The dogs whose stories are told
below were lucky in a way—they survived long enough
to make it out of the puppy mill and into to the
arms of people who cared about them. But many of
these survivors died not long after because of
physical ailments and emotional scars that
developed due to the lack of veterinary care, bad
breeding, poor conditions, lack of socialization and
maltreatment common at
Abby was purchased in
Michigan after her owner answered a classified ad
for AKC-registered Labrador Retrievers. Her owner
was given only a handwritten vaccination record at
Within a few days, Abby became
gravely ill and tested positive for Parvovirus. She
also had a severe urinary infection, ear infection
and roundworms. The veterinarian felt she had only a
30 percent chance of recovery.
After several days of intensive
care hospitalization, Abby beat the odds and
survived Parvo. Her family sued her breeder in small
claims court. He continues to sell AKC-registered
dogs through the classified ads.
Pepper was born in a puppy mill
in Arkansas and was sold by a Missouri-based broker
that supplies puppies to pet stores nationwide to a
pet store in California.
Within hours of purchase, Pepper
showed signs of neurological problems. He was
diagnosed with an incurable, hereditary brain
disorder. As he ages, Pepper has progressively
longer "spells" during which he cannot walk, eat or
stand on his own.
Read Bella Mia's story »
Top Secret is an adult terrier
who was used as a breeder at a Missouri puppy mill.
Due to a lifelong lack of veterinary care, Top
Secret suffered from painful and severe dental
All of his teeth rotted and he
lost part of his lower jaw. Top was rescued and has
been treated, but he can no longer shut his mouth
all the way and does not have full use of his jaw.
Top Secret has now been adopted
into a loving home.
Greta was purchased from a
small-scale puppy mill breeder who sold puppies
along an Arkansas roadside. Greta had two kinds of
mange and other infections.
Today, more than a year after
her purchase, she still suffers from recurring bouts
of mange and requires ongoing veterinary treatment.
Greta's owner was later told
that at least one of Greta's littermates had died
due to the conditions in which they were living.
Abby, a toy poodle, was
purchased from a puppy store in Massachusetts. When
she was still just a puppy, Abby had trouble walking
and was diagnosed with luxating patellas
(dislocating kneecaps), a common congenital problem
in small dogs of poor breeding.
Abby's vet said her condition
was one of the worst he had ever seen. Her family
spent more than $1,600 on two surgeries to correct
her knee problems.
Abby's family told The HSUS, "We
feel horrible for falling into the 'puppy mill
trap.' We only wish we knew then what we know now."
NaMona is a Cocker Spaniel/King
Charles Cavalier Spaniel mix who was purchased from
a puppy store in Maryland in the fall of 2006.
Within a day of purchase, NaMona
was diagnosed with kennel cough, which quickly
progressed to pneumonia. Despite early treatment,
NaMona came very close to death.
After her owner found her barely
breathing one night, she rushed her to an emergency
veterinary facility at 4 a.m., where NaMona spent
days in an oxygen tent.
"If this puppy dies, I'll never
get over it," wrote her owner. NaMona finally pulled
through. Her buyer spent far more money on vet bills
that she did on NaMona's purchase price.
Cindy was used as a breeder dog
at a Florida puppy mill for about six years. She was
finally freed by the local animal control department
when they confiscated Cindy and others and fined
their owner for cruelty.
Due to the long-term lack of
veterinary care, Cindy had lost most of her teeth
and suffered from heartworm disease. The heartworm
disease was treated, but the resulting damage to her
heart has left her dependent on heart medications.
Cindy was very shy and confused
at first. She was in her new home for six months
before she developed the courage to bark. Although
her heart will always be damaged from the
preventable effects of heartworm disease, Cindy is
finally living a good life after her years of abuse.
She now enjoys life as a
pampered family pet.
Claire, a Bichon Frise, was
purchased at a puppy mill auction in Missouri. She
was marketed as a good breeder who would "help put
your kids through college."
Claire suffers from a severe
neurological impairment and is partially blind and
deaf. Had she not found her way into a breed rescue
group, she would probably have spread her genetic
conditions on to many future generations of dogs.
Now re-named Samantha, Claire
beat almost astronomical odds and found herself in a
loving adoptive home. Her disabilities will be
life-long, but she has been spayed, so she will
never have offspring who will suffer the same fate.
Ashley's family purchased her
from a "breeder" after seeing an ad in the back of a
popular dog magazine.
Ashley was shipped on an
airplane from Kentucky to Illinois, so her family
never met the breeder or saw where Ashley was born.
Ashley began developing seizures
in puppyhood. For 10 years, she has been taking
daily medications to control her seizures. She has
also suffered from thyroid disease and congenital
Her owner later found out that
Ashley's breeder was shut down for running a puppy
mill. She wrote, "I love my Ashley dearly, but she
has endured so much because of the conditions and
poor quality that she was born into. The moral of
this story is to investigate thoroughly the breeder
from which you plan to get an animal."
Even though Stevie has no eyes,
she was used as a breeding dog in a Florida puppy
One vet who examined Stevie said
that she was probably born without her eyes, and
that her condition was most likely caused by
Stevie was rescued after the
puppy mill was shut down in the summer of 2006. She
is now living with a loving adoptive family.
Draco, a German Shepherd, was
purchased as breeding stock, but when the person who
purchased him did not want to deal with his skin
condition he was neglected and then abandoned.
