What Is a Puppy Mill?


A puppy mill is a “factory farm” for dogs. Dogs live in cages, often in the minimum legal space allowed (only six inches larger than the dog on all sides). Females are bred as frequently as possible, and when they are no longer able to “produce,” they are discarded by the breeders. It is no life for man’s best friend.

Are puppy mills legal and regulated?

Though cruel and inhumane, puppy mills are legal. Puppy mills have been regulated by the federal government since the 1960s. Breeders who sell puppies to pet stores must hold a USDA dealer license, and many states also require breeders to obtain a license to have a dog-breeding kennel. However, the standards to which they must adhere do little more than require food, water and shelter. For example, it is perfectly legal for licensed breeders to:

  • Own 1,000 dogs or more
  • Keep all dogs in small wire cages for their entire lives
  • Breed dogs as often as possible

The standards set forth by the government are not meant to ensure a good life for dogs; they are meant to impose only the bare minimum of care requirements. Furthermore, there are only a few inspectors in each state for hundreds — sometimes thousands — of licensed breeding facilities.

Where are puppy mill dogs sold?


Countless people buy dogs from puppy mills each year, and most believe they are getting a dog from a responsible breeder. Puppy mill owners count on people falling in love with their puppies, either in the pet store or through adorable photos on the Internet.

Websites: Puppy mill breeders have great-looking websites all over the Internet to sell puppies directly to the public. No matter how convincing the site is, the reality could be hundreds of dogs warehoused for breeding. Breeders will even say they are not puppy mills right on their websites. Never, ever buy a puppy online.

Pet Stores: Stores sell puppies as though they are merchandise, or products. The system is the same as any other product in a store: Puppies are raised with low-cost production methods, sold to a broker or “middle man,” and delivered to retail stores to be bought by customers. No responsible breeder would ever sell puppies to a pet store.

Classified Ads: For decades, the newspaper classifieds have been the first place that puppy buyers look for a new pet. Commercial breeders tap into this market easily by placing ads. Beware of any ad that lists several breeds for sale. If the breeder offers to meet you somewhere or won’t let you see where the dogs and puppies live, do not buy the puppy.

How can I help fight puppy mills?

Opt to adopt! Millions of dogs are killed every year in our country’s shelters. If you choose to rescue, you’ll find beautiful, loving dogs of every description who simply need a second chance. Up to 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebreds, so even if your heart is set on a particular breed, the best choice is adoption. If you love dogs, please opt to adopt.

What are the Best Friends puppy mill initiatives?

Right now, millions of adult dogs are suffering on the “production line” in America’s puppy mills. Meanwhile, more than 9,000 animals are euthanized in the nation’s shelters every single day. The Best Friends puppy mill initiatives team is working with you to create a world of No More Homeless Pets by fighting against puppy mills. From targeting pet stores that sell puppies from mills, to educating consumers, to creating and lobbying for better legislation across the country, our team is making an impact, and saving lives.  

Please join us in working toward a day when all of America’s dogs have what they deserve: safety, good care, happiness, and love from a family of their own.

How to fight puppy mills:

  • Don’t buy dogs from pet stores or the Internet. Adopt instead.
  • Donate to the Best Friends puppy mill initiatives at puppymills.bestfriends.org.
  • Speak out: Teach others about puppy mills.

To learn more about the puppy mill problem and find out how you can help, go to puppymills.bestfriends.org.