Truck dramatizes animal abuse issue
Jim Long has never considered himself an animal-rights activist.
But when he read about the conditions of dogs at so-called "puppy mills," he wanted to take action.
"It's not that I take a particular interest in animals," he said. "I just don't want to see them abused."
Long of Sharon learned about puppy mills—large, commercial breeding facilities where puppies and mothers get inadequate care and little exercise or socialization—on the Internet. He started protesting pet stores that sell puppies because he believes that most puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills.
Pet store officials, including Mike Sardina, owner of Janesville's Petland, deny that their puppies come from mills.
But Long wanted to do more.
"That's when I came up with the idea of the truck, that it would really capture people's attention and educate them," he said.
Long certainly has succeeded on his first goal. He painted his pickup truck with anti-puppy mill slogans in April. The messages list the problems puppy-mill dogs face: "No exercise. No play. No vet care. Dirty food. Cage-wire injuries. Cruelty."
But the most eye-catching part of Long's truck is the cages stacked in back filled with fuzzy stuffed dogs. He wanted to show people how dogs in puppy mills are raised.
"I just couldn't believe that it was legal to do that, that you could lock up a dog in a cage for its entire life and never let it out," he said.
Passersby often give him angry looks before they realize the puppies aren't real. Then some give him thumbs-up or messages of support, he said.
He tries to drive the truck as often as possible, often taking it to Janesville to run errands or parking it in areas he knows many people will pass.
Long knows there are many reputable breeders out there, he said. But he wants to let people know about the bad ones, he said.