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A puppy mill or puppy farm is a system of breeding dogs where the priority is to sell dogs and puppies for a profit over the health and well-being of the dogs. There are approximately 10,000 puppy mills in America selling over 2 million puppies a year, according to the Humane Society of the United States.


Maximizing Profit is the Biggest Priority


Because puppy mill breeders want to maximize their profit they take measures to create the most puppies for the least cost. Puppy mills are known to implement cruel techniques like:


  • Small cages. Often dogs are crammed together in cages and even exposed to the elements. Sometimes cages are stacked so the dog’s waste falls down on the other cages below.
  • Little interaction. Dogs and puppies are not taken on walks or allowed to play with toys. They basically eat, sleep and go potty.
  • Poor hygiene and veterinary care. To save money, dogs in puppy mills are often not given regular check-ups or vaccines. Since these dogs aren’t seen publicly, they aren’t washed, brushed or nails trimmed. Many times they are left to suffer through painful injuries, rotting teeth, broken bones, severe levels of grime, inflamed mats and ticks.
  • Behavior Issues. Since puppies are taken from their mothers and litter-mates at such a young age, they suffer from anxiety, fear, and other long-term behavioral issues. Buyers may not be aware of these issues until the puppy is brought home only to be confronted with expensive, unpredictable chronic medical issues.
  • Continuous Breeding. Female dogs are bred every possible chance without resting in between litters, like a puppy-making machine. This depletes them and often they are killed or abandoned when they can’t breed anymore. While puppies may leave the awful conditions at 8 weeks, the parents of the puppies are not likely to enjoy the same. Their single task is to create puppies as long as they are alive.
  • No respect for genetics. Quality is not a priority for puppy mill breeders. They aren’t interested in hereditary defects, disorders or behavior problems and will not remove a compromised dog from their stock of breeder animals.


The Puppy Pipeline


Puppy mill breeders need an effective means to sell their puppies and dogs. They rely on the internet and pet shops to present a healthy happy pet so that customers won’t consider where the puppies come from or what conditions their parents are kept in.


Yet there are other trades that are involved in the puppy pipeline: transporters, auctions, and dog brokers.


Puppy Mill Pipeline


Do Not Become an Accidental Supporter of Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are still operating and luring in unsuspecting people hoping to get a dog or puppy. Here is a list of signs to look for if you are looking to adopt or purchase a puppy.


  • Lots of puppies that seem to always be available from a group listed as a dog or animal rescue.
  • Breeder declines to give you the name of the veterinarian who treated the puppy. If they do, make sure you look them up and call to verify that they have a legitimate practice.
  • Breeder provides several various breeds for sale that are “new” or “rare” breeds.
  • The sellers have puppies for sale at events like flea markets and yard sales.
  • The seller offers puppies for sale before they are even 8 weeks old.
  • There are constant advertisements on fliers, the internet or the paper to purchase puppies from the same group or person.
  • Someone holds a sign trying to sell puppies off the road or near a high traffic shopping area.
  • The seller can only meet you in a public place to show you the puppy.
  • Seller doesn’t ask you questions other than about the transaction amount. Legitimate breeders are usually interested in the kind of home their puppy goes to.
  • The breeder says that neutering or spaying is unnecessary
  • Someone alleges that they are selling the puppy for someone else or they are acting as an agent for a breeder.
  • Puppies are available in male and female pairs to promote breeding.


Breeder Site Inspections

If you are buying a puppy and the breeder has agreed to let you visit his or her home or facility, this is a good time to make sure that your puppy comes from a safe and happy place. Be careful not to assume that the breeders’ willingness is enough to prove they are not cruel breeders.


Warning signs to look for when visiting the breeder’s place:


  • Unpleasant or foul odor. Notice if there is an overuse of bleach or deodorizers as it may be to cover up an odor which is a signal for a more severe problem.
  • Animal temperament. Are the dogs excessively fearful or shy? Vicious? Aggressive?
  • Animal appearance. You can judge the level of care by their appearance. Look for long or dirty coats, discharges from the nose or eyes, overgrown nails, missing teeth, visible sores or injuries, excessive scratching or patches of missing fur. Do the animals look underweight or do they appear healthy?
  • Animal containment. Look to see if all the animals are contained in the same area as their feces or urine. Also, to the cages look comfortable, giving the animals plenty of room to move around with a clean sleeping area set apart from the food area?
  • Animal protection. If the facility is outdoors, are the animals appropriately protected from the weather? Notice if there are smaller structures that look like they need repairing or dogs chained to trees, stakes or fences.
  • Person to animal ratio. When there are only one or two people yet there are dozens of animals, it would be near impossible for each dog to receive proper care, socialization, and exercise. Ask what their system is for personalized care.
  • Missing information. If the breeder doesn’t know how many liters the female has had, this is a red flag. The dog may have been breed so many times that they do not know.
  • Drowsy animals. If the animals all appear to be lethargic or sleepy that can be a signal to poor health. It’s also possible that the dogs may be medicated to hide a more serious issue.
  • The Illusion of approval. A lot of breeders will declare things like having “papers” or being “registered” to give you the illusion that they are approved from some credited source. This does not provide proof of healthy puppies. Even if the parents of the puppies are registered somewhere, it doesn’t mean that inspections were provided or that the breeders business is monitored.


It’s a good idea to bring your camera and document any of these warning flags. If the breeder will not allow you to take pictures, this is another red flag.


If you do come across a breeder that you find several red flags from, try to document what you’ve learned as best as you can and report the breeder to your local animal control officer, humane society and the police department.