The Amish and Animal Cruelty: An Unexpected Mix

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The Unfortunate Truth

Born of conservative Anabaptist roots, The Amish are known for simplicity, pacifism and integrity in the face of persecution. Their Christlike forgiveness, extended even to those who murder their children (1), are widely publicized and lauded. Embodying a nostalgic type of serenity, how can one not be inspired by a life so antithetical to our increasingly vapid preoccupations and existential crises? It’s like a vacation for our collective neuroses, if only for a few moments while we immerse ourselves in a daydream. But daydreams are not reality, and utopias are a fantasy–especially for the animals.

Imagine a life without sunlight behind the bars that confine you. Your eyes are so thickened with pus from untreated infection that you can only strain to see out from them. You have wounds, pain, and unquenched needs that have never been met. Maybe your teeth have rotted and your fur has thinned from self-injury and starvation. Your compatriots are surrounded by parasitic insects, and the unquenchable itching says maybe you are, too. The moody bipedal creatures run, wrestle, and somersault through the soft grasses for which you can only yearn in mourning. Maybe you’re lucky because there’s a hamster-like wheel you can walk on for exercise, though you have to compete with hundreds of others trapped in their own filth just like you to get to it. It is so unbelievably miserable that you start pacing, or contorting yourself around and over again in lieu of enough room to do much else. Your yelps of unquenched thirst and desperation are met with nothing, but you keep trying anyway. Or maybe you are not even heard at all, because you voice was silenced by painful instruments in a surgical procedure you cannot comprehend (2). This is your life for what seems like eons, interspersed with painful pregnancies and babies for whom you cannot mother, yielding more painful infections, like mastitis in your breasts. But, honestly? The worst part is the enduring loneliness you’ve never not suffered.

And finally, one of those strange-yet-alluring bipeds come to take you somewhere. You have never been anywhere but here! You are overtaken by a mixture of fear and unprecedented excitement! You bark soundlessly in celebration! After your arduous trip you arrive in a dingy, foreboding building of unfamiliar sounds and overlapping voices, thunderous and unbearable. You shake, almost numb, overtaken by terror. One of the bipeds puts his hand in your cage, whisks you out, and holds you up high in the air. More noise erupts at a deafening force. Before you know it, you are back in the cage. Someone picks it up, you are moving, but where will you go?


This brief narrative provides an outline of practices in puppy mills throughout the country. In particular we examine the standards found in those run by our Amish neighbors, many right here in 

South Central Pennsylvania. Puppy mills house dogs and puppies in extremely unnatural conditions, depriving them of exercise, sunlight, necessary nutrition, and even basic grooming. Their paws are injured on wire cages. Females are forced into continuous pregnancy until their bodies can no longer support it, at which point they are typically killed. Inbreeding precipitates a plethora of health calamities and newborn puppies are separated from their mothers prematurely to be sold (3). Debarking is sometimes done to prevent detection in unlicensed Amish breeding mills, which are thought to make up much of the estimated six-hundred in Lancaster County alone. One Amish puppy breeder who was interviewed anonymously by a local rescue compared the lives of puppy mill dogs to those of livestock, stating: “I would encourage people adopt… Eight million dogs are euthanized; 8 million pets are euthanized every year in this country and yet they breed 8 million dogs” (3). Puppy mill dogs often wind up in auctions, where they are tossed around like inanimate objects, frequently injured and always terrified (4). Pet stores are their usual destination, either during auctions or directly from the breeder, where they are bought by usually well-meaning but naive families who do not know the genetic defects and behavioral problems likely to emerge from their abusive origins. 

What Can I do?

