Home > Animal Rescue, Backyard Breeders, Pet Adoption, Pet News, Puppy Mills > Dog for Sale -Yes. I Walked Away

Dog for Sale -Yes. I Walked Away

I don’t tell this story to many people, partly because it’s not something I would share in a normal conversation, but mostly because I have such conflicting emotions about the choice I made.

It happened several years ago, shortly after my Sheltie, Alicia, had died at the ripe old age of fifteen. My family and I had been talking about getting another Sheltie for a while, when I saw an ad in the paper offering Shelties for sale. We had loved Alicia so much. She had had such a great little personality. We wanted another dog like her to fill the hole that had been left behind when she left us.

The ad provided a number and I called it. The woman said she was located in Princeton Minnesota, almost 60 miles from home, and gave me directions to her home. My sister and I agreed that we would make the trip and call my mother once we got there so she could offer some input in the decision.

Even though an hour away, we didn’t mind the drive. After all, we were going to get a new dog!

The lady had told me to go through downtown Princeton and keep going for a few miles and then look for a specific mailbox. We watched for the mailbox as soon as we left town and finally saw what we were looking for. As we turned into the dirt driveway, we noticed a ramshackle white mobile home. It was small and dirty and looked like it had not been well maintained. The yard was much the same.

Right away, we could hear lots of barking coming from inside. LOTS of barking. My heart sank a little. This did not seem like the place I had imagined. We pulled up to the house and watched as a lady came outside. hat I noticed right away was that she shut the door tightly behind her. No little Shelties came out with her. In fact, there were no other animals outside at all. Not one family pet running around to greet us. Maybe she didn’t want to create more chaos by letting her dogs out too?

Instead of leading us back to the house (where all the barking was coming from), she led us to a barn back behind the house. As we walked with her, she told us a little more about the dog we were about to see. She talked about the dog’s parents as if they were beloved family pets, but I know now that this was most likely a bunch of lies. A story she told people to make them think her dogs were coming from a loving family home (“family-raised”). The truth is, to her this was nothing more than a business transaction. She didn’t even seem all that emotionally affected by the fact that she would be losing a dog. A beloved family pet.

We walked into the barn and she led us to a stall. She waved her hand over the stall door at the little Sheltie standing inside. She was a beautiful sable Sheltie, not a puppy, but a grown dog. She looked very scared. There was also something odd about her. She was really, really quiet. She didn’t bark. She didn’t jump at the stable door trying to greet us. She didn’t even spin around in excitement in typical Sheltie manner. Instead, she just stood there. Silent. She had a look that in her eyes that I now know, having seen it in my own Daisy’s eyes, she was shut down. Not only was she not engaging with us, she wasn’t engaging with anybody, not even the woman who supposedly had cared for her in her home. Not what I would call “normal.”

We cooed over how pretty she was, but it was half-hearted on my part. I already had a sneaking suspicion that something was very wrong here. The woman told us a little about the Sheltie, but I don’t remember much about the conversation. My mind was already stewing over my suspicions and the conflict it presented.

I told the woman I needed to call my mother to get her input and approval, but my cell phone wouldn’t work. I tried it outside the barn, but no luck. I told my sister that I couldn’t seem to get a signal and then turned to the woman and told her I would need to go into town to see if I could get a signal so I could speak with my mother. Suddenly, the woman looked a little nervous. A red flag?

As we drove down the driveway, I turned to my sister and said “I think this is a puppy mill. I don’t think I can take this dog.” When she asked why, I told her that if I purchased this Sheltie I would be supporting a puppy mill. I just didn’t think I could do that. Could I?

I struggled to decide what to do as we drove back into town. What a decision. Rescue a Sheltie that was clearly in a bad situation and support a puppy mill? Or, leave the Sheltie behind and know that I had chosen not to give my money to a puppy miller? No wonder so many people choose to take the puppy. What kind of choice is that?

I wish I could say that I made the right choice that day. The truth is I don’t know if I did or not. What I do know is that I called my mother when we got back to town. That I shared my suspicions with her about the woman and the dog. I also told her I didn’t think I could buy the dog knowing I would be supporting a puppy mill. She supported my decision, knowing it was not an easy decision for me.

I didn’t drive back to the woman’s place that day, but instead drove home with a heavy heart, wondering if I made the right decision. To this day, I wonder about that little dog. What ever happened to her? Did she ever get a home? Did she die in that horrible place? Part of me wishes I knew the answers to those questions. But, maybe it is better not to know.

