Here A Mill, There a Mill

A puppy mill is a breeding operation where too many dogs are kept in overcrowded and often inferior conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food and water, or human interaction, and sadly they are found in every state in the country. Life in a puppy mill is grim. The dogs do not experience simple pleasures like exercise, basic grooming, treats and toys. A breeding female might spend her entire life confined in a filthy wire cage, bred over and over again, year after year, without human interaction. When she is no longer able to produce litters, she will be killed or abandoned. . “There they sit, huddled in dirty, cramped cages; frail bodies shiver in defeat, sadness reflected in their eyes. They long to be loved but no one seems to care. They are property to be bought and sold.”

Most of the pets sold in pet stores, through classified ads, and over the internet, come from puppy mills. Often puppy mills sell directly to consumers through web sites that give the impression that they are reputable breeders. If you decide to buy a puppy directly from a breeder, do not do so without seeing where the puppies AND THEIR PARENTS are being raised and housed. Reputable breeders should be glad to show you where the animals are housed and how they care for the animals. If a breeder refuses you this option, don’t walk, RUN away.

Puppy mills will continue to flourish as long as consumers keep buying dogs through stores, ads, and over the internet, and almost all these puppies come from puppy mills, regardless of what you are told. Make a better choice for animals by adopting from a shelter or rescue group, and by encouraging others to do the same.

If you want to add a dog to your family, please understand that,,,

  • Reputable breeders care where their puppies go, and interview potential adopters. They don’t sell through pet stores, newspaper ads, Craig’s List, or internet sites without meeting the prospective family.
  • Puppy mill/pet store dogs often have medical problems but pet retailers don’t care that poor breeding and lack of socialization may lead to behavior problems throughout the dogs’ lives. They count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won’t be returned.
  • ”Purebred” documents aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Even the American Kennel Association admits that it “cannot guarantee the quality of health of the dogs in its registry.”
  • A “USDA inspected” breeder doesn’t necessarily mean a good breeder. The USDA has very minimal standards, with many USDA licensed puppy mills operating under deplorable conditions.
  • The bottom line is for people to stop buying puppy mill dogs.,,if the mills and pet stores don’t make money, they will close….so it is up to you and me.

To improve the plight of puppy mill dogs, we must enact AND ENFORCE standards of care for the animals with higher standards for those selling them. The USDA is not going to do much to better the lives of these animals—it is up to us to become involved. I regularly hear, “It’s so sad, but there isn’t anything I can do.” WRONG…there is something everyone can do! Animal welfare and rescue groups are struggling to pass better legislation, but if things are ever to REALLY change for the animals that we claim to care so much about, we must ALL join the cause.

Dogs suffer deprivation and death in nightmare puppy mills…that is a documented fact. Puppy mills are deplorable places…that is a documented fact. The cruelty will stop only when people stop buying pet store dogs, and we pass better legislation to ensure better lives for our companion animals…those are documented facts..



A Tribute to Eddie

Ten years ago the TLC Canine Center of Newell, Iowa, assisted Hearts United for Animals in Auburn, Nebraska, with the rescue of 15 dogs from a frightful place housing an irresponsible breeding operation. The horror of rescuing these animals is indescribable…If I had not seen it, I would have not believed it. Puppy mills are a true indictment of man’s greed and inhumanity, and I do not understand why they are allowed to operate, but this a tribute to one of the dogs rescued that day. Eddie went from victim to victor and his story is best told by his loving human, Mary LaHay, President of Iowa Voters for Companion Animals.

“It is with a heavy heart that I share some very sad news, the loss of our beloved Eddie. Many of you know that Eddie was the small white poodle whose photo graced many IVCA flyers and signs, and who served as our loyal “spokespup” for many years.

Eddie was a puppy mill survivor. My husband and I went to Hearts United for Animals in 2008 to find a companion for Ruby, a young dog we had gotten the year before. While all the other dogs in his yard were clamoring for attention, Eddie sat quietly in the back.

For some reasons, we left that day without adopting a dog, but back home, we both remembered that quiet little poodle. The next week we were on our way back to adopt Eddie. At home, we began to understand more about Eddie’s quiet nature, which was less about serenity and more about having his natural behavior derailed by life in a puppy mill. He often sat expressionless, disinclined to play with Ruby, or even move freely around the yard, and he was clearly distrustful of people. At first he seemed to just tolerate my holding him, but gradually he welcomed and even initiated it, and eventually all that lap time opened him up enough for a recognizable dog to emerge.

