was established in 2007 in honor of a forgiving, courageous little Italian greyhound named Lily. For the first seven years of her life, Lily was a commercial breeding dog in a Missouri puppy mill. She lived in a small, cold wire cage in a dark, foul-smelling barn. In her dreary confines, she was forced to produce litter after litter without reprieve. A veritable breeding machine, Lily’s worth was measured in only one way—her ability to produce puppies.
By 7 years of age, Lily was worn out. Years of no veterinary care had taken a devastating toll on her body, leaving her profoundly disfigured. Minimal human contact had left her terrified of people. After four decades of using dogs for profit, it was time for Lily’s breeder to retire. Lily, along with all 560 other dogs from her mill, would head to auction.
Responding to an email plea for help with the dogs from this auction, Theresa Strader, a lifelong rescuer, offered her assistance. At that time she didn’t even know dog auctions existed, but she was determined to help. Although she knew what the term “puppy mill” meant, she could never have imagined what she would witness and learn on that rescue journey.
On Feb. 17, 2007, Strader arrived at the auction. As instructed by the auction staff, she followed the crowd into the first building, where approximately 100 dogs were housed. Within moments of entering, much like the dogs in front of her, she was overcome with sadness and despair.
In this dismal, putrid building, Strader would lay her eyes on Lily for the first time. Lily was plastered in the back corner of her breeding cage, terrified of the goings on around her. She caught Strader’s eye, her auction tag No. 251 hanging from her neck. Strader could readily see the toll the years had taken on the little dog—she was riddled with mammary tumors and her lower jaw had rotted away. Quietly approaching the cage, Strader whispered this promise: “I will take you from this hell and love you ‘til you die.”’
In that moment, Strader knew she would devote the rest of her life to giving these dogs a voice, and on that day National Mill Dog Rescue was born. Strader returned home with Lily and a dozen other dogs and an unswerving passion to make a lasting difference.
After her rescue, Lily spent the remainder of her life as a beloved member of the Strader family where she received medical care, warmth and companionship. In time, Lily found courage and her disfigured little body educated countless people about the horrors of the puppy mill industry. Lily never left the loving care of the Strader family. Succumbing to the years of neglect she had suffered, Lily died peacefully in her daddy’s arms in May 2008—15 months after she was rescued.
In 7 short years, National Mill Dog Rescue has amassed over 1,300 volunteers and has rescued over 8,400 puppy mill survivors (over 1,600 dogs in 2013 alone!) On average, it takes them 4-6 weeks to provide rehabilitation care for each dog. With vet care, kennel fees and dog food, their expenses are tens of thousands per month. NMDR relies on volunteers to care for the dogs, from the moment they are surrendered to the time they are adopted and beyond. The organization depends on the generosity of the public to provide the high level of care for their dogs and to continue to be able to save them.
For more information on how to get involved follow these links: