New Study Shows Dogs in Puppy Mills Suffer Long-lasting, Severe Psychological Harm

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In a large-scale study that looked at more than 1,100 dogs formerly used for breeding in puppy mills, it was found that these facilities are seriously detrimental to the well-being of the dogs kept there. Study was conducted by Best Friends Animal Society http:// and the University of Pennsylvania Veterinary School of Medicine;

Best Friends Animal Society

Groomed for the first time, these puppy mill dogs are ready for rescue groups

We can now scientifically confirm how truly destructive these places are for the dogs kept in them.

A landmark new study finds that dogs used for breeding in large-scale commercial breeding operations (aka ‘puppy mills’) are psychologically harmed and show the effects for years after they leave the breeding facility. The study was done by national animal welfare organization [Best Friends Animal Society in collaboration with Drs. James Serpell and Deborah Duffy at the University of Pennsylvania School of Veterinary Medicine and will be published in the journal Applied Animal Behavior Science.

Dr. Frank McMillan, lead researcher of the study and director of well-being studies for Best Friends, said, “We always suspected the dogs in these facilities suffer emotionally because of the abnormal behaviors they show when they get out, but we can now scientifically confirm how truly destructive these places are for the dogs kept in them.”

The study compared a wide array of psychological and behavioral characteristics of former breeding dogs recovered from puppy mills with those of standard pet dogs. A total of 1,169 former puppy mill dogs were included in the study.

Commercial breeding operations, or puppy mills, are large scale facilities where dogs are confined in small enclosures for their entire lives with little to no exercise or positive human contact—for the sole purpose of mass-producing puppies to sell in retail pet stores and via the Internet.

“The results of the study indicate it really doesn’t matter if the breeding operation claims to be shiny and clean, abiding by the laws, or even whether or not they are licensed by the USDA,” McMillan said. “This study gives us strong evidence that the dogs kept in these large scale breeding facilities don’t just suffer while they’re confined there, but carry the emotional scars out with them for years even when they’re placed in loving homes. Many of the dogs show difficulty in simply coping successfully with normal day-to-day life.”

The results showed a broad range of abnormal findings in the former breeding dogs, including: significantly elevated levels of fears and phobias, pronounced compulsive and repetitive behaviors such as spinning in tight circles and pacing, house soiling, and a heightened sensitivity to being touched and picked up.

McMillan said, “The most prominent difference was in the level of fear; compared to normal pet dogs, the chance of scoring in the highest ranges for fear was six to eight times higher in the recovered puppy mill dogs. Interestingly, the heightened fear was accompanied by a decreased chance of the dogs showing aggression.”

The various exposés of puppy mills have typically focused on the filthy and unhealthy physical conditions where the dogs sometimes have only dirty water and moldy food to consume. By looking at the psychological rather than the physical harm experienced by the dogs, the new study offers a different perspective on the problem. McMillan said that, as written, current laws designed to protect the dogs from inhumane physical conditions do not provide adequate protection from the negative emotional effects.

In working with and following these dogs’ progress, McMillan said, “The majority of the dogs improve over time, and it’s important to note that many of them lead very happy lives, but many also continue to struggle emotionally for the rest of their lives—just trying to gain comfort in a world we all take for granted. To them the world and all the people in it just can’t be trusted—it is something to always fear. The damage done to these dogs is heartbreaking.”

“The saddest stories are those from the kindhearted people who adopt these dogs and work hard for years to give them love and acceptance. They’ll sometimes report that even after several years the dog will simply sit and stare blankly into space,” McMillan says. “They tell me that it’s like ‘he’s not really there,’ or that the little dog is reminiscent of a severely autistic child.”

About Best Friends Animal Society®:
Best Friends Animal Society is a nonprofit organization building no-kill programs and partnerships that will bring about a day when there are No More Homeless Pets®. The society's leading initiatives in animal care and community programs are coordinated from its Kanab, Utah, headquarters, the country's largest no-kill sanctuary. This work is made possible by the personal and financial support of a grassroots network of supporters and community partners across the nation.

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