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Volunteers with Colorado Springs-based National Mill Dog Rescue returned Nov. 16 from a whirlwind operation to collect 86 dogs surrendered from breeding operations in four Midwest states.

"This has been a particularly grueling rescue run given the number of breeders we received dogs from and the multiple location stops," said Theresa Strader, the nonprofit's founder and executive director. "With the support of our community, other rescue groups and our volunteers, we were able to save many lives and give these dogs a chance for a life outside of the cage."

Strader established National Mill Dog Rescue in 2007 after learning about a large-scale breeding operation, or "puppy mill," in Missouri that was closing down and auctioning off its purebred population.

Among the dogs being sold was a 7-year-old Italian greyhound named Lily who had spent her life as a "puppy mill mom."

Strader adopted her and, horrified by what she'd discovered about the industry, established the organization to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home commercial breeding dogs who had suffered as Lily had. The group is volunteer-run and supported by donations.

To prepare them as family pets, the recently rescued dogs are receiving veterinary care and socialization at Mill Dog's 11,000-square foot kennel, Lily's Haven, in Peyton and at the Denver Dumb Friends League. All dogs are spayed or neutered before being offered for adoption.

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Stephanie Earls is a news reporter and columnist at The Gazette. Before moving to Colorado Springs in 2012, she worked for newspapers in upstate NY, WA, OR and at her hometown weekly in Berkeley Springs, WV, where she got her start in journalism.

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