Puppy Mills

What is a Puppy Mill?

A puppy mill is a dog breeding operation, which puts the profit of an animal above all else. A puppy mill will sell an animal for monetary compensation to a dog auction, pet store, online, or direct to the consumer. In a puppy mill, the needs of all or some of the dogs are not being met, like inadequate shelter, enough food, clean water, sanitation, or veterinary treatment.

Are There Laws to Stop Puppy Mills?

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) is the federal law that sets the minimum standards regarding commercially bred and sold animals, such as their handling, care, treatment, and transportation. But the AWA, enforced by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, is frequently criticized for allowing the puppy mill industry to thrive and go unchecked.

Under the AWA, inspections are handled and assessed based on risk, meaning a breeder with no known violations may not have their operations inspected for years. The AWA does not set a limit to the number of animals a breeder can have. A breeding operation could contain thousands of dogs and still not be inspected regularly unless there is suspicion or evidence of a violation to the AWA.

It's a common misconception that puppy mills are illegal. A commercial breeding operation can be licensed by their state or the U.S. Department of Agriculture (or both) and still be a puppy mill. That would mean that a licensed dog breeding operation can have severe and repeat violations, and still be allowed to bred and sell puppies.

It is important to remember that in each state, there is a governing agency or group that is responsible for overseeing commercial breeding facilities and enforcing standards of the care, either set forth by the AWA or at the state level. 

Where are Puppy Mill Pets Sold?

Puppy mills often sell puppies to a pet store, online, direct to the consumer, or to a dog auction. The majority of pet stores are supplying their animals from a puppy mill, because reputable dog breeders are not willing to “ship” their puppies to pet stores like a commodity. Puppies sold in pet stores come from all over the country and many from an operation where sick and injured puppies had been found repeatedly by federal or state inspectors.

In addition, pet stores are not often required to disclose the origin of the pet animal they sell, its medical background, and more. In many situations, consumers purchase a pet animal only to find it’s rampant with disease or illness – ranging from seizures to respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vomiting – due to the fact the animal was likely born and raised in a puppy mill where it lacked access to adequate space, clean water, enough food, and proper veterinary treatment.

Puppy mills will utilize the internet to sell directly to the consumer. Often, Facebook, Instagram and Craigslist are used to sell a puppy on the internet. A telling sign that a puppy being sold online is from a puppy mill is if the breeder has several puppies or breeds available, if they’re willing to ship a puppy to you, or are not willing to meet at their breeding facility.

Unfortunately, puppies and breeding dogs are also sold in a dog auction. Missouri is home to the largest dog auction in the country (Wheaton, Missouri) and a smaller but equally popular auction in Cabool, Missouri. In a dog auction, auctions are held regularly, typically one a month, and will see the sale of hundreds of puppies and adult dogs in a single day, being sold for as little as $1 to $10,000 a puppy. Puppies and adult dogs auctioned off are sold to individuals, other dog breeders, and pet stores all over the country.

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