Iowa is currently #48 of the 50 states when it comes to animal protection laws. We are one of the worst states when it comes to sheer number of puppy mills. Right now, Iowa is home to somewhere around 230 puppy mills. One of the worst was Julie's Jewels in Jewell, IA - in last year's USDA inspection, awful conditions were reported, including one puppy with its leg chewed down to the bone. Julie's Jewels was recently shut down due to the owner's "poor health" - more likely due to bad press and negative media attention - and the dogs remaining (over 200) will be auctioned this weekend in Missouri.
This is a good thing, right? Well. It's a great thing that Julie's Jewels will no longer be up and running. Lots of people have purchased puppies from her, only to have them die a few days later. But an auction is no place for someone with a soft spot in their heart for animals. Most likely, the auction will be filled with other bad breeders and puppy-mill owners, who will try to outbid one another for dogs to take home and breed. Most of the dogs will not be given loving homes. They will be leaving one awful puppy mill...only to end up in another.
Rescues tend to stay away from dog auctions, for good reason. The bidders can sniff out those who are looking to rescue, and they often get thrown out because they are unable to keep themselves from saying something - it's such a disgusting process that animal advocates just can't stay silent. The expense of traveling to such an auction and bidding on dogs is also a huge issue - the majority of animal shelters would never be able to afford a trip like that.
I feel helpless. What can we do in these situations? I am only one person; my voice is small, and most will not hear it. There are so many animals in need, and I feel minuscule in comparison. I try to educate those who don't understand the importance of avoiding pet stores; I share stories and articles about adoption on social media. (Often losing followers/friends in the process.) What more can I do?
I love Iowa, but I hate that we have this dirty little secret. Please share with me in the comments your experience with puppy mills, and how you deal with feeling extremely little in the face of all this nastiness. For more info on puppy mills in Iowa, visit the People for Animals blog. Check out the post about her auction experiences, too. To read more about Julie's Jewels closing, click here.