A puppy mill is a dog breeding operation in which profit takes priority over the health, comfort and welfare of the dogs.

Even though more and more Americans are taking a stand against them, the U.S. still has thousands of puppy mills.

In puppy mills, dogs live in small, cramped cages; females are bred constantly; and most of the dogs are deprived of love, socialization and medical care. Meanwhile, hundreds of thousands of dogs and cats are killed in shelters each year (415,000 in 2023 alone) just because they don’t have safe places to call home. But you can help change that. 

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The problem with puppy mills 

Many people don’t realize that when they buy a dog from a pet store or the internet, that dog most likely came from a puppy mill. 

When you buy a puppy from a pet store or the internet, you’re most likely supporting a puppy mill, an inhumane dog-breeding operation where dogs live in small cages, often in the minimum legal size allowed (only six inches larger than the dog on all sides). Female dogs in puppy mills are bred constantly, in order to produce as many puppies as possible for the pet trade and to make a profit.  

Although the federal government regulates most breeders who sell puppies online and to pet stores, the animal care standards imposed on breeders don’t promote responsible breeding or ensure healthy puppies. For example, it’s legal for licensed breeders to own 1,000 or more dogs, to keep them in very small cages for their entire lives and to breed them as often as possible.  

The standards set by the government aren’t meant to ensure that the dogs have the good lives they deserve; they only require the bare minimum of care. Plus, there are only a few inspectors in each state for all the state’s licensed breeding facilities.  

Where dogs need your help

OR: Help stop puppy and kitten mills »

Every dog should feel safe, happy and loved 

Best Friends collaborates with passionate people like you to put laws in place that help eliminate puppy mills. 

Our ongoing work to reach this goal includes creating and lobbying for humane pet sales legislation across the country, educating people about the harm of puppy mills, promoting adoption rather than the purchase of pets, and encouraging pet stores to offer pets for adoption instead of selling mill-bred pets.  

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Through Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives, we are working to encourage pet stores to offer pets for adoption instead of selling pets bred in mills, educate consumers about puppy mills, and create and lobby for humane legislation and policies that protect pets.  



We’re making a difference for dogs 

Best Friends is working at all levels — local, state and national — to end the suffering of dogs in puppy mills. 

In 2023, our puppy mill initiatives team helped to enact 12 local ordinances and two statewide bills to prevent the sale of dogs and cats from breeding mills. That means there are now nearly 500 humane pet sales laws in place across North America.  

Advocating for humane pet sales laws 

Humane pet sales laws are an effective way to put the squeeze on commercial breeding operations.

Supporting local efforts to end puppy mills 

Our team of grassroots advocates, called the 2025 Action Team, is made up of dedicated and passionate people like you.

You can start or join a campaign to help end puppy mills. 

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Want to stop puppy mills? Here are 15 things you can do to help.  

Show me how to help »

Be an effective advocate: help end puppy mills 

Not sure where to start? We’ve put together some resources so you can learn more about puppy mills and take action.