How to Stop Puppy Mills
“Green beans, peach pie, Akita puppies.”
If only I had my cell phone with me when I recently came upon that sign outside of a picturesque Amish country road leading up to a seemingly charming house. Journalism Rules 101: Have a camera with you at all times. Which I had failed to do. The words etched on that sign, however, are an eternal snapshot in my mind.
Seeing that sign on a trip to Lancaster, PA, left me with a different feeling than I’d gotten on previous trips in the region. Since my previous visits I’ve learned that this agrarian community is home to a deep dark secret: The area is known for its dog factories, puppy mills, torture houses — call them what you will — and the sign was evidence, however slight, of what goes on there.
The tourism bureau boasts that there are “so many things to do, you’ll come back again and again,” but it neglects that Amish Country is also dubbed “the puppy mill capital of the world” by several animal advocacy groups.
ALERT: I promise not to show you pictures or videos of suffering dogs, deplorable conditions, or anything else that is disturbing. I will educate you and tell you what you can do to help stop this abuse from happening to dogs across the country.
Wolves in Sheep’s Clothing
Lancaster County is home to what many consider the oldest and largest population of Amish in the United States, about 30,000. Often called “Dutch Country” because of the Pennsylvania Dutch who were among the first Europeans in the region, this area was also the home of my dog’s veterinary specialist for years. We took the road less traveled to appointments, through Amish towns including Intercourse, Blue Ball, Lititz, and Bird-in-Hand — and on a few occasions, we turned the vet trip into a vacation, yet I somehow missed the seedy secrets.
Of course, not all Amish are puppy-mill breeders, and scores of non-Amish folks are horrible puppy-mill producers. The Amish are depicted as comprising a quiet, hardworking culture, people who grow their own foods and live without electricity and modern conveniences.
According to the website Pet Watch New Jersey, “Many puppies sold in New Jersey pet stores originate from Amish and Mennonite puppy mills in Pennsylvania, with the highest concentration coming from Lancaster County.” How could I have driven through this area so many times and not seen it? Apparently, this is what the area relies on: clueless tourists.
Undercover video obtained by Main Line Animal Rescue (located near the Valley Forge National Park in Chester County, PA) several years ago revealed dogs are improperly bred and live in filthy conditions. Many never see the light of day. In a story reported by ABC News, Bill Smith (of Main Line Rescue) shared that dogs are often euthanized and sometimes are “legally” shot. Smith told ABC News, “Unfortunately, if a kennel breeds less than 60 dogs, they can shoot them,” he said. “If it’s over 60 dogs, they can’t be shot.”
Shot. As in dead.
99 percent of all pet store puppies are from puppy mills.
Approximately 2.5 million puppies are born in puppy mills annually and more than 400,000 breeding stock dogs are imprisoned in these kennels.
An estimated 3 to 4 million shelter dogs die each year.
Stopping the Madness
Many people — including the governor of my state — have called for reform of the law that allowed that, and web research was inconclusive as to whether the law still stands. Regardless, it’s horrific to think that as recently as 2009, courts in Pennsylvania ruled that it was legal — if disturbing — for people to kill their pets if they wanted to.
In 2008, Main Line Animal Rescue put up a billboard in Chicago, which caught Oprah Winfrey’s eye. It said, “Oprah: Do a show on puppy mills. The dogs need you.” Winfrey sent journalist Lisa Ling into Pennsylvania’s puppy mill country for what became an award-winning expose.
The Amish in Pennsylvania are not alone in their outrageous and harmful breeding practices.
I’ve recently encountered two groups that are doing something about this abuse.
Cari Myers, founder of The Puppy Mill Project (TPMP) says, “The Puppy Mill Project (TPMP) is my dream, my passion, and my life’s work. Since 2009, my team of volunteers has been working tirelessly to educate the public about the atrocity of puppy mills. Our goal is simple: put an end to puppy mill cruelty.”
Active throughout Chicago and the suburbs of the area, in 2010, Governor Pat Quinn signed the pet store disclosure law requires Illinois pet stores to post breeder information on or near the cage of each puppy sold in that store. This disclosure is a very important step in assisting the consumer with conducting the necessary research before purchasing a pet.
Here are the recommendations of TPMP and what you can do to help stop this madness:
ClosePuppyMills.com is a non-profit organization dedicated solely to the cause of closing down puppy mills everywhere. I met Deborah Bull and her sisters, Chris and Pat, recently at a Pugs for Pinky Fundraiser in Maryland.
Like many puppy mill rescuers, Deborah got involved because her own dog, Bailey, was a puppy mill victim. She writes ,”Just 4 weeks after her second surgery at only 5 years old the Vet said nothing more could be done as Bailey gasped for breath. I made the agonizing decision to euthanize her. At the moment Bailey took her last breath I felt as if my own heart had stopped beating…….”
Here are tips on how you can help from ClosePuppyMills.com:
Fi-dose of Reality
Remember, that a dog being registered and having papers does not ensure a puppy did not come from a puppy mill. Refuse to shop at stores that sell puppies from puppy mills. My first dog was a puppy-mill rescue, and this I know: I loved her more than life itself, and she had extensive health problems.
I know better now, but the problem that causes such suffering continues.
I am joining in a blog hop with several other pet bloggers to get the word out and stop puppy mills. In all honesty, if every person who reads this, does something immediately afterwards – a tweet, a Facebook share, an email to a Congress person, imagine how many dogs’ lives will be saved.
[Tweet “Puppy Mills can be stopped Join me in the fight to eradicate them.”]
