“Right now we’re looking at approximately 40 dogs and about 10 cats or so,” said Joanne Bourbeau of the Humane Society of the U.S.
A disturbing scene in Hardwick– police and animal rescuers corralling dozens of dogs from a home on Benway Drive where investigators say backyard breeders have been churning out puppies for a profit.
“I know they had plans to sell them. You know they were just acquiring them and breeding them,” said Sue Skaskiw of Vermont Volunteer Services for Animal Humane Society.
And it may have been going on for years. After a two week investigation police had enough evidence to bust the illegal puppy mill.
“We gave the homeowners the option to either hand the dogs and the cats over to the Humane Society or we would execute the search warrant,” Hardwick Police Chief Joe LaPorte said.
With an $18,000 fine on the line, the homeowners willingly handed over dog after dog. The Humane Society said the animals did not appear to be malnourished, but their bigger concern with packs of uncrated animals was the unsanitary condition inside the home.
“I’ve seen worse but it’s not something anyone could live in. It certainly posed a risk to your health,” Skaskiw said.
Animal advocates say fines are not enough and that cases like this highlight the need for stiffer statewide regulations carrying jail time for illegal pet breeders.
“The fact that there are backyard breeders and puppy mills who can do this without any sort of local or state regulation is a serious concern,” Bourbeau said.
Puppy mills caught the attention of Vermont lawmakers back in April. There’s currently legislation pending that would ban anyone from more than 50 dogs under the age of 6 months for the purpose of breeding. Many other states have already enacted similar laws. Animal advocates in Vermont say this is a step in the right direction.
“I just wish people would speak up more often because this is all around the state. It’s not just here in Hardwick,” Skaskiw said.
The animals will be quarantined, spayed and neutered, and checked for contagious diseases. Because such a high number were seized they’ll be split between Vermont and New Hampshire Humane Societies. Some of them will be eligible for adoption.