The Puppy Mill Project

As we head into Mother’s Day weekend, I wanted to share a group of mothers who never celebrate or receive any type of pampering.  They are dog moms.   No, not the proud humans who call themselves dog moms, the biological mothers of the cute puppies in the pet store. The Puppy Mill Project will be hosting Mothers In The Mills Benefit on May 9 in Chicago, Illinois to help these dogs.puppy mill project, #puppymillaction

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.

About 3 – 4 million dogs die in shelters/animal control each year.

Puppy farms are not the idyllic farm of Snoopy’s memory, but rather are places where dogs may live in terrible conditions and bred at every available opportunity.   In 2009, The  Puppy  Mill  Project  (TPMP),  a non-­profit organization based in Chicago, was founded by animal  right activist Cari Meyers.   Cari  realized  that  no  one  was  talking  about  puppy  mills  –  one  of  the  largest, most systemic forms of animal cruelty and a huge source of our pet overpopulation  problem.  TPMP’s  mission is to raise public awareness about puppy  mills   and their  direct connection to stores and internet sites that sell dogs.  Their  goal is simple:  to put an end to puppy mill cruelty.

I have debated countless times on whether or not to share this story with you.  I’m not proud of it, and I know people will judge me, be angry with me, perhaps even stop reading my blog, but I hope to prevent people from making the same mistake I did.

In 2007 our family dog died unexpectedly.  After two weeks, I couldn’t take it anymore and needed another dog.   I went looking for a puppy.  We called every shelter in the phone book and tried looking online, but we couldn’t find any shelters with puppies. (The internet was much smaller then, and at that time my computer experience was pretty limited.)   My husband was very specific about what kind of dog he could live with:  small and non shedding were the two most important requirements.  We visited several homes that had puppies for sale, but I knew they weren’t good breeders.  If I had known then (2007)  what I know now,  I would not have gone to a pet store to even look at a puppy, no matter what.   There was a Maltese at the pet store, and I ignored my inner good judgement and bought the puppy.   The young man at the pet store was so earnest when he told me “our puppies are from local breeders, the last of the litter that they haven’t been able to sell.” I TRULY believed she was from a small family breeder.  I was so naive and foolish, however I know I’m not alone in falling for the lie.

Syracuse Dog Photographer

Photo credit: Alice G Patterson Photography

When I got home, I checked her papers, thinking I’d write a friendly letter and update them on their last pup. I was excited to make a new acquaintance who had a vested interest in my newest family member.  However, she wasn’t the last of the litter from a local breeder….she was from Arizona.  A puppy mill. I felt sick.   Turns out I wasn’t the only one, Nelly was also sick with kennel cough.  The pet store  gave us the option to return her for a refund, but of course I wasn’t going to do that.  She had suffered enough at their hands, or so I thought.

A while later Nelly was limping due to avascular necrosis of the femoral head, which was attributed to either a  hereditary condition common to small dogs or a trauma she received as a puppy, prior to coming to live with us.  Nelly required surgery to remove the dead bone.   We spent a lot of money and Nelly had some obvious pain from the surgery, sadly she still limps from time to time.

If Nelly had come from a responsible breeder, her chances of having a congenital condition would have been greatly reduced if not entirely eliminated.  And she would have had a much smaller chance of having a traumatic injury as a puppy.  While Nelly has a loving home and people who do their best to make sure she has a good life, her mom is (or was) most likely kept in horrid conditions.  Who know if her siblings were kept in the mill, forced to breed or if they were lucky enough to make it out as puppies?

Nelly’s mother was most likely bred repeatedly.  Most dogs in puppy mills spend their lives in small wire cages.  There is no such thing as routine grooming (I can’t even imagine a Maltese with no grooming) or vet visits.  Overgrown nails, decayed teeth, missing eyes and open sores are commonplace.  There is no place to exercise or a soft spot to lay down and rest.  (I’m not sure if pregnant moms and newborn puppies get a solid floor or not.)

If you want to judge me for my ignorance, I understand.   I love Nelly and I’m glad that I have her in my life.  But it was  a poor decision to buy her, unwittingly I supported an industry that I didn’t realize was so cruel and uncaring.  They aren’t just cruel to the dogs in their care, they hurt the puppies and the people who buy them.

So I’m asking you to help make the world a better place.  Tell your friends, family  and strangers that the world doesn’t need puppy mills.  Avoid shopping in stores that sell puppies.  It isn’t enough to not buy a puppy, don’t shop there at all. There are lots of pet stores that don’t sell puppies, please support them instead.

