Madonna of the Mills

Big Red and I just finished viewing the documentary, "Madonna of the Mills," on HBO. The documentary follows Laura, a woman from Staten Island, who has rescued over 2000 dogs from Amish and Mennonite puppy mills in Pennsylvania.

Come. On. Pennsylvania.

According to the documentary, Pennsylvania is the 7th state with the highest concentration of puppy mills. This all due mainly to the aforementioned farmers. Initially the Amish and Mennonite started "raising" animals for the commercial pet trade as supplemental income. It was something that would help keep their children home and a job those kids could help with. Because puppy mills are so lucrative, many of these farmers dropped their produce farming and focused entirely on their puppies. At one point in the documentary there is a clip of a farmer showing off his "stock." He waves his hand proudly (picture a Barker Beauty from the Price Is Right) showing off his 800 dogs.

800 dogs caged in wire. Cages that by USDA standards don't have to be much bigger than the size of a washing machine. The dogs are rarely ever let out of their confinements to enjoy a leisurely walk or run through some grass. They are stepping in each other's feces and their paws are infected because of the wire trappings.

Don't even get me started on the clips of the rescued dogs. Their eyes, oh man, those sweet sad eyes just pleading for help and love. There was one sweet dog, an older female named Liberty, who when first rescued would find a corner, lay down and put her face directly into the corner. Her new attentive owners would have to bring over her food bowl and water bowl and put it under her nose.

As if that's not horrible enough, here are some alarming facts:


  1. 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
  2. Nearly 100% of all puppies in pet stores have parasites when they are purchased.
  3. 48% of puppies being sold in pet stores were ill or incubating an illness at the time of purchase, according to a recent California study.
  4. 500,000 puppies are born in puppy mills and sold in pet stores every
    year in the United States.
  5. There are 35,000 pet stores in America
  6. Puppy millers can make more than $300,000 growing puppies every year.
  7. Puppy mills have been around since the early 1960s.
  8. Almost every Puppy sold in a pet store has a mother who will spend her entire life in a tiny cage, never being petted, never being walked, never being treated like a dog.
  9. Female dogs are usually bred 2x a year. At that rate, they usually burn out by age 5, at which time they are put to death.
  10. About 1 million breeder dogs are confined in puppy mills throughout the country.

It's infuriating and heartbreaking. While we watched the film, both Big Red and I brought Olive up onto the couch between us. At one point he went and got her a treat. I couldn't blame him. I think of how much love I have for Olive, what a sweet soul she is, and something burns in my chest at the thought of anyone treating her poorly. To think so many thousands of animals will never have the chance of having the life Olive lives is disheartening.

I'm proud of the fact that we adopted Olive from an animal shelter and that we did not buy her. For every dog that gets purchased, another in a shelter goes without a home.

All facts were taken from the website: madonnaofthemills.com

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