On Puppy Mills

4 min readOct 16, 2017

This is a version of a Twitter thread I shared about puppy mills which you can find here:

<blockquote class=”twitter-tweet” data-lang=”en”><p lang=”en” dir=”ltr”>1/32 A friend from High School saw my <a href=”https://twitter.com/hashtag/fuckpuppymills?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#fuckpuppymills</a> hashtag and, fearing their new pup came from a mill, asked me to define puppy mills.</p>&mdash; Guy McHendry (@AcaGuy) <a href=”https://twitter.com/AcaGuy/status/920024098830512130?ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">October 16, 2017</a></blockquote> <script async src=”//platform.twitter.com/widgets.js” charset=”utf-8"></script>

A friend from High School saw my #fuckpuppymills hashtag and, fearing their new pup came from a mill, asked me to define puppy mills. I think it is worth sharing, especially because outside of rescue networks, not enough is known about mills and their impacts on dogs.

The term puppy mill is (of course) subjective and controversial. Large-scale commercial breeder is the preferred term in the industry. A puppy mill is a large-scale breeding facility where the number of dogs exceeds the facility’s ability to care for each dog.

Mills often over-breed dogs. Mills expect dogs to have puppies in every heat cycle until the dog is no longer physically able. At some mills, genetic lines are not tracked or disregarded. Often dogs are imbreed causing health defects. Mill conditions are grim.

This image from Animal Rescue Corps shows the conditions.

Dogs often are kept in small, overcrowded kennels with wire floors that cut and damage their paws. Mill dogs often spend all day standing in their own urine and feces. Some begin to eat their own or others’ poop.

Medical care is minimal, and dogs rarely have comprehensive vet exams or follow up care. We frequently have dogs come in to rescue with open wounds, infections, broken and rotting teeth, or severe eye injuries. Sometimes these injuries cause permanent damage. Sadly, because of mill conditions and Boston Terrier’s bug eyes, our vets often have to remove one or both eyes. We frequently have to feed wet or softened food because the lack of dental care makes eating painful. Dogs are often underweight for this reason.

Mill dogs frequently show signs of abuse, including significant fears of humans, food aggression, fear of other dogs. Our pup Maverick was terrified of enclosed spaces and stairs. It took us 3 months to teach him to use stairs.

Crowley (left), our current foster dog, trembles and cowers when you approach or try and pet him.

He still will not take a treat from our hands. He gets so excited, but panics when he gets close.

It is important to note: Not all commercial breeders are puppy mills, but many are. Some states (Missouri) are worse than others. Many of our mill dogs come from Missouri and are rehomed all over the U.S. Dog auctions are common as breeders will buy dogs at auction to replace dead dogs or to diversify their genetic lines. Sometimes old dogs who are near the end of their ability to breed are bought by less reputable mills to get a few more litters. Rescue groups often buy dogs at auctions as well; their hope is to save as many dogs as possible from mill life. Auctions are expensive, that means that young healthy pups with years of breeding ahead of them are too expensive. We end up getting older, sicker dogs who have spent most of their life caged. Our home often is the first house many of the dogs we foster have ever been inside.

If you read all of this and feel a little queasy, welcome to the world of puppy mills. Want to help?

1) Adopt Don’t Shop. There are rescues for almost every breed. Find one or ask me to help!

2) If you are able, consider a small donation to a dog rescue (we foster with adoptaboston.com).

Adoption fees rarely cover the cost of vet care. I’ve seen dogs adopted for $150 who needed $1,000 in vet care. Donations make dog rescue happen. Now find a little pup and love them!




Associate Professor in Communication Studies. Rhetorical Critic.