I share this story with you because I want you to know that I know what it’s like to walk away from a puppy in a mill. I know how hard a decision it is to leave a dog behind. Living with my decision is not easy, especially knowing I will never know what happened to that poor dog. That’s why I more motivated than most to change the laws in this state. No one should have to make that kind of decision, but more than that, no dog should have to live like this dog did.

That’s why I am asking my fellow Minnesotans to join me in asking our state legislators to change the laws. Animal welfare groups have been working for SEVEN years to change the laws in this state, to no avail, but my hope is that this year will be the year. Something needs to change and the only way that can happen is if all of us say “No more!” Will you join me?

So how can you help? Choose to do just TWO of the actions below.

1. SIGN the petition supporting dog and cat breeder regulation in Minnesota.

2. TWEET this post to your friends and family and ask them to sign the petition and contact their Minnesota state legislator.

3. SHARE this post with your friends and family on Facebook and ask them to sign the petition and contact their Minnesota state legislator.

4. ASK your veterinarian and his/her vet techs to sign the petition in support of this bill. Ask them to indicate they are a vet or vet tech in the last box on the petition. (You can also contact Cheryl@animalfolksmn.org and she will mail you the petition forms and literature on the bill.) 217 vets and vet techs have already signed the petition. Let’s double those numbers!

5. SHARE your own story about buying a cat or dog or rescuing a puppy mill dog. I welcome any and all of your stories here, whether inside Minnesota or out, but if from Minnesota please do share it on the AnimalFolksMN site. These will be used to show legislators why there is a need for a law to regulate puppy mills.

6. CONTACT your own Minnesota State Senator and Representative

To find out who represents you, go to: MN District Finder

This link is easy to use. Just type in your address and zip code. It will list who represents you based on where you live. Please contact your State legislators – your MN House Representative and your MN Senator. Click on their names and you will be linked to their phone number, email and address.

NOTE: In addition to the bills’ authors, some legislators have already expressed their support publicly by co-authoring the bills. To find out if your legislator is a co-author, go to: Authors and Co-Authors

7. CONTACT Minnesota Governor Mark Dayton

The bill must first pass through legislative committees and be voted on by the full House and Senate before it reaches the Governor to be signed into law. But we need the Governor to hear your voice now. Please contact Governor Mark Dayton and ask that he support S.F. 462/H.F. 702.

Governor Mark Dayton
Phone: 651-201-3400
Toll Free: 800-657-3717
Fax: 651-797-1850
Email contact form: http://mn.gov/governor/contact-us/form/
Governor Mark Dayton on Twitter
Governor Mark Dayton’s on Facebook.


If you call, you’ll most likely reach voicemail or speak with an aide or assistant. Just be yourself. Speak from the heart. Keep it short and respectful.

NOTE: S.F. 462 is the bill in the Senate. H.F. 702 is the bill in the House.

Example for Senator:
“My name is ________________ (full name). I am a constituent and I live in __________ (city). I’m calling about the problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding conditions in Minnesota and the need for regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders. I’m asking that my Senator ________________ (name) support S.F. 462, which will license, inspect and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders. This bill is authored by Senator Barb Goodwin. Thank you.”

Example for Representative:
“My name is ________________ (full name). I am a constituent and I live in __________ (city). I’m calling about the problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding conditions in Minnesota and the need for regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders. I’m asking that my Representative ________________ (name) support H.F. 702, which will license, inspect and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders. This bill is authored by Representative John Lesch. Thank you.

Example for Governor:
“My name is ________________ (full name). I am a Minnesota resident and I live in __________ (city). I’m calling about the problem of inhumane dog and cat breeding conditions in Minnesota and the need for regulation of commercial dog and cat breeders. I’m asking that Governor Mark Dayton support S.F. 462, authored by Senator Goodwin, and H.F. 702, authored by Representative Lesch. These bills will license, inspect and regulate commercial dog and cat breeders. Thank you.”

For more information on this bill go to AnimalFolksMN.

  1. March 14, 2012 at 10:37 PM

    I don’t live in Minnesota, but this broke my heart. I too have always wondered about animals like that. You don’t want to perpetuate the situation, but how can you say no? This is so sad that we should even have to think like that in this day and age. It’s awful and horrendous and needs to be stopped. I think about all animals every night and wish them well, and tell myself I will never forget them or their plight. Very good post, and beautifully written.

    • Mel
      March 14, 2012 at 10:49 PM

      It broke my heart too. Your question got to the heart of my dilemma (and that of many others). Thank you for your kind words and thoughtful response.

      • March 14, 2012 at 10:54 PM

        Of course 🙂 I always have these ethical dilemmas about our animal friends, and not a lot of people get them, or even care, so it’s nice to see someone else does!

      • Mel
        March 15, 2012 at 6:24 AM

        You and I are in the same boat for sure! I have these ethical dilemmas all of the time.

  2. March 14, 2012 at 11:38 PM

    What a heart wrenching post Mel. It’s such a horrible catch 22. I honestly don’t know what I would do. I so wish that more people would stop supporting the puppy mills.

    Thank you so much for sharing this Mel. It’s a powerful post!

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 6:23 AM

      Thank you Jodi. I don’t think I would have shared this story if not for my goal of creating awareness about puppy mills this week. I’m hoping people will help us make this a bill this year.

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 8:45 PM

      I think everyone does what they can do in the moment they are faced with it. I was stuck between my heart and my head.

  3. March 15, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    Awful, awful, awful. I think you did the right thing. At least, you did what I would have done in that situation. While it is so hard to leave a dog in need, by giving this woman your money you are telling her it is okay to raise animals this way for profit. You are encouraging her heartless behaviour. But of course, there’s the dog…

    Is there an animal welfare organization in Minnesota to whom this kind of thing can be reported? If I was to run across a potential puppy mill situation in my area, the first thing I would do is contact the provincial SPCA who is mandated to enforce the provincial Animal Protection Act. Is there no such body in your state?

  4. March 15, 2012 at 10:08 AM

    This is a really sad and heart-wrenching story and one in which you are in a no-win situation. My heart breaks that you had to make that awful choice.

    My sister got a Jack-Rat many years ago from a woman in N.C. when my sister got there she realized it was a puppy mill and was horrified by what she saw. In a blind panic she said, “Give me that one,” took little Bandit and left. I don’t have to tell you that Bandit did not come without issues.

    If I were President, I would have an animal task force whose sole purpose would be to make sure animals were treated ethically and not exploited. I hope the law passes and they can enforce the law and put a lot of these people in jail or fine them hugely.

    Since I don’t live in Minnesota, I posted on face-book and retweeted, and I will link you up to my blogpost tonight.

    Keep fighting Mel, the squeaky wheel gets the oil.

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 8:44 PM

      Thanks for your support Jodi. One step at a time. One signature at a time. One legislator at a time. Thank you for spreading the word.

  5. Jen
    March 15, 2012 at 10:09 AM

    It’s hard to look at a dog that needs to be not where she is, and walk away. But buying her would only have supported that woman. In the scheme of things, walking away was the right decision, but I don’t blame you if you feel guilty. I would. Our hearts and our heads don’t always agree.

    I’m not against breeding. But I am against milling.

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 8:44 PM

      I’m not against breeding or reputable breeders either Jodi. I’ve met good ones. I am definitely against using dogs to make a profit at the dog’s expense of health and happiness and socialization, I don’t need to even mention the horrible conditions. Thanks for your kind words.

  6. March 15, 2012 at 11:39 AM

    What a terrible situation to be in. I almost cried reading it and support your efforts.

  7. Pauly
    March 15, 2012 at 6:59 PM

    I would’ve talked the price down as low as possible, then rescued the dog ~ sorry, but that dog needed help and there’s no way I could’ve walked away leaving her there to pay the price. Then, I would’ve immediately set about reporting this woman to anyone and everyone who would listen and do everything in my power to shut her down!

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 8:41 PM

      I wish I had thought of that at the time. I did report her. I think all of us handle things in the moment we are faced with them and think about the choices we could have made in retrospect.

      • Pauly
        March 16, 2012 at 1:47 PM

        Yes, that’s very true… it’s definitely a Catch 22, to be sure. The laws are better now and we do know more how to handle these situations…15 years ago things were muchmore difficult –there wasn’t alot of support back then. Half of my sled dogs are from these kind of situations… I just couldn’t walk away. We all need to continue to try and fix this problem, once and for all… I’ll be signing these petitions for sure!

