Puppies are small and helpless creatures who need our love and care. Now imagine a puppy that has never had human interaction and lives its days in a cramped cage with inadequate care. On top of that, this small dog has a birth defect. This is the scene in many puppy mills across the nation. Inhumane and cruel, puppy mill breeders often euthanize small dogs with birth defects, but that’s where Safehaven Small Breed Rescue steps in. This Pennsylvania rescue rescues and rehabilitates dogs that otherwise wouldn’t make it to a pet store from a puppy mill. We spoke to the rescue’s chair Teri Walters about the struggles and success of Safehaven Small Breed Rescue. Read more below in BestBullySticks Rescue Spotlight.

When & Why did you start?

Safehaven Small Breed Rescue was founded in 2006 when a little senior Shih Tzu breeder named Pooh came into our care. She had many illnesses due to her previous neglect and other rescues and shelters had suggested euthanasia. We saw something in her eyes that said she was not ready to leave this world, so we gave her a chance. With proper veterinary care and a lot of love, Pooh healed and went on to live another 6 years, happy and content with her life. She made us realize that many of the dogs deemed “unadoptable” and euthanized by other rescues just needed the time and care to heal. Many of these dogs have never been kindly touched, or showed gentle affection, cowering at any hand coming towards them. They needed to learn that people could be kind. This we could provide, thus, Safehaven was born.

What’s different about your rescue?

Safehaven specializes in special needs and handicapped puppy mill dogs. We often take in puppies with congenital issues and breeders who need special care due to age, blindness, or illness. We offer these dogs the veterinary care they so desperately need and a safe, cage-free place to recover and learn about a whole new world with people who love them. We are a no-kill rescue euthanizing only when all other avenues of care have been exhausted and it is recommended by our trusted veterinarians to alleviate pain and suffering.

What is the greatest success story or “win” that your rescue has had?

Amber was a 4-year-old, thin, frightened Yorkshire Terrier who was surrendered by the mill owner because she “stopped producing”. Upon examination by our veterinarian, two masses were found in her abdomen. At some point during two pregnancies, Amber’s uterus had ruptured, first one side, then the other. Inside her abdomen were two mummified puppies of different litters. This should have killed her from hemorrhage or infection, but Amber somehow survived. She received the four hour surgery to remove the puppies and repair the damage done to her organs. During her recovery, Amber learned to trust people. She slowly began to like being touched, being held and pampered. Amber’s life was changing for the better. After a 15-week recovery, Amber was ready to begin a new chapter in her life, adoption into a wonderful family where she would live out her life in comfort. (Before & After photos above)

Hannah was born in a puppy mill with bilateral elbow luxation, this means that both of her elbows were dislocated. She would never walk like a normal dog. Pups born with these defects are normally killed by the breeder or used as breeders themselves, but Hannah was spared. Hannah was turned over to Safehaven and the process of making Hannah whole began. Her love of life and exploration made her no different from any other puppy, only her physical disability kept her from living life to its fullest. She deserved a chance at a normal life. At 5 months of age, Hannah was transferred to Dr. Tomas Infernuso’s care, where her elbows were surgically fused. Although Hannah is still in recovery, she already has an approved adoptive home to go to after she is healed. It is our hope that she will be able to run and play as normally as possible.

What’s the most rewarding thing about working at your rescue?

The most rewarding thing about working with these particular dogs is watching them discover a whole new world. Many of them have lived in small wire cages for their entire lives, some as long as 10 years, and to see them feel grass beneath their feet or the sun on their backs for the very first time is both fulfilling and amazing. Teaching them about a world they never knew existed, healing their pain and showing them the love that can be theirs is the best part of our job.

What can people do to help your rescue?

Safehaven Small Breed Rescue is run entirely by volunteers. We have no paid employees and all funds raised through donations and fundraisers are used to provide veterinary care and nutritious food for our rescues. We have many ways people can help: volunteer, foster or provide financial or in kind support. Please visit our website at http://safehavensmallbreedrescue.org or follow us on Facebook for more information on ways you can be a part of our rescue effort.

Thank you to Safehaven Small Breed Rescue for all they do! View all of BestBullySticks Rescue Spotlights for a great inspiration stories and photos!