With that glum picture fresh in our mind, you probably want to know what you can do to stop puppy mills, or at least not contribute. Remember the most important thing you can do as an individual is to follow a basic principle of economics: by diminishing the demand you are not reinforcing the supply. Since most of these puppies wind up in pet stores, do not purchase your new furry friend from one. There are numerous warning signs to watch out for with breeders, such as an unvaccinated puppy, multiple litters at one time, and an out-of-state facility. More indicators can be found here (5). Additionally, the ASPCA has a website (6) with a search engine containing pictures and information on pet breeding operations across the country dedicated to this cause. We do encourage you to consider adopting instead, which will give you peace of mind knowing you did not subsidize an unethical operation. Please consider fostering, donating towards, and adopting from a local animal shelter or rescue instead. By doing so you are saving both the life of your dog and the next one who gets his spot. The shelter will also medically and behaviorally clear the dog before adoption at a price dwarfed by a reputable breeder. If you have your heart set on a particular breed, remember that 25% of rescue dogs are purebred (7) and there are many rescue organizations centered on specific breeds. is an excellent resource to begin and refine your search.

If you do find suspicious activity in a breeding facility and want to take action here are a few ways you can help:

1. Write to your state and federal legislators, “tell them you are disturbed by the unethical breeding practices and inhumane treatment of dogs kept in puppy mills. Use your position as a voter to insist on legislation that ensures that dogs – and all animals – be born and raised in healthy environments” (8).

Support legislation that demands accountability of dog breeding operations.

2. Support and contact organizations that seek to protect the lives of dogs and other animals such as (8):
American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) –
Animal Welfare Institute –
Animal Defense Fund –

3. Be a positive influence. Tell your friends and family to adopt their pets instead of buying, and if they do buy from a breeder to be vigilant in their selection process.




I would like to know who I can report Amish dogs living in small cages off the ground in Intercourse. Also puppy mills/kennels near or in the same town. I was helping out a humane officer but it seems her hands are tied. These dogs suffered during the Summer and will suffer still with Winter coming in soon. If you can help I can give you addresses. Thanks.

Adrienne Williams

So terribly devastating and completely unnecessary to have dogs in small cages outside all day, everyday 🙁 The best people to alert are local rescues or the Humane Society of the U.S.

Judy Pitoniak

Contact as many rescue organizations as you can. Also, write your local Mayor, State Senators, Governor, State Attorney General! If we stay silent, this disgusting behavior will continue.

Kim Womack

I live in PA. Call or email
+1 (717) 609-6020
This is a great rescue and they rescued LIBRE. THE LITTLE DOG THATS SPURRED

Jennie Robbins

Don’t stop trying to get help for these babies.


Unfortunately, local rescue groups and HSUS have no law enforcement authority. You have to report to law enforcement and hope they will take action. Contact your state’s department of agriculture, local police, and (if it’s a large breeding facility) the US Department of Agriculture.


Get ahold of ASPCA or a local agency! Please don’t ignore. Thank you for caring Because I would love to beat the hell out of everyone of them! I thought they were decent God fearing people but I guess not!

Angela bryan

Its hard to put oressure on tbese thibgs and places as long as bo one expises when and where they are if the public knew where there are maybe enough of public will. Force it to become a thing of the past its all about expising them and thier mills and dates and times of these auctions

Frances Campbell

This has been happening for over 20 years now with the Amish leading the pack in puppy mills. There is no reason it hasn’t been stopped to date. Let’s also not forget how they treat their horses. They are horrible where animal care is concerned and our government should have put a stop to it decades back.

Lorie Reichl

Lancaster knows what these criminals are doing Lancaster politicians… police must be paid off.., how else can they get away with this! They beat a horse to death.. on video by a tourist and police and judges did nothing! Pa has a new law and Lancaster doesn’t enforce… the Amish are greedy and heartless… religious.,,, what kind of religion accept abusers and murder


I had to bust a puppy mill here by me last fall the best source is going through the department of agriculture in that state because they also have to be licensed since they’re selling them as livestock they will be investigated and if they’re not licensed especially if they’re making so much money off of them they will get closed down and fined that’s what I did on top of contacting the humane society… And several online dog rescues with Cross posting friends that would contact them non-stop till something was done

Lore Watson

Why is this allowed to keep on and on?why can’t the States in which these Puppy Mills are LOCATED shut them down, why do these innocent Animals have to suffer, we hate China for their Animal Cruelty but the USA is No better in fact even worse,


Frances, contact your local dog warden, animal shelter or humane society, then cross your fingers. The laws in your area, my be lacking and prevent anything from actually changing

Melodie Dearolf

I live near here can you give me the location? I’d be more than happy to look into. It won’t be the first time I reported some one.

