Best Friends Blog

Puppy mills-USA Today reports on breakthrough study by Best Friends Animal Society

In an article published yesterday in USA Today, Dr. Frank McMillan, director of animal well-being studies at Best Friends Animal Society, discusses his research into the mental and emotional trauma suffered by dogs rescued from puppy mill operations. While it should come as no surprise that years of living in the cramped confines of a commercial breeding operation (often without exercise and little human contact) takes its toll on highly social animals like dogs, this is the first study to identify the damaging effects of mill life on canines.

At left, puppy mill castoff rescued by Best Friends

“This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large-scale breeding facilities don’t just suffer while they’re confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years, even when they’re placed in loving homes,” states Dr. Frank.

Of course, the dogs in the study, animals who have been rescued from mills, are the lucky ones. Most mill dogs spend their entire lives in cages little larger than their own bodies, only to be dumped at a rural shelter or simply killed by the mill operator when their health care needs exceed their value as puppy producers.

Owing to the character of Best Friends work that combines a national No More Homeless Pets campaign aimed at ending shelter killing with the operation of the country’s largest sanctuary for abandoned and abused animals, Dr. Frank has a unique opportunity to work with groups of animals that run the gamut from 22 of the most difficult dogs rescued from Michael Vick’s dog-fighting operation, to cats saved from a desert hoarding situation, to puppy mill survivors.

Dr. Frank, author of “Unlocking the Animal Mind: How Your Pet’s Feelings Hold the Key to His Health and Happiness,” is a board-certified specialist in veterinary internal medicine. Before coming to Best Friends, Dr. Frank was in private practice in Los Angeles for 23 years. In addition, he was a clinical professor of medicine at the Western University of Health Sciences College of Veterinary Medicine.

All of our staff at Best Friends, including Dr. Frank, is committed to a time of No More Homeless Pets. Educating unsuspecting consumers about and reducing the demand for puppy mill dogs is an important part of our strategy.


Gregory Castle
CEO, Best Friends Animal Society


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  • lynn

    Until Hunte Corporation closes down, I do not think much of a dent is going to be put in puppymills or pet store sales.

  • Claire

    I look forward to the day that these puppy mills will no longer exist.

  • Shellimichelle48

    It doesn’t take a brainiac to KNOW animals suffer the same as us.  I believe they have a higher tolerance than us or there would be a lot of beat up abusers when the animal fought back!  I am SO thankful for those who care and love and fight for these animals. I am grateful for the people who dedicate their lives to research and PROVE facts about animals and their feelings and how suffering from abuses, beyond comprehension, not only scars them physically but mentally as well. Just LIKE humans.  I can’t have animals where I live and it makes me sad but I can help in my own way which mainly is to educate the ignorant masses as to the truth of animals and their importance and rightful place in our lives and on this earth!

  • Painter529

    I adopted 2 puppy mill breeder dogs. I know that they will always have problems.I try to make every day a happy one for them.When they are having a bad day I just give them even more love. My 3 lb. maltese delivered each litter of puppies by c-section. The Miller used only a knife and no aneshethsia. She was debarked and had many of her teeth pulled out…..not by a dentist. She was undernourished, starved and her mouth and gums were very infected. She lived in a cramped rabbit hutch her whole life producing litter after litter until she was not as productive. She was one of the lucky ones because she made it out alive. It took 2 years before she trusted my husband and sons and could look them in the eye. Every day  gets better for her but saying that I know she will never get over what happened to her. No matter how happy we make her life or how much love we give her we can see the scars of the puppy mill.  She is traumaized for life.
    Puppy mills must be stopped!

    • Audreypoolebrown

      I can’t stop the tears! my heart is acheing for them all.  There has to be a way to punish the people comitting these atrocities!

  • Barbara

    I wish that we as a society could stop this puppy mill practice.  My parents bought a Pom from a puppy mill, luckily she was not old enough to breed.  But she was still in a wire cage (which as we all know) is not good for their feet.  My dad was never a dog lover, but for some reason this dog touched his heart and he said he could not stand to see her in this cage so he talked the owner into selling her to him.  She was a wonderful little dog.  The only thing was she was deathly afraid of loud noises.  Now my sister has started a dog breeding business.  She has over 8 different breeds.  She does take very good care and the kennel is always clean, but she is in it for the money only she doesn’t care about bettering the breed she knows nothing about com-formation, temperament, or anything else just that she can sell them for a profit.  I wish we could outlaw all puppy mills and people like my sister who care but don’t know the first thing about operating a illegitimate kennel.

