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Puppy Mill Exposé on HBO
Madonna of the Mills premieres August 24

Mark your calendar for Wednesday, August 24th so you can watch the HBO documentary, Madonna of the Mills. I was able to preview the film and liked what I saw. The movie documents the passion of Laura Amato (the Madonna) on her forays into Lancaster, Pennsylvania. Her sole purpose for traveling into the heart of Amish country is the rescue of puppy mill dogs, specifically those who are “used up” (no longer capable of breeding) and slated to be destroyed.

Laura is an intriguing main character. Her composure remains completely passive as she interacts with puppy mill breeders. She is therefore allowed access into the kennels and, on occasion the camera is allowed to follow. When this happens, what we see is predictably gruesome. One wonders how Laura can remain so emotionally detached while in the midst of such inhumanity. Clearly, she understands that such passivity is required if she is to accomplish the task at hand, namely the rescue of innocent victims, one at a time. The movie credits state that Laura has rescued more than two thousand dogs.

For those who are familiar with puppy mills, there’s really nothing new revealed here. The kennel conditions are beyond horrific, the dogs are physically and psychologically traumatized beings, it is clear that legislation is needed to make things better, and there are some happy endings thanks to generous, kind-hearted, patient people.

One could argue that, through her actions, the Madonna is enabling puppy mills to thrive. It wasn’t clear to me if Laura actually purchases the dogs she rescues. What was clear was that that none of her actions would deter the puppy mill trade. Laura is clearly a prisoner of her passion. One senses she would give up anything and everything in her life before surrendering her rescue missions. In a brief moment of emotional vulnerability she talks about the enormity of the puppy mill situation while seemingly trying to convince herself that by rescuing one dog at a time, she is making a difference.

Whether or not you agree with what Laura is doing, the beauty of this documentary is that it will educate the public about puppy mills. Someone contemplating purchasing a pup from a pet store just might be dissuaded from doing so after watching this movie. By the way, I wish the movie had more strongly emphasized that pups purchased online (site and sight unseen) are also likely to be puppy mill progeny. Nonetheless, kudos to those responsible for making this documentary. Have a look and tell me what you think. Have you already heard more than enough about puppy mills or do you think there's room for more? By the way, you may want to have a box of Kleenex close at hand, and perhaps something to soothe your nerves while viewing the graphic scenes.

Here's the trailer:

Madonna of the Mills Trailer from Umbrella Girl Media on Vimeo.


Nancy Kay, DVM, Dipl., American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine, is a 2009 recipient of AAHA's Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award and author of Speaking for Spot.

CommentsPost a Comment
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Submitted by Chris | August 23 2011 |

They don't need new laws, they need to enforce existing laws! If the dogs are being kept in filthy crowded conditions, there are already laws regarding that. And what is a "puppy mill" anyways?? Is it a person who has a large number of litters per year (and how many is a large number??) or is it a person who breeds litters and keeps dogs in filthy conditions. Is it a commercial breeder? What is a commercial breeder? Someone who makes money from breeding dogs? Someone who just plain has a large number of litters? There are large scale breeders who do breed for quality and for working dogs who have spent all the time and money to do genetic tests and health tests and are the epitome of a good dog breeder no matter how many litters they breed. And by the way, many many breeders who list dogs for sale are not "puppy mills". You have to do your homework. Time would be better spent enforcing the laws already on the books and educating JQ Public about the responsibilities and large amount of time a pet requires and how to get a healthy dog with proper temperament.

Submitted by Anonymous | August 25 2011 |

I and anybody else fighting puppy mills completely disagree with your comment: "One could argue that, through her actions, the Madonna is enabling puppy mills to thrive. It wasn’t clear to me if Laura actually purchases the dogs she rescues. What was clear was that that none of her actions would deter the puppy mill trade."

The absolute key to ending this inhumane tragedy is education. That is exactly what this documentary -- and the PR surrounding it -- did!! The more that puppy buyers learn about sources of puppies, and avoiding mill-bred pups, the more puppy factories go out of business. That is the end game. Without Laura Amato, and the countless others who bring such puppy mill stories to life, puppy mills would continue to operate behind the veil.

Kudos to HBO for producing and airing this and huge kudos to anybody involved in mill dog rescues and spreading their stories.

Submitted by XAAYMEANSDOG | August 30 2011 |

The need to breed the "perfect specimen of canine" is what is complete bullshit. All my dogs have been rescues. Dogs that people deemed no good for their breed standard. THey are my angels and although 'not perfect", they are beings- needing the love all animals should be entitled too. Shit, I am far from perfect and people should'nt put this label on dogs either. The AKC are assholes who perpetuate this standard. Paying thousands of dollars on animals is a huge maketing scheme brought on by con-men out too make alot of money off the misery of animals. Screw breeding when millions of dogs lose their lives every year because nobody wants them. ADOPT YOUR NEW BEST BUDDY. You will not regret it.

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