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The Amish:

Part 1:
Allegations of animal neglect in Amish puppy mills

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"A righteous man regardeth the life of his beast: but the tender mercies of the wicked are cruel." Proverbs 12:10. the Hebrew Scriptures, King James Version.

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"Puppy mill" is derogatory term that has been defined as:

"an establishment that breeds puppies for sale, typically on an intensive basis and in conditions regarded as inhumane."

A visitor to this web site warned us about animal abuse among Amish in the form of puppy mills. We were previously unaware of the problem and were surprised to find that a Google search with the search string Amish puppy mills returned over 7,000 hits in 2007 and 43,400 hits in 2015.

In some areas of the U.S. where Amish have settled, there is a high concentration of "puppy mills." The Pennsylvania Bureau of Dog Law Enforcement lists 243 kennels in Lancaster County. PA. 1 Holmes County, OH, has 470 kennels -- more than any other county in the nation. 2

We scanned the Internet and turned a number of following reports. It is apparent that animal abuse in puppy mills has been unchecked for at least two decades:

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1996: New York Post article on puppy mills in Amish country:

Laura Italiano reported:

"Inside the picturesque barns and wooden fences of Amish country, pedigree puppies are bred by the tens of thousands, many living in a hellish world of filthy, crowded cages. They are 'puppy mill' puppies, and they bring in $4 million a year for the 100 Amish and Mennonite farmers who supply boutique dog-shop markets, including at least two New York dealers, the ASPCA says. 'It's not just some cottage industry by people who sell bread-and-butter pickles by the roadside,' said Roger Caras, ASPCA executive director. The farmers sell 20,000 puppies a year to wholesalers for an average $223 a pup, government records show. And it's making some of these quaint farmers quite rich. U.S. Department of Agriculture documents show that one farmer in the town of Blue Ball sold 1,293 puppies last year for an estimated $290,000 though federal inspectors have cited his farm for numerous violations since 1992 including overcrowded cages and inadequate sanitation, pest control, feeding and watering of animals. 'Then these sickly, genetic nightmares are delivered to the upscale pet shops,' Caras said. 'They given them a bath and blow dry them and fluff them up and pray they don't die before they're sold,' for $1,000 or more each."

"Separate investigations by the ASPCA and The Post found the deplorable conditions of puppy mills hidden away in picture-postcard Pennsylvania Dutch country, the fastest growing puppy-breeding region in the eastern United States. Inside one dark, fetid metal shed inspected by The Post last week, About 40 puppies—German shepherds, dobermans and shitzus among them—were locked in threes and fours in cages a single dog would find cramped. Many were unresponsive to a visitor's presence and voice. Most had coats matted with feces. There was no apparent escape from the shed's darkness and stench." 3

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2005: Letter to the Intelligencer newspaper in Intercourse, PA:

Arleen Rooney visited Lancaster County, PA, -- often called Amish country -- and was appalled by the conditions at an Amish-run puppy breeding kennels. She suggests that there are hundreds of Amish "puppy mills" operating legally and illegally in the area. She described one mill that she visited in a letter to the editor. She wrote, in part:

"I visited one commercial kennel in Ronks that had over 20 breeds housed in an old dilapidated barn. The puppy I saw as a potential buyer was filthy, had evidence of eye infection at only eight weeks of age and lacked any puppy animation whatsoever. The breeding dog, namely the bitches, are bred twice a year and all breeding and sales stock are forced to spend day in and day out on wire cage bottoms with little or no water."

"I saw evidence at two Amish run kennels where I could see the breeding stock as well as the puppies on a 95 degree day that none of the dogs had water and two that did had about one inch of dirty water in a green slime plastic container."

"There is little or no ventilation, exercise, medical or grooming attention. Long haired breeds such as Shih Tzus, Maltese, Lahsa Apso and Pekingese are never groomed and their hair coats become matted with feces and urine and they are subject to terrible eye infections." 4

The letter was apparently never published.

