From the Puppy Mill to the Real Deal: Batman’s Story

The Nebraska transfer van finally pulled into the Humane Society of Utah’s parking lot on January 26th, 2024 at 1:30 PM. After delays due to poor weather, mechanical issues, and even a breakdown on the road, the highly anticipated arrival of nearly 50 dogs rescued from one of The Humane Society of United States’ “Horrible Hundred” puppy mills, had come.

Various rescues from around the state gathered to pick up portions of the fleet. HSU took in nine dogs, consisting of four corgis, two german shorthaired pointers, and three labs. One of the corgis was a 6-year-old male with intensely blue eyes and a spirit that could not be broken.

An Uphill Climb Ahead

Despite spending his life thus far as a breeding male, likely primarily in a small kennel and with little to no access to humans or dogs outside of breeding scenarios, Batman showed a certain bravery and determination soon after arriving at HSU. That’s how he got his name— HSU staff decided that surviving all he had endured surely made Batman a hero. So, he and his fellow corgis became HSU’s very own Justice League.

Although they were now safe from the horrors of the mill, Batman and his fellow puppy mill dogs did not have an easy road ahead of them. They had likely never walked on a leash, had access to the outdoors, or had anyone to love and care for them outside of the bare minimum. Even with Batman being the most courageous of the group, he was still apprehensive about interacting with staff and the wide world around him. Walks were a challenge, and often he preferred to stay in his kennel entirely. 

Still, HSU team members were persistent. With spray cheese, encouragement, and a whole lot of love and care, the staff watched in awe as Batman and the other puppy mill dogs made great strides. They became more confident, curious, and open to the possibility that life had so much more to offer than they had experienced. Soon, it was time for them to hit the adoption floor.

A Light at the End of the Tunnel

HSU wanted to be clear and transparent with adopters that the puppy mill rescues had been through incredible trauma. These pups would have some unique challenges adjusting to their new homes. One interested adopter, Aryn, was prepared for just that. After seeing a post from HSU on social media, Batman caught her eye.

“I’ve always known I wanted to get a puppy mill dog or dog with a traumatic past, and I finally was in a place [where] I felt I could give one everything,” Aryn said. “The day we got him, there was a lot of emotion. Excited to have him, heartbroken for his past, and a bit intimidated. My fiance and I always wanted a dog, but as soon as we saw Batman, I had to have him.”

After heavy counseling. Aryn and her fiance met Batman. They instantly knew he was the perfect fit for their family. Aryn describes Batman as “exactly what we needed.” They took him home that very day.

From Puppy Mill to Real Deal

Today, Batman is happy in his new home. Aryn said that she and the rest of Batman’s family have been careful to go at his pace. They dial things back if he seems unsure or scared. Batman is a very spoiled dog now, and he means everything to his new family.

“Our favorite thing is his bigger-than-life personality,” Aryn said. “He is so energetic and playful, he loves to chase and be chased, and he is also so cuddly. Batman demands to sleep in our bed and loves to follow me around. He is the sweetest and most funny dog.”

So, Batman and his fellow puppy mill rescues beat the odds, and they are now living the lives they deserve. We want to give great amounts of thanks to HSU’s community, who shared posts on social media, made donations, and took a chance on these sweet pups who had been through the unimaginable. It is with your support that we are able to make stories like this one possible.

You found stray kittens? Now what?

Small white and brown stray kitten sits in grassy field meowing.

Ahhh, kitten season. It’s that magical time of year when the weather gets warmer, and suddenly, an influx of kittens are born into the world. As kitten season picks up speed, so do phone calls to local animal shelters from concerned citizens wondering what they should do with stray kittens they have found. 

What to do if you find warm, clean, stray kittens:

Our answer may surprise you, but most of the time, the answer is to leave stray kittens where you find them. We know this advice can be difficult to heed after so many years of hearing that you should bring stray kittens to the shelter. Still, data from organizations such as Ally Cat Allies  and the ASPCA shows that kittens have a much better chance of survival if left where their mother cat can care for them. Even kittens that appear to be unattended likely have a mother cat looking out for them who will be distressed should they go missing.

Tiny gray and white kitten is held in a human hand.

Here’s a trick to make sure that mom is coming back to look after her litter: take some flour and spread a circle around the kittens, then leave. If a few hours later, there are paw prints in the flour. You can rest assured that a mother cat is keeping an eye on her kittens.

What to do if you find cold, malnourished, or sickly stray kittens:

There are a few cases in which leaving stray kittens where they are may not be the best course of action. If the kittens appear malnourished, sickly, and/or overly dirty, and you have not seen a mother cat return within a few hours of finding the kittens, there are a couple of things you can do.

Tiny white and tabby stray kitten gets bottle fed milk by shelter staff.
  • Foster: If you feel equipped to care for and bottle-feed the kittens until they are old enough to be spayed or neutered, fostering the kittens may be a good option. Contact our Foster Department for information and resources.
  • Contact Your Local Animal Services: Your local animal services will be able to help you determine the next best steps for the kittens. They may have you bring them to their shelter, or they may come and pick them up.

