Reports on puppy mills and the reinforcement of the Puppy Mill Bill in Iowa sparked my interest to delve a little further into the issue and discuss my personal experience with puppy mills.

One report in particular that got me thinking was the Humane Society of the United States "A Horrible Hundred" report listing 100 puppy mills across the nation that have been cited for inadequate care and operational deficiencies. On that list, Iowa was listed as one of five states with the highest number of puppy mills. Other states listed included Missouri, Ohio, Kansas, Indiana and New York.

The facilities listed were repeatedly cited by federal and/or state inspectors for violations such as injured and sick dogs that were not treated by a veterinarian or animals left in harrowing conditions.

Reading this report about puppy mills brought me back to about 11 years ago when my family unknowingly bought my family dog from a mill.

At the time there was a general awareness of puppy mills in the media, but my family and I weren’t aware of how many operating mills there were until we traveled to southern Iowa and experienced it first-hand.

The first memory I had as we were entering the building was the excess amount of dogs in such a small facility. The second was the stench of the place. Following that was seeing stacked wire cages housing at least two puppies per cage. And fourth, and worst of all, was the condition of some of puppies and dogs including our soon-to-be puppy, Riley.

At first sight, Riley seemed to be just fine. He acted very rambunctious and playful like every puppy in the room. But then we noticed how small he was (he could fit in the palm of our hands), he was limping on his paws due to the wire cage, and he was covered in dirt. We also later found out he had a bad case of worms.

Despite all of that, he was much better off than his brother. He seemed to be immobile and was also covered in filth. After some debating over whether they should buy the puppy from the facility, my parents eventually decided to buy the little guy, realizing they could probably save a life by giving him a home.

We didn’t know at the time if he would ever gain weight or recover from worms, but we took a chance on him and has become our companion for life. Our little champion.

Although there was a silver lining in my family’s story, there are many dogs that do not make it out of mills alive. Many are kept alive only to produce puppies that are then sold for hundreds of dollars. All the while, the breeding puppies are left to suffer.

I urge those individuals looking to buy or adopt a dog to look to their local humane society or pet rescues that keep dogs in a safe, secure environment and also hold routine vet visits. Also, talk to your state legislature about puppy mills laws and how you can do your part to help out dogs in need.