‘Amish puppy mills’, back again

‘Amish puppy mills’ are back in the news with a recent report on ABC.  I’m not going to rehash the issue too much here as it has been discussed at length elsewhere on the blog, but simply put up a couple of links to the posts I feel are most relevant.  Pups are an emotionally charged subject and typically get a lot of ALL CAPS comments and even occasionally ones that, due to the need to maintain a modicum of profanity standards on this here blog, have to be deleted.

And this fact betrays what is to me perhaps the most interesting element of the controversy–the reaction of both activists and ‘regular folks’ as well.  Perhaps it is because I am not a dog person myself–though grandma has a lovely dachsund that is a big and important part of her life–yet at the same time I never cease to be amazed at the issues that get people certifiably riled up.  I guess different folks value different things in different ways and best to leave it at that for now.

That said, in this post I attempted to make a point about the relative worth of animals.

I’ve also recently been informed of some rough numbers–that Plain People–Amish and Mennonites in this case–run approximately 20% of the nation’s ‘puppy mills’/dog breeding operations.  But what of the other 80%?  This post examines the practice of broad-brush extrapolation, based on a limited number of high-profile cases, in order to paint the Amish and their religious kin as a collection of knuckle-dragging fundamentalist animal torturers.  And also as basically the sole contributors to the industry, which is really not the case.  Amish are easy enough pickings, truth be told, as they tend to shun the spotlight and avoid the court system whenever possible, while at the same offering their foes outsize propaganda value.

I also must admit that despite initial certainty, I feel I have become a bit confused on the actual definition of a ‘puppy mill’.  Is a ‘puppy mill’ defined by unsanitary conditions and malnutrition?  Or is a lack of on-the-hour coddling enough to qualify a breeder as a ‘puppy miller’?

Some have pointed out that dogs are social animals which thrive on human contact, whereas cows aren’t.  Fair enough, but does an otherwise healthy pup, integrated and interacting with his puppy peers, actually need individualized daily human contact as well?  And if so, what is the US RDA on that?

Final point:  some claim that, while there may be many Amish dog breeders that are not ‘puppy millers’ (again, whatever the term means), that there are nonetheless many who do fit the description.  Having visited Amish communities from Lancaster to Iowa, I’ve had the chance to observe numerous puppy breeding operations.

But, of course I haven’t seen them all, and I’m no animal inspector, and for that matter certainly wasn’t doing any inspecting at the time, just observing offhand.  At the same time, since I’ve never seen statistics or proof from anti-puppy mill people as to the alleged mass prevalence of the substandard, sickly-mutt producing type of operation, I think I have to bow here to economic realities.

Amish are typically intelligent businesspeople.  Think about the furniture we buy when in Lancaster.  Pretty high quality, right?  Just as with most everything else the Amish sell–those wholesome pies, painstakingly hand-stitched quilts, etc.  That’s the reputation, in any case.

So where is the economic sanity in masses of Amish breeders pumping out sub-par puppy product–dogs that die on pet store shelves or shortly after getting them home–as most of these stories and the activists that propagate them seem to imply?

Get the Amish in your inbox

Join 15,000 email subscribers. No spam. 100% free

    Similar Posts

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


    1. Emma

      And what about non-Amish people breeding dogs, cats and other animal as a “pass time”. They are zero Amish around here and we do not lack of puppies, kitties, bunnies….

    2. I don’t care if it’s an amish puppy mill or non-amish. I think it is mean if cows are kept in little cages that they can’t move around in. Their feet can’t touch the ground and are over bred.

      Please look at these pictures-

      I’m not happy about dog breeding outside of perfect show dogs because so many dogs die everyday in shelters. But I think puppy mills need to be banned!

    3. Tom Kaminski

      How about instead of banning puppy mills you ban commerical pet stores from selling pets? Since we are living in a age of people accepting the growing government intrusion and government control of our everyday lives, than it makes perfect sense to ban pet stores from selling pets and have only government offices sell dogs and cats, from government licensed breeders. The Humane Society would be a perfect start for government take over of such operations.

    4. Amish livestock humane conditions?

      The livestock issue is an interesting question. The conditions in which livestock animals such as hogs and poultry are kept could be considered inhumane and many do feel that way. But providing ‘more humane’ conditions for livestock would inevitably raise the cost of the food products derived from these animals, a change which would meet with resistance. So I think it’s something that most people accept–or rather try to avoid thinking too much about as they chew the burger–while enjoying the benefit of cheaper food thanks to economies of scale and mass-production methods of the modern meat industry.

      And I appreciate your point Lisa–any operation that neglects the animals’ welfare and causes undue suffering is not one that I would be comfortable supporting.

