CHARLOTTE, N.C. -- Charlotte s Humane Society rescued 19 dogs from an alleged puppy mill in western North Carolina Saturday, said the Humane Society s CEO.

The dogs, all Maltese or Maltese mixes between the ages of 4 and 10 years old, were voluntarily surrendered by their owner after the local animal control agency asked the Humane Society of the United States to step in. The HSUS asked Charlotte s rescue team to take them.

Some dogs appear to be in good condition, but others have dental problems and eye disease, according to the local rescue team.

They lose teeth, there may be rotten jaws, fractured jaws where they just absolutely lose control there, said HSC President Shelly Moore, describing the injuries suffered by some pups.

One female dog s tongue stuck out of the side of her mouth, because there were no teeth to hold it in.

Others showed red, irritated skin around their noses and eyes, which rescuers attributed to skin and eye injuries.

We have 19 dogs here that, obviously, you can tell there's some skin problems, eye problems, dental issues, that have not been taken care of in a while, said HSC vice president Jorge Ortega.

Ortega said Humane Society of Charlotte rescuers were not allowed on the property, so he couldn t say how many more dogs might be living there, or what conditions they were living in. He would not name the location, or even they county.

Sadly, he said, rescuers know from experience what to expect.

The lack of vet care is a common theme, he said. Just what are the issues tend to vary from one scenario to the next.

A new bill introduced two weeks ago at the state legislature aims to fix the problem of puppy mills in North Carolina.

House bill 930 would establish standards for breeders with ten or more female breeding dogs to require access to fresh food and water, daily exercise, and regular veterinary care among other things.

It enhances the anti-cruelty code, said Moore, and anybody that s out there and is a responsible breeder is not keeping their animals like this referring to the mills dogs are rescued from.

Currently, North Carolina has no regulations for dog breeders even though pet stores, pet groomers, and practically every other pet business has standards, said Moore.

Nothing allows law enforcement to step in, except in cases of cruelty or neglect bad enough to be prosecuted. That allows North Carolina to be a popular place for disreputable breeders, said Moore.

Moore said the new law would allow the dogs to get help before the situations become cruelty cases.

Moore and Ortega also remind potential owners to spot the red flags of puppy mills.

If you can't go on the property and see these animals, or if they ask to meet you somewhere, it's a red flag, said Moore. That doesn't apply to credible reputable breeders.

Ortega said the disreputable breeders usually locate the mills in rural areas where they are less likely to be found.

What surprises me is individuals know where these locations are and they're not coming forward and reporting these locations, he said.

These 19 dogs will be evaluated by a veterinarian, and will be available for fostering or adoption in the coming days and weeks, said the rescuers. Call the Humane Society of Charlotte for more information.

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