The Challenges of Adopting a Puppy Mill Dog

The Challenges of Adopting a Puppy Mill DogAccording to the Human Society “it is estimated that there are at least 10,000 puppy mills in the U.S. Fewer than 3,000 of these are regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture.” Approximately 2.5 million canines are born in puppy mills annually according to The Puppy Mill Project.

So what is a puppy mill? That depends on who you ask. The ASPCA considers it a “large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs.” Commercial and hobby breeders may have a different take. The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) of 1966 does not define either “commercial kennel” or “puppy mill.” The American Kennel Club also avoids defining “puppy mill.” [source]

Across the country, there is a high concentration of puppy mills in the Midwest, with Missouri leading the way. My home state of Pennsylvania along with Ohio and upstate New York have also been cited with high numbers. From my personal experience, just the thought of these poor dogs suffering in sub-standard conditions geared toward profit and devoid of the love they deserve brings tears to my eyes.

Health problems that are common to puppy mill dogs 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

This is due in large part to poor husbandry practices what would otherwise remove sick dogs from breeding pools. [source]

When I arrived for my volunteer shift this week at the Peaceable Kingdom shelter located in Whitehall, PA, I learned firsthand what a puppy mill produces. Another deplorable, greedy breeder had been closed and we received several dogs. Sadly the shelter was only able to save four. I don’t even want to think of the fate of the others animals.

I walked in to find my first task was to try and get one of the dogs out of his crate so he could be walked. Clearly the dog had never been walked and was terrified. He was a large Pomeranian, maybe three years old, matted, filthy, with feces clinging to his behind. The dogs nails were so long I’m sure it hurt him to walk. His teeth were in terrible condition also. This particular dog, I imagine was not sold as a puppy so he was left to live out his life in a cage. I managed to get the dog outside but he was so frightened, I decided to just sit and hold him for a while. Even though the dog was never properly socialized, he was very gentle and not aggressive at all. He seemed to like other dogs. He came there along with another Pom and two terriers. The other dogs seemed to be in a little bit better shape. The shelter volunteers fawned over the dogs, this was by far more attention then they had ever gotten. In the next few days they were vet checked and groomed looking quite beautiful, and hopefully adoption ready.

Of course, adopting a puppy mill dog can be a challenge, and a labor of love. These dogs will probably always have issues but with a lot of care they can become good pets. I truly hope these dogs can find a forever home soon. Thanks again to Peaceable Kingdom Animal Shelter for all their good work. I’m proud to be a volunteer there. For more information, you can visit their website at

If you have it in your heart to help a dog from these unfortunate circumstances, the ASPCA provides some helpful resources:

Please, do not adopt a dog unless you have plenty of time and patience to give them. These dogs need extra special care!

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A kind reader suggested an additional resource to accompany this post – Puppy Mills: Facts, Outlawing, What to Do []. The author owns a 1-year-old Rottweiler named Jeb, who is already a mean machine weighing around 60+ pounds. The article covers more facts and statistics, as well as issues regarding current legislation, plus ’10 Signs That Your Pet Is from a Puppy Mill’ and what you can do.

Thank you for writing in. We appreciate all our readers’ contributions. Please keep them coming!

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