      I think one main issue concerns what a puppy mill is exactly–it seems there are different definitions/interpretations. What some may consider humane, others would consider cruel.

      Emma as far as your point on surplus animals, I recently came across a surprising story regarding PETA: http://www.petakillsanimals.com/

      1. Palomino Lady

        Amish livestock humane conditions?

        Like KC’s comment, this addition to the thread is a little bit later than usual, but having just noticed the March 29th, 2009 reference to a website that basically slanders an international animal-rights organization, it seems important that at least a few of the many available facts are shared:

        • “PETA Kills Animals” is a project of the Center for Consumer Freedom created to defile the reputation of animal-rights activists and promote misinformation about animal cruelty.

        • Tuesday June 21, 2011, 2:03 pm
        This campaign is the work of the deceitfully named Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF), a front group for Philip Morris, Outback Steakhouse, KFC, cattle ranchers, and other animal exploiters who kill millions of animals every year—not out of compassion but out of greed. These companies are worried about the strides that PETA is making that are changing their industries and compelling them to take animal welfare concerns seriously, so they hope to scare people away from caring about animals by spending millions on ads like this. To learn more about CCF—whose website USA Today said should be renamed “FatforProfit.com”—please see the following websites:
        · http://www.ConsumerDeception.com
        · http://www.citizensforethics.org/legal-filings/entry/irs-complaint-against-center-for-consumer-freedom-tax-exempt
        · http://www.prospect.org/cs/articles?articleId=8984


        • Sourcewatch.com
        PetaKillsAnimals.com was created in July of 2004 by the Center for Consumer Freedom (CCF). According to its website, they also “stand up to the food police, environmental scaremongers, neo-prohibitionists, meddling bureaucrats, and other self-anointed saints who claim to know what’s best for you”. They even feature a “Daily Headlines” service which provides “valuable information” about “these activists, and analysis of their activities.” They “welcome your support” and “financial contribution”.[1]

        CCF is an industry-funded organization and front group for the restaurant, alcohol, tobacco and other industries. It is registered as a tax-exempt, non-profit organization under the IRS code 501(c)(3). Over 40% of the group’s 2005 expenditure was paid to Rick Berman’s public relations company, Berman & Co. for “management services”. [2]

        • Meet Rick Berman, A.K.A. “Dr. Evil”

        Berman and his staff of young crusaders attack the nanny culture by combing through watchdog and government reports, seeking inconsistencies, overstatements, seizing on the one fact here or there that might discredit the research. And Berman says he’s rarely disappointed.

        He blasts MADD for no longer being run by mothers, and PETA, who he accused of killing animals in its care. And he questions the danger of mercury in tuna; he says it’s massively over-hyped.

    5. What a great post – very calm and organized. I love dogs so that would be tricky for me!

      You hit the nail on the head about defining the term “puppy mill”. Is it based solely on the way they’re treated or the number of dogs involved? Is it possible to have MANY dogs, and still be humane, clean, and properly run? I think the other obstacle is defining the term “cruel” or “inhumane” – it won’t be the same definition for everyone. I don’t condone shooting a suffering animal, but I can UNDERSTAND it, and can see the opposite side of someone thinking they’re helping. I know especially in rural areas, that’s just the way it’s done – Amish or not, and whether you think it’s cruel or not.

      It’s such an involved topic and because “pets” are involved, it IS emotional for most. Whether the owners consider them livestock or not, they know they’re being bred to be pets. It’s feigned ignorance that’s a problem. Thanks for the post – that’s a tough one.

    6. Tom interesting idea, I guess the only thing I could say is to be careful what you wish for! Though by the tone of your comment I am kind of guessing you’re probably not wishing for that kind of solution here. Due to the animal welfare concerns above all I suppose government by default has to have a regulatory role here, but I guess that’s something to delineate with care.

    7. How do dogs develop with little human contact?

      Hey a sincere thanks for your comments Beth, and good points. I have to admit that even not being a dog owner that I am quite partial to them too. And I see by your blog you are really someone that likes dogs! More credit to you for being able to take a detached look at the issue.

      Maybe you could offer insight on the question i suggested, because I am actually curious and admittedly ignorant–can dogs develop properly–if that’s the best way to describe it–lacking human contact, or with minimal amounts of it? I guess strays who grow up without that would be intuitively more on the wild side, but I wonder if there is any empirical info on this question. Anyway, just a thought.

    8. Hi Erik – My expertise about dog behavior is limited to watching “The Dog Whisperer” (ha ha) so you raise a great question about just how much human contact is necessary for a dog to develop properly. Probably for most fighting the “puppy mill” cause, that’s much lower on their priority list than than the dogs’ physical treatment. At least awareness has been made of the issue and people can begin to get educated if they so choose.

