Puppy Mills, Commercial and Backyard Dog Breeders


Puppy Mills, Commercial and Backyard Dog Breeders

Commercial dog breeders breed and produce dogs for profit. They are in the business to make money by breeding dogs. Dogs that are bred purely for profit are at risk of not being bred responsibly, humanely, knowledgeably or compassionately. These commercial dog breeders cut corners to save money, at a cost to their dogs and puppies. Irresponsible, profit-driven dog breeders often don’t know how to breed dogs responsibly and only provide the bare minimum to keep their dogs alive and producing. To do this, these breeders keep dogs confined in filthy,PUPPY MILLS, COMMERCIAL AND BACKYARD DOG BREEDERS overcrowded and inhumane small wire cages where they cannot move; provide inadequate sanitation; minimal and poor-quality food; empty or dirty water bowls; no veterinary care and needed medicine; a total lack of social interaction; unacceptable living conditions often outside in extreme heat and cold; and living in sheer loneliness, sickness, pain and despair. These breeders don’t care about the dogs. They care about your money.

About Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are essentially dog-making factories similar to industrial factory farms, but for dogs. There are more than 10,000 puppy mills in the United States, producing about 400,000+ litters of puppies every year. Mother dogs spend their entire lives in tiny wire cages with no human contact, attention or touch. When the mother and father dogs can no longer breed, they are disposed of or killed. Unwanted puppies are too.

PUPPY MILLS, COMMERCIAL AND BACKYARD DOG BREEDERSFewer than 3,000 puppy mills are licensed by the USDA*, leaving the vast majority of puppy mills unlicensed and unregulated, where dogs are hidden in dark barns and sheds far from public view. These breeders often breed in secret and go to great lengths to avoid discovery. Puppy mills or industrial dog farmers breed and treat their dogs like “things or units of production,” never acknowledging the sentience, wellbeing or suffering of the dog. They breed their dogs in the worst, more deplorable, filthy and unhealthy conditions imaginable, repeatedly raising unhealthy, sick, diseased and often dying dogs. They sell their puppies at a prematurely young age (to save money on needed continued care) to pet stores, pet shops, dog auctions, and online websites—usually through brokers or middlemen that take a handsome cut of the profits. Some puppy mills sell directly to the public, including over the Internet, or through newspaper ads, swap meets and flea markets. But most puppy mill puppies are shipped thousands of miles to pet shops, where unsuspecting customers purchase them, unaware of the misery they come from. Ethical breeders will never sell a dogs in any of these ways that involve 3rd party sellers, and their motive is rarely profit driven. 

The problem with getting a puppy from a bad commercial breeder, backyard breeder or puppy mill is that you inherit a young dog that has had a very bad start in life. The puppy will likely develop genetic health conditions leaving you responsible for enormous veterinary bills over the lifetime of the dog. Not to mention, you will watch your helpless dog suffer a lifetime of pain, discomfort and hardship, that was entirely unnecessary. By not buying a dog from these profit-driven dealers and stores, you will not only save yourself money and inherited problems, but you won’t be supporting the continued abusive, cruel, wasteful breeding of dogs from unscrupulous commercial dealers and mills.

The majority of puppy mills are located in the Midwest, with the greatest number located in the state of Missouri. Upstate New York, Ohio, Indiana and Pennsylvania also have a very high concentration of puppy mills. The Amish or Mennonite farmers in Pennsylvania are notorious for being massive puppy mill breeders for revenue generation, and since most of them are unlicensed and don’t want to be discovered, they are known to inhumanely de-bark their dogs to silence them, so they won’t be discovered.

USDA Licencing Standards for Commercial Dog Breeders

PUPPY MILLS, COMMERCIAL AND BACKYARD DOG BREEDERSThe vast majority of these puppy mill breeders are operating illegally without a license, and it is unknown how many illegal, unlicensed puppy mill dog breeders there are in the U.S. because they are difficult to track down. But there are roughly 2,000-3,000 USDA-licensed* puppy mill dog breeders in the U.S. The ASPCA estimates that there are approximately as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the U.S. What does USDA-licensing actually mean? USDA licensing standards are notoriously negligible and minimal. “Under USDA standards, it is legal to keep dozens or even hundreds of breeding dogs in small wire cages for their entire lives with only the basics of food, water and rudimentary shelter. But many USDA facilities have been found in violation of even these minimal standards. It is extremely rare for the USDA to revoke a commercial breeder’s license or even fine a puppy mill that has repeated violations. As a result, there are hundreds of USDA-licensed puppy mills in operation that have a history of documented animal care violations that are still licensed.” (Humane Society of the U.S.)

