The Puppy Mill Problem

Do you know where your puppy comes from?


I don’t have a name. None of us have names in the puppy mill, just numbers; but we sure have a story to tell. My friends and I were rescued from a dark and dirty puppy mill. We never knew people could hold us and pet us until now. We never knew that dogs aren’t supposed to live in tiny wire crates covered in filth. If I look scared in this picture, that’s because none of us had ever been outside our wire cages, ever. So yeah, we were terrified, but so glad to be out of that place, thanks to the rescuers from RedRover.

Photo by RedRover



This is a dog we call Mama. See that rusty tin shack behind the nice lady holding Mama? That is where she lived. Mama has been here for four winters and is always pregnant. Her puppies get to leave, but never her, until today. She never barks, but when her puppies are taken away from her, she cries.

Photo by RedRover



I call this one Harry, for obvious reasons. I have not seen him since he was sold to another mill operator a few miles away. Harry’s hair keeps him from seeing or hearing very well, but I have never seen him smile like he did when the cage door finally opened. We never got haircuts in the mill, even though some of us have hair that grows and grows until it is covered in dirt and rust and worse, and matted until our skin gets infected from it. I saw Harry right after the rescuers shaved him. He was half his size but ten times as happy. The HSUS busted his mill owner and cared for all his mill mates, too.

Photo by HSUS



We call this old dog Grandma. She looks very old, but no dog lives to be old here. Grandma had just about given up; some dogs do that because they just don’t want to live this sad life anymore. Now Grandma’s feet hardly touch the ground, she is so loved. This nice lady from RedRover carried her around for a long time until Grandma licked her hand and wagged her tail. That’s Grandma’s way of saying “Thank you”.

Photo by RedRover



I was freed from life in a cage just like this one. Up high like this, I got to see the light outside. Many of the other dogs could not, so they didn’t know if it was daytime or nighttime. It was freezing in the winter. We were cold all the time and would huddle together to stay alive. Our water bowls froze and we were very thirsty.

Photo by HSUS



I heard our keeper one day saying that these puppies were too old to sell. As soon as possible, he would start to breed them even though they are only six months old. Soon they would look like Harry because their hair will cover their eyes and get matted. Their feet are already scraped and painful from the wire floor, and one of them has a limp from getting a foot caught in the bars. I don’t know how many dogs were here before the rescue. I mostly knew them by their voices when they barked. Sometimes we would bark just to let the others know we were still here.

Photo by HSUS



People who buy puppies from pet stores or internet sites think this is how they are kept; in warm, cozy beds with loving care. This picture was taken after RedRover took us all out of our stinky, disease-ridden puppy mill and brought us to this clean, bright place with fresh air, soft beds and best of all, kind touch from humans that see us as individuals, not just a money crop. One by one we are leaving to go to real homes. We don’t know what that is, but the rescuers talk of fresh food and clean water and a real family to love us.

Photo by RedRover



I saved the best picture for last. This is my son. He didn’t get sold because he has deep scars on his tail from where his litter mate chewed it raw. My son was going to be like me; a breeding machine for money but it turns out that a nice husband and wife is going to adopt both of us together! We now have names; I am Rocco and he is Junior. I told Junior we have to be the best dogs ever so we never have to go back to the mill. We don’t know what the future brings, but we are ready to share all the love we have.

Photo by RedRover


5 Ways to Avoid the Puppy Mill Trap:

Puppy mills are large volume breeders that provide such a low level of care that adult dogs stay in their cages their entire lives, forced to live in squalid conditions with contaminated, inadequate food, algae and bacteria filled water and no medical care for injuries or illnesses. It used to be that we could just stop buying puppies at pet stores to avoid these mills but now slick internet sites that say things like “Home raised” lure in unsuspecting buyers.  Check off these boxes to separate the good breeders from the bad actors:

1. Meet the parents: A reputable breeder of purebred dogs will want you to come pay them a visit. Insist on meeting at least one of the pup’s parents and ask to see where they are kept.  If they refuse, move on.

2. Asked and answered: Good breeders may have lots of questions for you. Do you work full time? Where will the puppy be kept when you aren’t home? Do you plan to leash walk regularly? How many children are in the home, and what ages are they? Anybody selling you a dog with no questions asked is a breeder to avoid.

3. Order pizza, not puppies: You may have your heart set on a Jack Russell terrier, but if they offer to “order” you a puppy of a different breed, they are dealing with puppy brokers (yes, it’s a thing) who buy and sell dogs and ship them long distances in airless trucks, often selling the unwanted mill puppies to laboratories.

4. Do some homework: Ask for the breeder’s USDA certificate number and then search inspection reports at   or call the Animal Care division of the USDA at (919) 855-7102 and ask about documented complaints or non-compliance.

5. Join the club: The breed you seek likely has a breed club in your state. Contact the club to ensure your chosen breeder adheres to the club’s Code of Ethics and will welcome visits to their kennel. You might ask for breed rescue information, too, where you can apply for your purebred dog at a much lower fee and help save a life, too.

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