      My big surprise came when visiting Jamesport, MO at the number of Amish deer farms. The owner told me they are raised and sold to hunting lodges. They bottle feed the babies when they’re a few days old so they learn to not fear people. Now when I see a deer head on a wall I’m much less impressed. 🙂 In contrast to the dogs, those deer were treated beautifully. I personally think that’s awful, too, but I’m not a hunter. Soooo many ways to look at things, huh? Love your writing and I still love the Amish. Ever been to Jamesport?

    9. Or … alternatively to having Gov’t run/approved/semi-owned pet stores (as Tom K. suggested in such a clever tongue in cheek fashion) why don’t we just TAX everyone involved out of existence? If we happen to crush a few people that are not actually puppy-millers, oh well, that is the price they will just have to pay so we can feel good about ourselves!

      In a more realistic vein, I do understand the emotional side of this issue. I have posted on other sites in the past that are animal related, and it is amazing how different people can take the same information and come up with such completely different conclusions. It is also amazing to me how some people can be so darned sure that they have all of the answers, in fact THE ONLY answers to so many issues (and EVERYONE ELSE IS WRONG!).

      Soap box dismantled.

    10. Helen Parnell-Berry

      The problem I have with the whole issue is that the Amish always seem to be singled out on this subject. There are no Amish here in the UK but there are a lot of unscrupulous people about breeding dogs on a very large scale. We call them puppy farms here and the general public are discouraged from getting pets from them. The RSPCA (Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) frequently prosecute those found neglecting or being cruel to animals.
      Whatever the definition of a puppy mill is it makes no difference whether the owner is Amish or Baptist. Maybe it’s the press/media that need to get out of the habit of sticking “Amish” in the headline when it’s something negative to report.

    11. That’s a good comment by Helen. I think probably when the Amish are singled out it’s because of the perception that people have of them, and I think it just surprises many – there’s a shock factor involved and that sells. Likewise, a crime in suburbia will always take the headlines over a crime in the city. I have to agree though, and if it’s not relevant to the story, it shouldn’t matter who’s running them.

    12. Tom Kaminski

      Just to clarify my above post, I DO NOT want more government – in my life or in any ones elses life. Being a dog and cat owner myself, plus many fish, hamsters, rabbits, birds,etc. in the past that have come through this household, I detest cruelty to animals by people, be they Amish, Baptist, Catholic, Mormons, Jewish, etc. After all we are suppose to be the ‘Higher Intelligence’ around here.

      I do hope some good comes from this news report, but alas I don’t think any will, it was done for ratings and finding and showing ‘Bad’ Amish people always gos over well.

    13. Tom, good point–it is a great shock value story like Bethrusso points out, one that gets rolled out once or twice a year. It’s not exactly an independent in-depth investigation.

      And I certainly did not infer you wanted more government–by the tone I figured just the opposite!

    14. Helen, thanks for chiming in from the other side of the pond (even though technically I’m on your side of the pond as well!)–I’m always grateful to hear your UK perspective.

      And you’ve given us a new addition to the vernacular: ‘puppy farms’. Well, to be honest, that does sound a bit kinder and gentler, doesn’t it?? Maybe these breeders just need a bit of rebranding.

    15. Oldkat agreed on the emotional side. And even though I often raise the idea of an animal is an animal is an animal (ie as in opposition to human life), dogs really aren’t just another animal. They’re family members and best friends. So it’s hard for people to accept putting them in the same category as a cow.

    16. Dal90

      “Puppy mills,” to me, is raising companion animals in non-home environments were they are not well socialized with other dogs and most importantly people.

      I *do not* believe the livestock-like conditions of many “puppy mills” is inhumane. They are, however, not appropriate for animals meant as pets. Not for matters of cruelty, but for reasons that they are not as well adjusted for being with people.

      Not all dogs need to be treated as members of the family. Military dogs come to mind, as well as working animal guard dogs who will live with the flock they protect and need to be bonded better with them then with people.

    17. janegael

      We do think of the Amish as providing high quality products. The problem comes when they think of dogs as “live stock” which to them means a way of doing work or making money. I have seen Amish being horses with untreated broken legs to auction. They simply do not think about an animal’s pain and suffering because it is not taught in their culture to do so. An animal exists to make them a profit and it is pushed to its limit and then discarded.

      Since they do not believe that animals have “feelings” they maximize their profits at the expense of the animals, in this case dogs. Smaller cages means more animals housed. Poor quality food and no vet care means more profits. They simply don’t see dogs in the same light as most other Americans. Amish mills seem to have the worst conditions and when raided have dogs in absolutely horrible condition. They simply don’t see the mange, broken limbs, rotting teeth and disease — they just see something use to to make a profit. Education on propper housing and care might go a long way to giving the dogs better conditions to live in and, in the long run, better profits for the puppy breeders.

