One Dog’s Story

This is Cotton, the pomeranian in the header. She was a puppy mill momma kept in the worst conditions imaginable for about 5 years. Her ear was tattooed with a number and that is how she was treated. She lived in a wire cage most likely, outside or in a basement, with minimum food and ZERO care. She was not treated like a feeling living being, but like a thing, to produce puppies for profit. She ended up in Pet Adoption League like so many other puppy mill victims, but was so shut down that the sight of a human terrified her to the point of defecating and urinating on herself. She went to a foster home and continued to be frightened of humans for a long time. Slowly she has come out of her shell. She is a free and happy dog, living the life that every dog should. She is not and never will be 100% “normal” but she is happy. Cotton is just one of millions of dogs that have had the unfortunate lot in life to be born into a life of misery and confinement in a puppy mill.

I happen to be the one who fostered and then adopted Cotton, aka a foster failure. Thanks to PAL, she got a second chance. One day I stumbled into this great little shelter and asked if there were any dogs in need of getting out of there for awhile, to help them get adopted. They pointed me to Cotton and said she is so terrified we can’t even touch her. There in the corner sat this shaking dog, so hopeless, eyes bugged out, her future seemed bleak. Yet they took her in, because the Pet Adoption League has a huge heart. The people who are involved with PAL are hard and true animal lovers; they take in dogs and cats that other shelters sometimes won’t go near.

To think any animal will ever suffer this kind of abuse is beyond words. Cotton’s story is just one of millions. Her recovery was very long, very slow, and extremely painful to watch. It’s not normal for a dog to cower and shake just because you’re in the room. When walking in public, people wanted to pet her but she was scared of them. They didn’t understand, and when I explained she came from a puppy mill, the response was even more eye-opening, “what’s a puppy mill?”  Nine out of ten people ask me that question.

America is allowing dogs to be kept in horrifying conditions so that non-dog loving people can profit from selling the puppies. You can’t even tell the breed of some of the parents their condition is so bad. Even mathematically it doesn’t make sense. Millions are bred, millions are killed. This is insanity.

Why and How do Puppy Mills exist?

Here’s how. Lack of knowledge. Most people just don’t know about it. Even though there are movies, posts, videos, somehow the majority of people just look over it or just haven’t run across it yet.  Lack of legal protection. There aren’t laws to prevent this. They state “adequate space or food” not specifying what that means. Lobbyists.  It’s a profitable industry to raise thousands of puppies and sell them to unwitting people. Lobbyists have actually been successful at having the people arrested who are exposing them. Please educate yourself about this subject.

And NEVER EVER buy a dog from a pet store!  Or a newspaper, flea market, online, side of the road, from Amish people (they are the worst offenders and PA has one of the highest number of mills run by Amish).

Think about it. Responsible breeders or those involved in rescue are making you fill out an application. They want to interview you, check your home, get your references. Would you just give a puppy to anyone willing to pay you money? NO! Then understand that anyone willing to just sell a dog to anyone has bred that dog in horrible conditions, and the puppy will have health issues, possibly unsocialized during crucial early months, or ripped away from its mother too early. Worse yet for the mother and father, who are trapped in a wire cage someplace where no one can see it, being abused and neglected so that you can have your full breed puppy. Many are destroyed when they’re no longer producing profitably.

So if you do go ahead and buy a dog this way, you are part of the problem. As you are cuddling your new puppy, its parents are enduring a life not worth living, continuing to make babies so the owners of the heartless parents can profit. The parents may or may not make it out alive. Cotton was lucky. She was surrendered to a rescue group. Many are not, they are disposed of once they are no longer needed. So now you know. If you go ahead and buy a full breed dog you are actually contributing to keeping puppy mills open.

Please let this beautiful dog be a face for this issue – of puppy mill awareness, light and hope for a better future for dogs.

~ From the website developer, a dog lover. This site was donated in honor of Cotton, in hopes of helping save the lives of many more dogs in need of new homes.

How Can You Help Stop Puppy Mills?

1.) DON’T BUY A PUPPY FROM A PET STORE. PERIOD. Educate yourself about the parents of the dog you are about to buy. They are sold at flea markets, internet, newspapers, if you are buying from these places, you just voted to keep a puppy mill in business.

Some pet stores are beginning to bring in rescue dogs and cats, instead of purchasing from puppy mills. HOWEVER:  Some pet stores will tell you that their dogs are from rescues, and they are actually from puppy mills. FIND OUT THE TRUTH!  Don’t stop at asking the sales clerk. Do your research.

2.) Don’t buy a dog… PERIOD.  Rescue a dog. There is still a fee you will pay for a rescue dog, but it’s not profit. It covers the cost of rescuing dogs. It’s expensive to operate a shelter:  there’s food, medical care, utilities, typical operating costs for keeping any building open, a transport van for getting the animals to and from the vet for care, cleaning supplies, the list goes on. Those who scoff at paying a fee for rescuing a dog have no concept of the work and money involved.

If you are looking for a full breed dog, many many of them end up in shelters. There are breed specific rescue groups. Look for them online. Petfinder is a fantastic place to search for a specific type of animal. It’s a nation wide site for rescue groups, they don’t charge the rescues for using their site, and you can narrow down your search to find the type of dog you want.

3.) Tell everyone you know. Share stories about this on Facebook or other social media venues. You are now aware of the issue if you read this far. Don’t let your friends, family, or anyone you run across live in denial about this, tell them the truth! Those cute little full breed puppies lined up in cages in the pet store.. those are the babies of parents living in horrific conditions.

4.) Don’t buy ANYTHING from a pet store that sells puppy mill puppies.  Let them know why you will no longer purchase anything from them. Ask them why they continue to support this abusive practice. They need to hear our voices. They cannot stay in business without your business.

