Giving Back

Five Puppy Mill Survivors Get a Second Chance at Life

February 7, 2014 at 9:48 AM

BERKELEY HEIGHTS, NJ - “This is Sophie, the blind girl, sitting on her guide Lambchop. Next to her is Meryl, who is still a bit shy, a bit blind in one eye, but eating up a storm and getting cuddlier by the hour. I love them.” Sophie and Meryl are two among five puppy mill survivors who boarded a plane on January 30th to unknowingly begin their new lives.

Joanne Mullen, a remarkable woman who provides a hospice situation for puppy mill survivors, awaited the arrival of Pilots N Paws Vice President, Nick O’Connell, who was getting close to landing at FTC FBO at Morristown Airport in New Jersey. On board were sixteen dogs rescued by Home for Good, five of which were puppy mill survivors that Mullen was ready to adopt.

“I’m so excited,” Mullen said as she sat next to five empty carriers that would soon be filled. Pilots N Paws is a non-profit organization that connects animal rescues with volunteer pilots who assist with transport to help save the lives of animals in need. Pilot Keith Decker flew the first leg of the transport with the puppy mill survivors aboard from the Carolinas to Virginia where Pilot Nick O’Connell picked up the second leg. It is the mission of Pilots N Paws and Vice President O’Connell to give these animals a second chance at life.

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When Home for Good Dog Rescue asked Pilots N Paws to help with transport, pilots O’Connell and Decker jumped at the opportunity. Pilots N Paws ability to conduct air transport is a huge help to rescues and shelters who endure high transport costs. Home for Good Dog Rescue has formed a partnership with Pilots N Paws; their donated services to transport dogs to safety has been a lifesaver not only for the dogs, but also for Home for Good.

The facility where the five dogs came from is used for breeding Chihuahuas, Yorkies, Poms and Poodles, all small breed dogs. Officials are working on getting the facility to surrender the over 120 animals on its premises.  When asked about this not-so-reputable breeding facility, the shelter in the Carolinas who was working with the dogs from the case said, “We got thirteen out one time. I think eleven the next time. They came in with Pneumonia, missing teeth and all that. We’re trying to do the best we can.”

Mullen is no stranger to this type of situation; in 2012, Home for Good Dog Rescue transported 14-year-old mother, China and 12-year-old daughter, Doll to New Jersey from a breeding operation. China was blind and had various tumors from the years of neglect. She recently passed away, but had two good years free from a cage at a breeding facility thanks to Mullen. Doll, China’s daughter, is still alive and is described by Mullen as a “firecracker”, always making her laugh. Doll has no jaw because of the horrible effects of the lack of veterinary care provided to puppy mill dogs.

Having taken in senior puppy mill survivors for many years now, Mullen is familiar with small breed dogs, their health issues and behaviors. She speaks their language and understands them. Most important of all, she finds beauty in their imperfections. China and Doll’s conditions are common in puppy mills. The dogs are continuously bred in cramped and unsanitary facilities, receiving no medical attention or exercise outside of their crate. Many of them, like China and Doll, never see the light of day. Mullen has devoted her life to these dogs. She gives them the chance to thrive and is constantly amazed by their intelligence and ability to build trust despite their past. All five puppy mill survivors flown by Pilots N Paws are now living in the comfort of Mullen’s home with endless space, nutritious food and an abundance of love.

There was one final addition to Mullen’s five new family members: Emmy, a senior Chihuahua mix who came up on Home for Good Dog Rescue’s ground transport. Emmy was not a part of the puppy mill as the others were, but she came with her own problems. Emmy walks with an obvious limp and snores when she sleeps. She became a favorite at Home for Good as they waited for Mullen to bring her home. Home for Good initially thought Emmy’s limp was the result of a bad luxating patella. It turns out that she had broken her leg years ago and it was never fixed, so the break calcified. Emmy’s owner passed away and the children brought her to the local pound to be euthanized. Both the shelter and Home for Good saw life left in Emmy and refused to allow her to be put down. It is a good thing, too, because it sounds like Emmy has become a favorite among the rest of Mullen’s dogs. “Not only is [Emmy] housebroken and leash trained,” Mullen announced, “she is also a political genius and has blended in with all my dogs literally overnight. I’m not sure what she is saying that won them over so quickly. Maybe it’s her dramatic silly walk from her broken leg combined with some knock-knock jokes; she knocks on the door when she wants to go out!”

A few days after the flight, Mullen sent Home for Good an update on each of the puppy mill dogs. Aside from Emmy, none of the dogs had names. “I’ve named them Dottie, Lucy, Maude, Sophie and Meryl,” Mullen writes, “They are all so very different from each other. It’s a joy watching them gain confidence and trust. Thank you all for caring so much and helping these little ones to safety. And thank those wonderful pilots for me.”

The Humane Society of the United States estimates that more than 176,000 dogs are kept solely for breeding purposes, which does not include unlicensed puppy mills. Join in Mullen’s mission by educating others on the dangers of puppy mills.

Find out more about Pilots N Paws at Interested in becoming involved with your local dog rescue? Visit to become a foster, volunteer, adopter or supporter.

Stop by to say hello to Home for Good at their new location, 465 Springfield Avenue in Berkeley Heights. Their new location is also home to their brand new Home for Good Shoppe where you can go to shop for all of your doggy needs while giving back! All proceeds from the Home for Good Shoppe are put towards the organization’s rescue efforts.

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