    18. Mr. X (AAP)


      what you are describing here also happens to human beings in corporate America

    19. Poisonokie

      OK – A friend sent me this, and I’m on the side of reasonable people, but I’m going to be a wise guy and say the obvious things, and that is, it is most likely that an Amish puppy Miller would, of course, have to be a Miller, and not a Yoder. I just wanted to clear that up ! Thank you all.

    20. elam zook

      I grew up Amish and most Amish I know do not treat their animals well. This article misses the point. Yes, it doesn’t matter whether the puppy mill is Amish or non-Amish but it does matter how the animals are treated and how the people who get them when they are mistreated struggle and suffer trying to heal an abused animal. I am sick of people’s fantasies about the happy peaceful Amish world. That is mostly a lie and you can live in denial if you want to and allow the abuse of women and children and animals in the Amish world to continue. Yes, it isn’t in every Amish family or church, I know that but it is way more common than you can imagine. Get real.

    21. Elena Racansky

      I am sorry, but why pick on the Amish? Only 20%?
      why don’t you take a closer look at those numbers.
      What we do know is that there are in excess of 10,000 puppy mills in the united states.
      The population of the united states is over 300million.
      The population of the Amish is about 230thousand.
      That means the Amish make up about .1 percent(not 10, not 1, but point 1 percent) of the total population.
      There are 20% of these in Amish communities.
      If you break that down:
      300million(since it is over this in total we can use this number as non Amish people) have 8000(80%) which is 1 puppy mill per 37.500 non Amish people in the US.
      230,000 have 2000(20%) which is 1 puppy mill per 115 people who are Amish.
      Now that is quite a high concentration isn’t it?
      Don’t pick on the Amish. Well, with that sort of concentration, I don’t think it is picking on anyone, it is simply reporting the facts.
      Not to mention that in a large number of puppy mills, dogs are ‘debarked’ by shoving a steel pipe into their throat. I hardly think anyone can consider this ‘humane’ treatment.
      As to what is a puppy mill, I think that information is pretty easy to find. A mill is not based on numbers of dogs. It is the treatment and conditions. The dogs are kept with many in a single small cage. Never brushed, never cleaned. When the cages are to be cleaned they are typically grabbed by the scruff and picked up as a hose is used to clean out the cage. Fed very poor quality food. No regard for breeding standards, thus producing many puppies, a large percentage of which have degenerative eye conditions, cancers, heriditary disease. True quality breeders take care to select dogs to breed which are healthy and will not pass on avoidable illnesses to the puppies. Mills do not do this. The object is quantity. Maximum profit, lowest cost.

    22. Greg Tebow

      I don’t know about that fancy math, the Amish are good people and their dog products are high quality. Dogs are put on this Earth to serve humans, so why not make as much money off them as possible?

      I agree with Erik, “I think I have to bow here to economic realities.”

    23. m.k. austin

      I am so impressed with all this “rational” posturing on both sides. For me it is a more visceral impulse..any one who abuses any animal is no better than michael vick! In my culture we think he got off easy! And, in one of my favorite fantasies, all those that have participated in ,and promoted ,this type of behavior(puppymills) to those creatures would end in the Christian Hell,having all that lovely gelt being shoved into every orifice and suffering the same tortures as they inflected on their animals. Or maybe,to paraphrase Jonathan Swift, communities could look into propagating more babies.As has been said ” Amish(Mennonite) products are high quality..” If the men used their daughters and took several wives, think of the babies they would have to sell to non-Amish buyers!Hmmm. At anywhere from 25k to 50k apiece they could easily make more than from the puppymills! Of course there is only one crop a year, but such high demand!

      1. Sallie

        Babies, really?

        Actually, inner-breeding has weakened Amish human stock genetically to the point they have a much higher mortality rate than the general U.S. Population, or so I am told. I’ve often thought they needed to import infants into the community to add some variety to their DNA and fix that. It doesn’t make any sense to me that someone trying to maximize their profits would waste anything, though chicken farmers play a percent surviving game and still manage to come out ahead. Nearly 50 years ago, before most animal activists were even born, my mother was a hobby breeder producing perhaps 10 puppies of carefully planned, protected, and pampered puppies a year. They either became part of her small elite breeding and showing program or were sold for show, breeding to other hobbyists or as neutered pets. ALL pets went with a neutering contract, period. She received a lot of persecution from puppy mills in the area as they were made to look bad in front of would be customers, but puppy mills weren’t the same back then. A puppy mill back in the day, was someone that owned perhaps 30-50 dogs of several breeds. They invented “designer breeds” by accident which in reality are mongrels and a scam. They didn’t abuse their animals, exactly, which were sometimes treated as pets, but they didn’t enrich the females’ diets for breeding and whelping, they didn’t always go to the vet if their females had birthing problems and they were dishonest (as were pet shops) with registration papers, shots and such. It was a way to supplement their income. They did not keep them for the love of dogs and the breed. If you want a mongrel, that’s great! They make great pets. Go to the pound. They need homes and love, too. If you want a purebred animal, don’t apologize. Go to a hobby breeder so you are better assured that you are getting what you pay for. Again, designer breeds are the same thing you get at the pound only for an obscene price, much more even than an honest hobby breeder charges for a purebred. Because of people like my mom and me, you never see a pack of dogs anymore in my town. If fact, I can’t remember the last stray dog I saw. Even so, occasionally, even now (been out of dogs many years now) I get attacked by ignorant people that act like it’s a personal insult for someone to want to even own a purebred; as if it’s a value judgment on their personal family tree. Crazy! I made a speech supporting the spaying and neutering of pets back in the late 60’s and was verbally attacked and asked if I planned to neuter my future husband as well. Priceless. Anyway, all the farmers I know take great care of their animals. Their animals are not pets but they don’t abuse them, so I suspect that most of this is hype blown up by people who have had trouble selling their own puppies, are jealous of anyone making money, hate farmers in general like PETA and HSUS, or are just plain ignorant (no pun intented). Evil happens and as time goes by people just get better at it and go larger. A dog is such a noble beast. A wonderful friend and companion. It thrives on human love and is truly a gift from God. A least we don’t eat them like they do in the orient.

    24. Sonya

      Erik, I know it’s been over a year since this article was published. I ran across it doing a search on Amish Puppy Mills due to a recent Puppy Mill Auction in Mexico, Missouri, where some of my friends involved in rescue went to try to remove some of the dogs from future breeding. I don’t know if you will receive a notification of this comment, but I thought it was important to point out some things about the socialization of dogs as they prepare to become human companions. It is one thing if you have farm dogs that have regular but relatively limited human contact. I am not one of those people that has a problem with outdoor “working dogs”. I grew up with farm folk and if your dog has adequate food, water, shelter, exercise, annual immunizations and proper grooming (long-haired dogs, especially) and gets some positive human attention a couple times a week, the dog is probably fine. However, if you are a breeder and you are preparing dogs for a home environment where you do not know under what conditions any given dog will be kept, you should really assume that the dog will be an indoor family pet and should be raised with a lot of regular and positive human contact and in a fairly calm and pleasant environment. The problem isn’t always that large-scale breeders intentionally mistreat their dogs, but that often breeders don’t have any understanding of dog psychology. We have spent thousands of years creating these animals to be as much like people as possible. Obviously, they are still not people, but they are highly emotional animals (a trait they share with their human owners). They are acutely susceptible to stress within their environment and develop neuroses if they do not receive adequate exercise. The puppies – if removed at 8 weeks to be sold – may or may not develop any psychological problems due to their first 2 months of life being lived in confinement. That’s probably not a terribly big deal as long as they are kept clean, well-fed, with the mother, and in a location where there is no stress (like other dogs barking constantly around them). And some dogs have better temperaments than others and are more resilient in a stressful environment. Others are less so. For example, I have taken in some young feral dogs before and they are very difficult to socialize into a family environment. It can be done, but it takes a great deal of effort. Effort that people who pay $500 or more for a dog do not want to put forth. Granted, a feral dog generally has the most amount of challenges, but dogs raised in high-stress environments develop equally severe issues, generally psychotic-type behaviors, anxiety (which can result in fear biting), and OCD issues like obsessive pacing, licking, etc. It’s common to see the same issues in puppy mill dogs that you see in dogs that have spent several weeks in a municipal shelter environment. It doesn’t take long for that stress to actualize in their behavior. In the end, with puppy mills, it really ends up being the breeding dogs that suffer the most in that environment as they are there for the longest period of time. As far as buyers go, many are uneducated as to what to expect from a puppy they purchase at a pet store or from a breeder. I have seen a lot of people think their dog is “high-quality” because they paid $2,000 for it, when in reality the dog is not anywhere near breed standard and ends up with congenital health problems because of inattention to the genetic history of the parents. There’s really not sufficient educational resources or incentive for breeders to pursue them, in addition to lax enforcement of current legislation on animal welfare. The problem also isn’t just with puppy mills – this is just where you can easily target the most dogs in one go. Obviously there are tons of hobby breeders that are just regular folk that have two dogs they love and would like to have them make some puppies. People usually do this because they love their dogs and would like more just like them. The problem with this is that these people don’t know anything about animal husbandry most of the time and have not given much thought to what would happen if their dog had a large litter and three of the dogs had serious health problems. These dogs often end up in shelters and are a cost to municipalities to care for and adopt out, or potentially euthanize. The argument from economics is one that doesn’t often take the entirety of the economic impact into consideration. Consider the cost in municipal shelters, the cost to rescue groups who attempt to save the dogs from shelters, the cost to buyers who end up with dogs with unexpected health concerns, or the cost in human health care expenses when a dog who has not been properly socialized and has been raised in a high-stress environment, bites a person or costs the family thousands in behavioral modification training. Obviously this can happen with ANY dog, and I tell people who are getting ready to adopt a dog – no matter where they are getting it from (breeder, shelter, pet store, rescue group) to be prepared for any possible health or behavioral issue. But MOST people who buy from a breeder or pet store make the assumption that these dogs are inherently more perfect than other dogs, that they are somehow guaranteed against defects. This is simply not the case. Owning a companion animal with the capacity to cause severe damage to humans (even a chihuahua can take a chunk out of your face) is a big responsibility and the onus is on both breeders (to provide as well-tempered and healthy a dog as possible) and on the “end consumer” to properly train and care for their pets. It’s not simply about what a dog needs for IT to be happy and physically healthy, but it is also a public safety issue. There is really no other companion animal that, if improperly cared-for, can cause as much damage to humans. So…that’s my argument for the importance of dog socialization, adequate care, and attention to conscientious and educated breeding. I do not consider myself an “activist” per say, as that term usually carries partisan meaning with it that I would not apply to myself. However, I believe in the importance of educating people to better care for themselves, others, and for the animals we choose to live with. What is it Benjamin Franklin said…? An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. I think that’s probably true.

