Puppy Mills: Part II

I received an abundance of feedback in response to my recent blog about puppy mills.  Thanks to all of you who took the time to share your feelings concerning this emotional topic.  Virtually all of the comments expressed agreement that puppy mills are despicable and we wish they would cease to exist.  They also included important ideas that prompted me to think, “Wow, I wish I’d included that in my blog!”  Needless to say, I can’t resist sharing these wonderful comments and stories. 

Many of you reminded me that puppy mills spawn significant behavioral issues in their “merchandise” that can be just as devastating, if not more so, than the health issues that arise: 

Debbie wrote, “The physical abnormalities in puppy mill dogs are often accompanied by behavioral problems as well, fear being a major issue for many of these dogs who receive inappropriate or inadequate socialization. Like many medical issues the damage done due to inappropriate socialization may also be irreparable.” 

Diane commented, “I wanted to point out that for me, behavioral issues are also a major concern in addition to the health problems.  Don’t get me wrong, I get my business from people who buy these puppies, but honestly, I would rather just have a class full of wonderful healthy puppies and find some other way to make money.” 

Viviane wrote, “The health problems associated with puppy mills are truly heartbreaking and your post about this brought me to tears.  As a dog trainer and dog behavior consultant, I also see the behavioral results of this sort of breeding operation all too often, and that too is heartbreaking for unsuspecting souls who fall for a sweet face only to discover profound shyness and/or reactivity.  The dog that should have given a lifetime of joy and companionship and of course received the same, now is a beloved but seriously flawed family member who requires management and training to varying degrees for a life time.” 

Vanna stated, “I think it is really important to also point out that these puppy mill dogs aren’t properly socialized early on and therefore there are often serious issues by the time they bring the dog home.  Of course there is also an issue since they aren’t breeding for temperament.” 

Some thought I was tough enough on the puppy mills, but far too soft on the people who patronize puppy mills.  

Kerri commented, “It angers me because people who are educated about these horrible operations still buy from them. You say in your post, “Puppy mills stay in business by preying on people who are willing to buy a puppy without doing their research.” When I read that, I thought it was letting the buyers off way too easy. By the late 1990s when I rescued my first Doxie and wrote an investigative piece, Disposable Pets (http://www.writeforyou.biz/Disposable-Pets.htm) it was becoming known, but I think the general public could still be excused for ignorance. Today, the puppy mill buying public would have to literally live in a bubble not to know the problem of puppy mills and the terrible conditions from which these dogs come.” 

I couldn’t resist sharing Diane’s inspirational comment with you:  “Here! Here! I go one-step further…… I do not buy ANYTHING from pet stores that sell puppies!” 

A few people reminded me that, as states are cracking down on puppy mills, the innocent victims wind up in shelters and breed rescue organizations.  The people who care for them will require extra help for these emotionally fragile dogs.  There is an instructional DVD addressing this unique situation (check out www.missiondog.com). 

Lastly, before I share Jeff’s poignant puppy mill story, please be reminded:  The purebred dog of your dreams may be awaiting you at your local shelter (yes, many purebred dogs do land there) or breed rescue association.  Please don’t forget to consider these options when you are thinking about “expanding the family.”

Now, here is Jeff’s story:  

“Nancy: As you may perhaps recall, you sent a couple of very kind emails last year when our little Yorkie, Shelly, died suddenly after having three vaccinations in one day.  Soon after we were lucky enough to adopt two Yorkies who were saved from a raided puppy mill near New Hope, Pennsylvania.  Forty-six Yorkies were found in an abandoned house in the winter with no heat or water.  They were living in birdcages.  The Bucks County SPCA is the hero of this story.  Their director, Ann Irwin and her people responded to the police in the middle of the night.  She mobilized her whole staff and descended on the house at two in the morning and snatched up the poor little dogs.  I visited the SPCA a day later when they were giving the little tykes baths.  Most were so matted and filthy that they just shaved masses of fur rather than try to wash them.  We adopted a very small female, Molly, who they estimate is 5-6 years old.  She has numerous cesarean scars on her tummy from her various births.  When we got to the house, I took her outside to pee, but she was shocked at standing on grass; a first time experience.  After a day or so I was concerned that she wasn’t drinking water.  Then it struck me that she probably was not used to drinking from a bowl.  I bought her a tube type water dispenser like you would give to a hamster in a cage.  She practically emptied it.  I don’t think Molly will ever be completely house broken.  The extraordinary thing is how affectionate she is.  Having gone through what she did one would think she would fear humans.  She is the most loving little dog I have ever owned. The second dog is a puppy from one of the pregnant mothers who they let go to term.  We originally called her Lucy, but I renamed her Lucifer because she is so bad!  These dogs are a great joy, but I have no illusions about Molly.  I don’t think she will become an old dog due to her difficult years living in birdcages in unheated basements with poor nutrition.” 

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly at the SPCA after being shaved and bathed

Molly in her new home

Molly in her new home

Molly and Lucifer

Molly and Lucifer

Thanks to everyone who shared their opinions and stories.  Let’s hope for ongoing progress in the fight against puppy mills.   Wishing you and your four-legged family members abundant good health.

Dr. Nancy Kay
Specialist, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine 

Please visit http://www.speakingforspot.com to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at Amazon.com, local bookstores, or your favorite online book seller. 

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6 Responses to “Puppy Mills: Part II”

  1. Rachel Charles says:

    I’m so glad to read your posts about puppymills. The sad thing is that as long as people continue supporting pet stores that sell puppies (yes, even buying dog food at that pet store is helping keep that store in business), the breeding dogs at puppymills will be condemned to a life of suffering and misery. One of my pugs, Grace, was rescued from a puppymill in Oklahoma. I can only imagine the horror she endured for the first five years of her life – so much so that she is TERRIFIED of humans. We adopted her 2 1/2 years ago and to this day, she will not approach any human other than me, not even my husband, and if I move toward her to pick her up, she will run away – she has to come to me on her own. I’ve had dogs all my life and have never known a dog to be as terrified of people as Grace is. It breaks my heart – she’s the exact opposite of my other two pugs. Pugs were bred for companionship and the fact that she was abused, mistreated and neglected for so long is so disheartening. It’s simply not normal for pugs to be afraid of humans and she is. She’s a “seriously damaged” dog that will never overcome her bevy of mental, emotional and psychological issues that are a direct result of her living in a puppymill, doing nothing but breeding every single time she went into heat. Please keep spreading the word about the atrocities of puppymills – the public likes to pretend horrible places like this don’t exist. People would rather turn a blind eye than admit humans can be so horrible. It’s one of the reasons I spend every second I can telling Grace’s story and helping people understand these horrible places do exist and it’s time to shut them down forever.

  2. Elizabeth & The Lab Crew says:

    As the doggy Mom to 3 labradors ( one who is from a well researched breeder ) and two rescues I totally refuse to put my money into any pet store that sells pets. I don’t care where they “tell” you they have come from they are from puppy mills. Of my rescues one has Addison’s disease which is a very managable AI disease. Both of my rescues lived in appalling conditions before they came to us.
    Both my rescues had behaviour issues but they have mostly been overcome. My Addison’s boy did not know how to walk on smooth floors and was like a deer on ice when he came to our home, he did not know how to climb stairs and he was not house broken. He was terribly shy and still is with strangers but look out when he knows you, you are fair game for lots of kisses.

    Both my rescues were someones throw aways, but not too me they are my forever dogs, no matter what! They give me so much love, it’s almost like they know something. I feel I am the lucky one that they came into my life.

    There are just too many wonderful dogs out there in shelters that need homes for me to ever go to a breeder again.

    Keep up the good work on spreading the message about puppy mills Dr. kay. For every one person you educate, even if they only tell 1 other person that is one more that won’t buy from pet stores.

  3. Dona Pate says:

    Dr. Kay, I am so very glad and more hopeful that you have become another important voice bringing attention to puppy mills. I remember when I first saw a few years ago a documentary re. puppy mills that are run by the Amish in PA. I was shocked that they would be involved with this horrible situation. People will do anything for money. But with people like you exposing the plight of defenseless animals change is happening. I would like to hear any experience you have encountered or are aware of regarding dog fighting. More people are reporting them as laws have been made stronger and are being enforced to arrest those involved. I try to always look for the positive things that are occurring. Thank you.

  4. Carolyn M says:

    This issue really tugs at my heart and angers me. I’m sure politics are involved in allowing puppy mills to stay in business, but how exactly, does anyone know? I’ve gathered there is some AKC support??? Is it lobbyists? Surely the millers can’t have that much political clout, can they? What am I missing here? Yes, I realize there is a lot of money to be made by the millers. If they go out of business, there are still plenty of shelter dogs of all breeds and mixes, as well as responsible breeders so I don’t think we are facing a “dog shortage.” I have a hard time grasping why we continue to tolerate such a horrendous business in the USA.

  5. Amy says:

    My Karly fortunately doesn’t have any behavioral problems, but her own health suffered terribly from being a puppy mill mom. She was found on the brink of death in a cornfield by a good samaritan, who brought her to the puppy mill nearby thinking she was one of theirs. The “farmer” said she wasn’t one of his (yeah, right). But someone bred her over & over to the point she developed gestational diabetes, which turned into permanent diabetes, and nine large mammary tumors. I don’t know how she wound up there, but I rescued her on her E-day at the local shelter, and I’ve spent thousands of dollars restoring her health to the extent I can. I can’t bring back the teeth she lost due to having over 100 puppies suck the calcium out of her body, or restore the vision she lost from untreated diabetes, but I can give her a happy retirement. She earned over $25,000 for someone and they repaid her by leaving her in a cornfield to die. I wonder if the people who bought her puppies give any thought to their puppy’s mom.