Please read this Q&A to better understand puppy mill dogs and our policies regarding their adoption. Thanks!

Q: What is a puppy mill?

A: A puppy mill is a place where the owner breeds dogs to make a large profit. These dogs are almost always sold to pet stores.  Puppy mill dogs typically live in deplorable conditions with no bedding or other creature comforts. They’re usually fed low-grade food and drink out of rabbit water bottles. While legislation has attempted to better the situation of these poor animals, many still live in dirty wire cages stacked on top of one another. They are cramped and get little exercise. Many have never felt the grass under their feet. The dogs receive indifferent or negative attention from their caregivers, which makes them leery of people.


When a dog gives birth in a puppy mill, she’s allowed to have her puppies for about six weeks before they’re taken from her and placed in pet stores. During that time, she’ll nurse her puppies in these poor conditions, and will often eat her own feces in an attempt to keep her babies and herself clean.


Puppy mill dogs can suffer from split and damaged paws, poor teeth, and genetic and environmental health issues, all thanks to human cruelty and the desire to make a profit on the lives of others.


Typically, female puppy mill dogs will only remain at the puppy mill until they are 4- or 5-years-old. At this point, they produce few or no puppies and are either sold to another puppy mill or are shot, drowned or euthanized. Even though Animal Rescue, Inc. has saved thousands of puppy mill dogs, that number is small compared to the number of dogs who live and perish in puppy mills.


Male dogs may never be rescued from the puppy mills as long as they continue to contribute to breeding. Animal Rescue, Inc. has managed to rescue male dogs as old as 14 years from mills.


Q: Why aren’t puppy mills illegal?


A: As mentioned in the last question, legislation has mildly enhanced the livability of puppy mills. Dogs at the mills are supposed to be getting more exercise, better nutrition, and better living conditions and veterinary care. However, many puppy mill owners, under the threat of being shut down and losing their livelihood, have gone “underground,” that is, working out of the establishments of other families, or renting buildings to house these dogs. Unfortunately, there is not much money being funneled into animal law enforcement and often there are too many puppy mills and too few dog law officers to handle the job of keeping these cruel places in check. That’s why it’s important to boycott pet stores that sell puppies and adopt instead!

Q: Why do some puppy mill dogs require a home with another dog already in the home?

A: This is sometimes a sore subject for people who only want one dog in their home. But for puppy mill dogs, this typically isn’t a good fit. Remember that puppy mill dogs are leery of humans, and another dog in the home will teach this puppy mill dog how interact with humans. The puppy mill dog will see the family dog with the humans – taking treats, receiving love, etc. – and grow eager for that attention, too.

Even if the puppy mill dog is more social than most, another dog already in the home will teach him or her about being a dog. The dog in the home will show the puppy mill dog how to play with toys, sleep on beds, navigate the house and lawn and most importantly, where to go to the bathroom. Those who adopt a puppy mill dog from us who is social must realize that it may take the dog longer to achieve these goals.

Q: Why does a puppy mill dog often require a home with a fenced-in yard?

A: Home life is an entirely new experience for a puppy mill dog. They don’t understand the humans who are being so kind to them, nor do they understand open doors, the sound of a dishwasher, the daunting stair case or the sound of a passing car. Even a flushing toilet can send a puppy mill dog running!

Since this is the case, we require that most puppy mill dogs go to a home with a fenced-in yard. A fence can act as a buffer if the dog runs through a door left ajar, or as someone is passing through it. We highly recommend that doors in the home that lead to the outdoors that do not have a fence not be used until the animal is more comfortable in the home – sometimes this can take months. We may also recommend that very frightened puppy mill dogs have a kennel lead or leash attached to them, even if they’re in the house. Then if the dog runs, it’s easier to catch them, even within the home.

Another reason we often require a fenced-in yard is that puppy mill dogs have never walked on a leash, and most will try to remove themselves from a harness by pulling, chewing on the lead, and twisting and rolling. A puppy mill dog can be trained to walk on a leash, but the training must be done safely within the confines of a fenced-in yard.