Beware of Dog Auctions

PUPPY MILLS, COMMERCIAL AND BACKYARD DOG BREEDERSAnother channel for profit-driven commercial and backyard breeders is to sell their dogs through dog auctions. Dog auctions are illegal in many states, but these auctions serve as a major distribution channel for buyers and sellers in 15 states, mainly throughout the Midwest. Most of these breeders have received repeated violations of the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) and have been convicted of numerous counts of animal cruelty. It is a business rife with greed, corruption and consumer fraud, not to mention animal cruelty, where puppy distributors supply the dogs from large commercial breeding operations. Like puppy mills, these poor dogs are bred in the worst, most deplorable conditions, and are sad, unhealthy, sick and diseased, are suffering in chronic pain and in need medical support. Read more about dog auctions from one state that is working hard to shut them down, the Coalition to Ban Ohio Dog Auctions.

Watch out for Dog Brokers—the Middleman

Puppy and dog brokers are the middleman, a person who buys dogs from other sources like illegal puppy mills, and then sells them to pet stores, online, or directly to unsuspecting people. Brokers buy litters of puppies and dogs from puppy mills, out-of-state shelters, on Craigslist, or the classified ads. They are looking for cheap dogs, and then they increase the price 10-fold when they sell them. They love seeing “free to a good home” ads, and prey on them. They often pose as breeders themselves, and con unsuspecting buyers—lying to these buyers that they don’t or won’t buy from puppy mills. Here is more about puppy mill dog brokers and how to identify them. Know the signs a dog is from a puppy mill or broker.


As the American public becomes enlightened to the truth and horrors about puppy mills, there has been an increase in the number of new bills addressing this animal welfare issue and helping to shut down the 3rd party pipeline. For more information, see these resources from Animal Legal Defense Fund (ALDF):

From Protected Paws:

Inside An Amish Puppy Mill


What You Can Do

  • Do adopt a dog from your local animal shelter or rescue organization. Save a life, adopt don’t shop! Adoption should always be the first option
  • Adopt a breed-specific dog from a rescue group or shelter – before searching for a breeder
  • Never purchase a dog online and never have a puppy shipped to you – These dogs are usually puppy mill dogs. Responsible breeders would never sell a dog online or to someone they haven’t met personally, because they screen and interview potential buyers
  • Never support puppy mills by purchasing your pet from a pet store or any venue in which their “inventory” is obtained through puppy mill dealers/operators
  • Never purchase a puppy directly from a puppy mill, auction, flea market, backyard breeder, or irresponsible commercial breeder – otherwise, you will support the continued pain and suffering for more dogs and puppies in this inhumane system
  • Never purchase a dog from a “Broker” – middleman – here are the red flags
  • Learn how to recognize a responsible breeder – meet the puppy’s parents and see where the dog lives, don’t meet the breeder at an off-site location
  • Don’t fall for “Puppies from a licensed USDA breeder” or “local breeder” at a pet store. All breeders that sell to pet stores must be licensed by the USDA. These “licensed” dogs come from puppy mills, and the USDA license means virtually nothing but cruelty and neglect
  • Sign org’s Petition to Ban Dog Auctions
  • Quick, east reference guide for questions to ask when buying a new puppy (if you choose to buy instead of rescue)

The Shocking Truth About Puppy Mills



Common Health Problems Dogs Have From Puppy Mills and Backyard Breeders

  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Epilepsy
  • Deafness
  • Respiratory disorders
  • Eye issues (cataracts, glaucoma, progressive retinal atrophy)
  • Blood disorders (anemia, Von Willebrand disease)
  • Endocrine disorders (hyperthyroidism, diabetes)
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (luxating patellas, hip dysplasia, etc)
  • Diseases including: distemper, kennel cough, upper respiratory infections, parvo-virus, giardia (parasite), pneumonia, mange, fleas, intestinal parasites, heartworm and chronic diarrhea

