Local Animal Control Officer Diane Treadwell, of Marblehead, recently traveled to Arkansas to support a raid on a huge puppy mill that resulted in the rescue of more than 175 dogs.
Treadwell, who serves as Marblehead's Assistant Animal Control Officer and works full-time as an Animal Control Officer in Swampscott, made the trip as a member of the state's animal emergency response team.
"Whenever there’s a situation, whether it's a disaster like Hurricane Katrina or a case like this one where someone discovers a puppy mill, we can get called in to help out," Treadwell said.
After the Garland Country Sheriff's Office raided a mill facility in Hot Springs, Ark., on Nov. 7, Treadwell joined a host of other workers, operating on behalf of the ASPCA and the International Fund for Animal Welfare, and spent 10 days overseeing the medical triage and sheltering of the dogs they rescued.
The dogs - mainly small breeds such as Chihuahuas, West Highland white terriers, Boston terriers and dachshunds - were reportedly discovered living in feces-encrusted pens and deplorable conditions on the property, according to a release issued by the ASPCA.
Several deceased dogs were also discovered on the site and Pam Thomas, the owner of the facility, was subsequently arrested and charged with three counts of felony animal cruelty,
"There were a lot of dogs there that were in pretty rough shape and many of them were very fearful," Treadwell said. "At that point, you're just trying to give them TLC, which is something they've never had."
Treadwell said saving the dogs from the living conditions at the mill was a "very rewarding experience" because she knew that they would no longer be subjected to abuse and neglect.
"Most of the time when we deal with the possibility of a local abuse case, we have to go and do the paperwork and leave the animal there for the time being," Treadwell said. "In this instance, once we got them off of that property, we knew their lives were going to be better from then on."
According to the ASPCA, the raid came after a two-year investigation that included undercover visits and the purchase of puppies.
Although large mill operations like the one she helped raid in Arkansas aren't going to pop up in Marblehead any time soon, Treadwell pointed out that their impact is far-reaching and can land animals like the ones she helped save in area pet stores.
"People need to know that these mills do affect us. We have pet stores around here where people can go in and see all the cute little puppies and they don’t realize that for every one of them there's another dog in a cage somewhere," Treadwell said. "They just clean the puppies up and the healthy ones are sent out while the rest are left in a cage to suffer."