By Janet McAfee

The cute wide eyed puppy in the pet store window captures your heart, and your children beg to adopt her. The Pennsylvania website is a colorful, professional display showing various dogs frolicking in green fields, and when you call a friendly voice offers to transport a puppy by airline to anywhere in the country. They don’t ask anything about you, where the dog will stay, or if you have other pets. But it’s a friendly voice, and the dogs appear happy and adorable.

If you are a regular Pet Place column reader, you know we promote the adoption of rescue and shelter animals. What you may not know about is the nightmarish cruelty that exists in the world of commercial breeding at thousands of puppy mills across the United States. These large scale breeding facilities are often in secret locations where the public cannot see the squalid conditions and neglect the parent dogs suffer. Breeding dogs may spend years in tiny cages without experiencing the touch of a human hand, never even knowing the feel of the earth below their little paws. Sometimes the mama dogs lose their teeth from over-breeding.

Future columns will cover this complex issue and introduce you to some local dogs rescued from puppy mills. It is hoped that increased public awareness will bring better treatment for these loyal creatures that bring such love into our lives.

During this week of Christmas, I came across a letter to Santa “written” by Millie, a beautiful little dog rescued by the National Mill Dog Rescue ( Here are some excerpts from Millie’s letter:

Dear Santa,

I’m curled up on this great thing called a lap in a warm, happy place called home. As I snuggle under my pink Hello Kitty! Blanket, I can relax and watch the snow fall. For many years, I could only dream of a place like this. Just last Christmas, like so many Christmases before, I thought a place like this wasn’t real…at least not for me.

In my home, I have met the most loving people. I get food every day. I get treats. I get a lot of room to play. I have beds in several rooms. In fact, one of my favorite words is room because for the first time in my life I have lots and lots of room.

You know what Santa this snow stuff isn’t so bad after all. It’s much different now that I don’t live in a puppy mill. Until earlier this year, I had lived my whole life in a cage. I ate, drank, relieved myself, and had babies all in one tiny, little cage.

Although my cage was inside a building, there was no heat. In the winter, it was very cold. When it snowed, it was damp and even colder. It was so bad Santa that I kept warm by shivering because I had no blanket. Each year, I had lots and lots of puppies. But I never really got to know them. They quickly were packed up in crates and sent off to a place called a pet store.

After years of not having a name – just a number – my new mom named me Millie. I love having a name and I think it’s very pretty.

Since I’ve been rescued I found out that my new mom knows all about puppy mills and fights for other dogs like me – the mothers in the mills. Now that I have the one thing I wanted most for years – a home – I’d like one last wish Santa. I’d like to rescue more dogs from puppy mills so that they can live the good life too.