Those who work with
rehabilitating puppy mill survivors have known for years that these dogs have
special problems and needs, depending on their individual personalities and
past experiences. Some respond fairly quickly to love, steady meals, and a
comfortable bed. Others require a great deal of patience and guidance from
someone experienced in rehabilitating mill dogs; they can become wonderful
family pets but may always have emotional scars and "quirks." A few,
unfortunately, are so traumatized that they may learn to co-exist with humans
but will never be "pets."
In October 2011, Dr.
Frank McMillan, under the auspices of Best Friends Animal Society, along with
Drs. James Serpell and Deborah Duffy at the University of Pennsylvania School
of Veterinary Medicine, released the findings of a landmark study of dogs who
are subjected to the isolation and deprivation of mass commercial breeding
McMillan summarizes: This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs
kept in these large-scale breeding facilities dont just suffer while
theyre confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for
years, even when theyre placed in loving homes. His findings come
as no surprise, but this is the first study to identify the damaging effects of
mill life on canines, and may influence future laws regulating commercial
While Wisconsin Act
90/ATCP 16 requires exercise outside of the cage, socialization, human contact,
and "enrichment" -- toys -- for dogs in commercial breeding
establishments, most "puppy mill" laws focus only on the external
environment. It is hoped that this study will help give lawmakers the
information they need to incorporate "Behavior and Socialization"
into future legislation nationwide.
For summaries and discussions of the
The study itself can be read here:
Mental Health of Dogs from Breeders.McMillan.pdf
For more on the
mental issues facing puppy mill survivors, please see our
Puppy Mill Survivors: Caring for Mill
Dogs section, particularly the Caring for
Unsocialized Mill Dogs article. We also encourage you to click on any photo
on this page for the story behind the faces.