EL PASO COUNTY, Colo. (CBS4)– A multi-million dollar dog rescue, one of Colorado’s largest is one strike away from having to close up shop. The state put National Mill Dog Rescue on probation and hit them with a $15,000 fine after finding they have been skirting around rules designed to keep animals healthy.
It started with a complaint from a former employee, Jene Nelson, who also revealed the founder for years has been playing the role of veterinarian, administering vaccines without a license.
“At some point in time and I do not know when that occurred it started becoming about the numbers and it started becoming more about image,” Nelson said.
For two years she worked as the marketing director for the nonprofit capturing hundreds of videos not knowing it would become evidence.
When she started she says she fully believed in their mission to rescue, rehabilitate and re-home discarded breeding dogs, until that mission didn’t match the law.
“Some would call it interstate dog trafficking, and that is a fair description, others supporters would say it’s just paperwork,” Nelson said.
Ultimately she took concerns about the health of those animals, to the state agency tasked with investigating.
Nick Fisher manages PACFA (Pet Animal Care Facilities Act) under the Colorado Department of Agriculture.
“We basically found and the allegations were that hundreds of dogs were combing into the state without certificate of veterinary inspections,” he said, “we don’t know where those dogs came from we don’t know what kind diseases they have.”
Fisher led the investigation placing national mill dog rescue on a one-year probation and fining them $15,000, the largest fine he can remember.
With more than forty thousand animals being brought into Colorado every year health inspections are key and can help protect those planning to adopt.
“If you go to rescue one of these animals, and that animal gets sick what’s your recourse with the rescue? A lot of the time it’s sold as is,” Fisher said.
On top of skirting health inspections, Nelson says she grew increasingly concerned that the rescues they were making from breeders started to feel less about the animals and more about the business.
“If this was black and white I would say yes they’re helping breeders stay in business,” Nelson said.
CBS4 did reach out to National Mill Dog rescue for an interview but the COO declined instead providing a written statement:
“National Mill Dog Rescue has never, and will never waver from our mission of rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming discarded breeding dogs. In addition, National Mill Dog Rescue is proud of our history of near flawless USDA and PACFA inspection results and the exemplary care we have provided for over 14,000 dogs over the past 12 years. National Mill Dog Rescue also remains committed to working closely with all Federal and state regulating authorities to ensure we continue to be in compliance with all laws, statutes and regulations. Finally, as always, for anyone who wishes to visit our facility, meet our dogs, and see our work firsthand, our doors are open every day of the year from 12-4pm.”
CHARLES F. ARNOLD, JR.
Chief Operating Officer, National Mill Dog Rescue
In response to that statement Fisher says that they flagged the non-profit in 2017 for the same issue which is what led to the hefty fine this time around.
As far as claims the founder, Theresa Strader was practicing veterinary medicine without a license the state Department of Regulatory agencies has issued a cease and desist order and has launched their own investigation.