34 Kerry Blue Terriers Rescues from Puppy Mill Auction

By Bonnie Unsworth with Sharon Crockett, 2 Kerry owners/rescue volunteers from Fort Lauderdale, FL, and adopters of one of these.

Photos by Connie Stuckly

First, I apologize for what I may have left out and then for maybe writing too much. This is one of those experiences in life where description can't begin to measure up to the magnitude of the event.

Think - purchase, transport, house, feed, bath, clip, exercise, medicate and find homes for 34 very neglected and mostly abused Kerry Blue Terriers over the course of 7 days. It was heart wrenching to see so much cruelty to animals, and also uplifting to see the great love and hard work that accomplished this task.

The National Kerry Blue Terrier Foundation set out to rescue possibly 34 Kerrys from a puppy mill auction in Missouri on March 18, 2006. The Stuckly family volunteered their, home, farm buildings and many of their friends for the labor and staging area. A bidder was hired to maintain some anonymity with Connie Stuckly as backup bidder. Connie and her friends were there with a U-Haul truck and 34 crates. Most were purchased for the occasion and Connie offered the use of hers.

To the surprise of many, all 34 were bought at very low prices. It was clear at least one puppy mill was getting out of the Kerry business. There were about 4 nine month old puppies (one is now part of my home) that were kept for breeding. The rest were 2 to 6 years old. One bitch had 8 week old pups that were scooped up by one of the mills before we could get to them. (One of these pups turned up at a pet store in Georgia two weeks later.) Any way, every one was elated and braced for the job ahead.

4 volunteers (2 from New England) from the Kerry Foundation were there to help with bathing, hair cutting (can't say grooming) and do what they could to lend a hand. The foundation Rescue Director came from CA to determine placement and make arrangements to fly the dogs from 2 airports in Iowa and 1 in IL.

3/18/06 - After the purchase, 34 Kerrys were put in crates and trucked 4 hours to the staging site in Oxford, Iowa. They were unloaded with most crates put in a small barn and a few in a larger barn. The Stuckley family and their friends had the enormous task of managing and orchestrating the care, feeding, bathing, rotating exercise and cleaning cages for 34 of the hairiest Kerrys ever. This soon included medicating as well.

Sharon and I flew to Chicago on Saturday and drove 4 hours to Coralville, Iowa. I jokingly told my friends that I was going to the heartland and as it turned out that was the name of the hotel. (Needless to say I did not make the arrangements so it was a great surprise).

3/19/06 - Sunday
First day of bathing & grooming. Got to the staging area about 7am and immediately helped with running the dogs. Not really running. The Stucklys had 4 stakes in the ground with long lines. The dogs were tied to these & left to run and enjoy being out. The first day pretty much all of them pooped in their cages. Tony Stuckly hosed the insides, and we disinfected them. The dogs were put back in their crates and we took some more out. 34 crates of poop is a lot. The dogs were assessed for injuries and temperament. All except one were very mild mannered and sweet. Needless to say this was a long arduous job.

Sharon bathed while Mimi (from New Hampshire) and I groomed. That day Connie's friends helped with drying which took some time as Kerrys have pretty thick coats. We did 11 dogs that day. (The next day without drying assistance we only did about 9)

That's the production picture. Now for the sad stuff (and some good follow-up stuff).

Sunday, the Oxford vet Dr. Jonelle Hankner and vet tech Brandy came to access overall medical problems and took the critical ones to her kennel. Many dogs had extreme problems and almost all had minor ones like ear and eye infections and yet a vet associated with the puppy mills signed health certificates for all ( these were needed to auction them). There is blatant payoff somewhere, as it was discovered there were 2 forms with the same Vets name and 2 very different signatures.

One 3 year old dog had a hole in her face that went all the way through to her smashed teeth and jaw. This was an old injury that had healed over, but the hole was still there. Dr. Hankner said it was caused by a very heavy object. We suspect she was a barker that pisse- off someone. She was immediately taken to the Vet's kennel. Just before we left I had the courage to look at her (I faint at the site of my own blood). A very dear timid dog. Like all were wondering what is happening to them.