It turns out that pet stores aren’t the only ones that get their dogs from puppy mills.  If you see an ad selling dogs online, it is probably a puppy mill.  Much to my dismay, the Amish are notorious for breeding dogs in less than ideal conditions.

The Puppy Mill Project has some great tips to help you get a dog.  Now that we have Theo, I can heartily endorse adopting an adult dog, he’s every bit as lovable and awesome as a puppy!  The Puppy Mill Project helps to educate by making  age-­‐appropriate  presentations  at  schools,  summer  camps  and  community  organizations  in  hopes   that  audiences  will  embrace  the  “adopt,  don’t  shop”  philosophy.

You can follow The Puppy Mill Project on Facebook.

#Puppymills are terrible places, please help spread the word.

I am participating in a blog hop hosted by Dollie the Doxie and Fidose of Reality.  Please visit the other blogs and learn what you can do to help eradicate puppy mills.

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Thank you so much for your honest story. Its nothing to be ashamed of, rather its a lesson learned that you are using to teach others the right way. Because you are proof that none of this is made up about buying pets and that there can be serious problems if you do. Thank you also for being responsible and giving Nellie the love and care she needed and not giving up on her. I am so glad you joined this hop!

    Beth says:

    Thanks for your support. Nelly is one of the reasons why I’m so passionate about rescue now.

Thanks for being a part of this – I so want to squash all puppy mills. Behold the power of the pet blogger!

Thank you for sharing your story and help raise awareness about puppy mills. After we lost our last dog I was desperate to find a new companion and I adopted Laika on pure impulse – all of the planning I had done on adopting an older dog went out the window when I saw those puppy dog eyes. Who can resist a puppy? Thank you for sharing and being such an awesome owner for Nelly – I could not imagine anyone actually using their return policy after you’ve had a moment to bond.

    Beth says:

    Laika was meant to be your dog. 🙂

Wonderful post. I did not know much about Puppy Mills until I started the #RescuesRock project for my TV series. Thanks for sharing. We’ll join too.
X Susie

    Beth says:

    It is shameful the way dog in puppy mills are treated! I look forward to reading your post.

You are really brave for sharing your story. I’m sure there are people out there who will judge you, but you honestly didn’t know about pet stores selling puppy mill puppies, so in my opinion, you did not do anything that needs to be judged. I didn’t know about puppy mills until several years ago myself. They make me so very sad. I really advocate for adopting pets rather than buying them. But if people want to buy a specific breed of dog or cat, I hope they will do their research and buy from a responsible, caring breeder.

    Beth says:

    I appreciate your kind words. They say ignorance is bliss and in a way it is, but it is awful when you find out the truth.

Jillian says:

Thank you for sharing your story. So many people don’t know the truth about pet store puppies — but you are right, your dog did not deserve to be returned. Dogs produced from these situations still need to find loving homes. I wish we could do the same for their mothers… Hopefully, with our help, there won’t be any more puppy mills soon enough. <3

    Beth says:

    Thanks. I am hopeful that by sharing the ugly truth I can prevent other people from unknowingly supporting puppy mills.

We have a local store that sells puppies and it breaks my heart whenever I see them. back before I had Jada, a family friend wanted to get a dog from them and I begged and pleaded that they get one from the pound. The friend claimed that pound dogs are sickly, which I responded with saying that the opposite was actually true. Needless to say, they bought a puppy and it kept on getting sick the first year of its life. Maybe they will listen to me next time!

    Beth says:

    I hope so. Hopefully they will tell their friends and family about the negative experience.

Amanda says:

Ugh this makes me ill – how embarrassing…I live in Arizona. Lately though, there have been a few HUGE puppy mill busts here. Wynston is from a puppy mill in Mesa, AZ. Makes me so sick.

    Beth says:

    Hopefully puppy mills will be a thing of the past before long!

Love your brave honesty. It’s an important story to be told. Thank you for spreading the word.
–Wags (and purrs) from Life with Dogs and Cats

It’s so sad.. I wish a lot of people would wake up and just stop buying from stores… I hope some day this will all stop. #doglivesmatter

    Beth says:

    I hope so too!

Sadie says:

No judgement. You are using your experience to teach others some valuable lessons. It’s a blessing Nelly found her way to you.

    Beth says:

    I feel lucky to have her and terribly guilty for not being smarter in the first place.

Ashlee says:


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