12/22/2011 10:59 am ET | Updated Feb 21, 2012

Christmas Wish

We just got our 2011 Christmas present. One hundred and two survivors of a horrific puppy mill in western Arkansas arrived at our shelter and medical center to begin their new lives of hope. Boston terriers, dachshunds, Pomeranians, Westies, beagles, and others who have never known the feel of human kindness, affection, or compassion. Only bars and filth, crowded cages and noise, hunger, loneliness and sickness. And even death, as a few unfortunate dogs were found dead on this property before the ASPCA came in and shut down the mill, ending the torment that has no business existing this or any other time of year.

But the holidays came a few days early for these dogs. And for us. Because taking in animals with "nowhere else to go" is our mission. And no creatures have fewer options than puppy mill survivors. So we're gearing up for their arrival by making room available "in the inn" -- our shelter, clearing the deck on our current medical cases, getting ahead of current spays and neuters, and getting this week's adopted animals home so we can turn around their dens like a New York City hotel during the holidays.

"Shelters are dying out there," Maureen, my shelter director, said to me as she soon as she got back from one of our local partner shelters. In spite of clearing the deck for these new arrivals, she had just picked up eight dogs and even more cats from a local partner shelter. And she has had dozens of calls from other shelters asking us to take "just one more dog." So, when we open our doors to take in more than 100 dogs and puppies from Arkansas, what does that mean for our local partners?

It's really Sophie's Choice. Truth is, no one has infinite room for all the homeless animals out there. And choices do have to be made. But to us, it's never the dogs' fault where they're from. And the fact is, that there are too many animals where there aren't enough adopters. My staff knows that we help our local partner shelters first. But sometimes, the call comes in from beyond the Beltway and we have to say "yes." Like this Arkansas puppy mill rescue. And we'll do everything in the world never to say "no" to our local animals.

My Christmas wish is for everyone who ever wanted a puppy or dog or kitten or cat, to go to their local shelter first. And never, ever, go to the Internet. Because that is where the pipeline to the puppy mill begins. We have to stop the demand for these animals. And look to our local communities to responsibly end homelessness, abandonment and neglect. Because even when Christmas comes early, it's still never early enough for so many who need it.