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78% of Americans are Ignorant About Pet Stores & Puppy Mills?


USA Today’s Pet Talk column has been on my mind all day today. According to the ASPCA, who commissioned a survey of 800 U.S. adults from across the country, the “vast majority of people surveyed — 78% of them — told interviewers they believe that puppies sold in pet stores come from such places as shelters, or private owners whose pets had litters, or that they really have no idea where the animals come from.”

I kept thinking… How is it possible that 78% of Americans still don’t have a clue that pet store puppies come from puppy mills? How?

Maybe I’m a bit more sensitive to this topic because I have a former puppy mill breeding dog. I KNOW what she was like when I adopted her and what it took to rehab her. I know she suffered at the hands of some idiot who viewed her as a money-making-puppy-machine, not as a living being that was deserving of kindness. I have heard her cry in her sleep many, many times. Maybe that’s why I get so angry about this. It is so beyond me that people could have such a hard time making the connection between puppy mills and pets stores. Seriously?

People! Where the HELL do you think all those puppy mill puppies are going anyways? The zoo?

I know the ASPCA is starting a campaign to educate people about the connection between pet stores and puppy mills (nopetstorepuppies.com) and I hope it works, but maybe people need to see the reality of what happens to the “burned out bitches” once they are no longer the puppy-producing-money-makers for their “owners”.

Next week, HBO will be airing a documentary called “Madonna of the Mills.” It’s about one woman’s crusade to save the breeding dogs used in puppy mills. It is a powerful documentary and worth seeing if only to educate people about what really happens to the mothers of those pet store puppies you keep buying. I am asking you to please spread the word about this show. I’m even including a link to when it will air on HBO. Please share with your friends and then tell them where puppy mill puppies come from.

It’s about time Americans stop being ignorant of the truth and get educated.

Madonna of the Mills Trailer from Umbrella Girl Media on Vimeo.

  1. August 18, 2011 at 1:11 AM

    We are very insulated in our little blog world, aren’t we? After telling friends about NOT buying a puppy from a pet store, they got a puppy from an Amish guy. Go figure..

    • Mel
      August 18, 2011 at 6:53 AM

      You’re not kidding Karen. It’s so frustrating to realize that people just haven’t been as looped in as those of us who are active in the dog world. My friend bought two puppies from a pet store together. She almost bought another one recently but didn’t. I’m hoping it was because it was from a pet store and that she’s made the connection, but I need to make sure she knows. I simply assumed she did all this time since she hears me talk about it often.

    • August 17, 2013 at 9:32 PM

      OMG…. Amish puppy mills are the worst ones.

      People think the Amish are such godly people: they’re people who don’t care at all for animals, women, or children- in other words, pond scum.

  2. August 18, 2011 at 7:59 AM

    Karen makes an excellent point. My world is pretty much all animals all the time. Everyone I talk to is involved in welfare or training or care in some fashion. It’s very rare these days I break out of this bubble. And it’s dangerous. When I hear statistics like these my brain just cannot fathom them.

    Perhaps most people don’t know because most people don’t care.

    Okay, that’s probably unfair. It’s not that they don’t care, it’s that they are not deliberately seeking out the information. Since animal welfare isn’t on their radar, they don’t educate themselves on the issues. The HBO documentary is a good way to hopefully reach a new set of people. Though I am sure the majority of the audience will be people like us, who are already aware. How to reach a different group of people is the question.

    • Mel
      August 18, 2011 at 10:31 PM

      You’re right Kristine. Karen does make a good point. My world is pretty much animals too. I think some people care, but perhaps the reality of what really goes on takes too much energy to get involved. I also think that when a cute little puppy looks at you with their warm little eyes, it is hard to resist. It’s a lot harder to see past that to the terrified and beaten down puppy mill dog that created that warm fuzzy creature. It’s so much easier to ignore and quash down that moral and ethical side of us when a puppy is involved.

