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Pixie, The Story of a Mill Auction Dog
One of the stories behind Wisconsin Act 90


Pixie sharing a crate with other auction dogs (left), and after her first grooming session.

A New Morning
For dog number 0695885-001, the morning of March 11, 2009, is different than any she’s known before. Her life until now consisted of a small cage, food, water, a breeding mate and a litter of pups twice a year. Oh yes, and her universe was the cold, dark barn where she and her fellow inmates were kept. They weren’t sure what lay beyond the barn. Glimpses of sunlight, new smells and the occasional open door didn’t provide much of a clue as to what the outside world was really like.

On this morning the miller comes through “the door” with an empty cage and sets it next to hers.  The four-year-old female Poodle had seen others placed in cages and go out that door. She becomes nervous at the thought. She also remembers her previous litters leaving forever in a cage, too soon for her to finish her important behavioral teachings. This time she thinks, “Is it my turn to go? I don’t have pups to surrender today, so it must be for me!” 

Her question is soon answered. The miller grabs her, puts her into the wire poultry cage and heads for the door. She doesn’t like this situation and looks back at the only home and dogs she’s known.

A cold blast of air is her first taste of the outside world, even colder than her barn. She starts shaking. She has trouble keeping her eyes open due to the sun she has seldom seen, and a sub-zero wind chill causes the squinting to continue. She has just a glimpse of the “outside world” before she is loaded in the van with other cages and dogs. She clenches the wire floor as the van starts the trip that will take her to the dog auction. 0695885-001’s journey is underway.

The Rescuers, Protestors and Dogs
Even by Wisconsin standards the morning of March 11 is frigid. That doesn’t deter the hopes and emotions of rescuers and protestors who start their trips from all over Wisconsin. Their destination is the dog auction at Horst Stables*, south of Thorp. For Milwaukee-area travelers, that means getting on the road before 5 am. For others, it will be a much shorter trip. For the dogs, it will be something new. The day will produce a bevy of emotions: anger, shock, sadness, hope. However, fear will define their day.

Dogs are now arriving via van, truck and buggy—including 0695885-001, still shaking, curled in cage, unsure of what this is all about. She is brought into the auction barn and quickly processed. Dogs are checked in, given an auction number, a USDA Inspector does a visual inspection and cages are stacked in line awaiting “show time.” She is now #80. Dogs auctioned here have three possibilities facing them: 1) Being purchased by a rescue group who will foster them until adoptable; 2) Being purchased by an individual looking for a pet; 3) The worst scenario, purchased by another breeder sentencing the dog to a return to hell.

Outside the Horst Auction in 2007.

Now comes #80’s turn. She is carried to the auction table and held up like some inanimate object at a household auction. Most dogs are not allowed to stand because their legs, shaky from months or years of confinement in small cages, won’t bring as high a price. Of course, others cannot stand. The bidding starts and after a short period, the auctioneer points to someone in the crowd and yells, “$400 SOLD.” #80’s fate is now sealed.

She is lucky. She has won the lottery. She has escaped hell. Even though she is a Toy Poodle, she has been purchased by a nice lady from Racine, who specializes in Maltese rescue. #80 is going to have a real home, with kind hands and her own name. #80, formerly 0695885-001, formerly a puppy mill captive, is now Pixie! She is given the chance to be what her maker meant her to be, a companion for life.

The Trip To A Real Home
The first leg of Pixie’s journey to a new life began as soon as the auction was over. Again, she was lucky to be headed south, away from Clark County, “the Puppy Mill Capital of Wisconsin.” Her luck was not totally grasped because all this kindness, petting and soft words were very foreign to her. Still, she started looking around with a little less fear and nervousness, and did enjoy the comfort of a clean and soft blanket.



Frank Schemberger has been involved with the advocacy for stricter State and Federal puppy mill laws and inspections, and also participated in getting WI Act 90 (commercial dog breeders law) adopted in Wisconsin. He attended the protests at the now-defunct Horst Stable dog auctions in Thorp, infiltrated puppy mills across the state, saw the suffering, smelled the stench, found the dead, gained a better perspective of the cruel puppy mill industry and wrote the following story about one of its victims. This story also appeared in Fetch Magazine in Wisconsin. docs.legis.wisconsin.gov

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