“Madonna of the Mills”-What I Didn’t Know About Puppy Mills

Typical Puppy Mill

Typical Puppy Mill

Recently, I sent my mom to BarkWorld Expo 2012; a National Social Petworking Conference in Atlanta Georgia.  In one of the educational sessions, she had the opportunity to listen to a keynote speaker by the name of Andy Nibley. Andy recently wrote and directed an award-winning documentary about puppy mills entitled Madonna of The Mills, which was purchased by HBO. He currently lives in Greenwich Village with his wife Kelly, who was the producer for Madonna of the Mills, and their dog Maisy.  While this post will contain subject matter that will tug at your heartstrings, we at Baylie Dog feel that it is our obligation to pass this message on to our readers and to shed light on the horrific puppy mill trade, the breeders and the pet stores that sell the animals.

Madonna of The Mills is a documentary about Laura Amato, an office manager from Staten Island, who stumbled on the nasty secret of puppy mills. Four years ago she vowed to save as many of these breeding dogs as she possibly could. Laura has now rescued over 2,000 dogs from Amish and Mennonite farmers in Pennsylvania; the  largest suppliers in the puppy mill trade.

Madonna of the Millls shines an intense light on one of America’s nastiest secrets – that the cute puppies we see and adore in pet stores across the country are virtually all raised in breeding “mills” that condemn their mothers to miserable lives of incarceration in tiny, unsanitary, wire cages and often to brutal, premature deaths when they are no longer able to produce litters.   According to Nibley, these dogs are never allowed outside their cages, never walked, never petted. They live terrible lives and suffer all kinds of physical and psychological damage, all to profit their owners.” When these dogs can no longer produce litters or money for their owners, they are put to death – stoned, shot, drowned or starved.

According to the ASPCA, The Animal Welfare Act (AWA), a federal law passed in 1966, regulates certain animal activities, including commercial dog and cat breeding. The AWA defines the minimum standards of care for dogs, cats and certain other species of animals bred for commercial resale, research, and exhibition. It also requires that certain commercial breeders be licensed and routinely inspected by the United State Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, the standards are far from what most people would consider to be humane. They are merely survival standards for dogs. For example, dogs in federally licensed breeding facilities can legally be kept in cages that are only six inches wider than the dog in each direction for their entire lives. Violations often go unpunished. Lack of enforcement by the USDA overall means thousands of dogs are left to suffer in inadequate and inhumane conditions year after year, even in federally licensed facilities.

The ASPCA also explains that there is also a massive loophole in the AWA. Only animal-breeding businesses considered “wholesale” operations—those that sell animals to brokers or pet stores for resale—are subject to oversight by the USDA. The AWA does not apply to facilities that sell directly to the public, including the thousands that now do so via the Internet. The result is that no one regulates these facilities. There are no inspections, no standards that they are required to meet and no consequences for providing inadequate care. Since 2008, Congress has considered bills that would effectively close this loophole in the AWA and bring direct sales breeders under federal oversight. Before Congress acted to pass a bill, in May 2012 the USDA proposed a change to the AWA regulations that aims to close this loophole once and for all.

Puppy mills have been around for decades.  Please choose not to buy your next pet from a pet store or Internet site, and refuse to buy supplies from any pet store or Internet site that sells puppies. The film has won the endorsement of the Humane Society of the United States and 20 percent of the film’s revenues will be donated to that organization.

Trailer from Madonna of The Mills


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