      • Pauly
        March 16, 2012 at 1:57 PM

        I wanted to add that I’m betting that someone probably did buy her and even though you couldn’t help her then, you are helping others now. Also, you might be able to have someone in the area check out the place to see if it’s still there just be giving them the directions… it’s a pretty small town.There is a great rescue group in Princeton called Ruff Start, maybe they would know? It might be worth a try?

      • Mel
        March 16, 2012 at 9:48 PM

        You know Pauly. I thought perhaps someone else did buy the dog. I kind of hope so. I would fel better knowing she got out of that awful place. I have not been to Princeton in years, but I may know someone who could check – she runs Ruff Start Rescue. 🙂

  8. March 15, 2012 at 7:57 PM

    What a sad story. I wonder if that puppy mill got reported (by you or anyone else)?

    I don’t think you can agonise too much over whether you made a right or wrong decision. It was a lose-lose situation. You’re doing all you can now, and that’s what’s important. Weighing it out, I would probably have done what you did. As with the sale of all animals and animal parts – if there is no buyer, there would be no supplier. Saving one pup would win the battle but not the war. That’s my 2 cents worth for the day.

    Have a good one, Mel(f) x

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 8:40 PM

      I did report what I knew Miss Sweet Pea. I don’t know if anything happened. Thanks for your kind words.

  9. March 15, 2012 at 8:16 PM

    What a heart wrenching story and such a difficult decision for you.

    My sister got a Jack-Rat from a puppy mill. She didn’t know until she got there and was so horrified she just said, “Give me that one.” I don’t have to tell you that little Bandit didn’t come without issues. 😦

    I applaud your determination to stop this horrific practice. I hope this bill passes and leads the way for other states to adopt the same measures.

    We need really strong punishments and fines to really make people think.

    • Mel
      March 15, 2012 at 8:39 PM

      I understand your sister’s predicament Jodi. I know this dog would have had issues (I didn’t know then), but part of me wishes I had taken it. I did report her, but I had no last name, just directions. I don’t think anything happened. Our laws are weak here.

  10. March 15, 2012 at 9:29 PM

    It’s a tough situation when you’re confronted with it in real life. I don’t know what I would have done.

  11. Tracy
    March 15, 2012 at 9:49 PM

    I understand that you would not want to give this woman money, but f you ever come across a situation like this again pls call the local authorities. Then call PETA or HSUS who will help you get those animals surrendered. She could even have gotten charged/jailed. In fact, we could still try to go this route. Those dogs might still be there. Could you email me at tracyp@peta.org, pls?

    • Mel
      March 16, 2012 at 5:23 AM

      Tracy- It was nearly 15 years ago and I did call someone. I did report her. It was not PETA. Given recent news, it would never be PETA that I would call. Never.

  12. Tracy
    March 16, 2012 at 9:19 AM

    Oh good! I missed that in the article then. I’m sorry that the CCF has been successful in swaying your opinions about PETA. I’m not going to have this conversation over your blog, but if you ever interested in chatting I am happy to anytime- 757-297-1397.

    • Mel
      March 16, 2012 at 9:43 PM

      Sorry TRacy. That comment was a bit snarky. Was tired and crabby last night. I am well aware of the CCF and their tactics. The story I saw was not linked to them, but I will take another look. I’m usually cautious about any crap posted on the web about a rescue group or animal welfare organization.

  13. March 18, 2012 at 8:05 PM

    I’m so impressed that you recognized this place as a puppy mill 15 years ago, Mel. Back then, the thought never would have occurred to me – I’ve learned a lot since then! And, remember, voting with our dollars is not necessarily easy … but it’s the only way we can win this fight. You might have been able to save one dog that day, but your money would have helped perpetuate the suffering on many more dogs. You did the right thing.

    • Mel
      March 20, 2012 at 6:11 AM

      Thanks Amy. I’m not even sure how I knew what a puppy mill was back then. I certainly didn’t have any exposure to one prior to that. It was a tough decision. I think in the moment, I just didn’t know what to do. I just remembered hearing that you should not buy one from a mill or you help to support them.

  14. Julie Mattson
    March 24, 2012 at 9:06 AM

    While it is true there is no licensing for dog/cat breeders on a State level, that is because that licensing requirement is already covered by local towns and cities and sometimes even counties in this day and age. It is also true that MN has no State rabies law either, because those laws are covered by towns and cities too.