Every month brought a new breakthrough—a face that lit up with enthusiasm, unexpected play gestures, a range of vocalizations, a persistent nudge with his paw if you stopped rubbing his chest, a dance in front of the treat jar, and a hilarious figure-8 romp around the yard when I got home and let him out the back door. What an amazing example of the emotional resilience that dogs possess, and how the right care and support can help undo damage from years of neglect and mistreatment. In our home Eddie was clearly happy and carefree, enjoying 9 years with us until his age and health issues finally took their toll.

I share this story both to celebrate Eddie’s transformed life, and to explain how watching this dear little boy blossom transformed me also. It’s what compelled me to launch an effort to clean up Iowa puppy mills. For me, Eddie’s life offers proof that production-driven commercial breeders don’t give a fig about the mental and emotional health of their animals. Too many of these breeders are indifferent to the pain they inflict, too many never give a thought to the way they deform the lives of the dogs they hold captive. That needs to change, and the fight we are fighting is the only way that can happen, however elusive our progress might seem at times. We are on a justice train that is sometimes slow, but always headed in the right direction, so please stay on board for the trip.

Most of you have dogs at home who brighten your lives like Eddie did mine, and I hope you take time every day to actively cherish them. My sweet little boy is gone, replaced now by a profound sadness but also genuine gratitude. We will miss him for a long, long time, and remember him forever. Eddie deserves a legacy that makes a difference for other dogs like him, and I want to see that he gets it.”

We encourage you to do some research on puppy mils, irresponsible breeders, and pet store puppies. What you learn will shock you, and hopefully motivate you to become actively involved, and if you wish to give a donation in memory of Eddie, please contact Mary LaHay at If you would like to know more about Hearts United for Animals where thousands of puppy mill dogs are rehabilitated and re-homed, contact


Iowans Have Had Enough

Animal rescue organizations have been working tirelessly to improve conditions in the horrendous puppy mills thriving throughout the country. This shameful animal welfare problem has been allowed to fester for decades, and as we begin a new year, we implore people to initiate positive action. We are honored to have this week’s Paw Prints column authored by Mary LaHay, President of an Iowa grass roots organization whose sole purpose is to better protect our helpless animals. Please read the piece carefully, and then take appropriate action, whether in Iowa or another state.

“Our organizations, Iowa Friends of Companion Animals (IFCA) and Iowa Voters for Companion Animals (IVCA) have been working hard to get better state level laws to protect the more than 15,000 adult dogs in these USDA-licensed kennels, but to no avail. We’ve backed up our calls for action with reams of date—USDA data showing that way too many dogs are suffering and dying: dogs fighting to the death with incompatible cage mates, dogs suffering from illness or injury with no veterinary treatment. The list goes on and on. We have records from the USDA’s own inspections that 26 incidences of “direct” violations like these have occurred in 2016. Our analysis of USDA data show that, year after year, upwards of 50% of Iowa breeders are cited for violations to the federal Animal Welfare Act, but these citations seldom result in penalties. And when they do, a breeder only need ignore it and eventually it’ll be swept under a rug. (DM Register: 11/13/2016—Why won’t the USDA shut down these serial animal abusers?)

What we also provide is information about the huge consumer protection issue in this industry. People all across the country end up with sick and dying puppies exported from Iowa. They end up costing many an unwitting customer tens of thousands of dollars in veterinary bills, often ending up with broken hearts and broken bank accounts. One unfortunate New York state family suffered the first-ever confirmed transmission of a terrible zoonotic disease from an Iowa bred-puppy. Their three year old child was hospitalized and diagnosed with canine brucellosis as a result.

In the Iowa Capitol we’re stymied by the industry’s professional organization—Iowa Pet Breeders Association, but upon closer examination, the name is misleading. In fact, only half of the approximate 150 members of the association are breeders. The remaining members represent other ancillary special interest groups that stand to benefit from the status quo: pet stores such as Petland, puppy distribution companies such as Hunte Corporation, dog transport companies, kennel supply companies, veterinary supply companies and clinics – the majority of them don’t even reside in Iowa.

We, on the other hand, have 8300+Iowans who are members of our organization, Iowans who want to see increased oversight of this industry. Hundreds of these members have contacted Iowa legislators lobbying in support of better oversight. Hundreds have taken time out of their busy lives to join us on our annual Lobby Day for Dogs. ( to speak with their legislators face-to-face to ask for better oversight. While many legislators “get it”, the unreasonable fears of Iowa’s agriculture result in the majority of them digging in their heels and saying NO to protecting the dogs, fearing it is all a ruse with the end in sight of affecting agriculture.