      I hope people will watch the documentary and at least understand why I and many others are so passionate about this issue.

  3. August 18, 2011 at 8:29 AM

    It’s so sad, isn’t it?

    Big news in Canada, though. PJ’s Pets, one of the biggest pet store chains in Canada, has declared that by September 1st they will no longer sell puppies in their stores. Hooray!

    • Mel
      August 18, 2011 at 10:22 PM

      I just heard Ashley! That is great news! Now if only Petland would do the same here. They would gain so much in goodwill and warm fuzzies if they did. Maybe the owner of PJ’s Pets could talk to them about why they decided to stop?

    • Donna Bowbeer
      August 20, 2011 at 7:39 AM

      O Canada…. what a wonderful thing to happen. I also hope that Petland will stop selling puppies soon. There are only a couple left in Michigan, but those are being protested against on a weekly basis. Thank you Canada….

  4. Jan
    August 18, 2011 at 12:25 PM

    There is no better salesperson in the world than a little puppy in a pet store saying, “Buy me, buy me.” The shelter I work with as a volunteer has had extraordinary adoption rates by taking our dogs out into the community.

    • Mel
      August 18, 2011 at 10:17 PM

      I like that Jan. I think the more exposure they get the better their chances for getting adopted. I also think you’re right about the little puppy being the best salesperson in the world. So many people fall for that temptation. I just wish they could see where they started first.

  5. August 19, 2011 at 1:51 AM

    Thanks, Mel – what a great trailer! It always amazes me that so many people know so little – hey, if we could just help them find our blogs – imagine 😮 They would probably not believe half of what we write; seems we live in a world with multiple layers of perceived reality dependent on what we are willing to know. So many people follow the redirect some give their dogs: “don’t look!” I look forward to the HBO program.

    • Mel
      August 19, 2011 at 8:07 AM

      Thanks Mary. I thought it was a great trailer too. I think Karen’s explanation that some people simply are not as involved in the dog world is probably right on. I think our reality is defined by the paradigms we live in and beliefs we hold. I remember a Psychology class in college in which we discussed how people have a difficult time incorporating beliefs that are in direct opposition to something they already believe. Perhaps this is part of the explanation. I guess I ‘ve come to believe that it’s a combination of a lack of education on the issue and a choice to ignore the truth for a moment of pleasure (i.e., getting a cute little puppy).

  6. August 19, 2011 at 11:52 AM

    How on earth do people STILL not know this? Good lord. It’s really sad.

  7. August 21, 2011 at 5:28 PM

    The reality is that people are ignorant about most things that challenge their comfort levels.

    People eat meat every day without thinking about the factory farm system that is cruel to animals and creates food unsafe for people. Nearly everyone buys clothing made in sweatshops where people work in unsafe conditions for miserable wages. People wear diamond rings without thinking about the wars being fought throughout Africa for control of those resources.

    In our defense, we couldn’t survive if we kept every horrible thing happening in the world in the front of our minds. That’s why it’s good that some people are mindful about puppy mills while others are mindful about the devastation of war while others are mindful about famine.

    So keep doing your good thing to get the word out. And if everyone works on one little piece, we may see a better world for everyone in the future. At least that’s my hope.

    Hope the documentary comes online someday. I’d love to see it.

    • August 23, 2011 at 10:02 AM

      I can’t put it better than Pamela has. Willful ignorance– people believe what they want to believe, what makes them comfortable,and what makes life easier and less morally messy.

      • Mel
        August 24, 2011 at 6:26 AM

        Lori – I think you and Pamela may have it right, although based on the protests I have participated in outside a Petland store, demonstrates for me that many people still do not know. I remember a recent conversation with a friend who’s family member had contacted a “breeder” from one of those online ads. Despite my friend telling her all the signs that this was a puppy mill breeder, the sister chose to ignore her. Trust me, the manipulative things this puppy mill breeder said even surprised me. They are pond scum, bottom-feeders, but they are not stupid. I don’t disagree that some people just choose to believe what they want to believe (as this woman’s sister did), but I think millers have learned how to play the game well.