    So if a person wants to own more than what their town legally allows, usually that is limited to 3 to 5 dogs, even if they live on a rural property in “the country” they have to apply for and get permission to get a license from their town to operate a kennel and or a “business”. Within these “Conditional Use Permits”, which application fees often run $500, a pre-inspection of a property is usually required before even being granted and then annual and or surprise inspections are written in as requirements to maintain the license/perimt, along with many other rules and regulations that people have to adhere to. And there has to be one or two public hearings in order to be granted a license. So don’t worry that dog breeders in the state of MN aren’t being “watched” or “licensed” because they surely are. Here is an example for you.

    Click to access %7B6FCCEFE7-D387-4777-89D4-1103B1D219E3%7D.PDF

    If that link doesn’t work, google Livingstone Oak Grove Minnesota kennel license and see if you can read it.

    Most often when a person wants to have a “kennel permit” and have more than 3 to 5 dogs in their home they have to sign away their 4th amendment rights to privacy even! How’s that for strict ! Please read through this public hearing about all the issues someone has to go through to be granted a license, or not granted a license.


    • Mel
      March 27, 2012 at 6:22 AM

      Julie – I am aware of the Livingstone Kennels. I also believe that when you chose to do commerce within your home or on your property you are subject to the city, county and state laws that are in place just like any other business. A restaurant is subject to inspections too. Is this an infringement on their fourth amendment rights too? Livingstone Kennels could chose not to have the kennels on their own personal property and they would avoid the inspections you speak of.

      This is not an infringement of your Fourth Amendment Rights, but a misunderstanding of what your Fourth Amendment Rights are when it comes to the Bill of Rights.

      “The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.”

      The words to look for here is “unreasonable” and “probable cause”, when you enter into commerce there are all sorts of rules and regulations that apply. If you chose to do commerce on your own personal property, then yes, you are subject to those rules and regulations on your property. Move where you do commerce and your Fourth Amendment Rights are still intact on your own personal property.

  15. B Gold
    March 24, 2012 at 8:26 PM

    I’m sorry I don’t agree with most of you as one of my best dogs was bought from a breeder that wasn’t fancy or very well organized and he was known as a bad breeder but that dog was the most beautiful dog I have ever had. These dogs don’t expect much and appreciate everything they are given and give lots of love because they had a rough start and they know what it is to be hurt and lonely. This dog I bought was fun beyond means and loyal and loving and kind and oh so smart, just such a great dog we were heart broken when she passed on and yes we had her for many years. I’m not trying to make anyone feel bad I just think this is like throwing out the baby with the bath water don’t blame the dog and leave it behind who knows the money might have gone towards the feeding and vet bills of the dogs still there.

  16. ruffstartrescue
    June 30, 2012 at 4:57 PM

    Hey Mel! I just stumbled across this post randomly, believe it or not. Anyway, shoot me an email with where this place was located & ill go check it out. 🙂


    • Mel
      July 1, 2012 at 12:36 AM

      Hi Emily – Thanks for offering to check the place out, but this was 15 years ago, so I don’t even remember where it was exactly. It may not still exist. What I remember was that I had to drive through the town of Princeton and I had to look for a mailbox about a mile or so out after leaving town. I remember it was on the left-hand side and that it was a white mobile home that had been converted into a home and it had an old wood barn behind it. I can remember the barn, but I don’t know if it would help you. I wish I could remember more about the exact location, but it’s been so long now.

      If for some reason that is enough to go on, please let me know. I would love for someone to tell me it’s no longer in existence. I can’t help but wonder what happened after I reported her.

  17. JANET Soleta
    June 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM


  18. JANET
    June 19, 2013 at 12:07 PM

    JANET Soleta :

    • Julie Mattson
      June 19, 2013 at 12:52 PM

      @ Janet – what do you mean by “disaster” exactly ? Did you purchase a dog there or something ?

  19. JANET
    June 19, 2013 at 5:29 PM

    @Julie…although I was against it, my son purchased a puppy from them. They knew we were coming to see some puppies, so you would think the kennels would have been cleaned. Believe me, I have had dogs my entire life. The condition of the runs was horrifying. There was more than one or two days of waste in each of the runs. The “puppy room” had such a strong odor, I could hardly stand to stay in there. The puppy my son bought is sweet, but not without “issues”. She has allergies, and her first year she had extreme ear infections which we were able to treat and clear up. I just don’t like the fact that she said she “debarks” her dogs, and I thought the condition of the place was not acceptable. In what I read from the minutes of the city, she stated that she also micro chips all the puppies and delivers them personally. What???

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