Stopping Puppy Mills

Most dog lovers will agree with you – puppy mills need to be stopped.

Would you believe the well-meaning people who are opposed to puppy mills are the very reason these breeders are thriving?


For years, animal lovers have been pleading with people to stop buying from indiscriminate breeders. “Puppy mills” get the most press, most often when a local humane organization (usually in Missouri, Kansas, or Pennsylvania) raids one and rescues the suffering dogs. Smaller scale puppy mills are often referred to as “backyard breeders.” These are no less horrible. They often have a few dogs in crates in the garage, or the shed. These dogs get little to no human interaction or medical care. Often the puppies are sold online or in classified listings.

We try passing laws to make conditions humane, which seems nice in theory. The problem is that these laws are then not enforced, so what’s the point really? Missouri passed Proposition B a few years ago (Missouri being the puppy mill capital of the world) with much celebration. Later the law was gutted by the state legislature, and the remnants are only mildly enforced. (Click here for an article that summarizes this story well).

puppy mill

One example of a puppy mill. These dogs are in these cages 24/7. They are born there. They will die there. They never leave except to be traded to other puppy mills. Photo courtesy of

If laws don’t work, how do we stop they cycle of abuse?

With our wallets.

Thirty years ago, puppy mills sold their puppies in pet stores in malls and shopping centers. Thankfully, many of those have closed due to the large overhead costs, and the word getting out not to buy puppies from pet stores. Everyone knew not to buy a dog from a pet store. Success, right?

Nope. Now puppy mills have moved to the internet. It’s easy to make a webpage showing cute puppies with adorable backgrounds. You can make up anything about how much the parents are loved like your own pet. Sure, tell people they are checked by a vet every year, and even make up some certifications – you can charge more that way! Registering them with some hokey registry – even higher profits!

Backyard breeders have followed suit. Get a few dogs, put some cages in the basement – you got a side business started! Make a snazzy website for very little cost, make up a cute story or two, and it’s almost instant money! Depending on state, they don’t even need a license if it’s only a handful of dogs. So these breeders are completely under the radar!

puppy mill dogs

These dogs will spend their entire lives in this run. They will never even feel grass. Photo courtesy of

Why do people do this to the poor breeder dogs?

Money. LOTS of it.

Puppies are considered a cash crop. No different than corn, cattle, or swine (particularly with the Amish breeders). Keep overhead low (spend as little as possible on housing, food, and care for the breeders) to maximize profits. To keep the condition of the dogs a secret, be nice! Tell customers you live way out in the country, and offer to meet them right off the highway at a Cracker Barrel or Walmart. Bring pictures of a clean, well groomed dog of a breed similar to what the puppy you are selling is (or the breed you claim it is – they’ll never know.) Say that’s the mother (isn’t she gorgeous?). Have some papers registering it with some random breed registries (these are completely meaningless in real life), which means you can charge more. Best yet, convince people it’s a “rare breed” or some other “rare” variation. And make up a mix of breeds with a cute sounding name, like doodle, or malti-poo.

These poodle, yorkie, dachshund, whatever kind of mix you see, are just that – mixes.  They are not purebreds, even though some manage to have papers (comedy, really). They are not worth hundreds or thousands of dollars! Don’t get me wrong, mutts are my favorite! That’s why I rescue them. From shelters. From rescues. For a fraction of the cost. And I am not condemning the poor breeding parents to a life of misery.

There is no such thing as a legitimate breeder, who cares more about the welfare of the dogs and not just about financial gain, that would breed these mixes. If the breeder you found is selling those mixes, run. Away.

You might be thinking “who would buy a dog under those circumstances??” Thousands of people every year do! Often they have me examine their puppy, and will even tell me they knew it was a shady situation, but they couldn’t send that puppy back to that horrible place. Another reason I often hear is “I drove so far, I couldn’t come back without a puppy.”

So yes, it’s animal lovers (the very people who will tell you puppy mills and backyard breeders need to be shut down), who are the reason the puppy industry is thriving. People who hate dogs don’t spend hundreds, even thousands, of dollars on a puppy.

And this is exactly why puppy mills and backyard breeders are laughing all the way to the bank! Some even flaunt their horrible conditions, knowing animal lovers will want to “rescue” a puppy from them….for a price, of course! You say you really told them off? They’ll laugh even more. Threaten to call and report them? Now that’s a knee-slapper!

If no one, not a single person, bought a dog from a bad breeder (which unfortunately, 90% are!), they would close down. It’s economics 101 – cut off demand, you eliminate the need for supply. It would be a double-edged problem: an excess of puppies, which quickly grow up past the cute marketable age, and having to maintain the parents without any income from them. Would any business that had no income and extra expenses survive for a year, even two? No way!

puppy mill outside

Standard breeding facility (AKA-puppy mill). Photo courtesy of

But we have to be strong and get the big picture. If people stop buying these puppies, they might be given away, or brought to a shelter. Those are the lucky ones. Others might get dumped in the country. Or shot. That sucks.

Guess what – that’s been happening to the breeding dogs for years and years already! It is not new. You just didn’t see it. And good-hearted animal lovers have ironically been perpetuating the cycle. The one dog you say you “rescued” kept that breeder in business, rewarding bad behavior. They have the last laugh.

We need to stop falling for it. Putting an end to puppy mills and backyard breeders is so simple, and wouldn’t cost a thing, if every person would get the big picture.

Do not buy these puppies. Regardless of how bad the situation. Regardless of the “papers” which mean absolutely nothing.

You are not rescuing them. You are giving the abusers exactly what they want – your money!

Of course, my passion is saving lives, so I would suggest getting a dog from a rescue or shelter and not even thinking of anything else. I’ve found they are the best dogs. No, they aren’t abused or damaged – where do these stereotypes come from? Their owners often sucked, not them! (Here’s a fun ad by the Humane Society of the US depicting this). People surrender dogs to shelters for reasons like “I didn’t know she’d require grooming every month” to “he got too big” to “she has too much energy.” I once saw a 10-week-old purebred puppy (with those stupid “papers”) get surrendered to a shelter because she wasn’t house trained. You can’t make this stuff up. (Newsflash – no 10-week old puppy is potty trained). Sometimes a dog was loved, and its owner died (not either of their fault!) and the dog find herself homeless. Some families lose their homes and can’t keep a pet – again, no one’s fault.

If you insist on a puppy of a specific breed, there are good breeders out there, but they are few and far between. They sometimes won’t have a website, and they most definitely will not have an ad in the paper or on craigslist!

So don’t even waste your time looking there.

Seriously. Do not even look. That’s how it starts.

That’s how they stay in business.

The Humane Society of the US has a good resource on finding a breeder that is actually a good person – click here for the link.

The one way we can stop the suffering of dogs in puppy mills and backyard breeders (and reduce the number of awesome dogs be euthanized in shelters) is SO easy.

Do not ever “rescue” a puppy from a bad breeder. Do not ever buy a puppy from a breeder you have not thoroughly checked out.

Best yet, contact a rescue or shelter and save a life.

Seems like common sense, doesn’t it?