Hi, everyone! It’s Mindi, the founder of Bailing Out Benji! This is a very special edition of #MillDogMonthly because Bailing Out Benji is…. FIVE YEARS OLD! That’s right! This month we have been celebrating our five-year anniversary! That is five whole years of making the world a better place through education, rescue, transports and advocacy! We couldn’t think of a better way to commemorate this special occasion than by sharing stories from wonderful people we have helped, as well as behind the scenes photos and plans for the future! Thank you so much for reading and for helping us relive the successes we have had over the past five years! I can’t wait to see what is in store over the next five years!
If you have followed us from the beginning, you know that Bailing Out Benji started off as an educational blog. It was my way of connecting with the public and sharing my journey into this world of animal advocacy. I was 21 and honestly had no idea that things were this tragic when
it came to animal welfare. Iowa was (and still is) one of the worst states in the nation when it comes to puppy mills and we are the bottom of the barrel when it comes to animal welfare laws.
In the beginning, I was ecstatic to be getting a handful of views a month. The early articles were written in disbelief and were a little disorganized. But month after month, my article hits grew as my readers were learning and the relationships that were being created were life-changing. I was connecting with real people who were learning about these issues for the first time and I could see that a difference was being made. Now, five years later, our articles get thousands of views a week and every day we are hearing from someone new who had no idea about puppy mills. Like Jennifer M.
Jennifer- “I have always been an animal lover. I volunteered at a vet clinic as a teenager, had many pets as a child and got my first dog in my early twenties. I wasn’t allowed one as a child because I was allergic, but I didn’t care and toughed it out anyways to have a beloved dog. I got a dachshund because I had wanted one for years. I found a breeder and picked her up at 8 weeks old. As much as I loved animals, I had no clue about rescue or the horrors that so many dogs endure due to puppy mills. I discovered rescue a few years later and adopted my second dog from a dachshund rescue and was feeling good about saving a life. Still, I had no idea what a puppy mill was. I was just browsing Facebook one day about 4 or 5 years ago, and one of the dachshund pages I follow showed a link to an article about puppy mills written by Bailing out Benji. I was horrified, cried tears and felt enraged that this horrific suffering was going on and so many people either don’t know about it or are the people who are perpetuating it. From that moment on, I have been active about educating the people I know about puppy mills, as well as doing my part to be sure not to support those who support mills in any way. I’m educating my daughters now, and I can guarantee my girls would never “buy” a pet. Bailing out Benji is a great wealth of information teaching so many about the perils of puppy mills and pet store puppies, but even more Bailing out Benji is also a group of dedicated advocates making a difference.”
Every day, people like Jennifer are interested in learning more and they are searching for “puppy mills in Iowa” or “Puppy mills near me” and they are coming across one of the almost 100 articles that we have written on the topic. One great thing about our website/blog is that we connect real puppy mills and their websites to their USDA inspection reports and numbers. So when someone is looking for “Century Farm Puppies” or “Randy Stoen, Dows” they come across the truth and hopefully RUN the other way.
Turning Education into Advocacy
It wasn’t until I started looking at the local puppy mill problem that I realized this issue was in my own backyard. I went into a local pet store, “Dyvig’s Pet Shoppe” with a few friends and saw that they were selling puppies. When asked where the puppies come from, the store owner told us “Century Farm Puppies” and gave us the address. After checking out the inspection reports and seeing that they had over 400 adult dogs on their property, we knew we had to visit and see things firsthand. We saw the puppy mill and we decided that we had to educate about where those adorable pet store puppies really come from.
But not before we convinced the mill owner to let us “adopt” one of the dogs that couldn’t be used for breeding anymore (no money was exchanged). Little did I know, “Marley” was going to be the first of many puppy mill survivors that we would be helping to free from this horrible life over the next five years. Marley was a 3 year old King Charles Cavalier used for breeding “cavachons” at Century Farm Puppies. What the breeder told us: Her uterus dropped during her last litter and she needed an emergency c-section and spay. What the breeder did not tell us: She had luxating patellas, cherry eye, long nails and horrible teeth/ears. With the help of a local shelter, we took this sweet girl to her foster-turned-forever home and she got all of the vet care and love she truly deserved. In her short three years, it is estimated that she had at least 4 litters and made the breeder almost $20,000.
Shortly after our visit to CFP, we contacted Dale Dyvig again to warn him about how awful the breeder was… He laughed…. HE LAUGHED and told us that he had been using the same breeders for decades and they were just fine. That ignited something inside of me that I honestly had no idea existed. Again, for those of you that have followed our organization for a while, knows what happened next 😉 We protested. And protested. And protested. Since Black Friday of 2011, we have protested every single Saturday and Sunday, with a few surprise protests during the weeks and our “theme” protests in which we protest every day for 30 days ( #ThirtyDaysThirtyProtests ) for puppy mill awareness month and the #12ProtestsOfChristmas where we catch last minute puppy buyers the two weeks leading up to the holidays.
That means we have protested this one pet store for over 75,000 minutes over the last five years *(not including our protests in front of Pet’s Playhouse and Petland) . In the negative temperatures, in the extreme heat, in the rain, and in the snow. We are there no matter what, because the dogs in the puppy mills are forced to live in these conditions. In that time we have educated thousands of people about this issue and its connection to our local pet store, and we have turned away so many potential puppy buyers and helped them find reputable breeders and rescues.