This is no ruse. It is a shameful fact. And those of us who care have had enough. We’ve had enough of being accused of fabricating data. We’ve had enough of being dismissed as “animal rights zealots”; we’ve had enough of legislators who work to oppose us in their effort to protect family members who participate in and benefit from this despicable industry.

Based on some of the decisions thus far, it appears the new administration won’t be empathetic to this issue. We won’t see a kinder and gentler USDA any time soon, so the urgency to address this on a state level is more important than ever. If this mistreatment of helpless animals matters to you, if you think Iowa can do better, please reach out to your state legislators, and governor and lieutenant governor, and tell them so. The dogs need each of us to reach out to all these leaders: FOR THE DOGS.”

Only by working together is it possible to change laws, and stop the incredibly cruel and inhumane conditions that flourish in puppy mills. To receive more information, or receive regular e-mail alerts, sign up at or contact Mary LaHay at or by phone at 515-556-5949. If you still are not convinced, I challenge you to google, “Puppy Mill Photos.”

Remember that what you allow, is what will continue: BE A VOICE FOR THE VOICELESS

Sometimes It’s Hard To Make Lemonade

A well-known cliché admonishes us to make lemonade if we are given lemons. In other words, when we are faced with a bad situation, we should work to make it better. Great solution for humans, but for our companion animals, that’s not an option. They have no voice; they have no choice; they are totally dependent on humans, and sadly, many humans value monetary gain more highly than the welfare of man’s best friends.

Iowa still ranks as the second worst state in the entire country for puppy mills, and puppy mills are certainly lemons…actually worse than lemons…as animal welfare groups and non- profit grass roots organizations such as Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, have discovered the last few years. (And if you don’t live in Iowa, a little research will probably reveal the existence of mills in your state).

What an irony it is that in our country where we spend BILLIONS of dollars on pets every year, a nation where more than half of us share our lives with companion animals, that millions of creatures that we claim to love are born and live in misery in shockingly squalid conditions where they are mass produced for profit each year. Some never survive, and the ones who do are usually scarred, emotionally and physically. The females are bred and bred and bred, over and over and over, to produce litter after litter after litter, resulting in hundreds of thousands of puppies churned out every year for sale at pet stores, over the internet, and through newspaper ads. This cruelty will stop only when people stop buying puppy mill puppies, and we pass better legislation to ensure better care. .

If you want a dog in your life, please understand these facts:

  • Reputable breeders care where their puppies go and interview potential adopters. They don’t sell through pet stores, and not through newspaper ads, Craig’s List, or internet sites without meeting and interviewing the prospective family.
  • “Purebred” documents aren’t worth the paper they are written on. Even the American Kennel Association admits that it “cannot guarantee the quality of health of the dogs in its registry.”
  • A “USDA inspected” breeder does not necessarily mean a good breeder. The USDA establishes only minimum standards, and many USDA licensed puppy mills operate under deplorable conditions with known violations of the Animal Welfare Act.
  • Puppy mill puppies often have medical problems, but pet retailers don’t care that poor breeding and lack of socialization may lead to behavior problems throughout the dogs’ lives. They count on the bond between families and their new puppies being so strong that the puppies won’t be returned.
  • Puppy mills will continue to operate until people stop buying puppy mill dogs. The bottom line is money… If the mills don’t make money, they will close…so it is up to you and me!

One way to improve the plight of these dogs is to enact AND ENFORCE standards of care for the animals and standards of practice for their sale. Sometimes it seems that our government believes it is doing enough—it’s up to us—“We the people”—to become involved. Don’t close your eyes, and say, “It’s sad, but what can I do?” Animal welfare and rescue groups are struggling to pass better legislation, but if things are ever to really change for the animals that we claim to love so much, WE must ALL join the cause.

Canine victims suffer deprivation and death in nightmare puppy mills. That’s a fact. If life gives you a lemon, you can make lemonade, that’s a fact…BUT if the lemon is rotten, it’s best to just get rid of it…that’s a fact. Puppy mills are rotten… let’s get rid of them. If you live in Iowa, join Iowa Voters for Companion Animals to keep updated on current animal welfare legislation ( ) If you live elsewhere, find a grass roots animal welfare group that monitors legislation. Keep informed (and educate your friends and neighbors) concerning your legislators’ track records. Let them know your concerns. “WE THE PEOPLE” have the power, but we must use it.


Actions Speak Louder Than Words

“Happy Mother’s Day!”

