It’s hard to imagine anything more adorable than a French Bulldog puppy, and even harder to comprehend how someone could treat a whole bunch of these helpless, innocent cuties so cruelly.
On July 10, 28 Frenchie puppies were tightly packed into plastic crates and shipped as cargo aboard a Turkish Airlines flight from Kiev, Ukraine, to Chicago. The baby dogs were en route to Houston, but the person transporting them was not allowed to fly them beyond Chicago due to airport restrictions on the importation of live animals.
The Humane Society of the United States reports that this individual then proceeded to pack the pups into a non-climate controlled moving van, with no food or water, and attempted to drive them all to Texas. Luckily, the majority of these precious babies’ lives were saved when Texas State Troopers pulled the van over in Texarkana on July 12. At that point, it was 121 degrees in the back of the van. 27 puppies were “found in various stages of heat exhaustion in plastic cargo containers” and one puppy had died. Tragically, four more puppies died in the following days.
After the group was intercepted in Texas, they were cared for by a local vet clinic and held as evidence until disposition by the court. Financial support for their care at this time was provided by the HSUS, but due to the special needs of the puppies, it was determined that Chicago French Bulldog Rescue (which is part of the HSUS national Shelter and Rescue Partner Network) was the best choice to provide the resources these sickly animals required.
Although 20+ puppies sounds like a lot, sadly scenarios like this one are all too common. Sometimes 100 or more animals are crammed into cargo vans, possibly for a few days, locked inside crates with their own excrement.
Kitty Block, Acting President and CEO of the HSUS, writes “Sweltering heat. Cramped, filthy crates. Days of confinement. These are the conditions puppies caught up in the puppy-mill-to-retail-sale pipeline often experience … It isn’t clear whether these puppies were destined to be sold online or in a pet store, but in either event this is another tragic example of profiteers in the pet industry putting animal welfare last. Many animal advocates are aware of the suffering in puppy mills and the neglect sometimes experienced in pet stores, but there is less awareness about the transport involved in getting puppies from mills to retail outlets or directly to consumers.”
“Transporting animals as cargo is dangerous, particularly for brachycephalic dogs [canines with short, flat snouts that are often prone to inefficient breathing and cooling] such as these French bulldog puppies,” Katie Jarl, regional director for the Humane Society of the United States, tells PEOPLE.
According to the Air Transport Association, “More than 5,000 animals are killed, injured or lost on commercial flights each year. Pets can face risks, including exceptionally hot or cold temperatures, poor ventilation, insufficient oxygen and rough handling in the cargo bay.”
Jarl explains that thanks to legislation championed by the HSUS, importing puppies into the United States for resale is illegal. “This legislation was enacted precisely because of concerns about foreign puppy mills and a recognition that international shipment of puppies causes them significant stress. We strongly encourage federal prosecutors to indict anyone who is illegally importing puppy mill dogs into the country,” says Jarl.
In the case of these innocent pups, the two van drivers were charged with 28 counts of cruelty to animals. But that’s just this one case. Animal lovers can help to disrupt these cruel and inhumane practices by getting pets from carefully vetted, responsible breeders or adopting from shelters and rescue groups such as the Chicago French Bulldog Rescue.
While the puppies still have a long road to go on their way to good health and forever homes, the staff of the rescue is currently doting on the dogs. At least seven of the puppies have already been named after celebrity Frenchie owners, including Reese, Hugh, Leo, Carrie, Tori, Rock and Jeremy (i.e. Reese Witherspoon, Hugh Jackman, Leonardo DiCaprio, Carrie Fisher, Victoria Beckham, Dwayne the Rock Johnson and Jeremy Piven).
Although they’re improving every day, the pups are still pretty sick. The rescue is adamant that these dogs will need special care for many months before they are available to be matched with forever homes. “The adoption requests have been a huge problem as they are not close to healthy enough for adoption,” Janie Jenkins of Chicago French Bulldog Rescue tells PEOPLE. “The vetting for them is getting very costly, so any donations would help so much.”