  8. August 22, 2011 at 7:22 PM

    It’s amazing to me that people don’t know this. It goes to show how little research most people put into getting a dog. Our need for instant gratification outweighs the welfare of the dogs so much of the time. And, the greedy are there to take advantage.

    • Mel
      August 22, 2011 at 8:49 PM

      Amy – It surprised me too. But all you have to do is read all the comments from folks on Life With Dogs’ FB page about the piece Dr. Shawn Finch wrote to know there are way too many people who do not know. I think it’s lack of research, the need for instant gratification and that the puppy millers are just so good at their game that they’ve learned how to fool most of the people most of the time. 😦

  9. August 23, 2011 at 12:35 AM

    @Amy @Mel and the employees of pet stores tell customers their dogs and cats don’t come from mills. And people believe them – remarkably gullible.

    • Mel
      August 23, 2011 at 6:46 AM

      Agree that pet stores tell people this all of the time. I think some people choose to believe it and some just don’t know any better. But we both know that puppy mill owners manipulate people in all sorts of ways to sell their dogs. Just look at eBay’s Classifieds section or the story Life With Dogs had recently about a puppy mill posing as a rescue (btw – I think Christie Keith discovered a similar situation here). These people are unscrupulous and manipulative. I think many people fall for their bullsh*t.

  10. August 31, 2011 at 2:23 PM

    Mills are a dirty little secret. I didn’t know what a mill was until 7 months ago-I was so upset it took three days to adjust and decide I couldn’t let this go. Joined Colorado Citizens for Canine Welfare and haven’t looked back. http://www.coloradocanine.wordpress.com and check it out. We have 2 US Congress people now -co-sponsoring the PUPS Act-which upgrades the federal Animal Welfare Act. Closes the internet sales loophole, requires fresh water, food, exercise OUTSIDE the cage and better vet care. Call your federal congress people and demand they support this bill. It won’t stop the abuse by licensed and nonlicensed mills but it will be a nail in the coffin.

    • Mel
      August 31, 2011 at 9:33 PM

      They sure are Sharon. I wish more people understood how many pet store puppies come from puppy mills – 99%! I’m so glad you joined Colorado Citizens for Canine Welfare. I actually am writing about the PUPS Act soon – I’ve already sent my Senators and Representative an email via the ASPCA site. I agree that it won’t stop puppy mills completely, but it is a step towards federal regulation.
      Thank you for commenting and for sharing the link for your Colorado group. My Daisy thanks you!

  11. September 8, 2011 at 10:20 AM

    Well. This article ended up being quite insulting to me!! I came here to read an article that a friend on Facebook posted because I didn’t even know what a “puppy mill” is let alone its connection with a pet store. And because I didn’t already have this knowledge I basically got called “stupid.”

    “It is so beyond me that people could have such a hard time making the connection between puppy mills and pets stores. Seriously?”

    With people like that trying to educate the masses don’t expect much in the way of results. I got that far and quit reading and commented instead and have NO intention of reading the remainder of it as I’m not interested in what anyone who thinks I’m too stupid to comprehend has to say. “Seriously.”

    • Mel
      September 8, 2011 at 9:30 PM

      I am sorry you feel that way Laura-Ann, but if you feel stupid then that is less about me than about you. If you had read the rest of my post you would have realized that this was more of a cry of anger and frustration that so many people still don’t know. I happen to have adopted a puppy mill breeding dog and I know what it took to rehabilitate her. My frustration lies in the fact that no matter how hard we try to educate people it never seems to be enough.

