Animal Awareness program at Marion Gerrish Center

One of two billboards displayed on Elm Street in Manchester to protest two local stores that sold animals.

By Suzanne Laurent, — Jul 30, 2009

Linda Dionne, president of the New Hampshire Animal Rights League and Sherry Bezanson of are hosting an event, Animal Awareness Day, on Saturday, Aug. 1 at the Marion Gerrish Community Center in Derry.

Bezanson, a Londonderry resident, first became aware of puppy mills when she watched an “Oprah” show in April 2008, and the talk show host began her two-part expose of puppy mills.

“I was horrified at what I saw,” said Bezanson, a realtor from Londonderry. These mills are inhumane and unspeakably cruel.”

Bezanson, who has four rescue dogs that she found on, said before she saw the Oprah show she didn’t know what a puppy mill was. She was so upset, she contacted the New Hampshire Animals Rights League and began organizing protests, most of which took place in Manchester last year, including in front of Petland and Debby’s Pet Land.

“For these breeding dogs, a puppy mill is like doing hard time in solitary confinement,” Bezanson.

“It’s a hard knock life. No walks. No affection. They’re fed and they’re bred. And that’s all.”

The puppies will be sold to a pet store, sold directly or auctioned off and their behavioral and physical health problems are part of the package, Bezanson added.

Bezanson decided to hold the protests because she felt that she had to “do something.”

The first one was held in front of Petland in Manchester on May 24, 2008, and 27 volunteers came out with signs and their own dogs.

“I was trying to get the word out that people don’t have to go to a pet store, where 97 to 99 percent of puppies come from puppy mills,” Bezanson said.

“There are so many dogs out there that need a home from people who for some reason or another just can’t care for their pets anymore,” she said.

Bezanson said her group has raised thousands of dollars to have two billboards that raise awareness about puppy mills erected in downtown Manchester between Petland and Debby’s Pet Land.

“My records analysis from the USDA in Kansas, which is where these pups are coming from, revealed that more than 95 percent of Petland and Debby’s Pet Land do buy from puppy mills, either directly from the facilities themselves, or indirectly through massive out-of-state brokers (middleman dealers) who traffic in thousands of puppies a year,” Bezanson said.

The New Hampshire Animal Rights League was founded in 1977 to help all animals.

“We’re an all volunteer public charity registered with the state of NH with a 501(c)3 federal tax exempt status,” Dionne explained

“Anyone who cares about animals and wants to make a positive difference for them won’t want to miss the First Annual Animal Awareness Day.”

A sampling of the day-long event includes a talk on puppy mills by Sherry Bezanson and Jean Slepian. Other topics for the day’s presentations are pheasant stocking, GREY2K USA, factory farming and veganism, humane education and outreach, fur farming, animal experimentation, animals in entertainment and more.