The good news about Shelby (the group named her) is she went to a loving family in New York State and has actually had reconstructive surgery.

Another lovely little one looked like she had no eye. It was just a pink hole. After her hair was cut and she was bathed the vet found an eye. There was so much hair around it no one could see an eye. I guess the pink we saw was the lover lid turned inside out. Really don’t understand it. But everyone was thrilled of course. Recently we learned her new owners took her to a Veterinary Opthomoligist. The eye had been punctured and was not savable. However she also has a loving home and a new life.

Another dog looked blind. It took Sharon an hour or so to bath and clean his eyes (they were totally gooked shut). He opened his eyes and was so very happy. That one was a real sweet heart. After we groomed him Rachel took him out on the leash and he just danced & jumped for pure joy (photo below). That’s why many do this rescue work.

Personally, I really did not have expectations, or really know what I was getting in to. I was appalled and disgusted about it all. Overwhelmed with sadness. These dogs were clearly never bathed or even groomed in the slightest. A prime example of how these dogs suffer in the hands of puppy mills was one dog that had a huge ball of poop attached to the hair around his rectum. We had to cut it off, then all kinds of really disgusting smelly stuff came out. It was impacted in there for a long time and probably traveled back to other organs. The knowledgeable folks around us said as how the stench was clearly a medical problem which name I can not recall.

Some dogs had been shaved probably a month before the auction. They never shaved around their faces & neck though and the hair around their eyes and face was overwhelming. As we ran out of time we mainly trimed those dogs faces. Some dogs, the 9 month old puppies especially had dreadlocks. The hair had never been cut. I'd say at least half had dreadlocks. Remember a Kerry grows hair about an inch a month. I suspect they shave the dogs once a year period.

Another sadness was one male who had no strength in his hind legs from living his life in a cage. Most had paws that were splayed - like flat feet - from standing in a wire floor cage for so long. The Iowa people call it crows feet.

3/20/06 - Monday
We lost our dryer volunteers so it took a lot longer and more very sad stuff. To better manage those that were scheduled to be shipped and those that still needed grooming and veting, the Stecklys took 10 or so to a near by kennel with runs. All were rotated every day for exercise, etc. Of course this meant trucking 10 dogs in crates back and forth. But it was good for the dogs and easier to monitor what had to be done with each.

Dr. Hankner came today and plucked everyone's ears, clip nails (think 4 inch nails), medicated eyes and ears and whatever else was needed. Now, as well as feed and exercise the dogs, they all had to be medicated every day. The Stucklys did all this. They organized it all and did the labor required. Bryce Stuckly was working beside his father everyday.

It snowed last night. A beautiful 2 inches. Snowing this am, a delight to see and it stopped before things were treacherous. I'm from the NE, lived in FL for 25 years now so I haven't seen snow for at least 20 years. It was a treat for us and a nuisance for the locals. The Kerrys had a ball playing in the snow.

The first dogs were shipped out today. The 2 Kerry Foundation volunteers from NH and MA took 9 dogs to O'Hare. The volunteers left as well, and one of them adopted from this group.

Sharon, me and Stuckly friends continued the never ending bathing and clipping. Connie, Tony and Bryce continued the never ending switching dogs from farm to kennel and medicating and feeding and cleaning crates for all.

6 dogs were shipped today. Connie's friends took them to 2 different airports in Iowa.

11 dogs shipped today from Ceder Rapids. Connie's volunteers had to leave at 3 am with the Kerry Coordinator to accomplish this. Sharon and I left with our rescued 9 month old and 2 other dogs to ship from O'Hare.

The Kerry Rescue coordinator took 5 dogs (including Shelby) to ship out of O'Hare.

I'm not sure if that all adds up. But a hell of a lot of Kerrys now have a wonderful new life thanks to the Stuckly family and their friends who orchestrated this rescue for the Kerry Blue Foundation.


Follow-up Stories

Sharon's rescued Kerry in the middle. She was not sure about boating this first time out. Her second time out she loved it.