      But, I suppose you won’t be reading this response since you never bothered to finish reading my post. 😦

  12. October 7, 2011 at 11:44 AM

    The Amish are riding on their old reputation of good people with love and care of their animals. Here in Iowa they promote “farm raised” for the puppy mills. Because they use a religous sector or Iowa farm raised to “LIE” to people and the animals are the ones who suffer. This information has to be out to the extent that the public cannot ignore it! We need to educate kids about it, they are more out spoken and learning young will stop the furture generation from this blight. Always, the pictures have the most impact, words can’t cover it.

    • Sharon
      October 14, 2011 at 11:46 AM

      The false advertising used by mills is nothing more than fraud. Pet store must use USDA licensed facilities to buy puppies, so as a selling point, they use that to mislead the public. Licensed or unlicensed, the puppies come from mills. Horrible conditions for a dog to live and die in. Amish believe dogs have no souls so their lives mean nothing. Dogs suffer in untold ways for the dollar and like corporate America, the bottom dollarc is all that counts.

    • Sharon
      October 14, 2011 at 11:52 AM

      Watch the Bauck video at http://www.caps-web.org to see Kathy Bauck 900 dog, 400 puppies mill. She finally lost her USDA license to sell to stores but changed the business name and can sell direct to the public over the internet. We must work to close that loophole.

      • Mel
        October 15, 2011 at 12:57 AM

        Thanks Kathy. I’ve seen it many times. Kathy is from my state and while she isn’t allowed to see anymore, her husband has managed to keep their business going. The woman makes me sick.

  13. Sharon
    October 14, 2011 at 11:40 AM

    Puppymills are dirty little secrets that need to be exposed! Unfortunately, they are legal. We need to work at grassroot levels AND, MOST IMPORTANTLY, CHANGE LAWS!! Right now there is an admendment to the federal Animal Welfare Act that will close the unregulated sale of puppies over the Internet, mandate clean cages, non vermin enfested, and at least an hour a day exercise outside the crate. Call, email, get signatures for all your federal senators and representatives to co-sponsor HB835 or SB707. This has been around along time but always pushed aside. This is another nail in the puppymill coffin!!

  14. Linda Harvey
    August 9, 2013 at 8:46 AM

    I agree with all of you trying to close the mills down. But in the same way that you are frustrated that ALL people don’t know what you do about the mills, Laura Ann was made to feel stupid…and when she commented, it seems that you still did not see it. The wounded and insulted don’t stay to be wounded and insulted further. Maybe her passion is the hungry or disenfranchised. Maybe her piece is not closing the mills. But she came here to learn and now will not. Pamela has a great point when she says if we all did our little piece we might have a better world. But we have to do it with sensitivity. Hopefully, you will not bash me as you bashed Laura Ann, saying that her feeling stupid was on her (clearly it had nothing to do with being referred to as gullible, uneducated, or wiling to “quash ethical and moral considerations). Luckily, I have a thicker skin than Laura…or maybe that is only because I already knew about pet stores and mills.

    • Mel
      August 10, 2013 at 4:26 PM

      Wow. You read a lot more into my response to Laura than I did Linda.

      Even though I wrote that back in 2011, I stand by it and my response to Laura. I didn’t “make” her feel stupid. That was a choice she made. Was I strong in my wording for that post? Yes. I was expressing anger and frustration at the stats. Did I miss an opportunity to educate? Or, to be kind and sensitive? Possibly.

      This is a blog. It is made up of my feelings, my thoughts, and yes, my anger when it comes to animals and how we treat them. I am not as equanimous as Pamela (who I happen to adore), but that is because I am not her. I am me. I get angry and frustrated and sad. I can also be kind and generous. I think saying I was “bashing” Laura might be a bit strong, but if that is how you feel, who am I to question it?

  15. Jan Tadeo
    August 10, 2013 at 2:10 PM

    As a trainer, I’ve seen a number of people who’ve bought their dog from a “breeder” they found on-line or at a flea market. I try to educate them, but after the dog has been purchased, it’s too late. Worst case was a couple with a Cane Corso (beautiful temperment) that had to be euthanized at four months old because of severe hip dysplaysia.

