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Puppy Mill Information

The Humane Society

Can you imagine forcing your pet dog to live his or her entire life in a small wire cage with no human companionship, toys, or comfort, and little hope of ever becoming part of a family? That is what life is like for a puppy mill breeding dog. Help us stop this cycle of cruelty that contributes to pet overpopulation and the suffering of countless dogs.

 Puppy mills have been around for decades. They continue to thrive because they prey on unwitting consumers who are smitten by too-cute-for-words puppies in pet store windows and on legitimate-seeming websites. Puppy mills house dogs in shockingly poor conditions. After their fertility wanes, breeding animals are often killed, abandoned or sold cheaply to another mill to try and get "one more litter" out of the dog. The annual result of all this breeding is millions of puppies, many with behavior and/or health problems.


Learn how to shop smart if you're thinking about getting a dog, and join Colbie Caillat in helping to spread the word about the cruelty behind the cuteness.

Help us stop the cycle by wearing our Stop Puppy Mills cause gear, found at Humane Domain.

And be sure to sign the pledge to stop puppy mills! Choose not to buy your next pet from a pet store or Internet site, and refuse to buy supplies from any pet store or Internet site that sells puppies. Sign here »


Our undercover investigation of several Chicago pet stores reveals that many of them get their puppies from puppy mills—despite store employees' assurances to the contrary.


   Investigation also reveals pet stores’ non-compliance with Illinois law and reliance on breeders with repeat violations of the Animal Welfare Act


CHICAGO (Dec. 11, 2012)—During the busiest puppy buying season of the year, The Humane Society of the United States released an undercover investigation of pet stores in the Chicago area, linking many of them to inhumane commercial breeders known as puppy mills. The investigation found that employees repeatedly gave strong assurances that stores did not buy from puppy mills, but documentary evidence showed otherwise.

"This investigation drives home the heartbreaking lesson that consumers can unwittingly support the vast cruelties of puppy mills if they patronize pet stores in

This investigation was the latest of three conducted in large U.S. cities to show the very same thing—stores claiming that they did not rely on puppy mills when, in fact, they did. By refusing to admit the source of animals they sell, these store employees tacitly acknowledge that puppy mills are unacceptable facilities that cause great suffering to breeding dogs.

Over a three day period in October, an HSUS investigator and a local Chicago resident visited 12 Chicagoland pet stores. HSUS investigators made trips to many of the stores’ breeders as well.

The investigation found:

  • HSUS footage revealed many of the breeding facilities that supply Chicago-area pet stores are puppy mills, where hundreds of dogs are confined in cramped wire cages solely to produce puppies for the pet trade. One of the breeders had almost 1,000 dogs and puppies on her property.
  • Some breeders found selling to Chicago-area pet stores have a record of repeat violations of the federal Animal Welfare Act. USDA inspection reports contained reports of significant animal care violations, including sick and injured dogs who had not been treated by a vet, underweight animals, puppies with their feet falling through the wire floors, puppies with severe eye deformities, piles of feces, and food contaminated by mold and insects.
  • In addition to the 12 stores visited in person, HSUS staffers followed the paper trail for puppies sent from puppy mills to dozens of other Chicagoland stores, linking almost all of them to puppy mills or brokers for puppy mills.
  • More than 2,000 puppies were shipped to Chicago-area pet stores during an approximate 6-month period, most of them from notorious puppy mill states such as Missouri, Iowa, Oklahoma, Kansas, Ohio and Indiana.
  • Illinois pet store inspection records obtained by The HSUS reveal that one of the stores visited is, itself, a puppy mill, with approximately 60 adult dogs kept in small, stacked wire cages in a back room in addition to the dozens of puppies for sale. "Puppy Parlor" aka "Poochie Puppy Parlor" in Lisle has been the subject of 19 complaints to the state department of agriculture over the past two years, and was quarantined for a week last year due to an outbreak of parvovirus that killed at least six puppies.
  • During The HSUS's visits it appeared that eight of the 12 stores did not fully comply with a state law passed in 2010 requiring pet shops to "post in a conspicuous place in writing on or near the cage of any dog or cat available for sale the […] name and address of the animal's breeder" and other information about the puppies for sale. The law was intended in part to help consumers avoid purchasing puppies from puppy mills.