      1. Sallie

        Sonya, great post; but your definition of hobby breeder is entirely incorrect. What you have described is a pet owner who decides to breed their dogs. They are in the same category as people who breed their pet thinking it is necessary for the animal to mature or it’s a good way to teach their children about the bird and bees. These are generally irresponsible pet owners. A hobby breeder is an animal lover, part artist but mostly scientist. They are well studied and well understand not only the physical needs of their animals, but also their psychological and social needs. Their aim is the carefully planned creation of a well adjusted, healthy in every way, beautiful animal that reflects it’s thousand year heritage and is a joy to own and share with others of like mind.

    25. Sonya, thank you for probably one of the most thoughtful and informed comments on this issue. I am mentally contrasting yours with one received a few days ago that was a lot more emotional, and frankly, hate-filled toward the Amish as a group. Those are, unfortunately, more common than the kind you’ve shared here.

      You raise many good points here, especially from the public health and also economic standpoints. The socialization component is clearly important when it comes to an animal that is in such close contact with humans.

    26. Valerie Denaro Cully

      I want to also thank Elam Zook for coming clean about the other dirty little secrets of the Amish. he has first hand knowledge that there is also widespread abuse of women and children. We should not forget that there is an astounding correlation between those who abuse animals and thsoe who commit just about all other types of crime,both violent and even non-violent. It’s all connected people, please take your heads out of the sand. We often need gov’t to step in because even today people can be so savage that they cannot refrain from hurting others and commiting crimes. if I had my way there would be no pet-shops and nobody breeding dogs at all until there is no longer a need for millions of healthy dogs to be killed after suffering needlessly at the hands of barbaric humans.Even everyday people who mean well should not be breeding.Please spay and neuter, and never,ever buy a dog from anyone. I volunteer at a shelter and come from a long line of sensitive caring people.I’m thankful that they’re are many of us these days rexuing and caring about animals. I think that speaks volumes about the character of a person,it’s how they treat even God’s smallest creatures,they are amazing gifts from God and should be cherished as such.

