Featured image courtesy of Themelina Xenikis
By Stephanie Miranda
Themelina Xenikis had spent her spare time looking at puppies with her friends for years. Finally, Xenikis, a senior communications major at Youngstown State University, found the puppy of her dreams.
Lola, the now 4-year-old pug, was purchased by Xenikis from Harbor Pet Center in Boardman, Ohio. Lola’s living conditions prior to her forever home with Xenikis were described by her to be “a nightmare.”
“It was terrible.” Xenikis says.
“I’ll never forget when I first laid eyes on Lola. She was just a baby, stuffed in a small space with four other pug dogs (supposedly her siblings). They were lying down in their own feces and pee. It smelled terrible. All the other dogs were sleeping in her box, but she was awake.”
According to Xenikis, her experience with Lola immediately after adopting her was far from a fairy tale. “My dog was extremely ill,” Xenikis says.
“She couldn’t keep her eyes open, she couldn’t stay awake. I knew that for a puppy, something was wrong. She should’ve been active and playful but all she wanted to do was sleep.”
Xenikis believes that Lola was the product of a ‘puppy mill.’
According to the Humane Society of the United States, “A puppy mill is an inhumane, commercial dog-breeding facility in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits.”
Poor puppy health hits home with many people, including Youngtown native Gia DeAscentis.
In 2017, DeAscentis started a petition to Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine against Harbor Pet Center in Boardman, which she claims is being operated as an unlicensed puppy mill.
According to the language in DeAscentis’ petition, a friend’s “miniature schnauzer (Sophia) died of congenital defects likely due to her parents been inbred and overbred. At just five months old, all of Sophia’s organs had simply shut down. She died an agonizing death.”
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals stated that when it comes to puppy mills “Female dogs are bred twice a year and are usually killed or abandoned when they are no longer able to produce puppies.” Additionally, PETA states that “mothers and their litters often suffer from malnutrition, exposure and lack of adequate veterinary care.”
A manager from Harbor Pet Center, who did not want to provide his name, says “all of the animals at the center are absolutely healthy, they all have their vaccinations, all their [de]wormings and have a three-year warranty that covers any hereditary issues.”
Although PETA and others often decry the state of puppy mills, in Ohio and many other states they are legal if they operate with a license. Ohio laws governing puppy mills also require them to undergo yearly inspections.
Despite her illness immediately after adoption, Xenikis says that fortunately Lola recovered. Now, Xenikis explains, “Lola is the happiest little dog ever. Her health bounced right back after a couple of days on the medication [she received to treat her illness].”
To report a possible unlicensed or non-regulation following puppy mill, visit: