On New Year's Eve, I was in on the sharing end of a photo taken of a New York dog breeding property by advocate Eric Bellows. The situation looked dismal. Dogs were in snow piled runs with only plastic barrels for shelter. It was reported there were puppies out in the below zero temperatures.
The targeted breeder was Flat Creek Border Collies in Sprakers, NY. One of the FB comments on this feed was from a person who lived five minutes down the road and the dogs always seemed healthy so they didn't see what the problem was.
There were also plenty of comments rallying to call the authorities and have the situation checked out. Bellows took his last bales of hay over to give the dogs some insulation. The state police paid the breeder a visit, finding no violation of New York state law since the basics were provided--shelter, food and water. The law is vague with respect to exposure to extreme temperatures which have been below zero since the alert first went out.
Keep in mind there are possibly 100 puppies and dogs involved here, according to the International Business Times, which provides an overview of what has and is transpiring, with a judge determining there was enough evidence to hold a hearing today. Facebook pages have been created to rally both sides of the situation.
Flat Creek Border Collies breeder's listing on Breeders.net shows dogs and puppies out in the snow, but who would assume that this is where they live all the time? Stating that they have been breeding for 30 years, the listing notes they have many colors of Border Collies and show only a few of the puppies available. Information notes their bloodlines come from England and Scotland. That sounds like a good sized investment in the dogs they chose to breed.
Further investigation shows that they breed more than Border Collies, but the site showing the other breeds has been taken down. Photos have been posted to Facebook showing Shitzus and other breeds in similar conditions also on the property, though there are some actual dog houses in these pictures.
Things have changed the past 30 years, including state laws, the growing intolerance for puppy mills, and the ability to bring situations to light in an instant. What was acceptable even a decade ago, is not in the heightened awareness of abuse and neglect to which social media has contributed. Instead of a dozen concerned advocates, thousands can get involved.
The Lexus Project, legal defense fund for dogs stepped up because one person shared what he saw and networking spread the situation far and wide. As of this afternoon, a judge found that the dogs were not properly sheltered. Montgomery County SPCA brought in two large rescue trucks to remove 40 of the adult dogs, leaving four on the property who have proper dog houses for shelter. The puppies are snuggled up inside and are not to be outside unless it is at least 32 degrees during the day or 45 degrees at night, according to The Lexus Project's update on the court hearing.
The New York law allows lots of room for interpretation unlike Minnesota or Cleveland, OH where if the police find your animal left outside in this weather, it will be seized and you will be fined. In this case, the owner has until January 21, when a review hearing will be held, to build 24 dog houses with proper insulation.
There's no doubt there are situations like this all over the country, whether at a residence or commercial breeders' property. For dogs in New York State, there is a bill pending, A. 740, the Pet Dealer Law, that would have eliminated the ambiguity on the part of law enforcement. Those who wish to help these dogs can donate to the Montgomery County SPCA or contact Gov. Cuomo's office to bring his attention to A. 740 which was delivered to his office on Dec. 30, 2013 for signing.
How far do we go to protect the animals?
Sometimes we don't have to go far at all as one connection after another was made on behalf of the Sprakers, NY dogs. Sometimes we're the ones taking food and water to a makeshift shelter to assist in the capture of shy stray dogs. Sometimes we're the ones in the extreme cold documenting a situation. And sometimes we're the one explaining why there are extra animals in the house or barn, "just for a little while," until a long-term foster home can be found for a newly rescued animals.
As long as we do what we can, when we can, we become part of the solution. It is when we ignore the pleas for help that we condone what is happening by our inaction.