Puppy Mill Paradise

By Stephanie Challand


Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that produce puppies without regard for the health or welfare of the dogs or puppies. The dogs are kept in filthy wire cages and  reated like a cash crop with little to no human interaction. When they are no longer able to produce puppies they are destroyed or discarded. The puppies are typically of poor health and have behavioral and emotional issues they will carry with them their entire lives. Puppy Mills often operate in secret selling their dogs to brokers, pet stores or uninformed consumers who are the faced with costly veterinary bills and heartache but it is the dogs that pay the ultimate price.


Despite its strict laws for dairy farmers, Wisconsin is one of the few states that does not have laws to regulate dog breeding. Advocates have been pushing for such legislation for over 10 years, only to face opposition from high-powered lobbyists and members of the Dog Federation of Wisconsin. As a result, all attempts have been vetoed, leaving Wisconsin wide open for the Puppy Mill industry to continue growing. The number of commercial dogbreeding facilities in Wisconsin has grown by over 300% between 1999 and 2007. There are an  estimated 500 dog breeding facilities in Wisconsin that sell 50 or more dogs each year, yet only 68 of them are subject to USDA licensing. Lancaster County in Pennsylvania was known for being the “Puppy Mill Capitol of the United States.” By the middle of the 1990s, Lancaster had the largest concentration of wholesale dog breeders in the country with sales  approaching $5 million annually. By 2004, it was responsible for producing over 200,000 dogs a year. As the county continued to grow, there were several highly publicized cases  including an episode of “Animal Cops,” which lead to increased awareness in the area. By the late 1990s entire Amish and Mennonite communities were relocating from Lancaster County to Wisconsin, where they set up dairy farms and continued breeding dogs as a ‘cash crop.’ Along with breeding, they brought the tradition of Dog Auctioning, which is now illegal in Lancaster County. Such auctions are said to be held twice a year at Horst Stables in Thorp, WI. At these auctions, dogs are sold to other “breeders” looking to increase their stock of a particular breed, to individuals looking for pets or to “brokers” who buy dogs in bulk and sell to pet stores or to consumers via the Internet.
In 2001, a WTMJ-TV investigation into Wisconsin Puppy Mills helped persuade legislators to pass a law regulating dog breeding for the first time. This bill required the licensing of Wisconsin breeders who sell 25 or more dogs per year and created seven new state inspectors to enforce these standards. Governor McCallum used his veto power to remove the penalties as well as vetoing higher dog license fees to fund the inspectors. The remainder of the bill was to take effect in February of 2004, but in 2003, Governor Doyle took an unprecedented constitutional step, using his partial-veto power to craft new wording in a budget bill that effectively repealed the earlier law regulating breeding. There have been several other attempts since to pass such legislation, all of which have fallen short. Meanwhile more and more Puppy Mills are cropping up in Wisconsin. Fortunately, new legislation has been introduced, but in order for it to move forward, legislators must hold an “executive session” to send the bill to the floor.

Requires licensing of animal shelters, animal control facilities, dog breeders and dogdealers who sell more than 25 dogs per year; requires inspections of facilities before licenses are issued, and at least once every 2 years thereafter; requires certificate of veterinary inspection and recent vaccinations to be presented at time of sale; prohibits the  sale of puppies younger than 7 weeks old; establishes basic standards of care for licensed facilities; requires registration of temporary dog markets; allows seizure of dogs from  licensed facilities.

  1. Do your research before buying a puppy. This should include researching breeds as well as potential breeders. Make sure you visit the breeding facilities and insist on seeing the parents and facilities. If they won’t let you, leave.
  2. Do not buy a dog online or from a Pet Store. Many are just fronts for brokers and Puppy Mills.
  3. Adopt a dog! There are many dogs out there that need loving homes. Be careful to do your research, as some rescue groups are also fronts for brokers. Look for members of Alliance of Wisconsin Animal Rehoming Enterprises (AWARE).
  4. Contact your legislators to  ensure they send bill A.B. 250/S.B. 208 to the floor for a vote. For more information on contacting your representative visit http://tinyurl.com/CrackDownOnWIPuppyMills.
UPDATE: For those of you who haven’t already heard, the state of Wisconsin has taken a major step towards ending the suffering of dogs in puppy mills. On December 1, 2009, Governor Doyle signed Assembly Bill 250 and Senate Bill 208 into law! The new law will ensure breeders are providing humane care for their animals, and will also establish a much-needed licensing and inspection program. Thank you to all who voiced their support!