Fight Cruelty

Puppy Mills: Your Stories

shih tzu with blue ribbon

If you have had an experience with a puppy mill, please share it with fellow ASPCA supporters by emailing your story to [email protected]. Maybe you've seen a puppy mill firsthand, rescued a breeder dog or bought a puppy from a pet store who had problems you couldn't have anticipated. We would love to hear from you.

Since your submission may be posted to this page, please include an accompanying photo and let us know if it's okay to use your name with your story. Please note: The ASPCA reserves the right to publish any submissions, photos and text, and stories may be edited for space.

Siberian Husky playing with toyMax by Ashley & Aaron

My puppy mill story is about me and my boyfriend's lovable Siberian Husky: Maximus. Last summer we decided that we wanted to add a furry member to our family so we began the search for the perfect doggie companion. My boyfriend was insistent on a purebred, but I insisted on adopting from a rescue. My boyfriend then located Blue Ridge Husky Rescue and we began to follow their Facebook page looking for a dog.

One day in July they had a courtesy post from an adopter in Virginia that had rescued Max from a neglect situation. As soon as we saw his picture we fell in love. We contacted his rescuer and were informed that he was about a year-and-a-half old, and that his former owner was the second person to have had him and she left him outside, alone, with no shelter or toys for 8+ hours a day. She wanted to get rid of him because he chewed up a cushion and her teenage son was "a little too rough with him." Considering that Max is very outgoing and friendly with everyone he meets, except teenage males, we suspect that the woman's son abused him. He was underweight, a little skittish at first, but such a joy to be around!

It wasn't until a few months later when I was looking at his vet records and saw he had originally been purchased at a pet store in Missouri that I discovered he had come from a puppy mill. Luckily, after doing some research I found out that his mill was shut down and the broker was facing criminal charges!

It breaks my heart to think of what a rough start our sweet Max had, but he and I both know that he has found his forever home! He now plays with toys, gets treats, and even gets to sleep in mummy's bed! Needless to say, we don't feel the least bit guilty about spoiling him.

Meeka by Becky Dietz

A little over two months ago, I took in my first "foster" dog for Adopt a Boxer Rescue. Mindy (now Meeka) was turned over to rescue by a puppy mill in Pennsylvania when she was no longer profitable as a breeder. Sharing in her new life has been the greatest blessing I could have ever imagined. Watching her enter my home that first day, I knew I loved her, even though she wanted nothing to do with me. She paced the yard looking for a place to try and sneak under the fence to escape. Who could blame her? She had multiple types of worms, ear mites and a scar on her neck (my vet believes from a shock collar) and had never known love. I thought earning her trust would not be anywhere in our near future.

The short amount of time it took for Meeka to trust me is a true testament to what a beautiful spirit she has. It took about two weeks, but the first time she looked at me and wagged her tail...I burst into tears! In the beginning, she was terrified of stairs, the TV, the house, me. Now she loves snuggling on the couch and bed, running in the yard, playing with toys (she didn't know what they were!), walks, car rides, treats...Life!

I adopted Meeka and I couldn't imagine my life without her. It still breaks my heart the way she takes anything soft she sees (blankets, towels, pillows) and drags them on the couch and curls up with them. I've been told that comes from having her puppies taken too soon. She is home and instead of being used for her babies, she is now MY baby!

Cappy by Joycemarie BeDore

Cappy is an 11-year-old West Highland Terrier who a puppy mill was going to destroy because at five months old, he was no longer "cute" enough to sell like the other Westies the puppy mill had and they did not need another breeding male.

When I met him, he had tumors on his leg, an ear infection and he was black from living on newspaper. Cappy also had no idea, at five months, what grass was and it took several months to get him to walk on it or go to the bathroom anywhere but on pavement.

He has been a wonderful and faithful companion. When we took in a five-week-old kitten, he took her under his wing and they became the best of friends. One September evening the neighbor's wild cat attacked our cat and then went after me. Before I had time to blink, Cappy had the wild cat pinned and was growling and baring his teeth as he never had before. In 11 years Cappy has only been aggressive a few times when the situation was appropriate. I have three dogs now, all rescues, they are the best.


Harley by Jami Strange

My husband and I bought a sweet, adorable, eight-week-old Maltese/Chihuahua puppy at a local pet store in Utah. The employee did inform us the puppy had a cold and was on medicine, but as animal lovers, we were willing to take her home and take care of her—a cold goes away.

