By Tiffany Merlo Phelps

Donna McGinnis has two passions: crocheting and dogs. In 2016, she found the perfect way to merge the two together to help rescue puppy mill dogs through the National Mill Dog Rescue. McGinnis uses her business, LadyByTheSeaCrochet, to make pretty much anything one could imagine out of yarn with all the proceeds going to the Colorado-based National Mill Dog Rescue. She has donated $5,000 to the organization since 2016 and volunteers as an ambassador. McGinnis, who moved to Ponte Vedra Beach more than a year ago from California, said she has been deeply disturbed by dog cruelty ever since she was a child. It was always on her heart to find a way to help. 

McGinnis learned to crochet from her mother and has been at it for 30 years. Also known as “Lady Donna” thanks to land ownership in Scotland, McGinnis is a full-time paralegal. In 2015 McGinnis realized that she couldn’t possibly use everything that she made. She just could not stop what has become a stress relieving creative outlet. That’s when she had the “lightbulb” moment, learned about National Mill Dog Rescue, and made a plan to help them. Her goal for 2021 is to fund a full rescue, which costs $3,000 and often rescues 100 dogs at one time. McGinnis said it is an aggressive goal, and one that she will approach in the same way that she started this journey — with a crochet hook and a ball of yarn. 

Q: What attracted you to National Mill Dog Rescue? 

A: National Mill Dog Rescue caught my eye because I was astounded by what they do, and it opened my eyes to an industry that I did not realize is so cruel. Everyone’s heart at National Mill Dog Rescue is in this mission. They have rescued 16,000 dogs to date. I spent four days volunteering with them in Colorado. I cleaned, cuddled the dogs, helped the rehab team and pretty much did whatever they needed me to do. These dogs have never known kindness. They are basically feral and scared to death of people. They do not know love or the human touch. I call National Mill Dog Rescue the “boots on the ground” organization that goes directly into puppy mills across multiple state lines to rescue as many dogs as they can. The ultimate mission is to rehabilitate these dogs and rehome them. 

Q: Talk about the story behind your dog Quinn. 

A: When I was volunteering in Peyton, Colo., I saw this one Chihuahua with gorgeous blue eyes. He was deemed unadoptable after he failed three meet and greets. I decided at that moment that I would adopt this dog, and that he was the right pet for me. Quinn is four years old now. The transformation that he has made is amazing. 

Q: You spoke at a Senate hearing on this topic. What was that experience like? 

A: In 2017, I made the brave step to speak before the California Standing Committee on Professional Responsibility and Conduct to show my support of AB 485, a bill introduced to make it illegal for pet stores to sell puppy mill dogs (any dogs sold would have to be a shelter or a rescue). The majority of people in attendance represented shelters, rescue organizations and pet stores. I was the only one there to speak on behalf of the “parents” of the dogs repeatedly bred-for-profit. AB 485 was ultimately approved, and Gov. Brown signed the Bill into law. It was an amazing experience. 

Q: What are the ways that you sell your products? 

A: I sell on Etsy, through my website, and I have a vendor space in the Seaside Shoppes in Jacksonville Beach. 

Q: What are your most popular crochet products? 

A: Oddly enough, cat toys are very popular. I like to joke that cats are now helping dogs! Beanies are also very popular and recently sold out thanks to the cooler weather. I also accept custom orders. 

[Author’s Note: To learn more about McGinnis, visit, check out her Etsy page by the same name or visit her at Seaside Shoppes.]

Photo courtesy Donna McGinnis
Donna McGinnis and rescue dog Quinn.