5.) Vote for representatives who care about animals.

6.) Join the ASPCA, Humane Society of the United States, and other animal rights organizations, and follow their puppy mill campaigns. They will alert you when there is a vote. They are highly organized and often will ask you to call your senator right before a bill goes into play. You do have a voice!  Use it put these mills out of business. Lobbyists have been able to keep these awful places open, and even been successful in gag orders against those who catch them. Fight this. Fight until there are no more puppy mills.

Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience love, treats, toys, exercise or even basic grooming. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs, and often their cages are stacked up in columns, where feces and anything from the cage above is leaked onto the dogs below. Breeding parent dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors in these cramped cages, exposed to the elements, or crammed and stacked up inside filthy structures in basements or other filthy areas, where they never get the chance to feel the sun or breathe fresh air.

Learn More About Puppy Mills, FAQ, Laws, Where to Avoid Buying a Puppy Mill victim, and more:

Fight Puppy Mill Cruelty

Humane Society of the United States
Puppy Mill FAQs

2015 List of Horrible 100 Puppy Mills

Stop Puppy Mills!

What Is a Puppy Mill?

A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.

Some puppy mill puppies are sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified. Other puppy mill puppies are sold directly to the public, including over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets.

What Health Problems Are Common to Puppy Mill Dogs?

Illness and disease are common in dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators often fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:

–  Epilepsy
–  Heart disease
–  Kidney disease
–  Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
–  Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
–  Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
–  Deafness
–  Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
–  Respiratory disorders

On top of that, puppies often arrive in pet stores and their new homes with diseases or infirmities. These can include:

–  Giardia
–  Parvovirus
–  Distemper
–  Upper respiratory infections
–  Kennel cough
–  Pneumonia
–  Mange
–  Fleas
–  Ticks
–  Intestinal parasites
–  Heartworm
–  Chronic diarrhea

Do Puppy Mill Pups Display Behavior Problems?

Sometimes. Fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are typical of puppy mill dogs. Puppies born in puppy mills are typically removed from their littermates and mothers at just six weeks of age. The first months of a puppy’s life are a critical socialization period for puppies. Spending that time with their mother and littermates helps prevent puppies from developing problems like extreme shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety.

How Often Are Dogs Bred in Puppy Mills?

In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When, after a few years, they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. The mom and dad of the puppy in the pet store window are unlikely to make it out of the mill alive—and neither will the many puppies born with overt physical problems that make them unsalable.

Which States Have the Most Puppy Mills?

Today, Missouri is considered the leading puppy mill state in the country. Over time, puppy mills have spread geographically. The highest concentration is in the Midwest, but there are also high concentrations in other areas, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and upstate New York. Commercial dog breeding is very prevalent among Amish and Mennonite farmers, with pockets of Amish dog breeders found throughout the country, including in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and parts of Wisconsin.

How Many Puppy Mills Exist in the U.S.?

At any given point in time, there are typically between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders (commonly referred to as puppy mills) operating in the United States. However, this number does not take into consideration the number of breeders not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of breeders operating illegally without a license. Because so many of these breeders are operating without oversight, it’s impossible to accurately track them or to know how many there truly are. The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills in the United States.

How Many Dogs Does an Average Puppy Mill Have?

The number of dogs in a puppy mill can vary significantly. Some puppy mills are relatively small, with only 10 breeding dogs. Other breeders run massive operations with more than 1,000 breeding dogs! Because not all puppy mills are licensed and inspected, it’s impossible to know the true average.

A Local Pet Store Says Its Dogs Aren’t from a Mill. Is That True?

There is no legal definition of “puppy mill.” Many pet store owners will tell you they get all their puppies from “licensed USDA breeders” or “local breeders.” In fact, in order to sell puppies to pet stores, a breeder must be licensed by the USDA! Pet stores often use this licensing to provide a false sense of security to customers, when what it really means is that they do, in fact, get their puppies from puppy mills.

The fact is, responsible breeders would never sell a puppy through a pet store because they want to screen potential buyers to ensure that the puppies are going to good homes.

The Store’s Dogs Have Papers. Does That Mean They’re from Responsible Breeders?

No. Being registered or having papers means nothing more than the puppy’s parents both had papers.Many registered dogs are sold in puppy mills. Don’t be fooled by “papers.” Many, many pedigreed dogs come from puppy mills! The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from yourself.

How Can I Tell If an Online Puppy Seller Is a Mill?

Many puppies sold online come from puppy mills. The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from yourself! Responsible breeders would never sell to someone they haven’t met because they want to screen potential buyers to ensure the puppies are going to good homes.

Where Else Can I Get a Purebred Dog?

Please make adoption your first option. Purebred dogs end up in shelters just like mixed breeds. Breed rescue groups exist for just about every breed possible. If you have your heart set on a purebred, please be sure to visit your local shelter or find a breed rescue group before searching for a breeder.

If you can’t find what you want through a shelter or breed rescue group, please learn how to recognize a responsible breeder. When buying a dog from a breeder, always be sure to meet the puppy’s parents or at least the mother, and see where the dogs live. Never meet a breeder at an off-site location, and never have a puppy shipped to you sight-unseen.

What Happens If I Don’t Buy the Dogs in Pet Stores? Don’t They Need Homes, Too?

The public will stop buying pet store puppies gradually over time, not all at once—someone will eventually purchase those dogs at the store. Puppies in pet stores are usually sold quickly. If they don’t sell quickly, the owners continue to slash the price until the puppies are sold.

The less they sell for, the less profit the store makes. That means the store will order fewer puppies the next month. And puppy mills will ultimately produce fewer dogs.

Information on this page Reference: From the ASPCA website:

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