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Nightline looks at puppy mills tonight

ABC’s Nightline tackles puppy mills tonight in a report that will focus on Amish breeders in Pennsylvania’s Lancaster County. The show airs locally at 11:35 p.m.

ABC Correspondent Sharyn Alfonsi and investigators from Nightline visited numerous commercial breeding facilities in the area, and the report includes an on-camera interview with a Mennonite breeder who allowed a tour of his facility, which houses about 200 dogs. The breeder, identified only as Ezekiel, says his dogs are healthy and happy, and says he doesn’t operate a “puppy factory. He also goes on about how much “safer” it is for the dogs to run in caged treadmills as opposed to outdoors.

The report also documents the work of  Main Line Animal Rescue, whose founder, Bill Smith, says female dogs at the farms live their lives producing litter after litter, then are disposed of — sometimes euthanized, sometimes shot.

There are about 300 licensed breeders in Lancaster County, and rescue workers estimate another 600 unlicensed facilities operate in barns and sheds, according to the ABC report. Those breeders go to great measures to avoid discovery. Smith says some even “de-bark” their dogs.

“The farmers, the Amish and the Mennonites, they pull the heads back and then they hammer sharp instruments down their throats to scar their vocal cords so they can’t bark,” he said. “So that way they can have 500-600 dogs in a barn and no one knows. As we said, it’s an industry of secrecy.”

Breeders can make upwards of half million dollars a year. The Amish breeders sell the dogs at auctions and the puppies often end up at pet stores.

“People are deceived,” Smith said. “They’re nice enough and they put down their money and they walk away with a dog and they don’t realize that there are 500 dogs in a barn … suffering horribly. So it’s something that people have to be aware of. They have to know that going in. When they buy these dogs, they’re keeping that going.”

(Photos: Mary Hunt Davis/Main Line Animal Rescue)


Comment from Eighteenpaws
Time March 27, 2009 at 6:25 pm

Thanks for the heads-up on a program that I don’t regularly watch. I apologize in advance if this sounds offensive, but my life-long fantasy of the wonderfully full, uncomplicated Amish life was brutally crushed 5 years ago when I toured and “worked” for a day at a large Amish farm. As a vegetarian, it’s one thing to understand, albeit difficult, that animals are raised and killed for sustenance, but the manner in which those animals were housed (more like tightly “caged”) and force-fed was outright shocking. I politely asked but received no reasonable justification or response to what I perceived as overt mistreatment of animals and fowl. As for the dogs, the “pets” were strictly outdoors and ran unrestricted, or occasionally chained to a shed or dog house. And now I will learn about the penchant for puppy mills….UGH!

Comment from blessings2you
Time March 28, 2009 at 12:10 am

I just saw the program and am sickened to see what goes on in a community I drive though to go to a weekly car auction. I am thankful for the “heads up” so I may look a little deeper than just admiring the farms as I drive through. I hope to see something I may not have prior to the broadcast so I maybe I can alert MLAR, but at the least I will be more than happy to make a donation to help try to ease the burden and aid the wonderful work Main Line Animal Rescue workers/volunteers do. I just wish I lived closer so I could volunteer. God bless and keep up the wonderful work.

Comment from lisarea
Time March 28, 2009 at 12:10 pm

A little nitpick: Those dogs are not euthanized, no matter how the procedure is done. Euthanasia is a humane and merciful act–something that you do for an animal that is suffering and can no longer be helped.

When someone kills an animal because they’re done using it, it’s a convenience killing.

Comment from jbsibley
Time March 28, 2009 at 8:46 pm

I’ve posted a streaming video of the Nightline program at: