The Tragedy of Puppy Mills in the U.S. and How You Can Help by Trish Jackson

Trish Jackson & Purdy

If you love animals, you have probably stopped at a pet store to pet the adorable puppies and kittens. Sadly, very often these are the progeny of puppy mill parents that live in appalling conditions, where the owners are only concerned with making money and have no empathy for the dogs they use for breeding.

What exactly is a puppy mill?

It is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where the welfare of the animals is not taken into consideration. One or more of the following are common:

1.       The animals are kept in small wire cages, often stacked on top of one another, and they are never taken out for exercise. They are forced to urinate and defecate in their cages and the mess is rarely or never cleaned up.

2.       The cages are located outdoors or under a roof where heating or cooling is not provided, no matter how hot or cold the weather conditions.

3.       The animals are not given adequate food and water.

4.       The bitches are bred as often as possible until they are physically unable to reproduce, at which time they are killed.

5.       No veterinary treatment is given to the animals.

6.       The dogs are not protected from parasites.

The Animal Welfare Act requires breeders with more than three breeding female dogs, and who sell puppies to pet stores or middlemen—called puppy-brokers—are required to be licensed and inspected by the US Department of Agriculture. These inspectors make certain the breeders are complying with the law and that animals are provided with safe, clean housing, shelter from the elements, adequate heating or cooling, exercise, pest control and are fed and watered properly.  Even then, federal law allows a dog to be kept in a cage only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, with a wire floor, and the cages can be stacked, which I don’t think is good enough.

Fortunately additional animal anti-cruelty laws are administered on a state-by-state basis, and many states have imposed stricter guidelines for dog breeding operations, plus greater penalties for cruelty to animals.

Unregistered, unlicensed breeders often manage to keep their operations hidden from the authorities, particularly in remote rural areas. These are what we call puppy mills.

I would never have found out about puppy mills if I hadn’t adopted a dog from a rescue society. My little Yorkshire Terrier, Purdy was rescued together with more than 100 other dogs from a puppy mill in Arkansas.

When the number of dogs rescued is too great to be accommodated by local rescue facilities, a wonderful organization called Pilots n’ Paws flies them to rescue societies in other parts of the country.

Most members of the public have no knowledge of puppy mills and the extent of the suffering these poor dogs go through. I certainly didn’t until I went online and searched for ‘puppy mills’.  You can do your own search but I’ve placed some links at the end of this article. Be warned, if you love dogs this information will bring tears to your eyes.

My beautiful little Purdy was emaciated, suffering from heartworm, filthy, and almost dead when they saved her. Her teeth were falling out because of malnutrition and calcium deficiency. She was also terrified of everything and everyone. The rescuers and their dedicated staff of veterinarians treated her for heartworm and other parasites, spayed her, and pulled the loose teeth. They guessed her age was around 10 to 12, but she was so debilitated she looked more like 14. Now we know she was probably actually only six.

Purdy’s health problems, caused by the way she was abused, will never totally end.  She has a mass on her pancreas and can never eat fat. We’ve fed her all sorts of supplements and a special organic diet. Her immune system, once non-existent, has slowly begun to recover. It’s been a hard seven years;—emotionally draining for us, and physically tough for her; but  things seem to be turning around for her. She has picked up a half pound in weight, which is a lot for a dog under 10 lbs, and she sometimes goes for long spells without throwing up.

Purdy lived with us for several years before I heard her bark—she was too timid. Now she is secure enough to find her voice.

This little Yorkie is certainly the most loving dog I’ve ever owned. She expresses her love by pressing her head into me or by just gazing into my face.

It’s hard to imagine how many more Purdy’s are out there. It is painful to imagine their suffering.

The Humane Society of the United States and the ASPCA are doing all they can to spread the word and educate people not to purchase puppies from pet stores.

The great thing is you can make a difference. Here’s how:

1.       Spread the word about puppy mills. Tell people not to buy puppies from pet stores. Share this article on the social networks and with everyone on your mailing list.

2.  If you live in a rural area and hear a large number of dogs barking from a single location, make it your mission to find out more about them.

3.       Consider getting your next pet from your local animal shelter or a rescue organization. If you particularly want a pedigreed dog with papers, look to bona-fide breeders and visit their premises before making a purchase.

4.       Give a donation to your local ASPCA or humane society, or to a rescue society online.

5.       Consider being a dog foster parent. Keep one or more rescued dogs at your home and socialize them to ready them for adoption.

I love all animals and try to always incorporate some sort of animal in my writing. In the third book in my Redneck P.I. Series, which is still in the draft stages, redneck P.I. Twila Taunton rescues several dogs from an illegal puppy mill. I’m thrilled to have come up with a way to bring to people’s attention the appalling conditions these dogs have to endure.

I can’t say when the book will be published, but you can sign up to pre-order it on my website, or ask me to email you and let you know when it’s available:

For more info about puppy mills:

Trish Jackson, Author
Saddle up for a wild read!

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22 thoughts on “The Tragedy of Puppy Mills in the U.S. and How You Can Help by Trish Jackson

  1. Kenneth Weene

    I always discourage people from buying dogs from pet stores unless they can personally meet the breeder as part of the process. The problem is that there is money to be made, and there are always people who care about nothing else. Whether we are getting animals from reputable breeders or from rescue or simply buying puppies from a neighbor whose dog we know, there is nothing wrong with the role of money in the process. BUT, when some uncaring, selfish person cares about nothing else, we should not assist them in their greed.

  2. Darcia Helle

    All my dogs have always been rescues. My little girl came from a puppy mill. She was approximately 3 years old and had just finished nursing another litter to be sent to a pet store. She weighed less than 4 pounds. (She’s now a healthy 8-1/2 pounds.) She could barely walk, because she’d always been locked in a small cage with metal wiring. She has a hump in her back where her spine never straightened because of her situation being caged. One hip is permanently damaged, never quite fitting in the socket. She didn’t know how to chew, because she’d been fed mostly bread soaked in water. One of her eyes does not produce tears. I have to clean it and put in drops at least a half dozen times a day, or she’d lose the eye. Another week in that place and she’d have died.

    Kaylee is now approximately 9 years old. She’s incredibly sweet and lovable. It never ceases to amaze me how far she’s come.

    If people could see the conditions these dogs are kept in and how little their lives mean to the owners of these puppy mills, no one with a shred of compassion would ever shop at a pet store. If you insist on shopping at one, also insist on knowing where the dogs came from and check that place out yourself.

    Thanks for sharing this important post, Trish.

  3. Monica Brinkman

    Trish, Thank you so much for writing about Puppy Mills and the conditions our animals must endure every day of their life. If find it strange that our animals of the world are still considered ‘property’ giving the sense they are disposable. I urge all people who love animals or care about their living conditions to join in your quest to stop this insanity.

    By the way, your article was extremely well written and thorough. I pray it opens people’s eyes and hearts to what is happening within the breeding world. Your advice to speak up when you suspect a Puppy Mill is advice well taken.

  4. Bryan Murphy

    Trish, your article was an eye-opener for me. It made me feel really sick. It also set me wondering what the situation was like outside the USA. About my home country, the UK, I found this in Wikipedia:
    “In 1996, Britain passed the Breeding and Sale of Dogs Act which requires annual veterinary inspections for anyone breeding five or more litters in one year. Breeding females are restricted to one litter per year and four per lifetime. Breeders who choose to be members of the UK Kennel Club are required to register purebred puppies for sale with that organization and must certify the conditions under which the puppies were raised. Breeders who sell puppies by misrepresenting these standards may be liable to prosecution under the Sale of Goods Act 1979.”
    In 1991, I was in China. There, dogs were bred to be eaten, though only in winter, because they “kept the body warm”. I hope that practice has declined as the country has become a fuller part of the international community.
    I think using your character Twila to raise awareness of the problem is a brilliant idea. Maybe she will inspire some youngsters, so that life will imitate art.

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  6. Salvatore Buttaci

    I could never understand how some people can be so cruel to animals when these pets unconditionally love their masters. Few people can forgive and forget as readily as do these domesticated pets, and it surprises me that sometimes the kindest folks stoop low enough to demonstrate such blatant unkindness towards those animals in their care.
    Trish, this is an exceptional article!

  7. Cynthia B Ainsworthe

    Trish, Thank you so very much for illuminating this tragic industry. As a member of AKC Tampa Bay Poodle Club, I am well aware of this horrific situation and conditions of these dogs and puppies. No one should buy from pet stores, but should seek their “best friend” from a reputable AKC breeder. That breeder has given the best of care and love to the dogs and pups. DNA testing is done before any breeding to ensure the health of the litter. AKC has strict rules regarding breeding practice to ensure healthy parents and babies. Backyard breeders are looking at the money they can earn from each puppy and not seeking to improve the breed. AKC breeders look to improve the breed, not only for confirmation (breed standards) but for health as well. Puppy Mills are an abomination to our furry friends. As a poodle mom of five, all my children have had their hysterectomy and orcherectory (spay/neuter) to ensure their health and longevity. Unaltered females frequently develop cancer of the breast and uterus, and the males develop prostate cancer in later life, and shorten their lives by five to seven years. I’ll get off my soap box now.
    Love that fur baby, they have innocent hearts!

  8. Martha Love

    Trish, thank you for this very informative and touching article on puppy mills. This is a heart breaking problem and I am so glad that you are writing about it here and using a character in your next book to bring further awareness.

    We have this horrendous problem of puppy mills here in Hawaii on Oahu and many people including the Human Society, many concerned volunteer citizens, and police have recently put a few large ones out of business and arrested. It has been on the local TV news, which I think is a great thing for awareness.

    Our family dogs were rescued dogs and like your sweet little dog, often came to us looking 8 to 10 years older than they turned out to actually be. We actually had to change one of our rescued dog’s name to be more fitting because we thought at first he was about 12 then found out soon he was really only 3!