Americans spend millions of dollars every year buying gifts for their Mothers on this special occasion, but there is an old (but true) cliche that stresses ‘actions speak louder than words.’ The founder of Mother’s Day, Anna Jarvis, was vehemently opposed to the commercialization of the holiday, but she certainly approved of random acts of kindness to express thankfulness to Moms. It doesn’t cost much to pamper her a little bit on her day, just as she pampers you all year round. Almost every mother would love a “Services Coupon Book.” There are many chores around the house that she would appreciate help with (Just be sure that you honor your promises when she decides to use a coupon).

While honoring our own moms, let’s speak out about the plight of mothers of a different species: dogs who spend their entire lives caged and neglected in puppy mills—mother dogs who are forced over and over again to produce puppies under conditions of unimaginable cruelty. Google the words, “Puppies for sale” and you will get MILLIONs of hits back, and although some of those listings are legitimate and caring breeders, the majority of the listings link to digital venues for puppy mills that use the internet to peddle their “products.” Using sophisticated, convincing tactics, they reach people who are totally unaware of the actual living conditions where little or no consideration is given for genetic defects, or the health and well-being of the mass produced animals. Documentation of puppy mills across the country reveals dogs living in rows of filthy wire cages in dilapidated facilities where the dogs lack adequate food, veterinary care, sanitation, and human interaction. The breeders’ goal? Make money!!! As we think “Happy Mother’s Day, it is important to become involved in the effort to shut down these places that certainly do not have a happy mother’s day or any other day.

  • Never buy a puppy over the Internet or from a pet store. Almost all puppies sold in pet stores are puppy mill dogs, regardless of what the store claims.
  • Use extreme caution with classified ads. INSIST on seeing where the adult dogs and puppies live—do not meet the seller at another location. And if you can’t see the mother and her living conditions, don’t walk away – RUN!
  • Consider adoption from a rescue organization or search carefully for responsible breeders.
  • Support legislation that regulates and reduces breeding of animals. Involve yourself in the legislative process to promote laws that make live better for our four-footed companions.
  • Remember: puppy mills will continue to thrive until people stop buying puppy mill dogs. Use every opportunity to educate people with the facts.
  • Mothers always have great advice, and here are a few reminders for dealing with both humans and canines (on Mother’s Day and Every Day!):
  • Every day is a new day. The opportunity to make a new start. Wipe the slate clean; begin anew.
  • Stand up for justice and practice compassion. One of the most powerful things we can do is to spread compassion toward both humans and animals. Let’s use our power!



It was no Happy Mother’s Day for Puppy Mill Mamas

As we bask in the after- glow of a wonderful Mother’s Day of love and inspiration, it seems important to speak out about the mothers of a different species:  dogs who spend their entire lives caged and neglected in puppy mills…mother dogs who are forced, over and over again, to produce puppies for profit under conditions of unimaginable cruelty.

If we believe that a dog is man’s best friend, how can we allow thousands of abused mother dogs to suffer in puppy mills across the nation, where they are confined in substandard, crowded, dirty conditions, without sufficient veterinary care, food, water, and socialization, with breeding dogs bred as often as possible without rest between litters, in order to increase profits.   Mothers churn out litter after litter of puppies, with the puppies taken away from their mothers too young, and   often stacked in trailers and trucked to pet stores across the country.  Others are sold over the internet.  According to Bob Baker, an investigator with the Anti-Cruelty Department of the ASPCA, “We are seeing a surge in the number of dogs being sold online, and we warn consumers to NEVER buy dogs over the internet.  It is disturbing that people will purchase a dog and have it shipped to them without ever seeing where it came from.  Is it any wonder that these puppies often show evidence of alarming genetic disorders, as well as behavioral and psychological problems? “

Consider these facts:

  • Breeding dogs at puppy mills endure constant breeding cycles and are kept year after year, as long as they are productive breeders, with  almost no regard for the dog’s health or any existing genetic conditions that may be passed on to the puppies.
  • Puppy mill dogs typically receive little or no medical care and live in crowded, squalid conditions, in wire bottom cages, without exercise, socialization or human interaction, in blistering heat and freezing cold.
  • Puppies from puppy mills are sold in pet stores, online, and directly to consumers with little or no factual information as to the dog’s health, genetic history or future welfare.
  • Breeding dogs are subjected to dog auctions where mill owners buy and sell dogs for breeding.  Puppy millers dump dogs they no longer want, and other mass dog producers come looking for a good deal.  These dogs are auctioned off like used furniture.
  • Purchasing a puppy for sale at a pet store or online usually supports the horrible puppy mill industry, and buying anything in pet stores that sell puppies support the industry too.