The puppy, Harley, was very thin and wouldn't eat or drink. We fed her through a syringe for two days and pampered and loved her. By the third day, she was eating and drinking and playing—we were so delighted! But on the fourth day she went downhill and was whimpering and was so hot to the touch. I checked her temperature and it was 103.6. My husband rushed her to the vet and they tested her for parvovirus and it was positive. We were so devastated. We were quoted thousands of dollars for the hospital bill, but a low chance of survival. Harley weighed only one pound.

My mother called the pet store—the owner didn't believe the parvo diagnosis and asked that we take Harley to his vet…so we rushed to his vet, who confirmed it. The owner of the pet store agreed to pay for only one night of fluids. We came and picked her up on Saturday and she was so sad and in pain. Within a few hours she passed away.

We are so heartbroken and angry. This little sweet puppy did not deserve this pain. We have tried to contact the store owner, but he will not return our calls. He was well aware of the parvo and yet continued to sell all the other puppies. How can he do that? I will never ever again buy from a pet store—this was our first and our last time.

Phoebe and Roxy by Margaret Walters

This year I adopted two dogs from the Humane Society of the Pikes Peak Region in Colorado Springs, Colorado, who were puppy mill rescues. One is my eight-year-old Yorkie, Phoebe. She is very timid, afraid of most everything. She has cataracts in both eyes from eight years of living in her own feces and urine. My other rescue is a six-year-old Pomeranian, Roxy. The Pikes Peak Humane Society said the condition they arrived in was deplorable, matted and dirty, both having to be shaven, bathed and spayed.

They both have emotional and health issues and I find myself unable to housetrain either one of them. With all that being said, I wouldn't trade a day of being with them. They are so full of love and devotion that my days are filled only with the joy of owning both of them.

There are so many former puppy mill dogs at shelters who need good homes and a lot of love. These mills should all be shut down and not allow these greedy individuals to make a living off of the suffering of animals. My only solace is that Phoebe and Roxy are waiting for me every day when I come home, with wagging tails and happiness that they are no longer the captives of a puppy mill.

Ali by Serina Brant

I would like to share the story of Ali, our nine-year-old Golden Retriever. I now know that it is wrong to buy a puppy from a pet shop and would never do it again, but nine years ago I could not walk away from a four-month-old Golden who had never seen the outside of a cage. She was "on sale" because she was older, sick, and not as cute as the other, smaller puppies. I knew her time was limited, and so I caved in and bought her.

I will never forget how scared she was of the sky. She had never been outside or felt grass on her feet. It took $500-worth of immediate veterinary care to cure her of giardia, ear mites and other problems. Ali has had severe hip dysplasia her whole life. She can hardly walk and has been on pain meds her whole life. We love her very much, but can you imagine being a Golden Retriever and not being able to run after a ball or chase a rabbit? She is literally on her last leg.

I can't walk by a pet shop. I go the other way. I wish I could do more to eliminate puppy mills.

Maddy by Vicki Wisehart

In November 2008, I drove four hours to adopt a beautiful, two-and-a-half-year-old Shih Tzu from a rescue group. The rescue group was told that if they don't come get these 25 dogs from a puppy mill, they [the puppy mill] were going to tie bricks to their bodies and throw them in Lake Michigan! All because the puppy mill was switching breeds.

I returned home with Madison about 6:00 P.M. and she didn't want to have too much to do with me, so I just placed a blanket in her doggy bed and let her be.

The next morning, as I was sitting on the couch having my morning coffee, Maddy jumped onto the couch and gave me a lick. This doesn't sound too impressive until I tell the rest of the story: I have since discovered that Maddy will have absolutely nothing to do with other people! I have had her for over two years now, and she still won't go to my husband. I have to be sure that all doors get latched so she doesn't dart outside (out of fear that my husband is walking by her). I don't know what would happen if she ever got loose because she would NEVER go to anyone—in fact, she would run from them. I don't know if Maddy was abused or if her fear is solely from lack of socialization. She tends to be more fearful with men than she is with women.

I have had a few dogs in my life and have never had a dog who shows this much appreciation. I cherish my baby. If I didn't already have two dogs, I would rescue another puppy mill Mommy. It's a pleasure to have Maddy at my side…at all times!

Bella Rose by Craig Hayes

Bella Rose was rescued from a puppy mill somewhere here in Missouri in November 2009 and taken our local shelter. All the folks at the shelter cried when Bella Rose was unloaded from the truck because of her poor condition. She was underweight, her fur was very thin and she had bleeding sores where patches of fur was missing. I was told they feared she would not live through the night. They listed her on their website as a 15-year-old female Siberian Husky and gave her the name Cagney.

