Study: Puppy Mills Leave Dogs with Long-Term Psychological Harm

We all know about the deplorable conditions at puppy mills, where puppies are mass-produced for sale in retail pet stores or online. The breeding dogs...


We all know about the deplorable conditions at puppy mills, where puppies are mass-produced for sale in retail pet stores or online. The breeding dogs are confined in small cages or enclosures for their whole lives, get virtually no exercise or kind human contact, and usually sleep in their own excrement and urine.

Sadly, on the occasion that these breeding dogs make it out of the mill and into foster or adoptive homes, life doesn’t just automatically turn around for them. According to a study of 1,169 dogs formerly used as breeders in puppy mills, the psychological damage can be long-lasting — or even lifelong.

It’s something those who work with puppy mill rescues have seen for years. But this large-scale study, by the Best Friends Animal Society and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School, is the first of its kind, showing that even those mills approved by the government can be extremely damaging.

“The results of the study indicate it really doesnt matter if the breeding operation claims to be shiny and clean, abiding by the laws, or even whether or not they are licensed by the USDA, says Frank McMillan, lead researcher of the study and director of well-being studies for Best Friends. This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large-scale breeding facilities dont just suffer while theyre confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years even when theyre placed in loving homes. Many of the dogs show difficulty in simply coping successfully with normal day-to-day life.

The study shows that former breeding dogs have greatly elevated levels of fears and phobias, strong compulsive and repetitive behaviors like pacing, increased sensitivity to being touched and picked up, and problems with house soiling.

Fortunately, many such dogs are able to overcome the damage with a lot of love and patience. But not all can.

The saddest stories are those from the kindhearted people who adopt these dogs and work hard for years to give them love and acceptance. Theyll sometimes report that even after several years the dog will simply sit and stare blankly into space, McMillan says. They tell me that its like hes not really there, or that the little dog is reminiscent of a severely autistic child.”

The word “heartbreaking” does not come close to describing the damages inflicted by these places …

Photo description:

The cages were approx 1.5 feet high and 2 feet deep and 2 feet wide. The cage floors were of approx. 1.5″ x 1.5″ coated wire. No solid surface for support — just look at this poor Mama’s splayed paws, and long, untrimmed nails curling around the wire. And can you imagine how uncomfortable it must be for her to lie down? The piles in the foreground are feces.

The buildup of feces and urine were beyond comprehension … the urine puddle beneath the Mama Doxie was cheeselike in consistency. The collection tray was full of mold. … The foul odor and flies were beyond comprehension. I could not fathom this as being an acceptable, much less humane, way to raise man’s best friend. It made me sick to hear her whimpering as she looked at me … like what did I do to deserve this? — F. Menish, A Silver Lining Awakening (from No Wisconsin Puppy Mills)

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