Everyone loves a good underdog story, and there’s no better place to look for it than in Valentine. This adorable pooch went from one bad situation to another. However, with the loving care of her new parents, this former puppy mill pup has grown into the role of a loving and thriving family dog!

Valentine’s Story

What is a puppy mill? Valentine found out the hard way

When Valentine was born, she was immediately thrust into a world that lacked love. As part of a puppy mill, she was forced to breed and produce puppies of her own before she was even a year old. Eventually, she was rescued, only to find herself in a hoarding situation.

This was Valentine’s first home.

Dog hoarding is when many dogs live in one home and the person can’t sustain all of those dogs, it becomes dangerous and unsanitary for the human and the dogs. I fostered a dog named Blossom for many months who came from a hoarding situation. You can see her story below

It’s estimated that 5,000 new cases of animal hoarding are reported each year in the U.S. alone, that’s 250,000 animals living in a hoarding situation each year. 

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Living in the filth generated by dozens of dogs, it seemed that Valentine’s time was doomed to be unpleasant.

Fortunately, she was saved by a loving family. 

Valentine enjoys a puppuccino in her fourth and final home

Valentine struggled at first with confidence, as is common with many abused animals coming from difficult living situations. However, with love and support from her new momma, Valentine eventually came out of her shell. Today, in her fourth home, (and finally, her forever home) Valentine is thriving. She loves to have adventures with her mom. After her romps, she enjoys snuggling and, of course, eating. Together, Valentine and her mom hope to spread a simple message: adopt, don’t shop.

What is a puppy mill? Valentine found out and it wasn't a good experience

The Puppy Mill Problem

While there are many reputable, ethical breeders out there, puppy mills remain a huge problem in the United States and across the world. These awful places exist with only one thing in mind: PROFIT. In a puppy mill, the health and safety of the dogs are secondary to the profit they draw in.

With your help, Valentine and her mom want to change that. However, to change the world, we all need to become educated about the issues at hand.

Valentine went from a puppy mill to a hoarding situation

What is a Puppy Mill?

In a puppy mill, owners aim to churn a profit. This means that the needs of their dogs are often neglected. In addition to this, puppy mills have little investment in the overall health of their dogs. Lax standards and poor monitoring often result in sick and unhealthy pups. Depending on the severity of the situation, these dogs will also have social problems due to having little to no contact with their mother.

Puppy mills tend to force dogs to breed at an early age, as Valentine’s case demonstrates. The words of a Rolling Stone report best describe the dismal situation: dogs are “denied social contact with other dogs, bred as many times as they enter heat, then killed and dumped in a ditch whenever their uterus shrivels.” The same 2017 story estimates that a singular puppy mill breeder, who has since been arrested, generated and dumped upwards of 1,000 pounds of dead dogs on her property.

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In addition to the inhumane breeding practices, puppy mills often subject dogs to daily abuse. The Puppy Mill Project notes that dogs are often kept in tiny cages. They are not provided adequate protection from the weather, nor are they regularly fed. All of this abuse results in frightened, sick pups.

What Happens to Puppy Mill Dogs?

Depending on the dog’s gender, puppy mill dogs can have a variety of unfortunate outcomes. Valentine’s case is one of the best. In the ideal situation, dogs are rescued in time and rehoused with loving families. Male dogs, meanwhile, are generally sold in pet stores within their first few months of life.

Center for Shelter Dogs, a division of Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine, has conducted studies of rescued puppy mill dogs. Even when these pups are welcomed into a loving home, they often continue to suffer from their early treatment. “Persistent behavioral and psychological abnormalities”, such as excessive fear and anxiety, is not uncommon. Former puppy mill dogs have also exhibited signs of phobias and compulsive habits, such as biting, chewing, and pacing.

Unfortunately, these mental symptoms are not the end of the line for these dogs. Because of the subpar care they receive, many puppy mill puppies also come with physical problems, which may manifest later in life. A 2013 study by the Humane Society Veterinary Association found that there are two primary causes of such ailments.

