Written By: Ben Cosgrove

In February 1966, LIFE published an article and a series of shocking photos that generated a huge outpouring of letters from the magazine’s readers. Many of the letters were among the most passionate that the long-lived weekly ever received. The subject of the article? Not the war in Vietnam. Not an attack on Civil Rights marchers by police. Not another frightening escalation of the already-frigid Cold War.

This time, the outrage was in response to an article on dogs. Or, more accurately, an article on the inhumane indeed, the horrifying treatment of dogs by men and women who, as LIFE put it, were “taking advantage of the growing demand for dogs for vital medical research” and, in the process, were cashing in on a “lucrative and unsavory business” built and maintained on the misery of man’s best friend.

Titled “Concentration Camps for Dogs,” and featuring unforgettable pictures by LIFE’s Stan Wayman, the eight-page expos√© cast a cold light on a shadowy but, at the time, legal business in which “dealers rove the country paying a buck or two to anyone who comes forward with a dog, and no questions asked.”

Family pets, trained to obedience and easy to handle, are especially prized, and the Humane Society of the U.S. estimates that 50 percent of all missing pets have been stolen by “dognappers,” who in turn sell them to the dealers. Some dealers keep big inventories of dogs in unspeakably filthy compounds. . . . Many so not sell directly to labs but simply dispose of their packs at auction where the going rate is 30 cents a pound. Puppies, often drenched in their own vomit, sell for 10 cents apiece. Stirred by revelations to a House subcommittee of such outrages and prodded by the continuing raids on these camps by humane societies, Congress already has eight bills pending, any of which would outlaw these shameful conditions.

In the summer of 1966, Congress passed the Laboratory Animal Welfare Act. President Johnson signed it into law on Aug. 24 of that year.

A quarter-century later, however, when LIFE was publishing as a monthly, the magazine ran another, equally appalling feature on “puppy mills” operating in the U.S. — this time with pictures by the Pulitzer Prize-winning photojournalist J. Ross Baughman. (Read about that story and others that Baughman shot in the course of his extraordinary career in his new memoir, Angle, published by VisionsPress.)

Humanity’s ruthlessness in the pursuit of money is, evidently, something that has always been and perhaps always will be with us. But here, on the 60th anniversary of the Nov. 22, 1954, founding of the Humane Society of the United States (motto: “Celebrating Animals, Confronting Cruelty”), LIFE.com recalls that 1966 article and republishes Wayman’s photographs in tribute to those who battle barbarity in all its forms.

Liz Ronk, who edited this gallery, is the Photo Editor for LIFE.com. Follow her on Twitter at @LizabethRonk.

"Lucky," an English pointer ("a pathetic, emaciated horror," in LIFE's words) rescued from an Oklahoma fair in 1966.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

A dog dealer's bleak compound, 1966.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In a shed behind [dog dealer Lester] Brown's house, dogs, pigeons and other creatures were jammed into filthy coops. The only food in sight was the stale bread piled in a washtub.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

This woebegone springer spaniel was one of only a handful of dogs in [dog dealer Lester] Brown's inventory of over 100 animals that appeared to be fit. Obviously he had just got there.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Aroused by early-morning raid on his animal compound at White Hall, Md., Lester Brown confronts Frank McMahon who represented the Humane Society.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Skin and bones and not much else is all that is left of this young beagle, staked out in [dog dealer Lester] Brown's yard. Beagles are rated by most dog dealers as a 'hot item.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Too weak to crawl to the frozen entrails scattered in Mr. Brown's yard, this collie was not rescued. The humane society could fit only 28 of the worst cases in its truck.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Scene at a dog dealer's compound, 1966.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Grim scene at a dog dealer's compound, 1966.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Scene at a dog dealer's compound, 1966.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

In the raid on Brown's compound the police found this female dog frozen inside a box.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

One of 28 sick dogs rescued in raid is hoisted by Mrs. Helen Crews of Baltimore County Humane Society into a truck for trip to animal shelter.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Angered by the disappearances of their family pets in Clarke County, Va., Mrs. William Mitchell and her neighbors put up signs to discourage thieves.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Tiny is a purebred English setter belonging to G. R. Lloyd of Boyce, Va. One day last August, Lloyd found Tiny's chain cut in the backyard. When he heard the dog was at a local pound, he set out to reclaim her, only to be told she had been stolen again. The Animal Rescue League of Reading, Pa., traced her to the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda, Md. They had purchased her from a Pennsylvania dealer.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

He has no fancy bloodlines, but to Thomas Connollys of Newton, Mass. Lancer is the family pooch. The dog was picked up and impounded one day after delivering the Connolly children to school. After 10 days he was sold to Harvard Medical School, but during a transfer of quarters he chewed through his leash and escaped. He struck out for home, over 20 miles away -- and made it. He was still wearing his Harvard School tag and the family let him keep it.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Concentration Camp for Dogs

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Lucky, seen in the first picture in this gallery, regained health after being rescued.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Lucky the English pointer with admirers.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

Lucky on the way to his new home.

Photo from LIFE mag article, ‘Concentration Camps for Dogs’

Stan Wayman The LIFE Picture Collection/Getty Images

More Like This

animals

When Maine Really Wanted Its Caribou Back

animals

Celebrities’ Best Friends

George H.W. Bush in 1971 animals

See Inside the Private Family Life of a Young George H.W. Bush

Troika race at Hippodrome, 1963. animals

The Mane Event: LIFE’s 25 Most Memorable Horses

Cats Blackie Brownie catching squirts of milk during milking at Arch Badertscher's dairy farm. 1954. animals

LIFE’s 25 Most Meow-Worthy Pictures of Cats

John Dominis African antelopes, 1969. animals

How John Dominis Photographed Wild Antelope Without a Telephoto Lens