When Draco was rescued he was 40
to 50 pounds underweight and had been living outside
in the cold with no fur or body fat to keep him
warm. He was suffering from an untreated thyroid
condition and extensive skin infections, and his
prognosis was so poor that a vet suggested
But his rescuer persevered and
managed to restore Draco to health by giving him the
proper food and veterinary attention he had so long
deserved. Draco has now been neutered so that he
cannot pass on his genetic problems.
He is now in a loving, permanent
Bear was purchased by a Michigan
couple who saw an ad on a popular puppy sellers’
website. He was advertised as a "registered designer
Pochi" (half Pomeranian, half Chihuahua).
When the buyers offered to meet
the breeder at her kennel to pick up Bear, she
instead arranged to meet them in the parking lot of
a fast food restaurant.
"All the red flags were there,"
said Bear's family, but they were so smitten with
the little puppy that they decided to buy him
Bear died of Parvovirus two days
Millie, a 12-year-old Chihuahua,
was found wandering along a Virginia road in very
poor condition. Her uterus had prolapsed due to
multiple pregnancies and deliveries, and was
literally protruding outside her body.
She was brought to the nearest
animal shelter. The shelter staff noted that Millie
was wearing a tag with a USDA breeder's license
number on it. She clearly had been used for many
years as a breeder dog in a puppy mill, before being
abandoned when her body was used up and she could no
longer "earn her keep."
Special funding was secured to
pay for Millie's uterine surgery, so that she could
finally be placed in a loving home. Many people were
pulling for her but, unfortunately, it was too late
The operating vet discovered
extensive tumors throughout her reproductive system,
and it was decided that the kindest thing to do
would be to not wake her up from surgery. The animal
shelter's manager took Millie's ashes home with her.
At least in death, Millie will have a real home.
Muffy, a Tibetan Terrier, was
purchased from a pet store in New York in
March 2006. She displayed signs of kennel cough
shortly after purchase. She also suffered from
giardia, a gastrointestinal infection common in
puppy mill dogs.
Despite prompt veterinary care
and later hospitalization, Muffy died of pneumonia
two weeks after purchase.
Peaches was purchased from a pet
store in Connecticut in March 2006. She was shipped
from a puppy mill in Pennsylvania and arrived at
the pet store the night before she was purchased.
Peaches suffered from colitis
and respiratory ailments which seemed mild at first.
But, like many puppy mill dogs, her body seemed
resistant to normal antibiotic therapy.
Despite thousands of dollars
worth of veterinary care, her infections progressed
over time. She died two months after purchase.
A young woman purchased Bocephus
over the Internet as a Christmas present for her
husband, who had just returned from military
She assumed that she was buying
him from a reputable breeder, and planned to train
the Bloodhound as a search and rescue dog.
But Bo died within four days of
arriving at his new home. He was riddled with worms
and infections, and ultimately succumbed to liver
The breeder later sent a
replacement dog. The second puppy was also very ill
and required veterinary care for kidney problems,
Read CJ's story »
Ginger, a Shiba Inu, was
purchased in Florida from a veterinarian who sold
puppies on the side.
Ginger's owner was later shocked
to learn that Ginger and the rest of her vet's
puppies had come from a puppy mill in Missouri.
Ginger suffered from severe gastrointestinal
ailments (inflammatory bowel disease) her entire
Despite the best care her family
could give her, Ginger lived for less than three
Philly was purchased from a pet
store in New Jersey in October 2006. Like many pet
stores, the store claimed to have dogs only from
"prime breeders," but Philly had actually been bred
at a commercial breeder in Texas and had been
trucked across the country by an Oklahoma broker
before being sold to the store.
Just one day after purchase,
Philly became gravely ill and was hospitalized with
severe pneumonia and suspected Distemper. His family
spent more than $3,500 trying to save his life, but
he did not recover.
After six days of intensive
care, Philly was euthanized.
Oden, a Miniature Pincher, was
bred in Missouri, transferred to a broker, and later
sold by a well-known pet store in Valparaiso, Ind.
Oden was much-loved by his new
family, as well as the family's Doberman, Loki
(pictured here with Oden).
But Oden became ill shortly
after purchase. A parasitic microorganism greatly
weakened his body and immune system over time.
Veterinary treatment failed, and he had to be
euthanized less than five weeks after purchase.
Oden's heartbroken owner told
The HSUS, "Nobody deserves to go through this,
especially these poor dogs who can't speak for
themselves. My ignorance has cost our family so
much. I am angry at [the pet store chain] not only
for using these vile puppy mills but for leading
people to believe the puppies come from caring
breeders. If I had known the truth, I would have
never given a dollar to support this industry."
Scooter, a Beagle, was purchased
from a national pet store chain by a young couple
who knew nothing about puppy mills.
From the start he seemed to have
some socialization issues, so his family took him to
puppy training classes.
But as he grew into adulthood,
Scooter developed more and more aggression problems.
He bit several family members for no apparent
Although Scooter was still very
much loved, he had to be euthanized for his
temperament issues when he was just 18 months old.
Sassy was purchased from a pet
shop in Arcadia, Calif., in 2005. She was much loved
by her family, but she suffered from health problems
almost as soon as she came home from the store.
Sassy's family tried to work
with the store's managers regarding the store's
"one-year health guarantee," but the store
repeatedly took their receipts and then denied their
Cases like Sassy's prove that
"health guarantees" are more of a marketing ploy
than real protection for pet owners.
Sassy's life was cut drastically
short due to her frail health. She died just three
days shy of her first birthday.
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Updated Jan. 10, 2008