From the puppy dragged a mile on the highway to tens of thousands of neglected chickens, photographer Mike Bizelli has seen a lot of horrifying sights of animal abuse in Missouri.
"There is cruelty out there," he says, "but then there's great compassion." The compassion, he says, comes in the forms of the volunteers and professionals who rescue and adopt abused animals all across the state -- something that Bizelli has documented for more than a decade with the Humane Society of Missouri.
Bizelli, a freelance photographer with the organization, is showcasing his stunning photos in an art exhibit next week and gave Daily RFT a sneak peek at some of the images and the stories behind them. Photos on view below.
From Trooper to Sonny to Twister to Tumbleweed to Marshall the Miracle Dog, Bizelli, the 62-year-old Overland resident, has photographed a lot of famous cases of animal abuse in the state over the last fifteen years.
He's tagged along to puppy mill busts, rescues from hoarders, poisonous snake roundups -- and much more.
"The conditions can be pretty awful," he tells Daily RFT.
He never quite knew what to expect when he first start shooting for the organization. At the puppy mills, for example, he says, "I thought there were going to be mean little dogs trying to bite you, but that was not the case at all. These dogs were pleading to get out of there."
On another job, he says, "It was muddy and there were dead chickens laying all over.... The chickens had nothing to eat."
As important as it to document this neglect and abuse -- and the photos he takes can be used for evidence -- it's also important for him to capture the moments of rescue, adoption and recovery, he says.
"There's this great awe factor...when you see people with these animals," he says. "It's definitely emotional."
The photo exhibit will run April 5 (5-9 p.m.), 6 (10 a.m.-5 p.m) and 7 (noon-4 p.m.) at the Humane Society of Missouri headquarters lecture hall at 1201 Macklind Avenue. Admission is $10, online at bizelliphotography.com or at the door.
Continue for more photos and stories from Bizelli's work.