Almost 2,000 pet stores nationwide and more than 80 in Illinois have signed an HSUS pledge not to sell puppies, demonstrating that it is possible to have a successful pet-related business without supporting puppy mills.

ASPCA Information


What Is a Puppy Mill?

A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs. Unlike responsible breeders, who place the utmost importance on producing the healthiest puppies possible, breeding at puppy mills is performed without consideration of genetic quality. This results in generations of dogs with unchecked hereditary defects.

Some puppy mill puppies are sold to pet shops—usually through a broker, or middleman—and marketed as young as eight weeks of age. The lineage records of puppy mill dogs are often falsified. Other puppy mill puppies are sold directly to the public, including over the Internet, through newspaper ads, and at swap meets and flea markets.

What Health Problems Are Common to Puppy Mill Dogs?

Illness and disease are common in dogs from puppy mills. Because puppy mill operators often fail to apply proper husbandry practices that would remove sick dogs from their breeding pools, puppies from puppy mills are prone to congenital and hereditary conditions. These can include:

  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (hip dysplasia, luxating patellas, etc.)
  • Endocrine disorders (diabetes, hyperthyroidism)
  • Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
  • Deafness
  • Eye problems (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy, etc.)
  • Respiratory disorders

On top of that, puppies often arrive in pet stores and their new homes with diseases or infirmities. These can include:

  • Giardia
  • Parvovirus
  • Distemper
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Kennel cough
  • Pneumonia
  • Mange
  • Fleas
  • Ticks
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Heartworm
  • Chronic diarrhea
Do Puppy Mill Pups Display Behavior Problems?

Sometimes. Fearful behavior and lack of socialization with humans and other animals are typical of puppy mill dogs. Puppies born in puppy mills are typically removed from their littermates and mothers at just six weeks of age. The first months of a puppy's life are a critical socialization period for puppies. Spending that time with their mother and littermates helps prevent puppies from developing problems like extreme shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety.

How Are Animals Treated at Puppy Mills?

Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming. To minimize waste cleanup, dogs are often kept in cages with wire flooring that injures their paws and legs—and it is not unusual for cages to be stacked up in columns. Breeding dogs at mills might spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements, or crammed inside filthy structures where they never get the chance to feel the sun or breathe fresh air.

How Often Are Dogs Bred in Puppy Mills?

In order to maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters. When, after a few years, they are physically depleted to the point that they no longer can reproduce, breeding females are often killed. The mom and dad of the puppy in the pet store window are unlikely to make it out of the mill alive—and neither will the many puppies born with overt physical problems that make them unsalable.

When and Why Did Puppy Mills Begin?

Puppy mills became more prevalent after World War II. In response to widespread crop failures in the Midwest, the United States Department of Agriculture began promoting purebred puppies as a fool-proof "cash" crop. Chicken coops and rabbit hutches were repurposed for dogs, and the retail pet industry—pet stores large and small—boomed with the increasing supply of puppies from the new "mills."

Which States Have the Most Puppy Mills?

Today, Missouri is considered the leading puppy mill state in the country. Over time, puppy mills have spread geographically. The highest concentration is in the Midwest, but there are also high concentrations in other areas, including Pennsylvania, Ohio and upstate New York. Commercial dog breeding is very prevalent among Amish and Mennonite farmers, with pockets of Amish dog breeders found throughout the country, including in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, and parts of Wisconsin.

How Many Puppy Mills Exist in the U.S.?