Problems with Backyard Breeders, Puppy Mills, Puppy Farms and Irresponsible Commercial Breeders:

  1. Don’t know what they are doing, don’t care, are uninformed, irresponsible, unknowledgable about breeding dogs and don’t take responsible care of their dogs
  2. Put profits ahead of the wellbeing and welfare of their dogs and puppies
  3. Breed bad genetics and improper breeding – causing an array of serious physical, health and behavior problems and instead continually reproduce and reinforce genetic problems in dogs
  4. Have sick, diseased, unhealthy, unsound and often injured and dying dogs
  5. Provide deplorable, dirty, uncomfortable, inadequate conditions for their dogs
  6. Provide inadequate and unhealthy nutrition and water
  7. Provide no medical and health care for the mother and the puppies
  8. Dogs are bred from a poor genetic pool and selection of the parent dogs, and from inbreeding
  9. Dogs are often bred every 6 months, never giving the female dog a break – far too often
  10. Don’t provide proper health and medical care – including necessary deworming, defleaing, proper vaccinations given at the right time, all resulting in sickness and a very bad start in life
  11. Subject dogs to filth, feces, and urine in their cages causing housetraining issues, and an overall filthy environment
  12. Don’t provide proper or appropriate surfaces for the dogs to live on, or potty train the puppies for proper defecating and urinating, puppies may never have been exposed to grass or lawns
  13. Have frightened, scared, sick, timid, often diseased mothers who impart and spread this to her pups, causing emotional problems and defensive behavior
  14. Put puppies up for adoption at 2 months/8 weeks, which is way too early for puppies to be taken away from their mothers and litter-mates, they are not ready
  15. These people are not there for your questions, problems, or issues you are having after buying the puppy, they just want your check or VISA card, period

Oprah Special on Puppy Mills


Puppy Mill Statistics

  • 2-4 million dogs bred in puppy mills are sold each year to uninformed, eager consumers (2008) (Humane Society of the U.S.)
  • Puppy mills make about 400,000 litters a year. Dogs are often sold at pet stores and online (Dogster)
  • Around 3,500 of the 11,500 pet stores in the U.S. sell cats and dogs (Pet Industry Advisory Council) (Dogster)
  • Approximately 500,000 puppies are sold at pet stores each year (Humane Society of the U.S.) 
  • There are more than 6,000 licensed commercial kennels in the U.S. (and untold numbers of unlicensed) (Dogster)
  • 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 USDA-inspected each year (All Creatures)
  • 21 states have no laws on the books regulating commercial dog breeders (ASPCA)
  • There are typically between 2,000 and 3,000 USDA-licensed breeders or puppy mills operating in the U.S. (ASPCA)
  • The number of dogs in a puppy mill can vary significantly, ranging from 10 to 1,000 breeding dogs (ASPCA)
  • The ASPCA estimates that there could be as many as 10,000 puppy mills across the nation (ASPCA)

Responsible, Reputable Dog Breeders Will

  • Have an excellent reputation for breeding that particular breed
  • Have acquired reputable credentials, necessary licenses, test their breeding stock, and certify health issues related to the breed
  • Put the welfare and wellbeing of the dog and puppies always first and foremost, ahead of profits
  • Will provide titles or other verification that the dogs are bred responsible and carefully
  • Know what they are doing, are knowledgeable about the breed, and breed for genetic health and temperament
  • Place each pup carefully and personally with care and attention to finding the best responsible, caring home – and one that is a good fit for the pup’s personality and temperament
  • Will guarantee the health of their puppies by taking the pet back, exchanging, rebating or refunding your money
  • Will issue you a limited registration contract to spay/neuter the puppy at a certain specified age, and not before – or if the puppy is older, will be spayed/neutered
  • Will educate about the breed and its care
  • Never sell their pups through a pet store or broker
  • