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PEYTON, Colo. — Tucked away on the plains east of Colorado Springs is a haven for discarded dogs.

National Mill Dog Rescue is located in Peyton, Colorado.

Volunteers have rescued nearly 7,000 dogs since it was founded in 2007. They receive necessary veterinary care, then are rehabilitated and adopted to loving homes.

Almost all the dogs that are rescued by the organization are purebreds and have been released by commercial breeders for various reasons.

Among them – the dogs may not be able to produce puppies any longer, they may be old or sick, or the breeder might be going out of business.

When puppies are given up, it might be because they are too old to sell to pet stores.

National Mill Dog Rescue works with the breeders to take the dogs they no longer want.

Theresa Strader, the founder of the organization says, “I was quickly able to work actually directly with breeders building that trust relationship. I say, ‘Look, I don’t like what I see but you know, I’m not here to tell you how to run your life or whatever, I’m here to say I’m willing to take the dogs that you no longer need or want, that you are going to euthanize – kill in various ways – some of them are unsavory, some of them with a vet.  We’re willing to take those dogs and find them a place.’”

National Mill Dog Rescue began because of a dog named Lily.

Theresa Strader rescued Lily from a dog auction in Missouri. The breeder was going out of business, and hundreds of dogs were being sold. 

Lily was an Italian Greyhound that was 7-years-old. 

Strader recalls the moment she saw Lily. “Seeing Lily in that cage, it didn’t take five seconds for me to know what I’m going to do with the rest of my life. Lily was disfigured.  She was missing her lower jaw just from years of no dental care. Her jaw literally rotted off.  I could see that in the cage. It was very dim in there but I could see her.  She was backed in the corner of the cage, her jaw was gone, and her tongue was hanging down.  She looked right into my eyes – right in my eyes.  And I whispered into that cage, I said, ‘I’m going to take you from this hell and love you ‘til you die.’  She came across the auction block for $20. I got that dog for $20, and because of that dog, for my family and everything we give to this organization every day; it is all in honor of that dog. “

Critics say there are dogs in Colorado shelters that are waiting to be adopted and that additional animals should not be brought in from other states.

While Strader agrees that dogs currently in shelters in Colorado are deserving of homes, she disagrees that rescuing so-called “puppy mill” survivors compromises their chances of being adopted.

“First of all, you can’t turn somebody who wants that Malti-Poo puppy or that Poodle puppy or that Yorkie puppy  –  they’re not necessarily going to run down to a shelter and get a Pit Bull  or a Lab mix or whatever – also extremely deserving dogs.  Hopefully, some of the dogs we bring back will satisfy that.  The truth is, until somebody has seen a dog living the way that they do in a big commercial breeding farm, until you’ve seen and experienced that, you might not make too much comment on whether or not those dogs deserve to be rescued.”

Strader stresses while National Mill Dog Rescue will not turn away any animal in need, its primary mission is rescuing dogs from commercial breeding kennels.

“Are we going to continue to pretend this isn’t a big problem? Who is going to speak up for those dogs? If not us, then who?”

Strader was featured in People Magazine in its “Heroes Among Us” segment in the November 19, 2012 issue.  For more information about National Mill Dog Rescue, you can visit Phone: 719-495-DOGS (3647)

National Mill Dog Rescue is featured in the documentary, “I Breathe: Lily’s Legacy.” It is available on YouTube.

Story by: Jene Nelson