At any given point in time, there are typically between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders (commonly referred to as puppy mills) operating in the United States. However, this number does not take into consideration the number of breeders not required to be licensed by the USDA or the number of breeders operating illegally without a license. Because so many of these breeders are operating without oversight, it's impossible to accurately track them or to know how many there truly are. The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills in the United States.

How Many Dogs Does an Average Puppy Mill Have?

The number of dogs in a puppy mill can vary significantly. Some puppy mills are relatively small, with only 10 breeding dogs. Other breeders run massive operations with more than 1,000 breeding dogs! Because not all puppy mills are licensed and inspected, it's impossible to know the true average.

Are Puppy Mills Always Legal?

Not necessarily. The federal Animal Welfare Act requires breeders who have more than three breeding female dogs and sell puppies to pet stores or puppy brokers to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA). In addition to the federal law, some states have laws that regulate the commercial breeding industry as well.

However, in most cases, the standards that breeders are required to meet by law are extremely minimal. Under the federal Animal Welfare Act, it is completely legal to keep a dog in a cage only six inches longer than the dog in each direction, with a wire floor, stacked on top of another cage, for the dog's entire life. Conditions that most people would consider inhumane, or even cruel, are often totally legal.

For more information, please see our page on laws that protect dogs in puppy mills.

A Local Pet Store Says Its Dogs Aren't from a Mill. Is That True?

There is no legal definition of "puppy mill." Many pet store owners will tell you they get all their puppies from "licensed USDA breeders" or "local breeders." In fact, in order to sell puppies to pet stores, a breeder must be licensed by the USDA! Pet stores often use this licensing to provide a false sense of security to customers, when what it really means is that they do, in fact, get their puppies from puppy mills.

The fact is, responsible breeders would never sell a puppy through a pet store because they want to screen potential buyers to ensure that the puppies are going to good homes.

The Store's Dogs Have Papers. Does That Mean They're from Responsible Breeders?

No. Being registered or having papers means nothing more than the puppy's parents both had papers. Many registered dogs are sold in puppy mills. Don't be fooled by "papers." Many, many pedigreed dogs come from puppy mills! The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from yourself.

How Can I Tell If an Online Puppy Seller Is a Mill?

Many puppies sold online come from puppy mills. The only way you can be sure that a puppy came from a reputable source is to see where he or she came from yourself! Responsible breeders would never sell to someone they haven't met because they want to screen potential buyers to ensure the puppies are going to good homes. Learn more about why you should never buy a puppy online. 

Where Else Can I Get a Purebred Dog?

Please make adoption your first option. Purebred dogs end up in shelters just like mixed breeds. Breed rescue groups exist for just about every breed possible. If you have your heart set on a purebred, please be sure to visit your local shelter or find a breed rescue group before searching for a breeder.

If you can't find what you want through a shelter or breed rescue group, please learn how to recognize a responsible breeder. When buying a dog from a breeder, always be sure to meet the puppy's parents or at least the mother, and see where the dogs live. Never meet a breeder at an off-site location, and never have a puppy shipped to you sight-unseen.

What Happens If I Don't Buy the Dogs in Pet Stores? Don't They Need Homes, Too?

The public will stop buying pet store puppies gradually over time, not all at once—someone will eventually purchase those dogs at the store. Puppies in pet stores are usually sold quickly. If they don't sell quickly, the owners continue to slash the price until the puppies are sold.

The less they sell for, the less profit the store makes. That means the store will order fewer puppies the next month. And puppy mills will ultimately produce fewer dogs.

How Can I Help Stop Puppy Mills?

The most important thing you can do to help shut down puppy mills is refuse to shop at a store that sells puppies. You can also:

Take the pledge. Pledge that you'll never shop in a store that sells puppies—even if you're just buying food or toys.

Join the Advocacy Brigade. You'll receive alerts that make it easy to fight for laws that protect dogs in puppy mills.

Adopt a mill survivor. Puppy mill survivors often need patient, loving adopters who can help them learn to trust people.