What about Trap Neuter Return?

Another way you can help your local community cats and reduce the number of homeless cats in your area is to see if your local shelter or rescue has a TNR (trap-neuter-return) program. These programs involve humanely trapping stray cats, bringing them into a shelter to be spayed or neutered, and returning them to the area in which they were found. Kittens can participate in TNR programs as young as 8 weeks of age so long as they weigh at least 2 lbs.

Outdoor mom cat sits on rock surrounded by her litter of kittens.

Our TNR program is called CATNIP. For more information on CATNIP, humane trap rental, and more, visit the TNR Page on our website.

Utah’s 2022 Legislative Session Recap: Companion Animal Bills

HB 476 Protest rally at Utah State Capitol
HB 476 protest rally at Utah State Capitol.

Utah’s 2022 legislative session ended on March 5, 2022 and what a busy session it was! Our advocacy team spent every day of the session at the capitol, educating our legislators on the importance of protecting animals and making sure our furry friends’ voices were heard. 

We had a very big win this year, securing protections for pets, and additional protections for humans, in domestic violence situations. We had a second big win in defeating a bill that would have opened the floodgates to puppy mills in Utah. 

While we had a couple of (big!) wins, other animal bills did not fare quite as well. Read on for a breakdown of companion animal-related bills and their outcomes from the 2022 session.

Our Bills

H.B. 175 – Protection of Animals Amendments PASSED!

Run in partnership with our friends at Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering, H.B. 175 was sponsored by Rep. Angela Romero (District 26) and sponsored on the floor by Sen. David Hinkins (District 27). 

After passing both houses of the legislature with overwhelming bipartisan support, this bill was signed into law by Gov. Spencer Cox in late March of 2022. 

HSU and Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering staff stand with Representative Angela Romero
HSU and Ruff Haven Crisis Sheltering staff stand with Representative Angela Romero in the Utah State Capitol building.

The new law allows courts to include household animals in protection-from-abuse orders (including domestic violence, dating violence, cohabitant abuse, and child abuse protective orders) and expands the “emotional distress” resulting from harm to an animal in domestic violence cases to also include cases of stalking.

H.B. 92 – Transportation of Dogs ActFailed

Sponsored by Rep. Ashlee Matthews (District 37), this bill would have required dogs transported on Utah’s freeways in open back trucks (including flatbeds) to be cross-tethered or in a secured crate. 

Despite the commonsense nature of this bill, it received strong opposition from two members of the House of Representatives at its committee hearing. One member made a point to state that there was nothing wrong with the bill itself and that we had considered the interests of all stakeholders, but that he would never vote for such a bill. 

With the failure of this bill, we head into another summer of dogs clinging to hold on in the back of trucks on the freeway, burning paws on the hot metal, and breathing in significant amounts of debris while distracted drivers look on in horror. 

A scared dog rides on the back of a flatbed truck traveling at high speeds on a busy Utah Highway.

If you want to see dogs protected during transport on our freeways, call your representative and senator to demand it.

Bills We Strongly Opposed

H.B. 476 – Local Agriculture AmendmentsFAILED!

Backed by pro-puppy mill lobbyists, H.B. 476 would have erased local regulations of animal-related businesses and prevented future protections for animals on the local level. In simple terms: this bill, if passed, would have opened Utah to completely unregulated puppy mills and the stores that sell animals from puppy and kitten mills. 

HSU and other animal advocates rally on the steps of the Utah State Capitol building to protest H.B. 476.

However, we, along with half a dozen other animal welfare organizations and thousands of amazing supporters like you, defeated this bill! Your calls and emails to your representatives and senators helped our legislature realize that this was a bad bill with horrible consequences for the beloved animals of Utah. This bill thankfully died before a vote in the senate. Unfortunately, the same concept will undoubtedly be re-introduced in the next session. We will be there to fight it every step of the way.

Other Companion Animal Legislation

Several other bills were filed with the legislature this year to bring additional protections to companion animals in our state. Some made it all the way to the end of the session but were not voted on before the clock struck midnight on the night of March 5. Others never made it out of committee. Here is a quick rundown of those bills:

SB69 – Animal Shelter RevisionsFailed

This bill would have eliminated gas chamber euthanasia in Utah shelters. 

SB165 – Animal Cruelty Modifications Failed

This bill would have expanded Utah’s animal cruelty code to better define proper care for an animal, including a more substantial definition of what constitutes “shelter.”

HB112 – Animal Fighting PenaltiesFailed

This bill would have expanded the definition of “animal” in Utah’s anti-dog fighting statute to include all animals. 

HB306 – Cosmetic Sale AmendmentsFailed

This bill would have banned the sale in Utah of cosmetics tested on animals. 

