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Group aims at better life for dogs

CHARLOTTE Tammy Hall of Charlotte will slide behind the steering wheel of a van and steel herself for a 12-hour drive. The trip isn't a vacation, but it does have a satisfying goal: rescuing small dogs who are in danger of neglect and death. Now celebrating its first anniversary, the Champlain Valley Pug and Small Breed Rescue, has saved about 140 animals since its inception, Hall said. The epicenter of the group's efforts is southeast Ohio, where a concentration of Amish so-called puppy mills exists. Hall said the owners of the mills are aware she and the other workers are coming, and generally offers no resistance when they arrive. Because the notion that animals are meant to be kept, and don't have any emotional merit, many Amish opt to run puppy mills, Hall said. Hall noted that the dogs range in age from puppies through adults when taken into custody, and more females than males are rescued. She reasoned that females are needed for breeding purposes, and only one male is needed to father a litter. The puppy mills are located in barns and houses and healthy puppies are sent to pet stores, she said. "Sick puppies are left behind and are put to sleep," Hall said. Between two to four workers with the Champlain Valley Pug and Small Breed Rescue make the trip, with the group running up a $500 expense tab for the effort. The only stops along the 750-mile route out to Ohio are for gassing up the organization's vehicle and other bathroom breaks for the volunteers. On the way back, the van pulls off the road to feed, water and walk the dogs, Hall said. Hall estimates the group makes the trip to the Buckeye State every six to eight weeks. Once rescued, the dogs are placed in foster homes prior to adoption. The only caveat that exists is that would-be owners must be willing to travel to Vermont to pick-up their pet, Hall added. "This is a gear-up week," Hall said. "It's like a roller coaster. The next two weeks, the dogs will be placed on PETFINDER.com, and then the e-mails and phone calls are consistent." The path to adopting one of these rescue dogs starts with filling out an application found on the organization's website. Once that is examined, the group may visit an applicant's home and a visit with the dog in his or her foster home. If the interested party has other pets, they may be asked to bring them to meet the dog, Hall said. There is a two-week "trial period" where the dog can be returned if the placement doesn't work out, Hall said. Hall, who is married with three children, lives on a dairy farm in Charlotte. As president of the group, she is enthusiastic about the benefits the work offers. "It makes a difference," Hall said. "You can't save all the animals, but you can help when you can." For Sue McGranaghan of Milton, her work with the organization has added a dimension to her life that is only fulfilled by her interaction with animals. "I want to help dogs that are in need of love and care," she said. "I want to help and to be able to place them in homes where they will get warmth and a safe place to live." For more information on the Champlain Valley Pug and Small Breed Rescue, visit, www.cvpug.org.

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