Puppy Mills

What is a Puppy Mill?

A puppy mill is a dog breeding operation that puts profit above the welfare of pet animals. In a puppy mill, the needs of some or all of the dogs are not being met. Puppy mill puppies often lack adequate shelter, enough food, clean water, sanitation, and/or veterinary treatment.

Are There Laws to Stop Puppy Mills?

The federal Animal Welfare Act (AWA), enacted in 1966 and most recently updated in 2008, sets the minimum standards governing commercially bred and sold animals, including 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 unchecked. 


Under the AWA, inspections are conducted based on previous inspections, meaning a breeder with no known violations may not be inspected for years unless there is suspicion or evidence of an AWA violation. 


It's a common misconception that puppy mills are illegal. A commercial breeding operation can be licensed by their state, the U.S. Department of Agriculture, or both, and still be a puppy mill. This means that a licensed dog breeding operation can continue to breed and sell puppies despite severe and repeat violations.


Each state has a governing agency responsible for overseeing commercial breeding facilities and enforcing standards of the care set by the AWA or the state.

Where are Puppy Mill Pets Sold?

Puppy mills sell puppies to a pet store, online, direct to the consumer, or to a dog auction. Pet stores often source their puppies from puppy mills around the country, including operations where federal and state inspectors repeatedly found sick and injured puppies.  


In addition, many states do not require pet stores to disclose pertinent information, such as the origin of the pet animals they sell, their medical backgrounds, and more. Consumers will purchase a pet animal only to find it is rampant with disease or illness – including seizures, respiratory infections, diarrhea, and vomiting. These are indicators that the animal was likely born and raised in a puppy mill.


Puppy mills use the internet to sell directly to the consumer, particularly through Facebook, Instagram, and Craigslist. 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 unwilling to meet at their breeding facility.


Unfortunately, puppies and breeding dogs are also sold in dog auctions. Missouri is home to the largest dog auction in the country in Wheaton and a smaller but equally popular auction in Cabool. Dog auctions are held regularly, typically once a month, with hundreds of puppies and adult dogs sold in a single day for as little as $1 or as much as $10,000 a puppy. These auctions sell to individuals, other dog breeders, and pet stores all over the country.

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