Nearly 100 dogs were rescued Friday in Iowa when officials discovered an apparent puppy mill during a routine welfare check at a licensed breeder.
A deputy conducted a welfare check on Sara Stanfield, a woman who was missing at the time, and saw many neglected dogs in what looked to be a puppy mill, according to a Boone County Sheriff news release.
Stanfield is connected to the Paris Puppies Paradise breeding facility but authorities don't know the extent of her involvement in the degraded condition of the facility, Boone County Sheriff Andrew Godzicki shared.
The facility owner cooperated with authorities and agreed to surrender approximately 93 dogs, according to the release. However, some dogs remain at the site and the owner continues to cooperate with authorities.
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'The dogs were living in their own feces and urine'
Animal control authorities were called in along with representatives from the Boone Area Humane Society and the Animal Rescue League of Iowa.
"When we arrived the smell hit us before we even entered the buildings," the ARL wrote in a Facebook post. "The dogs were living in their own feces and urine, including some pregnant mamas and newborn puppies. Many of the dogs were matted and some incredibly thin."
The ARL carried the dogs one by one to clean crates and quickly set up temporary housing to meet the unexpected influx of dogs as most their kennels were already full, the post states. The ARL's medical team also gathered large supplies to care for each dog.
The Boone County Sheriff's Office is currently investigating the case and no determination on criminal charges has been made as of Wednesday.
A representative for the sheriff's office told USA TODAY said no animals were forcibly taken from the owner. with insight from the Department of Agriculture. Officials visited the facility again later for a follow up inspection and saw conditions improved.
Pet rescuers ask for help to care for puppies
"When the dogs arrived, our teams worked into the evening to make sure they were all cared for and comfortable," the ARL post said. "These dogs are now safe, but with such a large number coming in at once, we can’t do this alone."
ARL's team has set up temporary housing to help with the new wave of dogs. In a post, officials wrote that the dogs are safe, but that the team needs help with funding to care for them. Donations can be made through their website, arl-iowa.org, or via Venmo, @ARL-Iowa.
What are puppy mills?
The Humane Society defines a puppy mill as an "inhumane, commercial dog breeding facility in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits."
These breeders often sell puppies at pet stores, online or directly to consumer at flea markets, according to the Humane Society.
How many puppy mills are there in the US?
The Humane Society estimates that at least 10,000 puppy mills exist across the country. Of these nearly 3,000 are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
The organization added that most puppy mills are legal, with 16 states not having any laws relating to them.
Why do dogs suffer in puppy mills?
Dogs living in puppy mills are treated like cash crops according to PAWS. The animals living in these conditions often suffer or die due to:
Malnutrition or starvation due to insufficient or unsanitary food and water
Receiving little or no veterinary care even if they are sick or dying
Solely living in overcrowded cages with minimal shelter from extreme weather
Adult animals are also often bred repeatedly until they can no longer produce more and are then discarded, Paws reports.
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This article originally appeared on Des Moines Register: Nearly 100 dogs rescued from apparent puppy mill in Iowa