Puppy Mills: Dogs Abused for the Pet Trade
It can be hard to resist the
cute puppies and kittens for sale in pet store windows. But a closer
look into how these stores obtain animals reveals a system in which the
high price that consumers pay for “that doggie in the window” pales in
comparison to the cost paid by animals who are sold in pet stores or
forced to produce them.
That adorable little scamp in the store probably came from a “puppy
mill,” a breeding kennel that raises dogs in cramped, crude, filthy
conditions. The majority of these facilities are in the Midwest, but
kennels can be found throughout the country, and some dealers even
import puppies from other countries.(1) Constant confinement and a lack
of adequate veterinary care and socialization often result in animals
who are unhealthy and difficult to socialize. As a result, many are
abandoned within weeks or months of their adoption by frustrated
buyers—further exacerbating the tragic companion animal overpopulation
Cages, Filth, and
Puppy mill kennels can consist of anything from
small cages made of wood and wire mesh to tractor-trailer cabs or simple
tethers attached to trees. One Arkansas facility had “cages hanging from
the ceiling of an unheated cinder-block building ….”(2) Female dogs are
bred twice a year and are usually destroyed when they are no longer able
to produce puppies.(3) Mothers and their litters often suffer from
malnutrition, exposure, and a lack of adequate veterinary care.
Puppies are taken from their mothers and sold to brokers who pack them
into crates for transport and resale to pet stores. Puppies who are
shipped from mill to broker to pet store can travel hundreds of miles in
pickup trucks, tractor trailers, and/or airplanes, often without
adequate food, water, ventilation, or shelter. Two men faced charges
after 38 puppies were found to be confined to a feces-filled van without
food, water, or space to exercise. The men were transporting the animals
from Oklahoma to Florida when a passerby noticed the dogs’ distressed
barking and the foul stench emanating from the van, which was parked at
a Daytona Beach motel.(4) In Tennessee, 150 overheated puppies, who were
traveling from a Missouri puppy mill to pet stores on the East Coast,
were found in a cargo truck without air conditioning; four died.(5) Even
if a store claims that it doesn’t buy from puppy mills, there is a good
chance that it buys from a broker who does.(6)
Young puppies who survive
the unsanitary conditions at puppy mills and endure the grueling
transport to pet stores have rarely received the kind of loving human
contact that is necessary for them to become suitable companions.
Breeders, brokers, and pet stores ensure maximum profits by not spending
money for proper food, housing, or veterinary care.
Conditions don’t improve
much when the puppies reach pet stores. Dogs who are kept in small cages
without exercise, love, or human contact tend to develop undesirable
behaviors and may bark excessively or become destructive and unsociable.
Unlike many humane societies and shelters, pet stores do not screen
buyers or inspect the future homes of the dogs they sell. Poor
enforcement of humane laws allows shops to continue selling sick
animals, although humane societies and police departments sometimes
succeed in closing down stores where severe abuse is uncovered.
Farms and Brokers
Do Big Business
conducted an undercover investigation at Nielsen Farms, a puppy mill in
Kansas, PETA’s investigator found that the dogs had no bedding or
protection from the cold or heat. Some dogs were suffering from
untreated wounds, ear infections, and abscessed feet. Confinement and
loneliness had caused some mother dogs to go mad. PETA’s investigator
witnessed one USDA inspection, during which the officer glanced at the
cages but did not examine the dogs. Our investigation led to the Kansas
facility’s closing and a $20,000 fine from the USDA. The Nielsens are
also “permanently disqualified from being licensed” by the USDA.(7)
There are thousands of
breeders and dealers across the country. In Missouri alone, there are
more than 1,400 licensed dog-breeding operations, although so many
illegal breeders are in business that a state audit advised that the
program designed to regulate commercial breeding was ineffective.(8) The
nation’s largest puppy broker is the Hunte Corporation in Missouri,
which also exports dogs overseas.(9) The company has been linked to
numerous negligent pet stores and breeders and has sponsored American
Kennel Club (AKC) meetings.(10) The USDA has loaned the company more
than $4 million for expansion and upgrades in recent years—taxpayer
money being used to bring more misery to dogs and puppies.(11)
The Plight of
Some people impulsively obtain purebred dogs, even
though they may not be educated about the breed or ready for the
commitment that animal companions require. Movies such as 101
Dalmatians and Beethoven, TV shows like Frasier,
and commercials such as those for Taco Bell have caused a jump in the
popularity of certain breeds, yet very few potential dog caretakers take
the time to investigate the traits and needs of the breed that they are
considering. “Every time Hollywood makes a dog movie, the breed goes to
hell,” says one caretaker of Bouvier des Flandres dogs. A Dalmatian
fancier concludes that “… the unscrupulous breeders will see there’s a
profit margin there.”(12) When there is a surge in demand for a
particular breed, puppy mills try to meet that demand, but when Jack
Russell terriers don’t turn out to be just like Frasier’s
“Eddie” or St. Bernards don’t act just like “Beethoven,” rescue groups
and animal shelters become flooded with these breeds.
The AKC, which opposes
mandatory spay/neuter programs for purebred dogs, receives millions of
dollars from breeders who pay AKC registration fees.(13) The AKC
registered more than 421,000 dogs in 2005, some of whom will join the
millions of animals who end up in animal shelters every year.(14) Buyers
may be swayed by talk of “papers” and “AKC registration,” but these
papers cannot ensure good temperament or good health. Says one
veterinarian, “The best use of pedigree papers is for housebreaking your
dog. They don’t mean a damn thing.”(15) The AKC has minimum care
standards for “high-volume breeding” facilities, but with 14 inspectors
and an operating budget that is directed toward registration and dog
shows, the AKC can only manage to inspect its registered kennels once
every two years.(16) By its own admission, some of the more problematic
kennels have simply sought registration services (such as Dog Registry
of America, Sporting Dog Registry, American Hunting Dog Registry, and
All American Dog Registry, to name a few) that don’t perform
At puppy mills, dogs are
bred for quantity, not quality, so unmonitored genetic defects and
personality disorders that are passed on from generation to generation
are common. This situation results in high veterinary bills for people
who buy these dogs and the possibility that unsociable or maladjusted
dogs will be disposed of by their unprepared “owners.” “There is
virtually no consideration of temperament,” says one dog trainer. “I
wish legislators could sit in my office and watch ... people sobbing in
extreme emotional pain over having to decide whether to euthanize their
dog because of some serious behavioral problem.”(18)
The USDA is supposed to monitor and inspect
kennels to ensure that they are not violating the housing standards of
the Animal Welfare Act, but kennel inspections are a low priority. In
the U.S., there are more than 1,000 research facilities, more than 2,800
exhibitors, and 4,500 dealers that are supposed to be inspected each
There are three APHIS sector
offices with a total of approximately 70 veterinary inspectors who are
supposed to inspect, unannounced, the various types of facilities
covered by the AWA.(20)
This means that 70
inspectors have to cover more than 8,300 facilities nationwide.
Puppy mills are rarely
monitored by state governments, and existing regulations vary from state
to state. In Missouri, for instance, each of the 2,100 facilities is
supposed to be inspected once a year, but there are only 12 inspectors
employed to handle the task.(21) Even with an estimated 1,300 puppy
mills in Wisconsin, inspections of breeder facilities that sell at least
50 dogs and cats are voluntary, and there is no funding for enforcement
of these regulations.(22,23)
want to avoid relevant U.S. laws—the few that exist—look elsewhere to
continue doing business. Says one Canadian lawyer, “[P]uppy mill
operators in the States buy from us. And crossing the border isn’t a
problem either. They cross them all the time.”(24) For example, there is
a network of breeders and smugglers who bring puppies into the U.S. from
Mexico. A Los Angeles woman was arrested during a sting operation on
suspicion of selling under-aged puppies and for failure to provide
proper veterinary care for the animals; one of the officers involved in
the capture of the woman said that the smuggler fit the description of a
puppy smuggler: The person uses an alias and a throwaway cell phone and
sells puppies from the backs of cars or on street corners.(25) A New
Hampshire breeder, who was arrested for cruelty to animals when dozens
of dogs and cats were found living in filth, was selling puppies from
Russia for as much as $1,900 each on the Internet.(26)
While no federal agency
tracks the number of puppies that enter the U.S., an investigation by a
New York TV station concluded that thousands of puppies arrive every
year and that many are sick or dead when they get here. A staff member
at a private veterinary clinic at John F. Kennedy Airport told the CBS
affiliate that she had seen “a couple of cases where they (puppies) were
shrink-wrapped.” The station also found that although the Centers for
Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) and other federal agencies have
been alerted to the problem of underaged, sick puppies who are crammed
and shipped into filthy, crowded kennels for hours at a time, none has
jurisdiction over the animals’ care. The CDC only checks animals for
rabies, and the USDA regulations for dogs’ age and transport conditions
do not apply to foreign
Some states have enacted
“puppy lemon” laws that give caretakers the right to return sick or dead
puppies for replacement or that offer the option of having veterinary
expenses paid by the seller. Unfortunately, depending on the state, the
law may not clearly say to whom it applies, or it may affect only pet
stores or breeders that sell a certain number of animals each year.
