Dog Whisperer Faces 'Hardest' Challenge Yet: Puppy Mills
Cesar Millan is calling it his toughest challenge yet: visiting a cramped, dirty and scary puppy mill to film tonight's episode of The Dog Whisperer.
"Going to the puppy mill was the hardest time in my life," Millan tells PEOPLE Pets. "For the first time, it took more than 30 minutes to compose myself. I stood outside and prayed and prayed and prayed until I reached a calm, assertive state–otherwise I couldn't be helpful to the environment or the dogs."
Millan accompanied Last Chance for Animals to visit one of many kennels in the California desert that mass-produce puppies for pet stores. Around the country thousands of puppy mills churn out 2 million often unhealthy dogs a year and sell them to unwitting animal lovers via pet shops and ads, the Humane Society of the United States estimates. The cages were hot and cramped and dogs barked as the group passed by. The kennel owner let Millan, who went in undercover, take 11 older dogs that they had deemed no longer suitable for breeding.
"I [personally] felt sadness and anger," Millan tells us. "and felt hopelessness from the dogs."
In this special episode, Millan teaches the rescue workers how to start calming and rehabilitating the dogs from the moment they leave the puppy mill, and gives special care to two difficult dogs. The trainer has treated many animals that come from barren puppy mill environments, including those who feel lost and nervous even in a happy family home. The Dog Whisperer show's website recommends the North Shore Animal League's guide for those who bought or adopted a dog that survived a puppy mill.
"The time required to treat a dog is always determined on a case by case basis," says Millan. "Emotional scars are emotional scare. But dogs don't feel sorry for long–they want to move on–dogs live in the moment."
Millan says he hopes to do more big issues episodes like this one. We do, too. Watch the episode at 9pm ET tonight on National Geographic.