    I hate how we as a society care for Gods creatures, just like what happened in Ohio this week, what a shame for the animals, don’t care anything about the human who did this, he should have known better and done better for the animals.

    God forgive us for treating your creatures so.   

  • Pjay4104

    I am not surprised about these finding! It is exactly what one should know….after all these are all living feeling animals, mush need s to be done to stop all this creulty

  • Gonthier1330

    I have a Best Friends rescued SihihTuz from a puppy mill.  She was so timid and scared two years ago. You would never know her now! Even though her sight is limited, she RUNS in the back yard, sits on my lap, likes her companion. (Changes that happened over the last two years.) She still doesn’t like toys and still goes do do on the patio because it is cememt like the kennel was, but she is slowly learning to go on the grass.  She is very friendly and loves all people. Loves other dogs but prefers to sleep alone where ever she chooses in the home. I LOVE her and she LOVES me.  Thanks Best Friends!

  • Barbara

    I have three rescue dogs, one from my humane society and two from puppy mills.  My last puppy mill dog was a yorkie that was in a puppy mill for 10 years before she was rescued and I had her for two years.  She was afraid to walk on grass and would try to stand on two legs.  She was afraid of human touch and never played with a toy.  She didn’t know what a ‘toy’ was.  She cowered every time I picked her up to cuddle or kiss her.  She did love her warm, soft beds.  I had to put her to sleep last year and still cry.  I belong to a puppy mill awareness group, we protest in front of pet stores.  Our biggest store is Petland, who is linked to puppy mills.  To stop this torture of our beautiful animals, we need to let everyone we know and more, the horrific conditions these animals live in all of their lives.  Stop these puppy mills!!  Definitely, “Don’t Shop, Adopt”.  God Bless You All, who help give these animals love and patience.

  • Abbe

    I have a female Westie that was rescued from a mill along with 15 others. She was used as a breeding dog at just over a year old. I offered to foster her and she’s been with me now for a year and a half and still goes balistic when men come in the door. She has finally learned to play and enjoy herself a bit, but still goes back into her shell frequently. I am a foster failure and she will be with me forever. She has gone from staying at the edge of the yard with her head turned to sitting at my feet now, but always makes sure she has an escape route.

  • Abbe

    I have a female Westie that was rescued from a mill along with 15 others. She was used as a breeding dog at just over a year old. I offered to foster her and she’s been with me now for a year and a half and still goes balistic when men come in the door. She has finally learned to play and enjoy herself a bit, but still goes back into her shell frequently. I am a foster failure and she will be with me forever. She has gone from staying at the edge of the yard with her head turned to sitting at my feet now, but always makes sure she has an escape route.

  • Beverley

    we just rescued about 250 dogs from a puppy mill, German Shepards, Golden Retrievers, & Collies. I will be looking for the article by Dr McMillan to help us with these dogs.  I wonder if Best Friends & Dr McMillan could do a webinar about rescues & dealing with the aftermath.

  • Zaron Van Meter

    Thank you for this report.  How can I get a copy of the complete report?
    Zaron Van Meter

  • Sue

    It amazes me that they have to bother to do a study on the effects of being confined to a cage the size of your body w/no or minimal contact from other living things.  How could anything that exists in such a way not be tragically affected?  Living things are just that—living, feeling, social beings—who deserve (as much as humans) to enjoy a life that  includes more than food, water, shelter.  Creatures of all forms have the right to experience the natural world that is as much a part of them as it is us.  And this includes emotions such of joy, security, companionship, and yes, love.

    • Anna

      It’s important for a study to be done. It helps the people adopting these dogs to learn how to help their dog cope with life outside of neglect and a cage.

  • Gigi

    I have two puppy mill rescues and have had them for one year and they still want to stay in their open door crate all the time except to eat and go potty.  I literally have to shut the door so they can’t go inside the crate and am trying to get them to interact with my other rescues.  I don’t think the little boy will ever come around.  He doesn’t react to food, toys, touch (except to shake), and only seems comfortable around my little girl.  I did notice the other day when the others were playing, they inadvertently ran into Laci (the little girl) and he actually growled to protect her.  As far as I’m concerned, that’s better than no reaction at all.  Hopefully with time, they will both emerge as beautiful little butterflies.