Thanks to special host of this hop, Dolly the Doxie, and I am co-hosting. This one’s for you, Brandy Noel. Forever mighty dog and eternally missed.
Leaky eyes is all I can say, so beautifully said as you always do. Love Dolly and Dolly’s Lady
That’s so sad ! What an awful practice ! We heard of something similar in Europe too, but it’s against the law. Some people want “cheaper” purebred dogs and are not aware that they encourage those practices. Dog fights, puppy mills, cat declawing…. those anipals all need our help. Purrs
It is heartbreaking. Here is Ohio it is bad too….. Mom has worked with Best Friends saving mill dogs out of Missouri and it is so hard to see these dogs…and yet the saving grace was knowing they were safe and on their way to rescue in NY. And the bloodhound group she works with saved a breeding pair from a mill. Heaven knows what would have happened to them, but they have both been adopted and are now living wonderful lives in loving homes. We fight with you…and hope one day people will see the evil for what it is and what it does to these animals.
Puppy mills make me SO angry. How are they even still in existence?
Wow just never knew. It is sad people do this to puppies. so sad.
“Refuse to shop at stores that sell puppies from puppy mills” makes is sound like some pet stores sell puppies that are not from puppy mills. I refuse to shop at any store that sells any puppies. In my neck of the woods we increasingly see rescue groups partnering with pet stores and hosting adoption days at the store – that seems to be a win win for all parties.
I always appreciate articles that spread puppy mill awareness and education.
I adopted my little puppy mill survivor just under five years ago. At just over 10 years old now, she was born at that horrific place and kept as “breeding stock”. She suffered such physical and psychological abuse that much of it is irreversible. Some of her physical issues are due to poor genetic breeding, passed down to her puppies, and ultimately the consumer.
Not including general wellness, her Vet bills (including tomorrow’s surgery to remove pins that were placed in her legs one year ago) topped out at over $5,000 for just the last 12 months. Tomorrow as I hand off my timid little girl yet again to someone that she does not trust, my heart will break into a million pieces as I watch her tremble in complete fear. Ultimately, she will accept her fate and shutdown emotionally, an even more heart wrenching thing to witness. It’s a coping mechanism.
The puppies that she produced? They will carry her traits both physically, as well as emotionally. An unsocial/fearful/unhealthy dog cannot produce well adjusted, social and healthy puppies. Period. The breeding dogs suffer, the puppies suffer and ultimately the consumer suffers.
Puppy mills are everywhere. My little gal came from a puppy mill in northern Florida.
First, beautiful photo of you & Brandy Noel! I’m appalled that any Amish would participate in puppy mills! Being from NY I spent many weekends in the Amish country. I never would have dreamed that these people could be a part of something so horrific, it shocks me. I was pretty uneducated about puppy mills until I began volunteering in animal welfare 6 years ago. I know there are still many people who are also ignorant about the extent of puppy mills and how awful they are. We all need to do our part in helping to stamp out puppy mills. Thanks for an amazing post!
it is still so hard to believe that places like this still exist. Ugh, it just hurts my hear. Thanks for sharing.
This was eye-opening for me. I live quite close to Lancaster, and had no idea this kind of torture was so rampant in the area. Thanks for bringing awareness to this important issue.
It has me so sad and angry and the more who know and can spread the word, the better. Thanks SO much!
We have so many in Ontario as well (Henry came from one such mill). Hopefully, the informative links you’ve shared will inspire people to take action. Thank you (from Henry, Reese and their Mama).
I don’t think many people would suspect the Amish of having a hand in this foul practice so they are able to ‘get away with it’. Checking the breeder’s information would be best for must to do to end the demand for puppy mills.
I’d love to adopt a Puppy 🙂 So adorabs. Its great when these innocent animals can find a wonderful place to live and grow
It’s a little sad how desperate people are for the “perfect breed.” I learned a lot about puppy mills when I was at an animal sanctuary. Legislation protecting non-human animals is so weak in this country.
I honestly had no idea. I almost stopped to look at puppies once when we were passing through Lancaster (no to purchase) with a friend. I am so glad that I did not. How heartbreaking.
I was mortified and could never ever look at the Amish the same way again. Lancaster is the puppy mill capital of the world of all things.
So sad. I would never buy any pets at the pet store. I wold do directly from a breeder.
I saw the Oprah show on puppy mills, it was very well done. I think they need to air it again…and again.
Amen to that, Val.
I am down for this fight! I hate puppy mills and those that run them. They are the scum of the earth in my mind! I will do my part to stop puppy mills!
Thanks for raising awareness of this important issue. We have to get rid of puppy mills and protect all dogs.
What a awesome idea for Blog Hop! I had no idea that the Amish were involved in this business. I second never shopping in stores that sell puppies. Dogs should not be for sale at any retail store.
We most definitely refuse to getting of our animals from a mill. We even have some Sugar Gliders that we “rescued” from a rough situation (read: from a mill!) that had NEVER even been held before and stuck in a teeny tiny cage- we’ve had them for a few months and they are finally getting used to us and beginning trust us. I cannot STAND any type of mill!
Isn’t it scary and sad for these poor innocent lives? I am so glad you rescued, too!
Thank you for the awareness to this. I had no idea the Amish were running puppy mills. I am checking into the links you provided to see how I can make a difference. I am also sharing your post on FB.
I really appreciate that. These poor innocent dogs are suffering. Anything you can do to get the word out is appreciated.
So important to bring awareness to this awful practice. People need to stop “buying” pets and start adopting. Thanks for this post!
I did not know this about the Amish. You just never know what goes on in our own communities. Thanks for sharing this message!