While perhaps not the strongest year for companion animal protection, the number of animal protection bills introduced in the 2022 legislative session did prove one thing: Utahns care about companion animals and want to see them treated well. And we agree! We will keep fighting on the local, state, and federal level to secure protections for pets and the human-animal bond. We hope you will join us.  
Watch our social media accounts and sign up for advocacy alerts to stay informed and get active!

Housing Resources

Woman sits on fronch porch smiling while petting a long haired golden colored dog who is laying on his side with his tongue out.

Some apartments do not allow cats or dogs. View this Apartment Guide to see places that allow pets before signing a rental agreement. 

The inclusion of a service, organization, or program in this listing is NOT an endorsement or recommendation. We are not able to guarantee the quality of these services and recommend that you gain additional information before using a specific service.

Reporting Animal Cruelty in Utah

Should I report my neighbors for animal cruelty? 

Around your neighborhood, you may encounter animal maltreatment. This maltreatment may be out in the open, such as an individual leaving a heavy chain around a dog’s neck in plain view. The maltreatment could be hidden and only suspected, such as overhearing a person yelling at an outdoor cat and hearing the cat cry out. How do you know when maltreatment is legally cruelty, and when do you report it?  This article aims to give you insight into what constitutes cruelty and how to report suspected cruelty. It provides practical information on animal maltreatment generally that will help empower you to protect the silent animal victims in your neighborhood. 

Utah Humane Society’s Role in Animal Cruelty Calls

Do not report animal cruelty to the Utah Humane Society as we cannot legally investigate animal cruelty. The Utah Humane Society does not have police powers and has not had investigative powers since the 1990s. Reporting animal cruelty to us is not effective as we must simply call animal control on your behalf without all the details that you have from what you witnessed. We are always happy to guide you to the appropriate authorities, however. 

Utah’s Animal Cruelty Laws

Utah specifically outlaws the following maltreatment of animals:

  • Failing to provide necessary food, water, care, or shelter for an animal in the person’s custody
  • Abandoning an animal
  • Injuring an animal
  • Causing any animal to fight with another animal 
  • Administering poison or causing poison to be administered to an animal
  • Killing an animal* (killing an animal is legal if you have a legal privilege to do so, e.g., food production)
  • Torturing an animal** (torturing a companion animal, which is defined in Utah law as a domestic dog or cat, is a felony and therefore an elevated criminal offense) 

When in Doubt, Report!

Chances are you are not a lawyer, and you are not a public safety officer, and as such, there is no reason why you should have to discern whether or not what you are seeing or hearing is animal cruelty. If you suspect something is off, report it. Better to err on the side of caution and be wrong than to ignore the potential maltreatment and allow an animal to suffer. 

Over the past several decades, researchers have studied the interrelationship between animal abuse, child abuse, elder abuse, domestic violence, and other forms of violence. Referred to as “The Link,” this interrelationship suggests that one type of violence tends to indicate the existence of or lead to other forms of violence. For example, if an animal is enduring maltreatment in a home where children are present, it is likely that the children are also enduring abuse. This is relevant because if you suspect animal maltreatment in a neighbor’s home and don’t want to report it because it is “just an animal,” remember that the animal is likely not the only one being abused. For more information on The Link, please visit the National Link Coalition’s website

reporting animal abuse in utah

How to Report

Report to the Appropriate Authorities

The first step is to call the appropriate authorities. The National Link Coalition has a list of some of the main animal control offices in Utah available here. There are parts of Utah without animal control agencies. In those areas, you can report to your local police or county Sheriff’s department. If you are not sure who to call, you can always call the Utah Humane Society for guidance. We keep an updated list of all animal control services throughout the state of Utah. 

Information Needed

The information needed to begin a formal inquiry is your name, your phone number, the address of where the potential cruelty has taken place, and a description of the potential cruelty, including any information on the animal (such as species and color) and the owner. If you have photos and videos that are obtained without trespassing, that is also beneficial.  If you wish to follow-up on the case, ask that the responding officer call you back with a case number. However, having a case number does not necessarily mean they can give you any information going forward. If an investigation remains open, they may need to protect details in order to preserve the case.  Please note that you may report animal maltreatment anonymously. However, if the case proceeds to prosecution, an anonymous person cannot be a witness. If you are the only person who has witnessed what happened to the animal, please consider being brave and going on record. You may be the key to a successful prosecution. 

Animal Control Response

Utah’s animal protection laws are vague, meaning the statutes themselves will not define much of what constitutes certain provisions, such as “necessary shelter” or “injuring.” While this can be frustrating when determining whether or not to report an incident in your neighborhood, the positive flip side is that the vagueness gives animal control more discretion in enforcing the law. This discretion allows animal control to educate when appropriate and cite when education does not work.  Please be patient with law enforcement’s response. Sometimes, it may take several calls or incidents for an agency to be able to investigate. Beyond that, they need time to work a case. Know that this is their job and they take it seriously.