Puppy Mill Nightmare

This is a graphic description of conditions in a puppy mill. It is not a composite of several different facilities, but an actual account of a "kennel" recently visited by members of a breed rescue group. It is not an indictment of breeders or commercial kennels but is a depressing reminder that such horrors exist and require redress. The accompanying sidebar and the editorial both comment on possible solutions to this abomination. 

By common definition, a puppy mill is a business whose sole product is puppies, a harmless enough definition, even if a little cold. However, there is no way to define, no words to describe, the horror of a puppy mill to make it real for the reader.

So, a story about one particular puppy mill that could be one of many, in any of our 50 states.

The grounds of this puppy mill are a mess. The grass is not mown, and the weeds are more than eight feet tall. Everywhere you look, you see trash -- rusted cars, dog crates, bags of feces, mounds of feces, pieces of worn out furniture, an old bathtub -- and empty food and water bowls, and dogs, dogs and puppies everywhere. In random places there is barren earth covering shallow graves.

There are multiple barns and outbuildings, all in disrepair. Attached to the barns and buildings are chain link kennels. These kennels have plenty of dogs in them, but no food and water. They are filthy from one end to another; the concrete is covered with excrement. 

Inside, the barns are as cluttered and unkempt as the grounds. One of the barns is a place of death; there are dead dogs here, some only skeletons, some so badly decayed that only hair and skeletal forms remain, and some more recently passed on, rotting plastic bags of something that nobody ever loved.

The house where the people live is totally unbelievable. Unless you see it with your own eyes, it is hard to believe that any human could reside in such a place. The house is more cluttered than either the grounds or the barns. Everything imaginable is thrown over, on, and around boxes stacked from floor to waist. There are some pathways between the boxes, but in some places you must crawl over the mess to reach your goal. Careful -- there's dog feces everywhere. In the kitchen, there's a puppy pen. In the pen, feces overflows onto the floor, six inches deep. There are empty crates, half full of feces in some rooms.

The dogs are emaciated. It's evident that they spend a good part of their time hungry. They live in filth. There is no clean water, no dry, clean place to lie down. The dogs are filthy, their coats full of urine and feces. Because of the filth, there are flies; most of the dogs have missing pieces of ears, eaten away by flies. Where there is water, it is mostly green. 

The kennel walls are damaged and unrepaired, giving the dogs free access to each other's kennels. Multiple dogs in one kennel results in continual fighting, injury, and death. Most females are pregnant by whatever male breached the walls. Puppies are in kennels with several adult dogs. These uncles and aunts, brothers and sisters attack, maim, and sometimes kill. Sometimes the babies are only injured and must endure their pain until death comes. A mother dog with babies gets no special pre- or post-natal care -- no extra food, no extra space. 

At this mill, a mother dog is found in a shed with a litter of pups. The windows and doors are shut, there is no water, and it is 98 degrees. Two of the pups are dead. Elsewhere, other mothers are dead, leaving their pups to their own devices for survival. One mother is stuffed into a crate with her litter. The crate is in a van, all windows and doors shut, no food or water. Under the empty water pail lies a dead, stiff puppy. Across the yard, two pups are found alone in a crate, no food or water. Remnants of several litters are together in one kennel. 

Most of these dogs should never have been bred because they carry genetic diseases that cause pups to be born weak and deformed. There is no veterinary care here; there is very little human care or contact. There is certainly no love, except perhaps between the animals.

In addition to the overwhelming picture of clutter and filth and crowding, there are the sounds and smells of despair and decay. The odors of urine, feces, and death are strong, so strong they physically hurt your nose. They make you feel you must constantly clear your nose, your mouth, even your stomach. The sound of crying dogs assaults your ears. And the eyes of the dogs reach, probe into you, begging for food, for water, for peace, for safety, for love.

This particular puppy mill was raided. The dogs were taken from this life of despair. They were given veterinary care, plenty of food and water, and placed with people who understand the breed, who know how to give love and care. All the dogs will be spayed or neutered. No more puppies from these dogs will be born into the world of neglect they came from. Some of the dogs were emotionally traumatized and are being helped with loving care and behavior modification. Eventually, they will be placed in homes where they can live the remainder of their lives as part of loving families.

In spite of the pain and revulsion, you cannot hear too often what a horror these places are. In spite of increased publicity in the past few years, many people do not know or understand how loathsome the conditions at puppy mills can be. Pet shops that sell dogs bred in these hell holes thrive and so do the puppy mills. Too often, people think the puppy mills are "out west somewhere," and that there is nothing we can do to stop them. But puppy mills have been found in Ohio, raided in Ohio, and still exist in Ohio. If we are aware that this is our problem, in our communities, and then if we care enough to do something, then and only then will puppy mills cease to exist.