  9. Mary Firmin

    Thanks you so much for bringng this to the forefront, Trish. This is a wondeful article and will surely motivate many of us to DO something. All the best, Mary Firmin, Deadly Pleasures

  10. Micki Peluso

    Trish, thanks for bringing an appalling problem to our attention. My handsome, intelligent Golden Labrador Retriever, Remington, came from a puppy mill, even though he had papers from the AKC. I got him as an anniversary gift from my kids when he was barely 4 months old. I know something happened to him at the puppy mills, because he was terrified of guns. He would take all my gandkids’ toy guns, whether play rifles, water guns or pistols and bury them in the back yard. We still haven’t found them. He recognized all types of guns as weapons. He lived to be almost 12 years old and then slowly wasted away from a disease in dogs similar to ALS in people, a muscle -wasting disease. This too, I believe came from the breeding and inbreeding policies of the mills, causing genetic diseases, especially cancer and heart disease to become more prevalent by narrowing the gene pool. Your using this issue in your new book will make a big impact on those unaware of this situation–thanks for writing about it.

  11. Linda Hales

    Trish – thank you so much for your informative and socially aware essay. Though I no longer own pets, I did grow up with them and deem them to be as worthy of love and caring attention as any other of God’s creatures. These precious little bundles do not ask to be born into what can only be termed as ‘slavery’ and suffer the abuse that ironically is usually only administered by the human hand. Human beings are supposed to love life more than money but sadly, that is all too often not the case.

  12. Clayton Bye

    An important topic. I’ve had one “rescued dog.” I don’t know what had been done to traumatize her so, but she was a grown German Shepherd and a full blown neurotic. She trembled at every noise and movement. Walk toward her and this very large animal would cower like the smallest of beasts. It took a week before she would close her eyes and sleep in my presence. In fact, the dog had so many problems and a level of fear of such great proportions, I had to return her to the pound. I worked full-time and was single at the time. Once she knew I wasn’t going to harm her, the poor thing couldn’t stand to be at home, alone all day. I figured she had had enough pain in her life already. What I would have given to get my hands on the person or people who had abused this sweet animal.

  13. Jon Magee

    Thank you for bringing this to our attention, and hope that this is the start of many others passing on the word on this important topic

  14. Delinda

    It is easy enough to engage with your breeder through the internet. This is how I found our two poodles. Our Pomeranian is a rescue. I rejected those breeders who bragged about their clean kennels and went for the breeder who showed her poodles in her living room with the family watching TV. Thanks for your article. I could say more about breeders who do not breed for health.

  15. Sharla

    Trish, thank you for sharing such an informative post about the puppy mills. I have never been one to visit the pet stores because of the sad conditions no matter how so-called clean they are advertised. All of the pets, both dogs and cats, Jim and I have had in our 29 years of marriage were rescued from various situations., abandoned, malnutritioned, abused. It takes a sick mind to abuse children or animals.

  16. Rosemary "Mamie" Adkins

    Trish, your story sure registered with us. We volunteer at the Humane Society and Rescue and we see some real sad situations. We want to adopt them all but we are at least able to help get them out of their cages and love them. Our agency has this same set up with taking in animals from everywhere. I have just learned that many puppy mills and badly treated animals are being brought in now from even Iran- just shows this is a world wide problem so your post will go a long way to educate people on the need to be aware and helpful.
    Thank you for such a loving piece.

  17. Anne Sweazy-Kulju

    Well done, Trish, and thank you! I have four dogs, all rescues, and all have life-long health issues: my Pomeranian (the boss) was a puppy mill rescue, suffering malnutrition and has lost many teeth. He has always had to have a special diet. Now he’s 14; a happy boy. The other three are Pit Bulls (well, one is a mix), which happens to be, according to the AKC, the breed with the best disposition of any of the domesticated breeds. They are fiercely loyal, incredibly loving, terribly abused dogs who boast a long and revered history in America. They were once called “The Nanny Dog,” and no decent parent had children without one. The most decorated war dog of all time is Stubby, a Pit Bull who saved countless human lives under great risk to his own. Every one of these dogs have ongoing health issues which require monthly trips to the vet (x4). Like you, Trish, I was moved to say something about this tragedy in my next book, “Grog Wars,” where one of my heroes rescues a puppy slated to be a “pit dog, in 1850’s Oregon. If it moves just one person to rescue a Pit Bull from fighting, or an impaired dog from a puppy mill, I will be pleased. But I’m hoping said manuscript inclusions moves multitudes to act… starting with you and your article. I’m going to share it everywhere I can!

  18. Marta Merajver-Kurlat

    Trish, what a great post to encourage persistence in and expansion of campaigns in favor of pets’ well being. All forms of life are precious, and those who maltreat pets -or any other animals- probably do not set much value on humans either.

  19. R.L. Cherry

    I am a big believer in rescue dogs. I recently lost my Aussie, Jilly, who was 4 when we rescued her from the animal shelter and was with us for 9 years. She had a long and happy life with us and brought incredible joy. I cannot understand how anyone could abuse or mistreat these loyal friends.

    “The family dog-the only four-footer with the rudiments of altruism and a sense of God”
    -John Galsworthy

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