    • Mel
      August 10, 2013 at 4:06 PM

      That is so sad Jan. I agree. I try to educate whenever I can. Sometimes telling them about my dogs opens the door for a good discussion about pet stores and puppy mills, but I forgot about flea markets and roadside vans selling puppies. All we can do is educate and hope people will stop buying mill dogs someday.

  16. Lynn Nast
    August 15, 2013 at 12:16 PM

    it doesn’t help much to show this only on HBO. I and many friends have given up channels like HBO, Show time etc. for the expense and so many redundant movies… I think a prime time showing would get more of a viewing. Just my thoughts……….

    • Mel
      August 16, 2013 at 10:39 PM

      Sorry Lynn. I’m not sure why only on HBO, but maybe it’s on Hulu too?

  17. Vicki
    August 15, 2013 at 2:02 PM

    This is a sad story but a story with hope that needs to be broadcast everywhere to stop this madness. I have a puppy mill rescue chihuahua that would have been killed by the puppy mill because he was no longer a viable breeder. These dogs are no different than any of your pets. But they are neglected and abused. They are also responsible for the explosion of animal overpopulation and the crowded shelters. I hope you will all help in educating the general public.

    • Mel
      August 16, 2013 at 10:38 PM

      Yes. We definitely need to keep educating Vicki. Over and over again.

  18. DebbieJones
    August 16, 2013 at 6:03 PM

    Get your teenagers to do Muriel’s any and everywhere they can fit them so instead of puppy eyes in the window they see the sad truth of the puppy mill trades and will hopefully learn to stay away from puppy mills

  19. August 18, 2013 at 7:42 AM


  20. Elizabeth
    August 18, 2013 at 6:35 PM

    This is a typical AR blog about dog breeding. The fact is that the animal rights activists who coined the term “puppy mill” and continuously associate it with negative photographic images consider ANY dog breeder a “puppy mill.” It doesn’t matter how many dogs or puppies you have, how clean they are, how conscientious you are about health screenings, vet care, and socialization. If you produce even ONE puppy, YOU are a “puppy mill.” The rabid AR rhetoric against so-called “puppy mills” is absurd. The term itself is a pejorative intended to slur ALL dog breeding. It’s as offensive a term as any racial or ethnic slur you can come up with, so PLEASE do us all a favor and quit the mindless yammering about “puppy mills.” “Puppy mill” is not a legally defined term, it is slang used by the “animal rights” community to denigrate any and all breeders. The phrase “puppy mill” has been promoted in the media by the animal “rights” movement, people who want to end all animal ownership. It is applied indiscriminately by these fanatics to anyone who breeds dogs. Those horrendous photos you see in commercials for the “Humane Society” are mostly veryoutdated, photo-shopped or a 1 in one million exception to the care given animals by breeders everywhere. The photos are intended to shock and horrify you into giving money. Be skeptical. If you didn’t see it with your own eyes take it with a grain of salt. All the hobby breeders in this country cannot produce enough puppies to meet the demands of the American market. BREEDERS are NOT responsible for the presence of mixed breed dogs in shelters.

    • Mel
      August 18, 2013 at 9:31 PM

      LOL. That actually made me laugh. Sarcastically.

      No. It’s not a typical AR blog. It’s a blogger who happens to be educated about puppy mills because she happens to have two former breeding dogs and one dog who came from a pet store via a puppy mill. I chose to educate myself while trying to help my severely fearful puppy mill breeding dog. I’ve probably done more research than you ever have about puppy mills.

      I know the difference between hobby breeders and backyard breeders and puppy mills. I happen to support “good” breeders, responsible breeders, breeders who don’t kill their breeding dogs when they are through with them. I happen to know good and responsible breeders.

      Don’t pin a label on me or my blog. You obviously don’t know me.

  1. August 20, 2011 at 1:14 PM

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