When Mary Steidl first laid eyes on Rudy, a Pomeranian that was up for adoption, she not only fell in love, she became a crusader against puppy mills and for humane treatment of animals. Although her crusade hasnt reached the proportions of tree huggers chaining themselves to trees, she does what she can.
Rudy started in a puppy mill and was slated to be euthanized when the puppy mill closed until Steidl stepped in, and traveled to Indiana to rescue him. Rudy was constantly shaking and had bad teeth from malnourishment. It took a year for Rudy to be a real dog, she said.
In addition to being vocal about the effort, she volunteers at several local dog rescue groups and contributes money when she can. Local groups she gets involved with includes Lost Dog Rescue, Homeward Trails, HART (homeless animal rescue team), King Street Cats, and Humane Society of Fairfax County.
Im trying to get the word out, she said, noting that her efforts are worth it, even if she reaches one at a time.
The puppy mills shes talking about are substandard kennels where over-breeding takes a precedence and the dogs are kept in squalid cages stacked on top of each other. These puppy mills are high-volume kennels where the breeder has no real breeding program, and the poor health and sanitation conditions take a toll on the dogs. The puppies are then sold on the internet with no customer-to-owner interaction so the new dog owner does not know what type of environment the dog grew up in. This could lead to socialization and temperament problems later in the dogs life. Its just pure greed, all puppy mill dogs are damaged, she said. One way she knows its a puppy mill is when she calls and there is no opportunity to visit the kennel or meet the puppys parents. Sometimes they just hang up on her. Thats a huge red flag, she said.
Steidl stands her ground on North Alfred street where is the owner of the Sugar House Day Spa and Salon, and brings Rudy in frequently to keep her company. The salon is very pet conscious, as are many businesses in Old Town. There is a pet section with pet shampoo, and a sign that reads Pamper your Puppy or Kitty. On the table, a Best Friends cat magazine is one of the reading choices for patrons. Rudy hangs out with her upstairs in the salon, or down in her cozy office.
Walking around with Rudy, she doesnt preach but if theyll stand still long enough they will hear my schpeel, she said.
Recently, Steidl worked with the Animal Welfare League of Alexandria on a fundraiser, selling 100 puppy calendars from the salon. Rudy had the honor of being Mr. July. The Animal Welfare League also has fundraising events like tapas night at the local tapas restaurant, silent auctions, a black ties and tails event, and Feline Follies, which is more education than fundraising.
Lesa Miller is with AWLA and has worked with Steidl. Its definitely advantageous to partner with a business here in the city, its a win-win situation, she said. Everyone in the pet industry knows the problems with puppy mill operations, and Miller looks out for the humane treatment of animals as well. What goes on over there is pretty heinous, Miller said.