By Michelle Colesantiharleys-hero-one-eye-dog


When pets are adopted, they become part of the family. Just as you want your kids to be healthy, you want your new furry family member to have had its early start in a healthy and loving environment.

If your dog was born in one of the estimated 10,000 puppy mills across the U.S., chances are it did not get that great start in life.

A puppy mill is a commercial dog-breeding facility where profit is the priority; not the health and welfare of the animals.

About 99% of puppies sold in pet store come from mills. Most of these dogs live their whole lives in small cages in buildings, barns and sheds with no heating or cooling. They are not socialized or cared for, but most of all they lack in love and attention.

Dogs used for breeding in the mills never see the light of day, and are usually killed when they are of no more value to the breeders.

The sad fact is that every year, it’s estimated that over two million puppies originate from puppy mills, while well over one million are killed in shelters annually because they are too full and there aren’t enough adoptive homes.

Education on puppy mills has been the focus for Harley’s Heroes. Harley, a Chihuahua, lived in a cramped, filthy cage in a puppy mill where he lost an eye. After 10 years he was freed and received much needed medical care eventually finding his ‘fur’ever home and lots of love with Rudi and Dan Taylor. Harley spent his remaining years working hard to educate children and adults about puppy mills. Harley personally participated in the freeing of more than 700 dogs from puppy mills across the Midwestharleys-hero-pups-and-shirt, and helped raise money that gave freedom to hundreds more.

Sadly, Harley passed away in March 2016, but his legacy lives on. He continues to inspire hope and confidence in people of all ages who can relate to his less-than-perfect appearance. He continues to be the voice for hundreds of thousands of dogs still living in cages in puppy mills. Rudi and Dan initiated Harley’s Puppy Mill Action and Awareness Project in September as a nationwide grass roots effort to educate the public about puppy mills.

A local Valrico chapter was recently started by Valrico resident Anne Cogley. “I’ve followed Harley on social media for almost four years, loved him, and immediately wanted to support and share his dream ‘no more puppy mills’. I believe that if puppy mills did not exist, there would be 75% fewer dogs in shelters/rescues thus making homeless dogs a thing of the past.” Last December, Cogley had the honor of meeting Harley and his family shortly after he had won the 2015 AHA Hero Dog Award. “At this point, several Valrico friends and I decided to join to help make #Harleysdream come true,” continued Cogley.

To date there are over 100 groups in 42 states nationwide and in Canada. After all, as Harley has been quoted saying “Educate yourself so that you can educate others”. For more information visit or email

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Michelle Colesanti
Michelle has been with the Osprey Observer for almost nine years, and her current position is Assignment Editor. She resides in Bloomingdale with her husband Phil, two sons, Philip and Matthew, and Tigger the cat.