A few days after Thanksgiving, I, for some reason, decided to look at the shelter's website. (I say "for some reason" because I was not looking to adopt another pet at that time.) I came across Cagney's picture and story and I instantly began to cry. I love all animals, but I have a very big soft spot for Siberians. I went to the shelter the next day to meet Cagney and fill out the adoption request. The lady at the shelter was thrilled that I wanted to give her a loving home, but cautioned me about her condition and age, indicating that there was a chance she may not live for very long. I did not care how long she lived, I just wanted to give her a home.

On December 1, 2009, I brought her home and that's when I changed her name to Bella Rose. I had experience with Siberian Huskies, as I have another lovely girl at home, but I have never had a puppy mill dog.

At first Bella would let me pet her briefly, but if I would try to give her a hug or lie beside her on the floor she would growl at me and sometimes bite. There were quite a few trips to the vet for health issues, but they have either cleared up or she is taking regular medicine for them—and the vet thinks she is actually only about seven or eight years old, instead of 15 like I originally thought.

A year has passed since I adopted Bella Rose, and through all the vet visits, growling and bites, I do not regret my decision to adopt my little angel. She and I have grown quite close over the past year, and I no longer get growled at or bitten. When I lie on the floor beside her, she rolls over and wants me to rub her tummy. Her fur has grown in quite thick and she has gained weight. She has a plush red chicken that she carries everywhere with her and at times she uses as a pillow.

I stopped by the shelter with Bella Rose after her last vet visit to show her off to the folks there. They were all amazed at how far she has come and many of them began to cry as they ran their hands through her fur. They took pictures of her to show to the lady who delivered her to the shelter that first night. When I look at her sweet face, it just tears my heart out to think of the hell she went through for so many years and I just can't believe that anyone would be so cruel to those poor dogs. I supported Prop B here in Missouri, not just because I believe it is the right thing, but I did it for Bella Rose. She will be treated like a queen for the rest of her days.

Pancake by Kristen Nelson

I adopted Pancake back in 2008. At the time she was between six and eight years old (we think). There was no way to tell because her teeth were in such bad shape. I found Pancake via Petfinder. She had actually been surrendered to a shelter by a puppy mill that was shutting down. Pancake had been in a foster home for two days when I adopted her. So all of this happened really fast!

When I first met Pancake she was shaking and shaking, but wagging her tail non-stop. You could tell she had puppies not too long ago, and she was so scared, but she let me hold her. I knew I was not leaving without her. She shook the entire car ride home, but I put her in my bed that night. The next day she was my shadow and has been ever since! She sat by the door and waited for my return!

I brought her to the vet the next day to check her out and she was given the all clear. Two weeks later I was bringing her into Petsmart when she jumped out of my arms onto the pavement. Thank goodness she did! Because I started freaking out that she hurt herself, I immediately brought her into Banfield, the vet attached to Petsmart. The vet discovered tumors and that Pancake had breast cancer, something the first vet never caught! He also said they needed to look at her teeth because she had a lot of disease in there. I had her scheduled for surgery ASAP and decided to get her spayed at the same time. After all is said and done, I came to find out that not only did little Pancake (all 10 pounds of her) have breast cancer, but she was filled with tumors in her ovaries because of over-breeding. She also had to have most of her teeth removed due to infection. It is surprising that I say thank goodness my little trooper jumped out of a shopping cart, but otherwise none of that would have been discovered! The vet said she would have been dead in two weeks if she had not had the surgery. They told me they had never seen anything like it come out of a dog. It makes me sick to think that it all could have been prevented with proper care and attention.

Pancake was a different dog when I brought her home. I first heard her bark, she began to play with toys and got to experience life as a puppy for the first time. It took me one year to teach her to walk on a leash as whenever I put one on her she just froze up. It has now been over two years and more and more of her personality comes out each day. She still doesn't bark a lot, but she barks when she knows I am coming into the house or if she hears my voice and I am not near her. She plays with her toys more and loves to snuggle. I am happy that I am able to have her and give her the life she deserved all along.

Faith by Rhonda Korfhage

Our family found our beautiful Faith through an agency that rescued her from an Indiana puppy mill. She and her one surviving littermate, along with their mother, father and grandmother, were rescued after reports that they were left out in the cold shortly after Faith's birth. When they found her, she looked like she had dreadlocks from the frozen water in her mangled fur. We adopted her when she was about four months old.