Mary Paglianite

What we can all do is continue to educate the public of the intense cruelty their purchase of these puppies perpetuates

Kathy Hyland

I have a puppy mill breader. She came to me scared and skittish. She does not bark, won’t walk on the grass and all but two teeth are gone. Its going on 3 years and she is a happy spoiled girl. Ruby goes to work with me everyday and our residents love her but it took a year of love and patience to get her to trust me. These are awful people and I would not purchase even a vegetable from them.

Shirley Sowden

Call your local humane officer! In Lancaster County they are over run with puppy mills.


For us here it’s animal control that enforces animal cruelty and so do our police. They work together. If you make local calls they should put you in the right direction. Also someone mentioned Peta also. I would call them too. Thank you!

Sinead ni chonarain

Sick of idiots like these money hungry assholes. Animal abusers.

Rita McKay

These people are sickening. They claim to be so Christian, but these abuse dogs and other animals. They are cruel, primitive, crude people that hide behind the guise of religion!! My husband and I rescued a sweet little dog that had been part of a puppy mill. When she was rescued her hair was so matted, the rescuers couldn’t tell if she was make or female! At first her food aggression was scary. She has been with us for over five years now. There is no more food aggression, and she is treated like a queen. If we hadn’t rescued her, I’m sure she would be dead by now the minute she couldn’t produce any more puppies. Love you our Bailey, and all these precious animals that endure such pain and suffering!

Cheryl Riebe

Why can these Amish get away with that? All puppy mills need to end! ??

Mary Paglianite

As long as our friends and neighbors continue to buy puppies…
1) in pet stores
2) in Lancaster or
3) on line….
This travesty will continue
And don’t kid yourself…
Our friends, neighbors and family DO buy puppies from these sources…

Charlotte Gates

I am looking for a Chihuahua puppy to adopt do they have any I think it’s terrible that they have a bunch of dogs like that

Joanne Hanlon

i boycott all Amish goods and tourism and i encourage others to do the same. send the message by hitting them in their pocketbooks until they are stopped. and for godsakes dont buy any puppies from pet stores or them


Me too! I refuse to purchase anything made by the Amish. I don’t care what it is.


Until the media can go in and expose this abuse and then take the evidence to legal authorities nothing will happen ?

Loretta Mento

I find it very hypocritical that they claim to be religious ppl who believe in God and treat animals in this way just to profit off of them. There are millions getting killed in our shelters that need homes , we certainly don’t need more being bred. They should help with rescue efforts instead

Disgusted dog lover

Parents have dominion over their children, it’s illegal to abuse them. The bible doesn’t say it’s ok to abuse and neglect animals!


This means stewardship and imparts the moral responsibility for humane care. This is not what the Amish are doing.

Marti Houge

Alert local rescues? What do you expect them to do? Should they bid on these dogs and put money in the breeders’ pockets? None of what is going on is illegal, and most rescues are full already anyway.

Beth onkst

At our small rescue we have often taken unwanted puppy mill dogs that are deemed useless. We never pay and really go the extra mile to get to these animals before they just kill them. It’s a drop in the bucket but we are saving lives.

Mary Paglianite

Just continue to educate our friends family and neighbors to stop buying puppies


Do you read God’s Word? He says those who mistreat their animals will not be held guiltless. How could you who claim to be Christians do this? I feel SICK. PLEASE STOP this. Those poor babies. So THIS is how you profit in this world? I think my disillusionment is finally complete. Please come back, Yeshua.

Cindi Holloway

Abominable – these are “people of God?” How in the hell can these people do this to God’s creatures? Greed – pure and simple. Next time you see one of these people call them out on their cruelty in public – make this known to everybody.

Kathy lopez

Leave the animals alone there not here bein abused there for our love

Lyn Taylor

We know this happens & yet nothing is being done to the Amish breeders….why?? This is abuse!!!!! Cruel & inhumane!!


SimplE, because law authorities turn a blind eye to Amish animal abuse no matter how horrific. Amish rule Pennsylvania because of the tourist money they bring here. Uneducated ppl who buy the whole ‘Amish way of life’ spend tons of cash to see them. Politicians allow this, they pretend to make some laws but you see it’s never ending. The laws are only for show to get votes but never enforced, purposely written poorly so there’s always some loophole that allows it to continue. Pure evil that could easily be stopped if they truly cared.

Lynn McVay



Why is this ‘unexpected’? This has been going on for decades. They pound horses to death on the roads. Send their used up horses to slaughter. They keep all dogs outside if they have one and of course these horrible puppy mills.
They feel animals have no souls and are here to be used by humans.
And yes, some care for their animal more than others but until there is an outcry from within the community I will blame them all.
They have an 18th century view of animals…and it shows.


Amish people are worse then regular human’s, regarding pet’s. They think they can do anything, they want. I believe they abuse many different things, puppy mills and have overworked horses, period. Its 2020. Move on. I will NEVER bye anything from them. Scammers too. Using their faith or beliefs, to their advantage.


These stories are so heart crushing and we need nationwide strict laws and enforcement.

Lore Watson

Why is this allowed to keep on and on?why can’t the States in which these Puppy Mills are LOCATED shut them down, why do these innocent Animals have to suffer, we hate China for their Animal Cruelty but the USA is No better in fact even worse,


The state could easily shut them down. The state chooses to allow it no matter how horrific the suffering. It’s all about the almighty dollar, GREED.


I’m not sure where you are located but I know our Humane Society of Mo has rescued and help shut down many a puppy mill. If for no other reason, contact Debbie Hill for direction. 314 647 8800. Please pursue this. Their lives are in your power. Thank you

Jackie Keeney

Educating people on backyard breeders, internet sales and pet stores is a huge way to help decrease puppy mills. Believe it or not, people still do not know where their puppies they buy come from. One big thing I hear all the time is ‘I rescued the puppy from the pet store”. They need to be taught that the puppy will eventually get out of the pet store but because you bought that puppy, you now enabled the mother and father to stay in those horrific conditions longer.

Another thing is to find out your laws, regulations and ordinances in your township, county and/or state. Go to your local or state representative and find out what you can do to make the laws stronger to prevent or decrease puppy mills.

Unfortunately in Pennsylvania, in 2008 when Governor Rendell tried to make the dog laws stronger, many puppy mills went underground.

If you have any questions on how to try to change or make your laws stronger contact Bailing out Benji or United Against Puppy Mills.

Mary LaForgia

Disgusting, absolutely disgusting, what is wrong with people? Something more needs to be done to protect these poor animals, they have no choice and no voice


Do not call peta they killed over 3000 cats and dogs this year contact a rescue in that area they will help

Sandy Remy

This is one of the cruelest animal abuses in our land! The Amish should be ashamed of themselves to abuse these poor animals for an almighty buck!!! God did not attend for this! You claim to be so godly but yet abuse
Little creatures and yes even your horses and other farm animals! It’s a sad time when we have to torture our animals. I think you will answer to God at the end of time!

Ometimes your farm animals!!!

Mariyn favaro

totally changes my view of the Amish. Maybe someone will sabotage their own pious sabotage their buggies and let the rescue the poor dogs. They claim such Godliness.

Marilyn Favaro

And they say their so Godfearing. Outlaw buggies and let walk home. How people so evil?

Jewell Anderson

We live beside Amish and they ask to use our Belgian Horse we trusted them we had to go and get our horse and when we did you could see where they had stuck him with a pitchfork, never again. Also they have a dog we just love they didn’t want her pregnant so they were going to put a marble up her. We said no and we took her to the Vet. paid to have her fixed. They treat their children and women like livestock.


Anybody that runs a puppy mill should be put in a fucking cage themselves and not fed for weeks at a time so they can die in a cage. If I catch a puppy mill owner you’ll see what will happen to him it’ll be all over the news. Disgusting people.


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