The involvement of Sibernet-L began with a post by Betty Anne Shores on December 5, 1997, in which she forwarded a message from a Keeshond rescue person telling of a "commercial breeder" in Abilene, KS who was selling his entire stock of approximately 225 dogs, among which were supposed to be 26 Siberian huskies, for which he was asking $3000. His reason for selling them all was that his wife had found a much better job and would no longer be able to help him care for the dogs. Because he was planning to liquidate his business, the Keeshond rescue group had decided to try to get the entire group of dogs into rescue. One of them was pretending to be interested in buying the entire group so that she could start breeding dogs herself. She learned that he and his wife took care of all these dogs by using automatic equipment so that they never fed or watered the dogs personally. He claimed to have spent only $1700 for food for all the dogs over the year and said he had cleared $80,000 that year so far. He didn't keep track of who was due to go into heat when; he merely kenneled a male with a female when he noticed she was in heat. The puppies went to a broker at 8 weeks and presumably from there to pet shops. The Keeshond group offered to buy dogs for any other rescue group that wanted to get their breed out and could take responsibility for them immediately.
Betty Anne did not feel she could list these dogs as rescue dogs immediately because they were up for sale commercially. The question was whether Sibernet-L wanted to try to buy the Siberians and find homes for them after getting them healthy and neutered; presumably then they could be listed on the rescue site. After much discussion, people began to volunteer to collect funds (Barbara Branham), find homes (KP Nelson), and arrange transportation (Karen Sorrell), but we weren't able to get organized before we heard that the Siberians had been sold. At the same time someone blew the Keeshond rescue's cover by calling the farmer up, insulting him and calling him the scum of the earth. He in turn was so outraged that he refused to sell any dogs at all until things calmed down, but meanwhile we did learn that the Siberians were actually still available and that he was in fact willing to work with rescue groups. The Keeshond representative had visited the farm and reported that conditions were not bad at all if regarded purely as animal husbandry. While she felt it was clearly a puppy mill, the place itself was clean, the kenneling adequate and the dogs in general not unsocialized, although they were not of high quality and really should not have been bred. The farmer wanted his dogs to go to good people (and had, in fact, turned down offers from some people he didn't want to sell to) and even offered to give the rescue group tips on other places he felt should be investigated. He said he had bought some of his breeding stock from somewhere in Iowa that had terrible conditions.
So it devolved upon the individual rescue groups to negotiate with the farmer themselves. There began to be a lot of debate on Sibernet-L about whether we should do this at all, since the conditions there were not bad.
Arguments against were:
- We shouldn't be supporting puppy millers. We shouldn't set a precedent since we can't possibly clean up all the puppy mills ourselves.
- The Kansas City rescue group was already overloaded and could not take responsibility for these dogs.
- The money was needed worse elsewhere, since there were two other puppy mills that had been closed down recently and the dogs from those were in limbo. And we might want to save our money for emergencies such as the floods that were taking place in the upper Midwest and western provinces of Canada.
- Since these dogs were puppy mill dogs, they might not be very placeable as pets.
Arguments for doing so were:
- The conditions at this place weren't bad, but we couldn't guarantee that the dogs would be equally lucky if sold to someone else. Breeding dogs in this manner just isn't humane
- We should if possible get these dogs neutered for the good of the breed, as it appeared they were not good representatives of the breed.
- If these dogs were not purchased and neutered, there would be a cascade of puppies from them that would swamp the rescue groups anyway. If we spread these dogs out over the entire net, no one group would be responsible for a large number of them. (In the long run it did not work out quite that way, but it almost did.)
- The situation was not that the farmer was selling these dogs to buy new stock. He was liquidating his business, which is different from selling the dogs at an auction. We didn't feel that he would be making a profit on these dogs at the price he was asking. He had made his profits in using them for making puppies.
- The Sibernet-L auction was not intended for this but for on-going problems and would still be there for the other things. We would not be using monies from that for this project. In addition, the other current problems were either unclear situations or were being taken care of.
