Twenty-five years ago this month…..

Recently we’ve been talking so much about our forty-year anniversary.  It was forty years ago this month that FHS opened our doors and we’ve been serving Flagler County‘s pets and their people ever since.

But there’s another anniversary coming up…..In October 1997 our officers raided the Brinkley puppy mill on State Road 100 and rescued over 400 dogs.  Looking back on it, at the time we were such a young organization, Only 15 years old. Did we have enough space for such a huge undertaking? Did we have the funds for the crazy amount of veterinary care that these animals needed? Were there enough hours in the day to take care of these animals on top of an already full animal shelter? The answer to all the above questions was no, but we knew what had to be done and along with tremendous support from our community and even outside of our community…we did it.

The media was a lifesaver. They covered our story morning, noon and night. I watched myself on television looking more and more tired every day. Our friends at the Agricultural Center on CR 13 opened up space for some of the dogs and within days we had 119 foster families signed up. One of the fosters was Linda Lester, our current board president, who recently said, “I was there during the raid and took home about 10 litters, some pups being born at that time. It was most rewarding to see how these moms, emaciated, with devastating health issues, completely unsocialized and terrified of human contact, became over time healthy and loving pets that found permanent wonderful homes.  One of my fosters, Baxter the Bassett, who I had bottle fed because the momma dog was too sick, was featured on Animal Planet”.

Several veterinarians donated their time. Volunteers came out of the woodwork, cleaning, feeding, comforting, medicating and keeping records morning noon and night. County Attorney, Al Hadeed prepared an amazing case which is still quoted in case law.  We were awarded permanent custody of the dogs. Within a month, they were legally ours and adoptions began.  The first adoption was “Elbe” an old, blind mix breed with mammary tumors and a chronic skin condition.  I had been fostering Elbe since that first night and she became my dog.

The tremendous media coverage brought donations and adopters from all over.  Remember, this was before social media.  Our animals were covered on television both locally and nationally.  Animal Planet filmed an episode of “Wild Rescues” about us.  Radio and print media followed the story for months.  Photos of peaceful protesters holding signs that read “Free the puppies, jail the owners” made it in “The Year in Pictures” and I was quoted in a Reader’s Digest article about the horrors of puppy mills.

A year later we went to trial and the puppy mill owners were found guilty and jailed.

I’d like to think that all of the coverage of what the animals went through in the puppy mill may have educated the public to not buy from unscrupulous breeders, but to adopt shelter dogs instead.  Consumers have the power to end puppy mill suffering.   Thanks to the kindness and hard work of volunteers and the support of our community, no dogs will suffer on that property ever again.

Amy Wade-Carotenuto is the Executive Director at Flagler Humane Society and can be reached at Flagler Humane Society is a 501(c)(3) not-for- profit organization founded in 1980. For more information go to