Chris Shaughness

author, speaker, animal lover

Getting a Dog?

Avoiding Puppy Mills

If you have found my web site, you probably have seen that I wrote and published a book called Puppy Mill Dogs SPEAK! The book is based on my experiences working with dogs who had been breeders in puppy mills, and their adopters. I feel very passionately about this issue and I hope you will too. Not all dog breeders care about the quality and health of the puppies they breed and sell. Many are in it just for the money. Please read below to learn more.

What is a Puppy Mill?

The strict definition of a puppy mill is a place where dogs are bred as a large, money-making business with no regard to the health and behavior traits being bred into the dogs. However, the operation does not have to be very large in order for the dogs to be living and breeding in deplorable conditions.

Several states in the U.S. are home to puppy mills. Missouri is the worst offender, with Kansas, Nebraska, Wisconsin and Ohio close behind. Lancaster County, PA, which is about 30 minutes from where I live, is called the Puppy Mill Capital of the East because it is home to over 300 places which can be called puppy mills. Sadly, most people don’t realize that they are puppy mills, however. All the public sees is a homemade sign advertising dogs for sale, or an advertisement in the newspaper saying “farm raised.” The places are usually farms, and typically owned by the Amish, but are not the kindly places we think. The media depicts the Amish as deeply religious, righteous people but what the public does not know is that many of the Amish treat their animals with disrespect and cruelty. Dogs are just another crop to them, a way to make money. On these farms, the dogs are not running around happily. They are confined to cages or hutches.

How Do You Recognize a Puppy Mill Breeder Dogs?

Puppy mill breeder dogs resemble shy dogs in many ways but have other strange characteristics. They run from people and will not make eye contact with you. They are very sensitive to noises, startle very easily and flee if given the opportunity. If cornered, most of these dogs will not bite. Instead, they completely shut down. Some will flatten out on the floor and shut their eyes tightly; others look as if they are in a trance.

Puppy mill dogs have never lived in a home so they are unfamiliar with walking up and down steps, find hardwood floors and linoleum strange to walk on, and can be frightened by televisions, radio, hair dryers and other household appliances. And the most difficult issue is house training. These dogs have lived in cages all of their lives and are accustomed to sleeping and eating with their own wastes.

What Can We Do About Puppy Mills?

Anyone who sees the pathetic condition of puppy mill dogs knows that this abuse must be stopped. It’s amazing how we can live in a society where dogs are pampered and spoiled, yet we are unaware of where the dogs are coming from.

1) Please do not buy a dog from a pet store, even if they claim they don’t buy from puppy mills. More than likely, the pet store buys their puppies from a broker (a middleman) who has bought them from puppy mills. How do I know this? My main work is helping people resolve their dogs’ behavior problems. I have been inundated with calls from people who have purchased poodle mixes from pet stores in the area (Malti-poos, Yorkie-poos, Eski-poos, etc.). A large percentage of these dogs have behavior problems – food aggression, object aggression or anxiety issues. It’s obvious that the puppy mill these dogs came from is using a parent dog with genetic behavior problems, and is breeding these issues into the puppies.

2) Do not buy a puppy from an Amish farmer. They do not take good care of their dogs, and pay no attention to the health and behavior issues they could be breeding into their puppies.

3) Do not buy a puppy from the Internet. It’s so easy for a irresponsible breeder to set up a very nice, appealing web site with photos of beautiful dogs, which they claim are the parents. In fact, behind most of these sites are Amish breeders. If you go to a web site called, you will find jsut about any kind of dog you can imagine. The puppies look adorable, of course. But this web site is a just a front for selling Amish-bred puppies.


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