Eventually on December 29, 1997, after it became clear that enough people felt it was worth doing that we could collect sufficient funds, KP Nelson called the farmer and learned that he had 23 Siberians -- 5 males, 18 females, 5 of which had been bred. For these dogs he was asking $2750, but would negotiate if we bought all of them. KP was also willing to drive the 160 miles to Abilene from Lincoln, NE to purchase the dogs and get them on their way. (What a lady!) By January 1, 1998 we had enough homes and were working on transportation; on January 2, we learned that there were also 20 puppies that he would like to sell as a bunch. He would be able to get $100 each from a broker, but would sell them for $70 each if we bought them all. Now we needed more money! Three people, who preferred to remain anonymous, offered to lend enough money to buy the puppies if fund-raising would continue in the hopes of being at least partially repaid.
By January 6, KP had enough money in her rescue account to make things firmer with the farmer and she had begun to find out something about the individual dogs. On January 7, she drove to Abilene and picked up four of the pregnant females whose whelping dates were close so that the puppies would belong to us instead of to the farmer. She boarded them with a vet overnight and one of them whelped that night, producing two puppies and two more the next day, one of whom died. Meanwhile, Karen Sorrell was beginning to get transportation arranged in most directions, but still needed help in the direction of Kansas City and St. Louis. Rosemary Frieborn was also helping with arranging transportation and found someone in Wichita to move the dogs to the east toward Sidney Helen Sachs.
By January 9, we learned that W.I.S.H. had decided that they couldn't in all good conscience take the seven dogs they'd originally agreed to, but Pikes Peak Rescue in Colorado Springs and Sidney Helen Sachs in Tennessee leapt into the breach and picked up the slack. We had also learned that we would not be able to get 7 of the pups that were ready to go to a broker; the farmer's wife had made a commitment to the broker that he couldn't break lest she refuse to buy the puppies of his other breeds. KP still had nine dogs plus pups at the farmer's kennels awaiting transportation east and north, as she felt that they would be O.K. until we could find rides for them. Not only would this save us money, it would keep the puppies from exposure to a boarding kennel.
By January 10, the Colorado contingent was in Tonya Yount's care, 2 males, 5 bitches and their puppies - a total of 17 dogs. Thank you, Tonya! By January 11, the group going to Tennessee was on their way. But as of January 15, we still had dogs needing transport and arrangements were stalemated, especially between Kansas City and St. Louis. We had updates from Sidney and Tonya indicating that their dogs were doing better, having been very timid and scared at first. By January 17, however, Rosemary Frieborn had found a transportation service that was set up to transport dogs and she had chartered it to take the remaining dogs east, making three stops to get them to Indiana, Michigan and a link to Maryland, and on January 22, every dog was in the care of foster or adoptive homes and had a chance it didn't have before.
Almost all had a health problem, if only parasites, of some sort, but have been nursed back into reasonable condition. For example, one young bitch taken by Laurie Stevens whelped and had to be removed from the puppies because she was really just a terrified yearling puppy herself. She was clueless as to what to do with puppies. Another older bitch, who was a very good and experienced mama, was cared for by Sandy Hetz and had a litter of six, of which she lost five, apparently because of worms that they inherited from their mother.
Ultimately, every dog was neutered and they and their pups found homes somewhere, with the exception of two: one male had to be put down because it proved to be food aggressive in spite of an otherwise engaging personality and Laurie Stevens' female just couldn't adjust to living with humans. Another was adopted but ran away on its first night from what was to be its new home and was killed by a car. There are still a small number that have been guaranteed a place by their foster homes, but would be adoptable in order to give them more personal attention. They all owe the dramatic betterment in their lives to the chance given them by the Sibernet effort and especially the efforts of the people mentioned above. If we translate their "woo-woo", they would be saying "Thank you, Sibernet, for all that you did for us."