Rescuing puppy and kitten mill survivors

Purebred cats’ and dogs’ (parents and offspring) lives can be wonderful if they come from responsible breeders, but they often live their lives and get their beginnings in puppy and kitten mills. And you can be sure that whenever a movie with adorable dogs or cats hits theaters, puppy/kitten mills start up full speed. So, what is the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy/kitten mill?

According to Friends of Animals (, the difference is “the mass production of puppies [kittens]. A breeder that sells to research, animal brokers and pet shops, and breeds more than three females is a puppy [kitten] mill.” In these places, the parents are treated as profit-making machines, and the offspring are just assembly-line products, “cash crops.”

Most people, when the subject of puppy/kitten mills is brought up, think of the offspring, but this article focuses mostly on the parents. In my family, my son and his sweetheart have taken in six rescued animals — three of whom are mill rescues. Here are their stories:

“Wee-Man, a hairless Chinese crested, was a mill puppy. When he turned out to be non-show quality, he became the mill owner’s ‘toy’ dog. She let her six-year-old grandson play with him, and Wee-Man wound up with a broken foreleg and dislocated shoulder. She couldn’t afford the vet bill to repair the damage, so she dumped him off at a shelter. He is one sweet, funny little dog. And at only five pounds (the smallest of the bunch), he is also the alpha.

“Savannah, also a hairless Chinese crested, was a mill mama. She lived the first four years of her life in a small crate with no real human contact. Once she stopped producing hairless puppies, she was taken to the vet to be euthanized. The vet took her, sent the people away, and reported them to the Humane Society. (They were subsequently charged with illegal animal breeding.)

“Savannah is sweet, loving and just wants to sit in your lap and be loved on (probably because she never had kind human contact until she came into our care and now cannot get enough of it). She has no concept of personal space (leftover trauma from living her life in a small space, having to step on another just to get around).

“Kira, a mill mama, is a hairless Sphynx cat. The mill owner never paid attention to Kira because ‘she was supposed to go to someone.’ Kira is nine years old and had years of no real human contact. Like Savannah, she just wants to be loved on. She was underweight when we got her and also had an untreated skin condition. That cleared up by simply feeding her regularly and providing quality food.”

Adopting a mill rescue is the easy part; helping a mill rescue to heal is difficult, time consuming and not suited for everyone. Potential rescuers of mill parents must always keep at least the following in mind: First, having lived their entire lives confined to a small cage, crate or pen, mill animals will not understand what a “normal” home is. Everything — even seeing you coming at him with a paper towel to wipe a wet spot on the floor — can be terrifying.

Second, animals who haven’t actually lived with people view everything as a potential threat. They don’t know how to interpret human emotions, even if the emotions are kind and loving. Third, most mill animals have poor health. Many eat low-quality, even spoiled, food. If never or rarely taken out of their seldom-cleaned cages, which usually have mesh/wire floors, this is where they soil.

These are only three of so many issues to consider when rescuing mill parents. These animals have myriad special needs and will require much of your time and all your love and patience. Read everything that you can about them so that you’re prepared to give these animals a forever loving home.

As a final note, please stop by and see us tomorrow at Walmart (10 a.m.-2 p.m.). We’ll have our usual wares to sell, along with our 2014 calendar and baked goodies. Ki the Kissing Pooch can’t wait to greet you!

This week’s article was contributed by Betty Duncan, a member of the CAPS board of directors.


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