JoAnna Lou
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Long Lasting Effects of Puppy Mills
Study shows the emotional scars of dogs from large breeding operations

In recent years, countless talk shows, news documentaries and celebrities have called attention to the inhumane conditions in puppy mills. As if this environment isn’t bad enough, a new study shows that the effects of these facilities extends far beyond the dirty kennels and rampant illness.

The animal welfare organization, Best Friends Animal Society, teamed up with veterinarians, James Serpell and Deborah Duffy of the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine on a study that looked at the psychological effects of dogs in large-scale commercial breeding operations (aka, puppy mills). Their research found that puppy mill dogs struggled long after leaving the facility.

The Best Friends–UPenn study is the first to compare the psychological and behavioral characteristics of over 1,000 puppy mill dogs with pets acquired from other sources. The findings showed significantly elevated fear levels, compulsive behaviors, house soiling and a heightened sensitivity to being touched.

I think that the psychological effects are due to two main factors inherent in puppy mills, so legislation aimed at improving conditions wouldn’t make much of a difference in long-term behavior.

First, the puppies are not socialized. A good breeder takes the time to ensure their puppies are familiar with strange sounds, people and environments. Dogs born in a puppy mill only see a cage until they’re purchased.

Second, puppy mills breed dogs without regard to temperament, so many of these pets are already predisposed to fear or compulsive behaviors.

The study is certainly not surprising, but I hope that it will strengthen efforts to ban puppy mills instead of simply regulating conditions.

JoAnna Lou is a New York City-based researcher, writer and agility enthusiast.

Photo by Life Lenses/flickr.

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Submitted by Frances | November 8 2011 |

The study is of adult ex-breeding dogs - I think it would be very interesting to see a similar study on pups from various backgrounds. I suspect that, while the efforts of the new owners may go some way to mitigate poor breeding and early experiences, pups from puppy mills would still in general have more behavioural issues than those raised by a more caring breeder. And given that knowledgeable dog people are far less likely to buy a puppy mill pup in the first place, and the poor dogs are facing a double whammy.

Submitted by Fadra Nally | November 8 2011 |

I'd also like to raise concerns for the other forgotten victims of puppy mills: the breeder dogs. While the puppies will usually bring in several hundred dollars, the poor dogs left to crank out litter after litter are left with no healthcare and no regards to welfare or living conditions.

I know because I chose one of those breeder dogs that was "done" and sent off to be destroyed. She was saved by a rescue group and her sad story appealed to me. By the time I adopted her, she had only recently been spayed (a concern of mine for the increased risk of breast cancer in the future), had all of her teeth removed due to severe decay and infection, and had lost sight in one eye due to a cataract. All of this at the tender age of 6, very young for a purebred toy poodle.

She has adapted well. The indoor accidents are less and she is still learning to enjoy freedom outdoors. She also has finally been taught how to play. Unfortunately, the scars linger on as she is still terrified of my husband.

I don't wish to deny anyone a right to their livelihood. However, puppy mill breeding needs to be regulated for the sake of consumers and especially for the sake of the dogs.


Submitted by Lisa Trost | November 8 2011 |

The negative effects of breeding/growing up in a puppy mill don't have to be long-lasting. True, the dogs have a horrible start in life, and probably have more behavior problems to start with once they're adopted, but these problems *can* be resolved and the dogs' true personalities can come out. Check out Dog Listening (www.doglistenerofsocal.com or www.janfennellthedoglistener.com) -- with 20 years of success, it genuinely works even with entrenched behavior problems.

Submitted by Phil Sharp | November 8 2011 |

Puppy mills make me so sad. They're TERRIBLE for dogs and yet not enough people seem to know this. Every day dogs are bought from puppy mills and the people buying them have no idea what kind of cruelty they are voting for with their money.

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