    27. KC


      Erik, I know I am a tad late the the party, but I just had to say thank you for being well minded when it comes to the discussion of animal welfare/rights. I am a meat eating, leather wearing, chin scratch & treat dispensing fan of all animals & I take issue with those who do all sorts of horrible things to others in the name of “animal rights.” People are having their homes & livelihoods destroyed, & there have even been murders done in the name of “animal rights” & the 2 worst offenders who support the terrorist group of ALF (animal liberation front) are PeTA & the HSUS. There are no mock funerals given for the thousands of aborted children, no tears are shed for the lives taken by the most violent of means & celebrities are falling over each other to give more $$$ to PeTA to KILL happy, healthy animals & to support terrorist actions by their chums in the A.L.F. & I am baffled by this. I love all animals, even the tasty ones, & always give thanks for the nourishment they provide my family & I as well as the many pets we share our home & lives with. I find it funny that people equate the Amish with all sorts of horrors & abuse, yet rarely look within their own communities to root out the abuse there. While there have been several cases of “Amish puppy mills,” I wish to point out that the over-breeding of “pure bred” dogs & cats has been known to have proliferated in the “secular” populations. I have noticed that in more recent years that there are more folks who rave about Christians & the various sects contained within Christianity without having facts to back up their hatred & poorly made judgments & from what I can tell, the mainstream media does nothing to stem this tide. The Amish & Mennonite community are made up of people! They may live in manners we feel “outdated” & “strange,” but they are people who love, laugh, cry, do what they can to provide a good home for their families & deserve to be treated as nothing more or less than other human beings. I cannot fathom how it is that there are those who proclaim themselves better for not eating animals but murder/support the murder of a research doctor. I’ve met more kindly Amish than I can count & was even helped by a man driving a horse & buggy when I couldn’t change my flat tire while there were cars with various Vegan sloganeering stickers that simply whizzed right on by. It was a sad way to learn a lesson, but it was a lesson none-the-less. Animal abuse is not just an Amish thing & puppy mills will always exist as long as there are people who believe that paying large sums of money for a “pure bred” pet makes them “better” than others. Sorry to have prattled on but when you whipped out that petakillsanimals.com link, my heart jumped for joy. Thanks for your awesome input & views.

    28. Backtalker


      Are you suggesting that .08% of the US population (265,000± amish/300,000,000± US citizens) is responsible for 20% of the puppy mills. Think about that on a proportional basis. It’s astounding.

      There’s nothing which prevents breeders from providing animals with clean living environments, proper veterinary care, access to fresh water, and exercise… except greed.

      1. Really

        Sure, Backtalker, the Amish are responsible for a higher % of dog breeding facilities than the population of average Americans, or rural Americans, or to draw the circle tighter, rural religious small-farming Americans. The high concentration makes them easier to go after on this issue, one of a number of reasons they have been (also including an unwillingness to respond to blanket public criticism).

        I don’t know anyone who’d defend what you describe (though I realize that’s kind of like saying, “hey, I’m against Nazis too”). You say it all comes down to “greed”. I think that’s a bit simplistic, other reasons include a different perception of animals as well as, I’d imagine, sheer cruelty in some cases.

        But not all Amish and Mennonites are running the canine concentration camps you describe, probably relatively few in fact–the ones we hear about in the big news stories.

        A lot of this discussion hinges on what the proper way to raise an animal is. There will be a lot of opinion on that. I would say that dogs typically need to be raised in different ways than your average farm animal. And though Amish keep dogs as pets, and treat their pet dogs the same way most other rural families would, they don’t always view the dogs they raise in the same way.

        I’ve mainly encountered Amish dog breeders in passing, but for me probably the biggest issue is keeping dogs in small cages, which I’ve seen a fair bit of.

    29. Sam

      Amish Mills reeponse

      Unless any of you commenting on here have actually experienced a puppy mill first hand (it would seem none/few of you have) then you have no right to comment on the rights and wrongs of them. And as for all of you sticking up for the Amish, maybe you should take a look at some of their puppy mills and then comment. They tend to be the worse of the worse and that is saying something. A quick google will show the issues and problems prevalent in the Amish mills and the many citations they have received. Whether you are a “dog person” or not, I cannnot understand how you can fail to be moved by the plight of domestic animals confined to tiny cages and bred to death in unsanitary conditions.
      To waste time bickering over what constitutes a mill and what doesn’t is pathetic and the misty eyed defence of the Amish as the poor picked on minority is pathetic. Just becasue they ride around in pony and traps and make nice furniture does not mean they are kind to animals. Oh do wake up you lot.

      1. Sam, I doubt many are “unmoved” by the plight of dogs suffering in cages. That’s kind of a straw man. I don’t know about “bickering” over what a puppy mill is or isn’t, but it can be helpful to define what we’re talking about. Otherwise legitimate breeders get thrown under the bus too in an emotional lashing out type of way. Also your first line about “you can’t comment unless you’ve seen it” is one of those non-arguments (“shutup, he explained”) that is basically designed to try to shut down any kind of discussion.

        I do not defend any kind of sub-par breeder; there have been some very bad ones. But also dogs will come from somewhere and so it’s worth discussing what we are talking about. This is a 3 year old post, and no one’s favorite topic. There’s a lot you can drag up on the topic, but I’ll just say as I have elsewhere that I don’t really think it’s the ideal occupation for Amish (I know Amish that don’t think that), and would also be helpful for Amish to look at those in their communities who are breeding and at the least encourage proper conditions with those who are not operating sanitary operations. I don’t know if it’s possible to run a large-scale breeding operation in a way that is best for a dog’s well-being (at this point color me skeptical), it may be that small scale is the only way to do it, assuming the market will accept higher-priced dogs.

