Puppy farm 'breeding machine' is top dog after dramatic rescue
After five years in captivity as a virtual "breeding machine", one of the first dogs to be re-homed following the unprecedented seizure of more than 350 dogs from a puppy farm earlier this year is living, barking proof that every dog has its day.
Millie, a five-year-old cocker spaniel, was emaciated, covered in mange and scared of both light and people after being imprisoned as a canine "battery hen" on a filthy puppy farm in Co Carlow when gardai, animal welfare officers and local council authorities swooped on a premises in Myhall.
Over 11 days in April, the Irish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ISPCA) and affiliate SPCAs and animal shelters retrieved hungry, dirty and disease-ridden dogs and puppies as well as 11 horses from the farm, which ISPCA officials bluntly described as "a hell hole".
Covered in excrement and cowering in virtual darkness in a dank and dirty shed with a mere skylight as her only window to the outside world, Millie was forced to have about five or six litters as soon as she went into heat while she was herself was only a puppy.
Starved of any positive human interaction, let alone care, she would have gone on to grimly produce three or four more litters as a "breeding machine" had the ISPCA not executed a search warrant and searched the premises where they found dead dogs and horses, the carcasses of which were used to feed the starving dogs and puppies.
But thanks to the massive rescue operation which resulted in 340 dogs finding homes, Millie has finally found love. And for the family who adopted her, the feeling is mutual.
"As soon as I set my eyes on her, I fell in love," said her owner, Lisa Freeney (42), from Co Kildare.
Like most people, the mother of four was horrified and disgusted when she turned on the TV news and saw the pups rescued from the farm.
"When I saw the photos, my heart sank. I thought how can these people get away with this," Lisa said to the Sunday Independent.
She was among thousands of animal lovers who inundated the ISPCA headquarters and other animal shelters immediately afterwards with offers to re-home the dogs and puppies.
And once Millie was given the all-clear, Lisa, her husband Tom, (47), and their four sons Cillian, (18), Oisin (15), Ronan (12) and Ruari (10) welcomed her into their home with open arms and have never looked back.
"She's the only girl in the family aside from me so she's spoiled rotten," Lisa said.
"The boys are so affectionate, they're kissing and hugging her all the time."
Although Millie is still a bit shy and skittish, especially around Cillian who towers above her at 6' 4", she has gained almost four kilos in weight, whereas before she was afraid to eat.
She also has a new best friend, Fudge, the family's nine-year-old male cocker spaniel who has taken her under his wing and shares his bedroom in the utility room with her as well as every waking moment as they romp around happily together in the back garden.
"She's really brought such happiness to the house," Lisa said.