Now, I'm happy to report she is saved from being a puppy producer, stuck in a cage her entire life, and that she is 100% spoiled rotten by her human family. She tries unsuccessfully to play with her 14-year-old Maltipoo brother, but he's just too old to do much—but I must say he is patient with her. I never thought I could love a dog as much as I love my Mitchell (the Maltipoo), but Faith does bring so much joy to my life. In fact, now that my children have grown, I am considering taking more action to fight these cruel animal profiteers. There is no reason in today's world why animals should be treated like this and used as a means to make a profit. Something should and must be done!

Sweet Pea by Carolynn Bitzer

Sweet Pea spent her entire life in a Midwest puppy mill, never knowing human kindness and love. She was used solely for breeding, and at the ripe old age of six years, the breeder was done with her. In May 2009, before the breeder got around to terminating her life, Sweet Pea, along with several other dogs, was part of a large-scale puppy mill rescue. When they rescued her, she was overweight from fertility hormones, she had an untreated collapsed lung, and hair was missing from her ears and paws due to constant exposure to feces and urine.

After receiving medical care, Sweet Pea was physically ready to find her forever family—but it was then that the emotional damage from the puppy mill became clear. She would turn her back to people and hide in corners, and she was petrified of all new things in her environment. It was determined that placement in a foster home would be best to help Sweet Pea adjust to the outside world. Upon adopting her a few months later, I hired a wonderful trainer who helped with her socialization and confidence.

I am happy to say that she is now a healthy, bouncing ball of sunshine, so loving and so sweet. She quickly learned that being held, snuggling, getting kisses and going for long walks are some of her favorite things.

I have always adopted shelter dogs, but Sweet Pea is my first puppy mill rescue, and she has helped educate many others, as well as me, about dangers of puppy mills. I am forever grateful that she made it out and became a part of my life.

Toby by Louise Epstein

On Sunday, January 31, 2010, I met the saddest and skinniest little male West Highland White Terrier I had ever seen. I adopted him believing that nobody else would. I heard that he had been used for breeding in Brownwood, TX, and that at the crack of dawn on January 15, the owner brought him and some other dogs who had become too sick to breed to the local kill shelter. It was a sad story, but I had confidence that my 12-year-old Westie and 12-year-old Cairn would teach this poor dog how to be a dog.

It took me about a week to begin to comprehend the extent of this dog's misery. I took Toby to my veterinarian two days after we adopted him from the rescue group that saved Toby from certain death. My vet asked if I had looked inside Toby's mouth. I had not. I almost fainted when I learned that most of Toby's teeth were green and yellow and infected. It turns out that the source of Toby's stench was not his skin or his ears—his teeth were totally rotten. He also had infections on the outside of his snout. A few days later, Toby, who is only five years old, had 20 infected teeth pulled. It turns out that Toby was much more than "sad" when we got him—he was dying of infections and in excruciating pain.

A week of antibiotics and pain pills has removed Toby's physical pain, and thanks to the sweet terriers he lives with, he is beginning to engage in dog-like behavior. But Toby is like nothing I have ever encountered. He is terrified of everything, even treats. And then when he gets accustomed to treats, he is terrified of treats that are a different flavor. Amazingly, Toby loves love. He can't get enough patting and hugging and leaning on whatever human limb is available.

Toby has spurred me into action against puppy mills. I am convinced that when people learn about the conditions that the breeding dogs are kept in, they will stop writing checks to the monsters that keep their animals in such painful and wretched conditions.

I am glad we added Toby to our family. I believe that we are uniquely situated to rehabilitate him. But I know that isn't true. Love heals—let's spread it around.

Sasha by Stacey Hensley

The stories of any puppy mill dog are hard to tell, but they important stories nonetheless. My puppy mill dog is a nine-year-old German Shepherd named Sasha, and this is her story.

Sasha found her way into my heart through a local rescue group that rescues hundreds of puppy mills dogs a year. She came from a mill in northern Ohio, where she was kept in a filthy wire cage and bred until she couldn't breed anymore. This is when Sasha caught a break. Instead of being bashed to death by a rock to the head or shot outright, someone dumped her at a rural shelter in the middle of the night. It makes me tear up to think of my poor sweet Sasha stuffed into a dark shed with a plywood flap five feet off the ground for a door. She didn't know what was inside that shed, nor did her the people who dumped her—not that they would have cared either way.

Sasha spent some time in the shelter waiting to be adopted. But as the sad story goes, hardly anyone comes to a shelter to adopt an old dog. Also working against Sasha was the fact that she was extremely terrified, cowering in the back of her kennel. These things combined were probably enough to condemn her to the needle, but she had one more, very major thing that added to her "unadoptability." Sasha has a genetic defect that caused her to be born without most of her lower jaw. The fact that they bred my sweet girl knowing she had this debilitating defect makes my stomach turn. Thankfully, after spending some time in the shelter, a kind soul called the rescue group to come and get her before her euthanization date.

