July Newsletter


Three kittens joined the family this month.  Tigger and Pooh were transferred to us from the Clarke County Animal Shelter and little Bear was brought to us by a kind rescuer who found him alone in a road by her farm.  The adult cats Miles, Fritz and Bella welcomed the new additions and are so gentle with them. 

Would you like to shop from the kittens’ baby registry? Check out their Chewy Wish List.

For a brief time two Great Pyrenees brothers enjoyed life at the sanctuary. A friend asked if we would like to have them join our family as livestock guardian dogs. They were well cared for and loved but their owners felt they would be happier if they had a job.  They are wonderful boys and settled in quickly.  Unfortunately, while doing their job, they barked at a fox in the field their first night and a neighbor filed a noise complaint with the police. They are now back with their original owners, enjoying life, and probably reminiscing about their brief working vacation at a farm sanctuary.

Farewell to Max

This month we said goodbye to our sweet senior cat Max.  He was such a special boy who loved visitors and was always the first to say hello.  Since he was deaf, his greetings resonated throughout the cattery which made them even more special.  Max was the epitome of gentleness and kindness.  We miss him very much.

Bale Us Out Campaign

Would you like to help us feed the animals? Donating hay is one of the easiest and most effective ways you can help.  We have launched our Bale Us Out campaign with the goal of raising $6,000.   Please consider donating hay for a day, a week, a month, or more.  Thank you!


Puppy Mills and Pet Shops

A golden retriever recently arrived as an emergency intake.  Edsel stayed for a few weeks while arrangements were made for his transfer to Golden Retriever Rescue Education and Training. 

During his time with us he was fearful, easily startled, avoided unfamiliar things, and was quickly over-stimulated.  All of these behaviors are typical of dogs who have not been socialized during their critical developmental stages.  Edsel was born at a kennel in Missouri and purchased from a pet shop in Virginia at a cost of $8,400.  

The kennel where Edsel was born has a USDA Class A breeder license.  A re-license inspection on 2/23/23 listed 71 puppies and 167 adult dogs.  The relicense inspection dated 3/22/23 listed 115 puppies and 155 adult dogs.  Missouri has had the highest number of dealers in the Horrible Hundred report for 10 years in a row. The Horrible Hundred report is an annual report on problem puppy breeders and dealers in the United States. The Humane Society of the United States has published the report annually since 2013 to warn consumers about common problems at puppy mills and puppy-selling dealers, and to push for new legislation and stronger enforcement of humane laws.  “HSUS defines a puppy mill as a dog breeding operation, offering dogs for monetary compensation, in which the physical, psychological and/or behavioral needs of all or some of the dogs are not being consistently fulfilled due to inadequate housing, shelter, staffing, nutrition, socialization, sanitation, exercise, veterinary care and/or inappropriate breeding.”  You can learn more about puppy mills on the HSUS website

The pet shop that sold Edsel lists 24 different breeds of puppies and a telephone inquiry revealed that the starting price is $5,000.  If you want a breed that is not listed, you can easily place an order with just a click of a button.  They accept major credit cards, and if you can’t afford the puppy, no problem.  Financing is available.  On their website they state: (Redacted store name) “does NOT work with puppy mills, and are against breeders and pet stores who support them.”  It is not possible to prove or disprove this statement since there is no legal term for a puppy mill.  So, let’s just look at the facts:

  • Edsel was born in a kennel in Missouri that listed 270 dogs on their 3/22/23 USDA inspection report.
  • 115 puppies were included in the 3/22/23 USDA inspection report.
  • Edsel was transported over 900 miles from his place of birth in Missouri to a pet shop in Virginia.

Although the ambiguity surrounding the term puppy mill allows the pet shop and high-volume breeder to deny the label, it would be difficult for them to make a case proving Edsel came from a kennel where the dogs’ physical, mental, and emotional health are priorities.  

While researching Edsel’s history, I contacted the American Kennel Club to obtain their records on his breeder.  I was told AKC kennel inspections are not public record, and they cannot provide the number of dogs registered. The information can only be obtained from the breeder.  (Fox guarding the henhouse?)  There is a common misconception that purchasing an AKC registered dog provides assurance the dog came from a reputable breeder and that the dog conforms to the breed standard.  The American Kennel Club registration only verifies that the parents of the puppy have been registered with AKC.  Puppies born in less-than-ideal conditions can be sold with AKC papers. 


In The Pig Who Sang to the Moon, Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson writes, “Familiarity breeds respect.”  This three-word sentence resonates with me.  Our core values at Serenity Farm Virginia are empathy, respect, and stewardship. During tours our visitors experience Petunia pig greeting them with soft vocalization and tail wagging, they enjoy watching Harrison sheep dashing across the pasture for a scratch behind his ears and have witnessed Chocolate goat’s loving protection of her handicapped sister.  When we view animals as sentient beings who experience pain, grief, love, and loss much like us, it is no longer possible to justify exploiting them for our own benefit.  It is my sincere hope that animal emotions become so familiar it breeds respect.

Wishing you serenity and peace,

Jo Bighouse, Founder  

%d bloggers like this:
search previous next tag category expand menu location phone mail time cart zoom edit close