Check with your state’s attorney’s office to find out about your state’s
What You Can Do
With millions of unwanted dogs and cats (including
purebreds) dying every year in animal shelters, there is simply no
reason for animals to be bred and sold for the pet-shop trade. Without
these stores, the financial incentive for puppy mills would disappear,
and the suffering of these dogs would end. The best way to find an
animal companion is through an animal shelter or rescue group.
1) Josh Shaffer,
“Law Meant to Reduce Puppy Farms Raises Alarm From Kennels,” Fort
Worth Star-Telegram 17 Apr. 2002.
2) “Humane Society Takes 77 Dogs From Owner. Animals Missing Toes,
Chewed Ears,” Arkansas
20 Dec. 2002.
3) Natalie Lariccia, “A Warning on Puppy Mills,” The Vindicator
25 Apr. 2000.
4) Charlene Hager-Van Dyke et al., “4 Testify in Animal
Sentinel 16 Apr.
5) “Puppies Rescued From Cargo Truck,” Associated Press, 11 May 2000.
7) U.S. Department of Agriculture, “Recent USDA Animal Welfare Act Case
Actions,” press releases, 14 Sep. 2001.
8) Miglena Sternadori, “Officials Seek to Collar Illegal Dog Breeders,”
Tribune 20 Jun.
9) “USDA Approves Loan to McDonald County K-9 Distributor, Blunt
Announces,” Blunt news release, 5 Sep. 2001.
10) American Kennel Club, “AKC Statement on Relationships With High Volume Kennels,” 2003.
12) Chuck Haga, “Every Dog Has Its Day,”
Minneapolis Star Tribune
7 Sep. 1999.
ID Faces Breeding Restrictions,” AKC, 8 Nov. 2002.
14) American Kennel Club,
Registration Statistics, 2006.
15) Michael D. Lemonick, “A Terrible Beauty,” Time 12 Dec.
16) High Volume Breeders Committee, “Report to the AKC Board of
Directors,” AKC, 12 Nov. 2002: 5.
17) High Volume Breeders Committee, 12.
18) Richard P. Jones,
“Panel Weakens Pet Industry Rules,”
Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
19 May 2003.
19) U.S. Department
of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Animal Care
Report” (Riverdale: U.S. Department of Agriculture, 2004).
20) U.S. Department
of Agriculture, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, “Compliance
Inspections” (Riverdale: U.S. Department of Agriculture, Jun. 2005).
21) “Missouri’s Animal Care Facilities Act Ensures Proper Animal Care,”
MVMA Messenger Jul./Aug. 2002.
22) “Curb State’s Puppy Mills,” Wisconsin State Journal 14 Mar.
23) Franzen, “This One’s All Bark,” Milwaukee Journal Sentinel
26 May 2003.
24) Peter Mansbridge, “Puppy Mills,” The National Show,
Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, 30 Jul. 2001.
25) Sandy Mazza, “Puppy Pipeline Plugged,”
16 Mar. 2006.
26) Doug Hanchett, “N.H. Dog Dealer Busted; Cop: ‘The Odor Was
Boston Herald 14 Jun.
27) “Puppy Pipeline. Many Shipped to America Are Abused,” WCBS TV, 17
Click here for a printable Word Document of this fact sheet.
Stop Puppy Mills
Animal Rights Activism
The calf photo on these pages is from Farm Sanctuary with our thanks.
We welcome your comments:
Fair Use Notice: This document may contain copyrighted
material whose use has not been specifically authorized by the copyright
owners. We believe that this not-for-profit,
educational use on the Web constitutes a fair use of the copyrighted
material (as provided for in section 107 of the US Copyright Law). If you
wish to use this copyrighted material for purposes of your own that go
beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.
All Creatures Animal Rights Article: justice, peace, love, compassion, ethics,
organizations, Bible, God, Lord, Jesus, Christ, Holy Spirit, grass roots, animals, cruelty
free, lifestyle, hunting, fishing, traping, farm, farming, factory, fur, meat, slaughter,
cattle, beef, pork, chicken, poultry, hens, battery, debeaking. Thee is also a
similarity to the human aspects of prolife, pro life, pro-life, abortion,
capital punishment, and war.
| Home Page
| Animal Issues | Archive | Art and Photos | Articles | Bible | Books | Church and Religion | Discussions |
Hosted Sites | Humor | Letters | Links
| Nature Studies
| Poetry and Stories | Quotations |
Recipes | What's New? |
Thank you for visiting all-creatures.org.