Sasha spent a few months with the rescue before I saw her. I filled out my application and was contacted the next day. They were very excited to see this sweet old gal with the temperament of a lamb, despite all that had been done to her, find a loving forever home. I picked her up that weekend and brought her home, expecting cupcakes and roses from there on out. I didn't realize then that puppy mill dogs are a different ballgame. She had to learn how to use the bathroom outside, as she had been kept in a kennel her entire life and was forced to go where she lived. She also would not walk on my wood floor. We spent our days on the couch for the first few weeks, then gradually worked our way up to walking on blankets I placed on the floor for her. I am happy to say that she will now walk on the hardwood floor, though she still lives her life entirely in my living room because she is too afraid to venture into any of the other rooms in the house.

We still have a long road ahead of us, but I would not trade my precious puppy mill rescue for anything in this world. Sasha is an amazing dog who has brought much joy into my life. We now go to events around our hometown with her wearing a t-shirt that says "ask us about puppy mills." Not only is Sasha leading a wonderful new life, she is helping educate people about the hell she lived through.

London by Mati Hanish

I was 12 when I decided I wanted to get a dog. I had my heart set on a Maltese and we found a breeder that had the little girl I wanted. When we got there, it was an older farm house, but I loved the little puppy and I knew I wanted to take her home with me. She was very dirty and very shy. She didn't even want to move, but I just thought that she was scared to meet new people. We asked to see the parents and the breeder was like "NO!" instantly. We also wanted to see their breeding operations, but that also was a no. We should have taken these as signs, but we took the puppy home.

London warmed up to us fairly quickly and I grew a strong bond with her. A few months later, she started getting super sick and we had tons of vet bills. She just kept getting sicker and sicker and nothing would help her. It turns out she had diseases and her lungs didn't develop, so when she got pneumonia she ended up passing away.

I had only had London for about a year, and she was only 1 1/2 when she passed. I believe she was from a puppy mill and I want to raise awareness to everyone buying a puppy.

Ava by Emily Anselmo

One afternoon my boyfriend and I were walking around a shopping center when we passed a pet store. As soon as we walked in, I saw the cutest puppy ever. They took her out so I could play with her, but she was very shy and didn't really come close to me. After about five or ten minutes of looking at her, I could see her eyes were very sad. I told the store clerk not to put this puppy back—she was coming home with me.

I named my new puppy Ava and immediately took her home to show her off to my family. When I arrived at my mom's, Ava was still very distant and shy. She was terrified of everything, even the grass and the wind on her face. I thought it was the worst thing I had ever seen. But the next day was even worse. Ava would not get up or even stand. I looked over her papers and realized she had been at the store for over five months! Now, everyone knows when animals—or even humans—are kept in small confined spaces for too long, they are going to have a hard time walking, so I took Ava straight to the vet. I had no idea what a surprise I was in for.

The vet told me Ava had luxating patellas and would most likely need mandatory surgery in six months. She also had a urinary tract infection and had to be put on pain medication for her bad knees. Two days after we visited the vet, Ava started throwing up repeatedly, and I had to rush her to the emergency vet hospital. My puppy spent three days and two nights in the intensive care unit.

When I called the owner of the pet store, he was rude and said that she was perfectly fine before leaving the store. He said he would not pay for her surgery or any of the vet bills. He also refused to tell me where she had come from or show me any papers about her. Overall, in the few months I have had Ava, she has been to the vet over 15 times, and I have spent over $2,000 on her medical care.

Nani's Story by Jason Taniguchi

When I adopted my first dog I had no idea what it meant to be a "rescue dog." I only knew that the humane society had dogs who needed homes, and that I could provide one so he wouldn't have to be put down. And embarrassingly enough, I didn't look into it more the entire time he was with me.

A few years later, I wanted to adopt another dog. Being older and wiser, I looked more deeply into where these rescue dogs come from. Nothing in life has made me feel such a complex range of emotions—from angry to sad, from sick to as close to violent as someone like me gets—as when I was learning about puppy mills. I knew I could only adopt a puppy mill rescue after that.

Part of being older and wiser meant really thinking about what personality characteristics my next dog should have to best fit my lifestyle. To be frank, I felt guilty about doing so. There are so many dogs in need of homes that I felt going to an adoption center and saying, "I'm looking for a dog with A, B & C characteristics" would be incredibly pretentious. Imagine my surprise when the adoption centers were excited when I came in with such a list! Read about the ASPCA pet matching program, Meet Your Match®

If I could choose one thing to tell all potential adopters, it would be the lesson learned from that. You'd be surprised how many people come in and adopt a dog, only to bring it back a few weeks later because there's something about him that didn't mesh with their lifestyle. The people working at adoption and fostering locations think of their dogs' interests first. Their goal is to find a loving forever home for a dog, so if you put the time and thought into your lifestyle ahead of time, they will not look down on you as I had assumed. On the contrary, everywhere I went I was greeted by people enthusiastic to work with me. This led to the adoption of my little girl, Nani, which in Hawaii means "beautiful."

Were it not for having made my "lifestyle list," Nani never would have come into my life. I received a call from a puppy mill rescue I'd previously visited, telling me about a puppy mill police seizure that had happened the night before. Many of the dogs apparently had the temperament I was looking for, so off I went.

All the dogs were so scared. Meeting them individually in the introduction rooms broke my heart. The last dog I saw, we just sat on the floor looking at each other. The worker told me that because of her mill experience, this dog had a harder time with men than women. Slowly I let her sniff me, and after a few minutes she let me put her in my lap. I wanted to cry as I petted her; when I raised my hand to pet her head she'd cringe as if waiting to be struck. As my hand stroked her back, she'd look up and give me a confused look ... it was heartbreaking. I continued petting her while I spoke with the attendant in the room with me, but stopped mid-sentence when I realized that this dog in my lap had started leaning into my chest. I continued petting her, and the more I did so the more she pushed her body into mine. That did it for me, I knew I'd found my dog.

Now a year later, she still has some lingering issues from her time at the mill. It took some time (and many trips to doggy day care) to understand how to be around other dogs and have fun. To be honest, I probably spoil her, but she's gone through enough already and deserves some pampering. I truly believe that when the two of us came together, both our lives improved. She recently won an obedience contest at a "doggy olympics"—which just goes to show, a puppy mill dog can have a lot of potential! I'm so proud of how far she's come, and it makes me feel great to know she trusts and loves me.

Missy's Story by Yvette Horn

Unfortunately, this is a story that does not have a happy ending. It shows the cruelty of irresponsible breeders and puppy mills.

Missy was the first puppy I ever purchased. I found her on a website and made arrangements to go see her in person. After a 2-hour drive, the breeder was not home when we first arrived, but drove up shortly with a cage of 6 puppies. (We only played with 5 of the puppies—the sixth would not move around. The breeder said she was just tired from playing all day.) We asked the breeder several questions about caring for the puppy we had chosen, and my husband paid him. The last thing he said to us was to be sure we gave her a good bath, because all the puppies had been walking around in each other's feces and urine.

I brought Missy home on a Wednesday. Saturday evening she came down with diarrhea and by Sunday morning she was very weak. I took her to the emergency vet and she was diagnosed with Parvo. The contract the breeder had me sign stated that I should call at the first signs of illness, so I called him while sitting in the waiting room of the emergency clinic. At first, he did not remember me and I had to explain what kind of dog I purchased, when I had been there and where I was from. He wanted me to bring Missy to him immediately. If I didn't, my contract would be void. He said he would give her some Pedialyte and take her to the vet the next day and that I could come pick up another puppy in 3 days. I soon realized he was running a puppy mill, but trying to do it undercover by bringing the puppies to his home to show them to the public.

I opted to void my contract and try to save Missy's life. She spent 4 days and 3 nights under 24-hour vet care, getting extra proteins, fluids and 2 plasma transfusions. Wednesday night she took a turn for the worse, and by the following morning she was moaning with every breath. I had no choice but to put her to sleep. I brought little Missy home. My husband built a tiny wood casket and we buried her at the back of our property, putting a little white cross with a red bow above her to remember her by.

In hindsight, I truly believe this breeder knew he was selling sick puppies. He never followed up with me to see how Missy was doing because he did not care. Every puppy in that crate was exposed to Parvo, and he still had them for sale on his website. He not only exposed the puppies in his facility, but all dogs that came in contact with the puppies once they were sold … all in the name of making a buck.


When I began my search for an American Eskimo dog, I first tried going through a breed rescue group. Unfortunately, because I lived over four hours away, the rescue group did not want adopt to me. That's when I found an ad in the Dallas Morning News offering a five-month-old American Eskimo puppy.

I contacted the owner and he told me she was a wonderful dog. I made the two-hour drive and arrived at the kennel—the scene was horrible. There were dozens and dozens of cages outside full of poor little dogs barking and jumping in the bitter weather. I was very wary of purchasing a dog from this place, but leaving one behind was unthinkable. The kennel told me they hadn't had a chance to get the puppy's paperwork together and that they would fax me records the next morning.

I took the puppy—whom I named Benzi—to the vet the very next morning. To my shock, the vet informed me that my new puppy was actually seven or eight years old! The vet also told me Benzi had given birth to several litters and had an infected uterus that had to be removed immediately. Had I not rescued her, she would have died. After the vet, I immediately called my bank to cancel the payment I had made to the kennel—not surprisingly, they never contacted me about it. They knew how sick she was and that she was no use to them any longer.

It has been almost five months since I rescued Benzi, yet she is still too scared to venture out from the corner I have set up for her. It breaks my heart that people could put dogs through so much pain that they fear human contact. This kennel is a horrible place and I feel very sorry for all the people they have tricked into purchasing a dog from them.

Harvey's Rescue by Jeanine Reed

Harvey is the sad victim of a puppy mill in the Midwest. He is eight years old and clearly displays signs of having been in a mill since puppyhood. Although he arrived emaciated, his spirit was very much alive. Everything is new to him—right down to the feel of the carpet on his paws and the freedom of being able to walk around outside of a crate! Harvey relished in experiencing the loving touch of a human hand for the first time.

Harvey does not show any signs of having been beaten, but the neglect he has experienced is pronounced in all areas. His paws are gnarled from years of living in a cage with wire flooring. His spine and hip area appear slightly curved, most likely from being so confined and never being able to grow appropriately. He has little muscle tone, but his daily walks are increasing that.

Harvey is already thriving in his foster home. He has learned quickly—by show of his waggy tail—that when his foster mom walks in the room, he is going to receive the touch of a loving hand. We are confident that with hearty meals, some TLC and daily exercise, Harvey will learn to be like all other eight-year-old pugs.


Tammy's Tale by Nancy Terwilliger

I am an animal lover and enjoy looking around on at all the dogs and reading their stories. One night as I was perusing the site, I came across Tammy, a Pekingese with the saddest eyes I had ever seen. She had been used in a puppy mill as a breeder dog for over seven years. Her bio explained that she had hardly any fur and suffered from severe dry eyes, bad knees and horrible food allergies. She also had no teeth due to the constant breeding and malnutrition she suffered. I immediately called the woman who had rescued Tammy.

The puppy mill Tammy is from was located in Lebanon, MO. The woman who ran it had been diagnosed with cancer and allowed a rescue group to take all the dogs. The woman I spoke with from the rescue group said the stench at the puppy mill was so bad that she had to fight vomiting all the way home.

We have had Tammy a little over a year now, and it has taken her this long to begin to enjoy the simple pleasures of her new life—but she has started to. Tammy now likes her fuzzy blankets and comfy beds, her weekly bath and long walks.

When someone who doesn't know Tammy's story looks at her, they see an old, toothless dog with bad eyes—but to me she is the most beautiful dog in the world. I don't know how Tammy survived all those years of suffering, but she has learned to be happy and to love again. I don't know how long Tammy will be with us, but I take comfort in knowing I was able to show her a real home. Tammy is a true hero in every sense of the word, and I love her.

Fritz by Claire Liston

Being active in dog rescue, I have my share of good and bad stories to tell. But for anyone thinking of getting a dog, or any dog rescuer who needs a lift, I wanted to share Fritz's story. Up until about a year ago, he was a stud dog at a puppy mill in Maryland where he'd spent his whole life—four years—in a cage. He was rescued by a shelter, transferred to a local rescue group, housed by a first-time foster parent, and finally adopted, by my mom, at Christmas. He had trouble with his hind legs due to lack of muscle tone and was really spooked by strangers, noises and almost everything else. The first week, my mother wondered if he would ever be normal.

I call this photo "6 A.M. on Dog Beach." It was taken over the summer while we were on vacation with the extended family and all their dogs. Fritz had a ball! He was perfectly happy, healthy and social. It's hard to imagine that he so recently was a fearful, crippled, unwanted breeder dog. If my mom wasn't connected to dog rescue through me, she might have purchased one of his puppies from a store. Now, of course, she can't imagine letting a dog like Fritz die in a shelter.

So these are my thoughts today, and I hope you'll share them. Every dog in trouble has a perfect life that he's waiting to live. Every person who knows about buying-versus-adopting has the opportunity to become part of the solution instead of part of the problem.

Keisha's Story by Rita Vetsch

Would you please read my story? It's about how bad puppy mills really are, and how the public should be more aware of them. My Keisha was bred from parents who had life-threatening allergies. The puppy mill did not give her adequate nutrition, which set her up for health failure for her ten years of life. Even if one person turned away from a puppy mill because of her story, it would be worth it. She lived in misery for ten years just to love me and to educate me on her condition. If dogs could be saints, she'd definitely qualify.

My sister and her husband bought Keisha from a nice couple—or so they thought—from up north in Minnesota. Of course they didn't want people to see the conditions that they were breeding in, so they offered to meet my sister halfway. Keisha was a beautiful puppy, a mix of American Eskimo and Pomeranian.

My sister's family had small children, and Keisha's sharp puppy teeth were hurting them. They were not ready for a puppy yet, so I offered to take her in a heartbeat. During the first two years of her life, she seemed healthy—but that would all end soon. Keisha started licking her feet, and we didn't think much of it until it rapidly progressed into biting the feet bloody to the bone, and rubbing her head and ears into the carpet endlessly. We tried over-the-counter remedies like lotions and sprays, but they did not offer any help. The vets we saw diagnosed her with allergies, but no one could have known how severe they would become.

We could not leave her outside for more than a few minutes because she was allergic to the grass, weeds, flowers, dead bugs, cotton, dust, mold…you name it, she was allergic to it. She loved to be outside and go for walks, but if we left her out too long, her nose would start to run with white foam, and her head would get hot to the touch. Driven mad by her itching skin, she could gnaw her feet bloody to the bone in less than five minutes. She would rub her head, ears and eyes onto anything that would offer a little relief, including the rocks and cement sidewalk. We loved her so much that we tried everything we could to help her--antihistamines of many different kinds, fatty acids, special foods, baths with prescription shampoo. We even trimmed between her toes to prevent yeast infections. I sewed special pajamas with feet on them for her to wear at night and made leggings for the daytime, but she bit through them all. She could take bandages and wraps off her legs in seconds.

Over her lifetime we took Keisha to many vets, and ended up at the University of Minnesota. The allergy specialists there gave her numerous tests, and she tested positive to almost everything. We started her on allergy shots with high hopes they would help. But after six months, she actually became allergic to her own shots, and would get sick every time we gave her one.

Our veterinarians explained that it all started at the breeders. At least one of Keisha's parents most likely had allergies. A reputable breeder would never breed a dog purposely knowing he or she had such a severe condition. Our vets concluded that Keisha did not receive adequate nutrition as a puppy, and was denied her own mother's milk. She probably was fed a cheap off-brand food, dirty or little water, and lived in unbearable conditions. This set her up for disaster for the rest of her years. Who would have thought that a dog's insides could actually reject everything she ate, or that the very air she breathed was detrimental to her health? The veterinarians at the University of Minnesota said that this was the worst case they had ever seen.

For the last three years of her life, Keisha had to wear an Elizabethan collar, and it hardly ever came off. You might think this sounds mean, but it was the only choice we had—because with that hood on, she actually seemed a bit more at ease and knew she couldn't get at her feet so easily. But she'd still run from run to room as if she were running from the constant itching, as if she could outrun it...but she never could. People would point, laugh and ridicule her when she was out in the yard. Even other dogs seemed to treat her differently, and she knew it. We just kept thinking that there must be something that we hadn't tried so kept searching. They put her on two different types of steroids in addition to her other medications, but that only reduced her to a glossy eyed little girl who was still miserable and no longer her true self. We just kept thinking, "Who puts their dogs down because of allergies?" I couldn't bring myself to do it, until one day she just gave me that look and I knew that I had to help her the best way I knew how. I cried as my husband and I took her to the clinic. It didn't take long, and she went limp and fell to sleep. I managed to muster up enough courage to say my goodbyes and give her a final kiss on her little head.

When I got home, I felt terrible and had so many regrets. I just wanted her back so badly and couldn't stop crying. I didn't know what to do. My husband and I did not take her body home, but we put together a little memorial in her treat jar. We put the "The Rainbow Bridge" poem in the jar along with her favorite ball, bone and a picture of her with our family. We read the poem out loud and buried the jar beneath a beautiful flowering crab tree in our yard. We then put a statue of an angel holding a puppy beneath the tree. Every time I look at that statue I get a sense of peace knowing that Keisha is in heaven with God, and she is finally comfortable in her brand new fur suit.