NEVER buy a puppy from an internet site or a pet store.  Be sure to visit the physical facility of an animal shelter or screen a breeder’s facility IN PERSON!  Responsible breeders and rescue groups will be more than happy to offer you a tour. If there is nothing bad to show, there is nothing bad to hide…if you are not welcomed onto the property, you should RUN, not walk, away!

The only way to advance humane and responsible treatment of companion animals is through education and grassroots advocacy.  If you are honestly concerned about their welfare, and want better laws to protect them, GET INVOLVED.  Write your legislators… If you live in Iowa, you know that a bill to regulate breeding facilities got close, but didn’t pass in this year’s legislature.  The dogs will have to wait another year, but you don’t have to wait… GET INVOLVED NOW.   Iowa Friends of Companion Animals works tirelessly to get state oversight of USDA-licensees, and better standards of basic care…larger cage sizes, no wire-bottomed cages, access to the outdoors, and annual vet checks.   I find it incomprehensible that ANYONE can object to what this group is advocating.   If you would like details on Iowa Friends of Companion Animals, and its sister organization, Iowa Voters for Companion Animals, please contact Mary LaHay at  (If you live outside of Iowa contact them anyway.  They could offer you suggestions about organizing an animal advocacy group in your own state).

Rescue Scams

Understanding the pet store-puppy mill connection, most animal lovers get their new dogs from reputable breeders or rescue organizations. The number of rescue groups has escalated during recent years, but sadly, not all “rescues” are legitimate, and with photos of adorable animals and sad stories told, it is not always easy to spot the signs of a con waiting to happen. Scams target people of all backgrounds, ages, and income levels, and they look like the real thing, using many clever techniques to con people into donating money…..scammers are professional at convincing people that they are helping dogs that, without their help, may not survive. When animal lovers give money to a group and later find out they have been duped, the most common comment is “But they are such NICE people.” NO, they are not such nice people….they have learned to be smooth and charismatic, and know that the “nicer” they appear, the more successful their scams will be, and the more money they will bring in.

Knowledge is the strongest defense against scammers posing as rescues, so learning the red flags can help protect you from fraud. Just because a person flashes a not-for-profit authorization does NOT necessarily mean it is a trustworthy group; most scammers have somehow obtained not-for-profit status, and will usually have an official looking folder filled with official looking documents. They may be members of the highly respected organization. However, I was very disappointed last week when Kristen Winterhalter, Outreach Coordinator for confirmed that “Petfinder doesn’t get involved with members’ operations,” which sadly means that it is up to the individual adopter to sort out the good from the bad. Beware: a slick, sophisticated web site does not guarantee integrity!

Legitimate rescuers will request references as well as information about your living situation and experience with pets. Many require a home visit to help determine that the animal’s needs will be adequately met, and they emphasize their willingness to take the pet back if you are unable to care for him. Animals are spayed or neutered prior to adoption, and, although animals, like humans, can have minor health issues despite having received appropriate medical care, an attempt has been made to identify any illnesses, and documentation from a veterinarian is given to the adopter. Legitimate groups do not regularly change the name of their organization or claim various associations. They do not suggest meeting at the local convenience store, or random places to transact business. They provide paperwork to verify any statements made.

Fraudulent rescue groups may have a heart-wrenching sob story with the scammer “pushing your buttons” to convince you that the poor animal may never find a home unless you take pity on her. Often they claim that they have spent a great deal of money on medical treatment, but will give you a “special deal” if you will take her. Ask to see vet records for medical expense and ask specific questions. Insist on documentation, and don’t accept vague answers, or a promise that the papers “will be sent to you.” Check with neighbors, veterinarians, and other rescue groups IN THE AREA where the group is located. If your gut feeling tells you something is not right, check with the local authorities.

The overwhelming majority of rescue groups are dedicated, compassionate people who give their time and resources to improve the plight of unfortunate animals, and they provide a valuable service to the pet community. They don’t do what they do for money or personal recognition. THEY CARE about the welfare of the animals. It is unfortunate that a few unscrupulous people have discovered that the plight of a needy pet is almost too much for animal lovers to ignore…one look at a sad, furry face begging for love makes us easy marks, . Do scammers care? You better believe it. They care about money and personal recognition, NOT for making life better for unfortunate creatures, so it is important to recognize and avoid rescue scams.