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2006: A WTAE-TV Investigative report:

WTAE in Pittsburgh, PA, broadcasted an investigative report on puppy mills on 2006-MAY-04. 5 Reporter Sheldon Ingram wrote, in part:

"For those who have never heard of a puppy mill, it's equivalent to solitary confinement for young dogs, with substandard conditions. As a result, some of the dogs that emerge from puppy mills look either malnourished or in overall bad health. Channel 4 Action News went undercover to investigate dogs pulled from puppy mills.

Fed and bred. That's it. No walks. No interaction with humans. That means the dogs eat and relieve themselves in the same 2-by-2-foot cage for about eight years until their breeding days are done. ...

U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum, (R-PA), introduced legislation to crack down on puppy mills and has fought for changes for 10 years. He said:

"People who are breeding large quantities of dogs now but selling them directly have an exemption under the Animal Welfare Act. 6 And that has to change. Unfortunately, a lot of folks -- including the ones you've been investigating -- are exempted under the law."

"Many animal rescuers said dogs coming from puppy mills end up in common pet stores. So when purchasing a dog from a pet store, ask about its history."

Santorum and animal rescuers said an overwhelming number of puppy mill operators are Amish. Why the Amish? Why is it so prevalent in their community?" Ingram asked. I don't know. Maybe it's a different mindset in regards to animals," Santorum said.

Channel 4 Action News tried to ask some Amish breeders, but they wouldn't respond.

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Undated: Trial of an Amish man for operating a "factory for dogs:"

Aaron Lapp in Washington County, PA, was sentenced to 145 days in prison and over $4,500 in restitution and fines for operating what country Judge Nancy L. Butts called "a factory for dogs." According to the New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse:

"Nine dogs in need of 'immediate care' were taken into SPCA custody as a result of the search, humane society officer Lawrence Woltz said. Some were matted with dried feces and urine while others had rashes and skin diseases, he said. Woltz showed a video recording of the farm taken on the day of the search. It showed dogs living in cramped wire cages, kennels overflowing with feces, urine and matted hair and drinking water that was bright green in color."

"Most of the cages did not have boards for the dogs to rest their feet from the wire and some dogs were chained outside with no shade, he said. 'Itís pretty clear what youíre operating is a factory ó for dogs,' Butts told Lapp as she pronounced sentence. 'If you need to grow something to sell it, donít grow animals, grow vegetables'. ... Woltz said that the 'stench was overwhelming' and the cages were 'overflowing' with feces and urine."

The final witness for the prosecution was Bernadette Miller, a woman who adopted one of the Yorkshire terriers taken from Lappís farm by the SPCA. 'It was traumatized. It was shaking, very scared. It was an empty shell. It had no personality,' she said of the dogís disposition when she first brought it home. 'Itís a work in progress.'  Miller said the dog had to learn how to run, jump and play because it was never exposed to those activities before. She said that she had to take the animal to the veterinarian many times for treatment of its constant vomiting and diarrhea." 7

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This topic continues in Part 2.

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References used:

The following information sources were used to prepare and update the above essay. The hyperlinks are not necessarily still active today.

  1. Sheldon Ingram, "Action News Extra: Puppy Mills Investigated," 2006-MAY-04, at:
  2. "Animal Welfare Act and Regulations," Animal Welfare Information Center, United States Department of Agriculture, Agricultural Research Service, at:
  3. Laura Italiano, "$ 4.4 M puppy mill scandal," The New York Post, 1996-SEP-22, at:
  4. Brian Murray, "Puppy farms under fire," The Seattle Times, 2005-NOV-27, at:
  5. Arleen Rooney, "The tragedy of Amish puppy mills: Second letter to the Editor of the Intelligencer Newspaper," PixieDust, at:
  6. "Amish man sentenced to prison for operating dog 'factory'," The Williamsport Sun-Gazette, 2006-JAN-24, at:
  7. "The plain truth: Pennsylvania, Amish and Mennonite puppy mills," New Jersey Consumers Against Pet Shop Abuse, at: (no longer online)

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Copyright © 2007 to 2015 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance
First published: 2007-FEB-21
Latest update: 2015-NOV-03
Author: B.A. Robinson

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