How much IS that doggy in the window?
In Washington State, puppy mill rescues made headline news. In 2009, 400 dogs were rescued from Kennewick, WA. In 2012, 48 dogs were rescued from a Ferndale, WA puppy mill. Many other dogs still languish in puppy mills statewide.
And Washington State organization PAWS has documented the horrors of former puppy mill breeders.
The Humane Society describes puppy mills as commercial breeding facilities that house dogs in wire cages, mass-producing puppies and vastly contributing to pet overpopulation.
According to PAWS, more than 150,000 cats and dogs enter shelters in Washington State every year. And nationwide, 6 to 8 million animals enter shelters. Approximately 3 to 4 million of these pets are euthanized.
And yet puppy mills continue to mass produce dogs.
But organizations like PAWS and the Humane Society are speaking up for these dogs - and an important film from a dedicated husband and wife team has documented their plight.
Advertising executive Kelly Colbert and author/director Andy Nibley produced the film Madonna of the Mills in the winter of 2010.
This film is a powerful documentary that finally brings the horrendous practice of puppy mills to the media forefront. Madonna of the Mills follows a rescuer named Laura as she travels into the bleak environment of Pennsylvania puppy mills to rescue breeder dogs.
Andy Nibley, Director and Writer of Madonna of the Mills, discussed why it's so important to inform people about puppy mills.
"My wife, Kelly (Colbert) brought home a dog that had been living in a puppy mill for about six years," Nibley explained.
"The dog lived in a tiny cage in total darkness and had been de-barked by the farmer who owned her. This meant that a pipe had been shoved down her throat, crushing her voice box.
My wife is the producer of the movie and she told me I needed to quit my job as a CEO and make a movie about puppy mills to raise awareness and stop pet stores from selling puppy mill dogs.
I didn't know anything about making movies, but she told me to go ahead and do it anyway. Which I did. It took us about a year and a half to shoot and edit and another year or so to market it and sell it to HBO."
Nibley realizes the far-reaching importance of his film - and how many lives can be changed if people view it.
"Most people have no idea that the cute little puppies that they buy at pet stores come from puppy mills. About 99 percent of puppies sold in pet stores come from these horrific mills. The puppies are the lucky ones," Nibley stated somberly.
"They get out of the mills, but their parents are stuck there their whole lives, living in tiny, unsanitary cages, never being petted, or let out for a walk, never being bathed, living in urine and feces, eating inferior, teeth-rotting food.
After they are done breeding and can't make farmers money anymore, the parents are taken out and shot, drowned, or starved to death.
By the way, as more and more people find out about the connection between puppy mills and pet stores, puppy mill farmers are beginning to sell their puppies over the Internet.
Folks should not buy dogs over the Internet, unless the farmer allows them to meet the puppy's parents and see where the puppy has been living.
Also, never buy a dog that will be flown to you unless the breeder is willing to accompany the dog on the flight."
The inspiration for Madonna of the Mills came from Nibley and Colbert's dog, Maisy. They soon realized how many other dogs like Maisy were languishing in mills nationwide.
"Our little cocker spaniel, Maisy, was the dog my wife brought home," Nibley explained.
"Maisy inspired us to make the movie. Laura Flynn, the woman who rescued Maisy and more than 2,000 other dogs, became the heroine for our film.
We followed her on her bi-weekly runs down to Amish country for a couple of years. Laura's relentless efforts, along with those of her friends and helpers, was inspirational and kept us going when things were pretty depressing.
Seeing these abused animals week after week was pretty draining."
Nibley hopes that his film will help diminish the suffering of so many dogs.
"Virtually all puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills and virtually of them have some sort of medical problem, usually parasites," he stated.
"There is no reason why people should be paying top dollar, in some cases $1,000 or more, for puppies that are sick. Pet stores should only sell rescue or shelter dogs, not dogs from puppy mills, which are just factory farms for animals.
A lot of the dogs have much worse diseases than just parasites. Our cocker, for example, has a genetic disease that means she has to be fed pureed food three times a day and be held for a half hour after each meal.
If she isn't, there's a good chance she will choke to death. A lot of dogs die within the first year of purchase or need major medical care, including surgery."
The response to Madonna of the Mills has been positive - and Nibley hopes that this film continues to have an impact.
"We have had thousands and thousands of people reach out to us as a result of the film. HBO showing our film has been a huge boost to awareness about the puppy mill issue. Many cities have started to ban the sale of dogs in pet stores, cities like Austin, TX and West Hollywood, CA," Nibley stated.
"In Canada, the number three pet store chain has stopped selling puppies. Los Angeles recently passed a regulation that only allows pet stores to sell shelter dogs.
Our film didn't cause all of these positive developments, but we like to think we helped.
There are thousands of Americans out there fighting to close down puppy mills and prevent pet stores from selling animals. We're just a small part of a much bigger movement.
At this point, we do not have plans for a subsequent movie. But we will be trying to distribute this movie through more channels once our HBO deal expires," Nibley stated.
10 Things To Know About Puppy Mills
- 99% of puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills.
- Nearly 100% of all puppies in pet stores have parasites when they are purchased.
- 48% of puppies being sold in pet stores were ill or incubating an illness at the time of purchase, according to a recent California study.
- 500,000 puppies are born in puppy mills and sold in pet stores every year in the United States.
- There are 35,000 pet stores in America
- Puppy millers can make more than $300,000 growing puppies every year.
- Puppy mills have been around since the early 1960s.
- Almost every Puppy sold in a pet store has a mother who will spend her entire life in a tiny cage, never being petted, never being walked, never being treated like a dog.
- Female dogs are usually bred 2x a year. At that rate, they usually burn out by age 5, at which time they are put to death.
- About 1 million breeder dogs are confined in puppy mills throughout the country.
Thank you, Andy Nibley, for taking the time to discuss your film and the importance of highlighting the horrors of puppy mills.
If you would like to learn more about Madonna of the Mills, visit their website.
To learn more about how PAWS is trying to discontinue puppy mills in Washington State and beyond, visit their website to learn more about what you can do.
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