    • Jody

      We too have a puppy mill rescue.  He came to us after a rescue had given up on him because he was a biter.  He actually lived under my bed for weeks.  Eventually, my husband put him on a leash, tied him to his belt loop, and kept him with him almost 24/7 for a couple of days.  The dog is still somewhat shy but he bonded with my husband and has not bitten since.  He also gets along well with our other dogs and cats.  He is a wonderful little dog.

  • Knjreuter

    Several years ago, I chased Sweetie down on the highway with the help of a lady.
    She was a Bishon-who was totally black(before her bath) with hucks of stuff hanging out of her ears. It took her years, about five, to come out of her shell. She finally could climb a step and quit sleeping on newspapers. I found out that she came from a puppy mill, but must have escaped when they took her puppies away from her. She had a good twelve years and even rode in a baby stroller when she could not walk a great distance.  She had teeth problems, etc. I now have two big dogs, eight cats that are all strays. and I really hate puppy mills-they should be all closed down. Animals are God’s salvation! 

  • Tee

    I have a Boxer that had been used for breeding and was kept in an outdoor kennel.  She was given to me free in a parking lot.  The man actually told me she had uterine prolapse and he could not use her for breeding anymore.   It has been two years and she still hates men.  She shakes extremely bad.  My husband can only approach her if he is kneeling or laying down.  She loves kids and women.  She follows me everywhere, room to room when folding clothes or cleaning the house, cooking dinner she is at my feet.  She is so loving but the trama she experienced must have been really bad.  She had intestinal rooms and heart worms.  She is an Angel.  She was only a year old when I got her.  She has a fear of boxes…any size….so watch out UPS! 

    • Tee

      I meant to type intestinal worms…not rooms!

  • Wow, so cute puppy.. i just love to play and touch small puppies.. It is cute.. Really love it.. 

  • Stephani DeLanoit

    This is no surprise to me. My puupy mill survivor even seems to suffer nightmares where she wakes up screaming. Puppy Mills are evil places!!

  • _diana_

    Today on Anderson Cooper they adressed the effects of abuse and neglect on babies and children and the resultant changes in their brains related to the same and how this translates into all areas of abnormal behaviour and the ability to relate to the world around them. The brains of these children are abnormal compared to children of similar ages but brought up in “normal” circumstances.I wounder if this would not relate to the puppies and dogs.  It would not suprise me to learn this would be the same for canines and felines. So sad….

  • bcl

    I have a small yorkie that was “institutonalized” for three years and used for stud service.  It has taken over a year just to teach him to “come”.  He is very affectionate and loving but it takes a long time to get through to him. He startles easily and never barked for three weeks when he came here.  After 18 months, he has come out of his shell but will never be as responsive as my other yorkie.

  • DON’T SHOP, ADOPT!  I vow never to buy a puppy from a pet store.  Shelter dogs are the way to go!  Down with puppy mills!  Puppies aren’t products!

  • Terri

    As the “mom” of an 11 year old puppy mill survivor, I can attest to the long term emotional scars that these poor animals live with.  I have had my Shelby for 15 months….but I never know what will send her cowering in fear…once, it was two plates clanging together.  She would not go near my husband for 9 months.  She is a lot better than we had first got her, but she will not go near anyone but myself and my husband.  What abuse she must have suffered.

    • Tee

      My Boxer is the same way…she sticks to me like glue.  I can relate to the plates.  I opened the dishwasher and you have thought I just shot at her….she just jetted across the room….scared me too!  I hate to imagine that she got beat, she has a fear of boxes…any kind, big or small.  I keep thinking puppies were taken away in boxes.  Sad

      • Lsulliva52

        Again, thanks to Best Friends for being at the forefront of crucial issues. Scientific studies will only strengthen the case against puppy mills and hopefully more legislation to ban them! Thanks Best Friends

  • Beth Adams

    We at Col Potter Cairn Rescue Network were honored to have helped provide some data input for Dr Frank since so many of our rescues are puppymill survivors (breeding stock).