The first area of concern is the husbandry. Poor hygiene leads many puppy mill dogs to contract a variety of diseases. With many mills refusing treatment for their pups, this means that owners may end up with a sick dog. Some of the common ailments affecting puppy mill dogs include:

  • Antibiotic-resistant infections
  • Distemper
  • Infected wounds
  • Internal parasites, such as roundworm
  • Kennel cough
  • Parvo

Individuals lucky enough to avoid these ailments will often find themselves faced with a secondary concern: genetic problems. With the lax breeding practices of many puppy mills, dogs are often bred with relatives. Harmful traits are ignored; if these traits are deemed “cute” or desirable, they may even be intentionally reproduced. The results of such haphazard breeding include:

  • Future health problems
  • Susceptibility to future diseases, such as cancer
  • Weakened immune systems

Puppy Mills v. Breeders


While puppy mills are to be avoided, it’s important to know that not all breeders are puppy mills. Reputable breeders will be registered with the United States. This means that they are subject to regular inspections and checkups from animal welfare experts.

Unlike puppy mills, a good breeder takes amazing care of their dogs. Breeders take great pride in their pups, so they will carefully select their pairings to optimize the health of future generations.

Well-bred pups are kept in sanitary, loving conditions. They are not separated from their mother until they are completely ready, and they are regularly seen by veterinarians.

How to Spot the Difference

If you’re worried about whether or not your pup is from a breeder or a puppy mill, there are some obvious giveaways. To avoid scrutiny, puppy mills will often use a middleman. This means that many pet store puppies come from puppy mills. However, some puppy mills sell in person. If your “breeder” suggests that the exchange be done in a parking lot or driveway, away from other dogs, this is likely a sign that you’re dealing with a puppy mill.

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Remember: a good breeder will have nothing to hide! When you go to pick up your puppy, ask to have a look around. While a responsible breeder will likely oblige or even arrange for you to be able to see the other dogs, a puppy mill owner will refuse the request.

How Common Are Puppy Mills?

As of today, the ASPCA estimates that there are around 10,000 puppy mills in America. Many of these are located in the Midwest, though they exist everywhere. These institutions churn out around 500,000 doomed breeder dogs and 2.6 million puppies, not all of whom survive.

Fortunately, the prevalence of these cruel factories is decreasing. Many states have passed laws banning the sale of puppies in pet stores. This has helped to decrease the profitability and popularity of puppy mills. Other measures include requiring breeder registration.

Even so, puppy mills remain a persistent problem. Many mills now operate under a direct sales model. Without retail venues, these sellers are providing dogs directly to consumers through either in-person exchanges or cross-country shipping. In the latter case, these pups are forced to endure inhumane conditions within a tiny crate, locked in the hull of a shipping container.

How You Can Help

With the intricacies of the pet market, it may seem that you’re powerless to curb the machine’s enthusiasm. However, that’s not true! There are many ways to combat the harmful impact of puppy mills.

In addition to lobbying lawmakers to enact stricter regulations on animal welfare and cruelty, you can also make an impact with your own choices. If you are looking for a new dog for your family, do your research. The most direct action you can take against mills is adoption. This process gives a needy pup a new lease on life without the slimy feeling of potentially contributing to a mill.

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If you’re set upon a breeder, however, there are ways to find a proper source. Do your research before you purchase your dog. The American Kennel Club offers a robust guide for finding the perfect breeder. Things to look for include:

  • A waiting list: Good breeders often have a reputation. Their dogs are highly coveted, which may mean that you’ll need to wait for a pup. That’s okay! It’s a sign that the breeder cares.
  • Proper accreditation: Some states have less stringent requirements for licensure than others, so this is not always a golden standard. Nonetheless, if a breeder has proper paperwork, then there’s a good chance that they’re reputable.
  • A proper environment: As has been said before, a good breeder will be more than happy to show you where they raise their pups. If a breeder does not want you to see the conditions they raise their dogs in, that should be a huge red flag.
  • Medical history: While a puppy mill may supply you with basic vaccination information, a breeder will often have far more documentation available. Genetic tests, veterinary evaluations, and health screenings are all common parts of a proper breeder’s package.

In addition to changing your habits, you can educate others! Let your friends and family know about the signs of a proper breeder. This is especially important if you know that they’re looking for a dog.

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