When a fence is required, we do not accept fenced-in areas that are not attached to the home, or kennel runs as alternatives for puppy mill dogs. We also cannot accept electric fences.

Q: What are the benefits of adopting a puppy mill dog?

A: As with adopting any pet, you’re saving a precious life and giving an animal the care and love they so truly deserve. But with that, you’re also offering your time and patience in giving a puppy mill dog a new life. These dogs were scared prisoners. They were forced to produce at an unnatural rate in deplorable conditions for human profit. By adopting a puppy mill dog, you’re freeing that prisoner. You get to experience a real life with them for the first time. You’ll be there when they experience running in a yard, wagging their tail, taking treats, enjoying a warm bed and experiencing human kindness for the first time. This can be tough, but also one of the most rewarding experiences you’ll ever have.

Q: Why are puppy mill dogs so shy?

A: Dogs at puppy mills get very little personal attention, and often the attention they do receive is negative. Dogs from puppy mills are considered as machines of profit, not living beings. Often they are pulled from their cages by their scruff or leg during cleaning, and are given no other attention, let alone positive consideration.

This being said, puppy mill dogs are often leery of humans. Though this can hurt a person’s feelings, think of it like this: You’ve spent your entire life with your human family and you have a serious fear of dragons. Then one day, a dragon takes you from your family and decides to keep you as their own. Confusing and scary, right? To a puppy mill dog, kindness and love from other dogs is all they know. They rely on each other for survival. Humans have always been neglectful or abusive toward them, so it’s difficult for them to trust other humans in the future.

But this treatment can be undone. While many dogs still carry a few of their fears with them for life, with kindness, love, patience and attention, a puppy mill dog will learn to love his or her human caretakers.

Q: Will I be able to crate train my puppy mill dog?

A: Like any other dog, a puppy mill dog will either see the crate as its safety spot or he or she will never want to be in a cage again. If a puppy mill dog likes his or her crate, great! If not, one will be able to quickly tell by the whining, scratching and sometimes hypnotized-like head circling the dog will unconsciously perform.

We recommend that a puppy mill dog be kept in a penned in area within the home (such as in an exercise pen) or sectioned off into a room (like a kitchen or bathroom) with a door or baby gate. As the puppy mill dog learns about home life, he or she will be able to branch into other parts of the house.

Q: Will I be able to housetrain my puppy mill dog?

A: Like any dog, housetraining takes time and patience. Puppy mill dogs have never been housetrained, so it’s best to think of the puppy mill dog as a puppy. The best thing to do is to set an outside bathroom schedule for the dog. One should never get mad about accidents, but praise the good outdoor behavior with a small treat and verbal praising. A puppy mill dog may have some strange outside habits, like going to the bathroom on the sidewalk instead of the grass, and trying to eat his or her feces. Remember these dogs lived on wire and concrete, and are unaccustomed to grass. To them, going to the bathroom on concrete or stone seems like the natural thing to do. Also, puppy mill dogs eat their own feces in an attempt to “clean” their area. Distract them with a treat and pick up poop right away to avoid this behavior.

Q: Why are your restrictions so tough?

A: Our policies on these dogs and all of our animals may be a little tough, but we strive to meet the needs of the animals in our care first and foremost. With nearly 40 years of experience, we’ve come to realize the needs of these puppy mill dogs, even if it means restricting potential adopters. If you don’t fit the criteria of adopting a puppy mill dog, don’t fret. Approved adopters can still find love with one of our many other dogs.

There are many great resources online, and our staff is always happy to help those interested in adopting a puppy mill dog, including follow up training advice for those who do adopt. Adopting a puppy mill dog is one of the most rewarding things an animal lover can do, and the love the puppy mill dog will give back for your kindness is immeasurable. Call 717-993-3232 to learn more about adopting a puppy mill dog.