    30. Sam

      I know this an old post – I found it whilst researching Amish communities in Iowa. However I felt compelled to comment because of the misinformation on here. Including from you (that old PETA story – really???!!! Why bring that up?). What I meant by my opening comments is that people really do not seem to understand how bad some of the mills are and until you have seen them for yourself it is hard to grasp. I myself never felt qualified to comment on them, especially not being mid-west American until I had seen a few in the flesh. I too am from “across the pond” as you put it but unfortunatelty now live in Iowa. I volunteered for the RSPCA in England and never saw anything as bad as what I have seen here with regards to the mills, and the fact that they are legal and licensed here just beggars belief.
      There is a big difference between mills and breeders – good breeders know the difference for sure and are clear to distance themselves from millers and do not support them. Animal welfare is important to them and the care of the dogs as important as the money they make. Millers in their hearts know they are not breeders – they are just out to make as much money as possible with very little regard for the animals welfare. The dogs are literally bred to death at which point they are disposed of.

      1. And I guess my point Sam is that experience is that anti-puppy mill folks seem to oversell their hand. It’s an emotional issue. The fact that puppy mills are horrible is not in dispute. You should see some of the nasty comments I’ve had to delete from people that have a real blanket prejudice against Amish, and use the puppy mill issue to unleash it. A different type of ugly than the puppy mills but ugly nonetheless.

        The PETA point was brought up in response to a commenter’s point about surplus animals. Don’t see why it is misinformation; PETA is seen as having the interests of animals at heart but the story seems to demonstrate the coldly pragmatic reality of what even PETA has to deal with. Again you didn’t explain or counter why it’s misinformation, you just asserted that it was. Also, not sure why age of the story has anything to do with it; if you follow the link, the latest headline is: “PETA Killed a Near Record-Breaking 95 Percent of Adoptable Dogs and Cats in its Care During 2011”.

        But yes that is a tangent. I would just say sell your point rather than try to shut discussion down; you’ll find more willing ears. I agree there are bad practices out there. Lance lived Amish and has a point about the general Amish perception of animals though I would hesitate to say that abuse is rampant (though I know that’s not what Lance is saying). However farm animals are not pets and an agricultural lifestyle, which most of us are 1, 2 or more generations removed from now, breeds a different mentality towards animals. That’s not a justification of puppy millers, just an observation.

    31. Lance


      If you are highly sensitive to animal treatment, do not watch this video, it is extremely hard to watch. Youtube age restricts this video for a reason.

      You have been warned.

      I was glad that no one in our community did this kind of thing although some raised dogs, just not in pens. We generally had no more than 2 female dogs at any household.

      Sam knows what he talking about. Amish treatment of any kind of animal can be extremely cold and the level of harshness is not limited to only ‘low’ or more conservative groups, it is symptomatic throughout the denomination’s many sects. This issue was a difficult one for me to accept and I am no tree hugger nor a PETA type.


      1. Lance

        Erik is correct. I was not trying to say that abuse is widespread nor universal. I have seen a few Amish lap dogs and I know Amish that had to get a non-relative to put down their aged dog, they loved it too much. I have never seen a dog be treated like a child but I have seen a english woman treat her dog MUCH better then she did her own son, even from the earliest days that I knew him. He is still psychologically effected by it too. Amish don’t get that priority out of order.

        I have seen harsh treatment of horses, but one has to remember that although tame, they are still animals and capable of killing people. I have been kicked by a horse in the leg. If I had been just a few inches farther away from the horse, its foot would have been at full speed and I would have had a broken femur or hip. It would have been many hours before anyone would have come looking for me. I got two large bruises and walked with a limp for about a week. Since then, I tend to come unglued if any horse threatens me. Kicks to the head, chest or vital areas are disabling or deadly. A horse must obey, or it has to go to the killers before it kills one of us. We don’t get that priority out of order either.

        I did threaten to stop being friends with a man who wanted to breed dogs in a kennel setting. He was a progressive Amish and I knew him well enough to know they were just a source of money, they would not be loved at all. Those dogs emotional needs would be ignored. He went ahead with it anyways without letting me know. To this day, it is not a good subject of discussion after the cold way he dumped them when he left the Amish.

        That said, there was no extensive petting of cats or dogs and none of for sale livestock. My community was a farm community as opposed to the shop/factory work places who have very different lifestyle patterns.