puppy/kitten mills


    pet trade industry
    harm to animals
    harm to communities
    beliefs & attitudes
    government failure


commercial breeders


breeder: kathy bauck

breeder: rowell

breeder: dayna bell

pet stores



tax revenues

CVI data

issue: hoarders

  issue > overview

harm to animals

KEY MESSAGE: Animals can suffer physically and psychologically in puppy and kitten mills. This pain and suffering has been documented through inspection reports, cruelty investigations, animal rescues and veterinarian reports, and general research.


Breeding dog, Minnesota breeder

Physical pain and suffering

Physical suffering is the easiest to see or prove. Examples:

Some breeding facilities house dogs or cats in cages or pens with excessive feces and urine. This poor sanitation results in matted hair, skin infections, parasites and the spread of disease between animals — and pain and suffering to the animals. (Strong ammonia odors from excessive urine can also contribute to disease and discomfort for the animals.)

High-density caging and over-crowding combined with inadequate or poor quality food and water also creates stress in animals which reduces animal immune systems, making them more susceptible to disease or other debilitating conditions. Examples of these diseases common to puppy mills include eye lesions, deafness, cataracts, epilepsy, retinal degeneration, hip dysplasia, dislocated kneecaps, glaucoma, cognitive issues, mammary tumors, and periodontal disease.

As noted above, one common ailment with puppy mill dogs is “dislocated kneecaps.” Animals who are kept for long periods in cramped cages with little or no exercise and poor nutrition can develop wobbly kneecaps due to insufficient muscle growth. The wired cages can also cause physical harm to the animals’ paws and legs, as they struggle to stand on the wire and keep their legs from falling through and getting caught or mangled.

Another example: Ventral Lid Bilateral Entropion, a painful condition where a dog’s eyelids turn inward so that his or her lashes scratch the corneas. If not corrected, the dog could go blind. A dog may have this condition but look perfectly healthy. Due to cost (surgery is an estimated $275-$350 per eye), profit-driven breeders may not consider it worthy of correcting and so deny an animal veterinarian care. The Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project has profiled Max the Boxer, who had this condition.

Physically "damaged" animals may be sold at auction (though injured or deformed, they’re still considered viable for breeding) or killed if medical expenses are too high.

Puppy mills also cull puppies with ‘defects.’ These defects could include a dog that has too short of a tail, a sparse coat, undescended testicles, an umbilical hernia, or is just too small or too large. Other defects due to captivity and inhumane conditions include animals with loss of limbs or bones, deformed or broken legs from overcrowded wire cages, abscessed feet or hyperflexion.


Breeding dog, Minnesota breeder convicted of cruelty

Psychological suffering

Anyone who has been in a puppy or kitten mill or at a backyard breeder has witnessed dogs, puppies, cats and kittens cowering in the corner, afraid to approach humans or show affection. The psychological and emotional well-being of an animal is as critical as the physical well-being.

Because standards, inspections and enforcement of breeding conditions are minimal (by the USDA) or inadequate based on the needs of the animal and breed, psychological problems develop with the animals, such as trauma, extreme fear, kennel shyness, stress and aggression. Scientific reports confirm this. To cite a few reports:

“When animals are unable to perform species typical behaviors and control their environment, unintended stress results and may become manifested as abnormal behaviors, both maladaptive and malfunctional.” (Garner, 2005, research IACUC)

“If a dog is unsuccessful in developing adequate responses to enable it to cope [to stress], the response can then become maladaptive and the dog can develop subsequent affective disorders, disabilities, dysfunctions, and/or diseases.” (Selection, Acclimation, Training, and Preparation of Dogs for the Research Setting by LaVonne D. Meunier)

“Puppies begin learning at birth and their brains appear to be particularly responsive to learning and retaining experiences that are encountered during the first 13 to 16 weeks after birth. This means that breeders, new puppy owners, veterinarians, trainers and behaviorists have a responsibility to assist in providing these learning/socialization experiences with other puppies/dogs, with children/adults and with various environmental situations during this optimal period from birth to 16 weeks.” (Robert K. Anderson, Animal Behavior Clinic and Center to Study Human/Animal Relationships and Environments; University of Minnesota)

Improper breeding and care practices of the adult females also creates suffering, where females are kept in cages or pens their entire lives and bred each heat cycle. These breeding females are known as “brood bitches.” The males, too, are subjected to excessive confinement and use for repeated breeding, which can result in suffering.

The Internet has numerous stories describing these dogs. HSUS profiles one breeding female named CJ, typical of a brood bitch: “The dog, who became known as CJ (short for Calamity Jane), bore all the symptoms of a puppy-mill breeding female. She not only had the blank expression and frail, bald body of a perpetually neglected animal, but also had untreated sarcoptic mange, ringworm, skin infections, dermatitis, ear infections, arthritis in her back legs (from years of close confinement), and early cataracts. What’s more, she had lost many of her teeth … due to poor care and nutrition.” Emotional distress with adult dogs, including mental breakdowns, has been documented.

This is why “environmental enrichment” — creating a physical environment that promotes the overall psychological well-being of the animal — is a priority for many animal welfarists and advocates.

The MN Commercial Breeders Licensing and Enforcement law (passed in 2014), requires breeders (who meet the definition of the law) to provide daily enrichment and positive physical contact as per Minn. Stat. sec. 347.59:

(4) animals must be provided daily enrichment and must be provided positive physical contact with human beings and compatible animals at least twice daily unless a veterinarian determines such activities would adversely affect the health or well-being of the animal.

The MN Board of Animal Health, who administers the law, is responsible for ensuring that these requirements are met for each animal in the kennel.

Local governments, when granting conditional use permits, may not consider psychological (or physical) factors as they have not been trained in animal welfare, the care of this species and the type of conditions needed for proper animal health and well-being in mass production facilities.


Breeding dog, Minnesota breeder, kennel closed

Breeding adult animals: Defined as livestock or companion animals?

A Minnesota USDA-licensed breeder (Dayna Bell), who was convicted of 13 felonies of animal cruelty, argued that her "breeding adults dogs" were, essentially, livestock and not pet/companion animals. (In Minnesota, a felony only applies to pet and companion animals.)

This argument was made at trial. The jury did not agree. Bell then appealed the case to the Court of Appeals, who, in an unpublished decision, affirmed the jury's decision. Bell also filed a petition with the MN Supreme Court who denied hearing the case.

This case is critical to any discussion of care for all animals (adults and litters) in a kennel because it forces breeders and authorities who enforce state and local laws to see and treat each animal as a pet and companion.

For details of this case, go to: Dayna Bell - Dog Breeder


Supporting links:

For other reports on this topic, go to: Scientific Studies

Puppy mills: Specific visual examples of conditions; prisoners of greed

Katrina animals: Pets vulnerable to post traumatic stress, too


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