Speaking of the dogs…
Between owner surrenders, breeder releases and auction rescues- Bailing Out Benji has helped hundreds of dogs (and cats) find safe haven among the no-kill, nonprofit rescues that we partner with. We make the connections, we transport and (when we have the funds) we donate towards the vet care of the animal. Not all every rescue we assist with makes it to facebook, but we do often post those photos to instagram.
We couldn’t be more thankful for the relationships and connections that we have made when saving these lives. It has truly been an eye opening experience! Here is what Cindy Goodin from Little White Dog Rescue has to say:
“Bailing out Benji is an amazing organization. Not only do they educate the public about the plight of dogs that are caged their entire lives, but they have partnered with my organization in getting some dogs released and placed into rescue. Some of these dogs come with no medical care and in deplorable condition. Bailing Out Benji is a great champion for these dogs and without them these dogs would continue to suffer. I can’t say enough great things about them!”
Rescues like Little White Dog Rescue, FluffyButts Rescue and the Pug Partners of Nebraska (to name a few) are a few amazing no-kill rescues that never hesitate to step up and take animals when we ask!
Friendships, Honors and Achievements
To say that I and Bailing Out Benji have been blessed over the last 5 years is a huge understatement. What we do, we do for the dogs, 1000%. We don’t do it for the recognition and certainly not for the glory. But we are very blessed in the fact that our hard work and educational efforts have moved mountains and have garnered respect across the world.
In 2014, we were blown away when 5414 productions reached out to us and wanted to include Bailing Out Benji in their puppy mill documentary, Dog by Dog. It was so unbelievable that I honestly thought it was a cruel joke at first! But they came! Director Christopher Grimes and Filmographer Travis Edwards came to my home to interview me and filmed our protest the next day- even though it was -14 degrees! If that wasn’t exciting enough, the next year and a half was indescribable. I was able to travel across the country with the film for various premiers and meet hundreds animal lovers-turned friends- who truly wanted to make a difference for the puppy mill dogs. Protests were started, connections were made and, because of that, countless people have been educated.
During this time, Best-selling Author, Janetta Harvey reached out to us and a friendship began. After learning about our efforts, Janetta included Bailing Out Benji and our story in her book “Saving One More” and we couldn’t be more proud! Not just the fact that this is another way we are able to educate, but it shows solidarity in this fight against the puppy mill industry. From the United Kingdom all the way to Iowa, we are united in this fight.
Janetta Harvey, Author & Campaigner
“Since being introduced to the dedicated work of Mindi and her Bailing Out Benji team, I’ve been thoroughly impressed by the strength and commitment to the dogs that they regularly show. It’s been awe inspiring to witness the weekly peaceful protests, the awareness events Bailing Out Benji attend, and the billboards they fund. Truly impressive for a small group. I’m in the UK and many times wish I could be with Mindi in person to support her and absorb some of the tenacity she shows to keep battling to get the voices of dogs heard, both in her local community, but also much further afield. It was an honour to include her story in my book, “Saving One More” and I look forward to meeting her one day and celebrating the end of the nasty puppy breeding and selling industry that we campaign against, united across the world.”
And in 2016, shortly before Bailing Out Benji turned five, I was given an amazing award by the Humane Society of the United States- Puppy Mill Campaign. Out of everyone in the country who works tirelessly to give a voice to those that have none, I was one of 14 people awarded the HSUS “Advocates We Love” award. I was so honored to accept the award on behalf of all of the hard work that our volunteers have done.
These last five years have been unbelievable. It is hard to imagine what amazing things will happen in the next five years!
Education Knows No Borders!
Over the past 5 years, Bailing Out Benji has physically traveled all over Iowa and Nebraska to educate about puppy mills and other animal issues. The rescue events we attend, the expos and the booths we host have helped us reach and educate thousands of people about these issues! We also send out educational brochures, flyers and posters for animal lovers to hang in their own communities to raise awareness.
We are so excited to say that we are taking the leap and expanding our volunteer base to another state! We have a group of committed animal lovers in Texas who want to start hosting educational tables and events to raise awareness about puppy mills in their area and we are so happy to help! The past few weeks we have been working nonstop to create a database of puppy mills in Texas to create a Texas Puppy Mill Map for them, like we made for Iowa. While this Texas BoB is a work in progress, we are very excited for what this means for our organization! Who knows where another volunteer team will pop up next!
What does this mean?
Five years of hard work and we couldn’t do ANY of it without Y.O.U. The shares, the articles views, the likes on Facebook, the donations– all of our success and educational outreach has been possible because of your help.
Bailing Out Benji is 100% volunteer based, meaning that no one is reimbursed for their time or efforts. As you know and have read, we are completely dedicated to exposing puppy mills and the pet stores they sell to by educating the public. Our billboards, bus ads and newspaper ads educate thousands of people on a daily basis.
Can you help us celebrate our birthday? Make a donation today, of ANY amount and help us continue our important work! Click here for ways to donate. Every dollar helps us in our mission to put an end to puppy mills once and for all. All donations are tax deductible and will help us greatly. We created a new spot on our website to thank any individual or business who donates over $500 (at one time). We will link the thank you to your business or organization as our way of thanking you. With the high traffic of our website, our amazing supporters will appear on the side of every article and page on our site!
Never did I think that my little blog would have changed my life, and the lives of countless animals and humans, forever. Thank you all. Thank you for the constant love and support to our small, but mighty organization. We couldn’t do it without you ❤