Thank you for standing up for puppy mill dogs!

The pictures below is WHERE your Puppy comes from in Pet Stores. Their parents live like these 24/7 never seeing the light of day, never being on grass, never being able to play, to be loved. THIS IS WHAT WE MUST STOP AND WHY YOU MUST GO TO SHELTERS TO BUY YOUR PETS! We need to STOP this abuse, this is NOT breeding, this is shear cruelty at it's worst.

Where Petland Stores Get Puppies


Find out where your local Petland gets its puppies

After an eight-month investigation, the Humane Society of the United States accused Petland, the national pet store chain, of selling dogs bred under appalling conditions at puppy mills around the country.


he investigation involved 21 Petland stores and dozens of breeders and brokers. The Petland stores are being supplied by large-scale puppy mills, although customers are routinely informed that the dogs come only from good breeders, the Humane Society said.

Dogs from puppy mills are sold at Petland stores for as much as $3,500 each, according to the Humane Society. Investigators reviewed interstate import records of an additional 322 breeders, U.S. Department of Agriculture reports and more than 17,000 individual puppies linked to Petland stores, according to a release on the group's website.


Filthy cages, inadequate care
Among the poor conditions cited, investigators found puppies in commercial breeders "living in filthy cages reeking of urine, with inadequate care and socialization," according to the release. The Humane Society says dogs at the mills were found in cages with wire flooring so large that the puppies' paws and even the paws of the mother dogs would fall through.

The group said pet stores should not be buying puppies from "abusive puppy mills" and "should not be lying to consumers" about where they get their puppies.


The Humane Society of the United States


A 2009 exposé has traced the shipping records for more than 15,000 puppies to Petland stores, proving once again that America's largest chain of puppy-selling pet stores, Petland Inc., is also the nation's largest retail supporter of puppy mills.

The investigation revealed that almost every Petland store in the country is buying puppies from large-scale "middleman" brokers that deal with puppy mills, and some are continuing to buy directly from known puppy mills that The HSUS filmed and identified in our 2008 investigation.


Some of them even purchased puppies from a known animal abuser in 2009.

Want to know where your local Petland is getting some of its puppies? Click on your state in our state-by-state list to see what our investigation found

New Hampshire
New Mexico
New York
North Carolina
South Carolina
West Virginia


Large commercial breeders are legal and regulated by the USDA, but enforcement of humane conditions is a low priority , according to a recent report on

Need I say anymore on this subject? This is a HORRIBLE business with NO regard to these animals welfare whatsoever! So again we BEG you to STOP buying animals from Pet Stores and start going to your local shelters to save animals that need you. If you don't go to shelters to adopt, they kill them, I would much rather see the puppy mills out of business than to see dogs and cats die in our shelters for no reason whatsoever. You love puppies shelters have TONS OF THEM, you love small dogs, medium dogs, large dogs, any kind of dog they have. They have purebreds also if you're looking for a purebred dog. So there is NO need to run to a Pet Store to buy a puppy!



A puppy mill, sometimes known as a puppy farm, is a commercial facility that is operated with an emphasis upon profits above animal welfare and is often in substandard conditions regarding the well-being of dogs in their care. Similar types of operations exist for other animals most commonly kept as pets or used as feed for other animals. The term can be applied to operations involving other animals commercially bred for profit, e.g. "kitty mills." There are an estimated 4,000 puppy mills in the U.S. that produce more than half a million puppies a year. Commercial kennels may be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture which may inspect the kennels routinely.For-profit breeding on a smaller scale may be referred to as , although this term has negative connotations and may also refer to unplanned or non-commercial breeding.

Although no standardized legal definition for "puppy mill" exists, a definition was established in Avenson v. Zegart in 1984 as "a dog breeding operation in which the health of the dogs is disregarded in order to maintain a low overhead and maximize profits."The uses a similar definition: "a large-scale commercial dog breeding operation where profit is given priority over the well-being of the dogs."

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