Solving the problem of puppy mills

Much of the work that we do in animal welfare is, so to speak, “inside baseball” – shelter stats, targeted programs, return to field. All of these require explanation to the majority of regular folks who love animals but who don’t spend their days poring over shelter stats and trends.

That is not the case with puppy mills.

Most people who I talk to about our work to end shelter killing consistently raise the problem of puppy mills as one that they feel needs to be addressed. And that makes perfect sense. Over the years, puppy mills have been spotlighted as compound offenders in the campaign to end shelter killing. Mills are emblematic of what many view as the values that have helped cause the homeless pets problem in our country — that financial profit comes before compassion and that pets are disposable property.

The facts of life for dogs in puppy mills have been documented over the years through periodic undercover exposés. It’s less well known, but the same conditions and abuses exist in cat, rabbit and bird mills. And, while most people agree that animals intended to become members of someone’s family shouldn’t be medically neglected, psychologically abused or knowingly (or unknowingly) bred with costly and heartbreaking congenital conditions, puppy mills are protected by powerful agriculture lobbies in their states of residence. To the surprise of most pet lovers, animals in pet mills are legally considered to be livestock and efforts to legislate meaningful change to pet mills is fought by factory farmers and their “ag” industry allies in every state.

The alternative to reforming pet mill operations is to reform the local municipal ordinances that govern the sale of pets in pet stores. That’s what the Best Friends puppy mill initiatives have focused on since 2007, when we identified puppy mills as one of the significant factors contributing to the number of animals dying in shelters across the country.

We are now celebrating more than 100 communities that have enacted a local ordinance banning the sale of mill-bred pets in local pet stores in favor of the sale (adoption) of dogs, cats and, in many cases, rabbits from shelters or rescue groups. The most recent community to join this group, Las Vegas, just passed their ordinance last week.

This groundswell of cities banning commercially bred pets represents a grassroots effort with huge momentum. Prominent cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Beverly Hills and Toronto, and counties like Salt Lake County, Camden County and Ventura County, have passed such ordinances, and the trend continues to spread. However, there is still a long way to go before we put the travesty and abuses of pet mills in our rear-view mirror.

Even though more and more Americans are taking a stand against them, the U.S. still has an estimated 10,000 licensed and unlicensed puppy mills churning out about two million pets per year. These mill-bred pets either compete with shelter and rescue adoptions or themselves land in shelters, compounding the problem.

Here’s how you can make a difference and join Best Friends in putting an end to commercial breeding operations:


  • Don't buy milled puppies from traditional pet stores or on the Internet.
  • Please adopt from a shelter or rescue group instead.
  • Spread the word: Teach others about puppy mills.

More than 9,000 animals are killed in U.S. shelters every day, simply because they don't have homes. When you adopt, you're not only refusing to support puppy mills, you're saving a life and giving an animal in need the second chance he or she deserves.

If you’re looking for a healthy, loving pet, you’re in luck. A dog or cat who is just right for you can be found at your local shelter or rescue group.


Learn more about Best Friends’ puppy mill initiatives by clicking here.

A sharable PSA about puppy mills is available here.

Together, we can take a stand against puppy mills and make them a thing of the past.



Julie Castle


Best Friends Animal Society