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The Perfect Holiday Gift Is Not Available In Stores

Harley survived 10 years of abuse in a puppy mill before he was finally rescued. Now he’s one of the nation’s foremost advocates against these abusive facilities. For his heroics he was named the American Hero Dog at the 2015 American Humane Association Hero Dog Awards.


This holiday gift is not available in stores: If you’re like me, you still have a lot of holiday shopping ahead. This holiday season, many families will be looking to add a four-legged friend, or two, to their families, but this is one instance when I’m urging you to not shop, but to adopt.

Puppies and kitties in pet stores may look adorable and ready to come home with you, but so many of those animals were born in abusive facilities known as puppy mills. Right now, in this country, some 10,000 puppy mills are generating millions of puppies each year. These facilities are often horrific, especially for the breeder dogs, who may never see the light of day as long as they live.

What kind of abuses are we talking about? Let me introduce you to my friend Harley, the little Chihuahua with the huge heart.

Meet Harley

Harley spent 10 years living in a small cage in a puppy mill before he was rescued and found a loving home. His journey of physical and emotional healing inspired a campaign called “Harley to the Rescue,” which has raised funds to save (and provide medical care for) dogs from puppy mills. As a spokes-dog against puppy mills, Harley has educated thousands of people, of all ages, about the horrors of the commercial dog breeding industry, which packs hundreds, even thousands, of dogs into unsanitary wire crates with only six inches to move in each direction. Harley’s grizzled appearance is a testament to the care and nurturing that he had never received. He had issues: a diseased heart, a mouth filled with rot, a fused spine, a broken tail, gnarled toes, and legs that were deformed. And then there is the missing eye as the result of his cage being power-washed with him in it (an all too common practice in puppy mills).

All of these conditions were the result of years of horrendous neglect and abuse. Harley is a voice for the huge numbers of breeding dogs still living in puppy mills, for which he was named American Humane Association’s 2015 American Hero Dog.

Adopt instead from your local shelter

Your local shelter is the perfect place to find dogs and cats of every type, size, age and personality – all waiting for a loving home. Or, if you prefer a particular breed that isn’t currently available at a shelter, go online to find a legitimate breed-specific rescue group in need of adopters like you.

Need help getting started? Our friends at PetFinder have a wonderful online database of reputable shelters and rescue groups, and they also have a search function that enables you to search for specific breeds available for adoption in your area. A new furry friend is the perfect holiday gift any family will love. And as I discussed last month, senior dogs, like Harley, are perfect for grandparents and grandkids alike due to their often calmer demeanor.

To support American Humane Association’s ongoing puppy mill campaign, please visit here.

I hope you and your family have a wonderful, restful holiday season, and prosperous, safe, and healthy New Year!

Dr. Robin Ganzert is the President and CEO of American Humane Association, the first national humane organization, and the only charity dedicated to the protection of both children and animals. She is the host of the weekly radio show “Be Humane with Dr. Robin Ganzert,” on Pet Life Radio, the number one pet network on the planet. In fall 2014 she published her first book, Animal Stars: Behind the Scenes with Your Favorite Animal Actors. You can follow her on Twitter at @robinganzert.


Christine Crosby

About the author

Christine is the co-founder and editorial director for GRAND Magazine. She is the grandmother of five and great-grandmom (aka Grandmere) to one. She makes her home in St. Petersburg, Florida.

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