCA’s Behavioral Rehabilitation Centerin Madison, New Jersey, where they underwent intensiverehabilitation to help them learn to trust people.
After a lot of patience, love, and hard work, we’re happy to report that Dusty has made a full recovery! In honor of Monday’s No Pet Store Puppies Day, we want to share with you his amazing story, in the words of the staff at the Behavioral Rehabilitation Center that cared for him after his rescue.
March 5, 2014: Dusty Bottoms—named after one of the Three Amigos!—is just beginning his treatment with us after arriving at the ASPCA Behavioral Center from a Kentucky puppy mill raid. Dusty has some challenges that we will need to work on. He is fearful and suspicious of everyone. When on a leash, he is reactive to strangers and often barks, lunges and snaps when handled. During his time with us, we will focus on reducing Dusty’s fear of walking on a leash, petting and handling, and new environments and people.
March 30, 2014: Dusty is coming along nicely. He is becoming very comfortable with me and the other rehabilitation trainers and is even serving as a “helper dog” for another dog from the same case! We frequently pair fearful dogs with more confident, friendly dogs who have made progress in our program. The presence of "helper dogs" reduces anxiety and speeds along treatment. To overcome Dusty’s hesitation to approach new people, we are incorporating the use of “real-life rooms” and other scenarios that he’ll encounter when he’s adopted.
April 5, 2014: Dusty continues to make progress. During treatments, unfamiliar people toss him food while sitting on the floor in a non-threatening manner. Most times, Dusty builds enough confidence with them to be able to approach an outstretched hand and touch it with his nose to earn food rewards. This is helping Dusty build a positive association with people and their hands, which frighten most dogs with Dusty’s background.
We believe that no dog should suffer for profit, and we are determined to keep the momentum of these last six months going. If you are ready to stand against puppy mills, stand with the ASPCA. Join the fight by making a donation today.