CHANTILLY, Va. - From cold metal cages to warm homes, more than two dozen puppies have been rescued and placed in foster homes in our area.
This weekend, Kim Showalter's townhouse in Chantilly, Va., has become a foster home for one of 24 Yorkshire Terrier puppies and one Chihauhua mixed-breed recovered from a Tuscumbia, Ala., puppy mill, where conditions were so bad, some newborn puppies were found dead in their cages.
"No one likes to see anything in pain and suffering and anything we can do to stop that is what we can do, especially this time of year," says Showalter, who has volunteered her home for the animal rescue group A Forever Home Rescue Foundation.
In bone-chilling weather, an Alabama breeder kept 122 of the puppies in outdoor cages, until authorities moved in Wednesday and confiscated them.
That's when A Forever Home swung into action. Patti Stinson helped coordinate the long-distance rescue.
"Puppies were being born and they were freezing to the bottom of the metal cages, and I think in all my years this is absolutely the worst thing that I have ever heard of," Stinson says.
Stinson has more than 20 years experience in animal rescue and her forearms bear tattoos of her career, including paw prints, the words "rescue angel" and a love message to Fatboy, her sheep dog that died in August.
Stinson dispatched 34-year-old Chris Evans of Arlington and 25-year-old Allison Lennox of Shirlington to mount the 27-hour round-trip to Alabama to rescue 25 of the puppies.
"A lot of them were cold, it was pretty chilly down there…some of them were shaking…it was a good mixture of scared, wet and cold pups," Evans says.
The puppies had been removed from the puppy mill and transported to the Colbert County Animal Shelter where Evans and Lennox encountered a somewhat hostile crowd of locals who did not want the animals taken from Alabama.
"There wasn't a riot or anything like that but people were kind of bombarding the shelter trying to get in and trying to get us out of there," Lennox says.
Sheriff's deputies were summoned to help control the crowd.
Evans and Lennox loaded the 25 pups aboard their van and made the drive back to Northern Virginia, which Evans describes as uneventful.
So far this weekend, the pups have received medical care. All will be neutered or spayed before being put up for adoption.
It was a costly rescue, Stinson says. The costs of medical care for the rescued puppies could reach $10,000.
But the good news is puppies that lived their whole lives in cold metal outdoor cages are sleeping in warm dog beds now and some may be feeling human contact for the first time in their young lives.
"I don't think a lot of them have been held before, it might be the first time," says Evans.
As the rescue team delivered them to their foster care givers, the puppies seemed uncertain of their future.
"They were shaking and you tried to hand them off and they gripped your shirt," Lennox says.
But their future is bright. Following medical care, they will be put up for adoption, within about three weeks.
But the rescue job apparently is not over.
Authorities in Colbert County, Ala., may have discovered a second secret site run by the busted dog breeder -- another 90 puppies. And that's not all.
"We were just notified of another southern puppy mill ... there's a possibility we will be working on yet another case," Stinson says.
The group would welcome any financial support for the costly rescues. Donations can be given through the group's website.
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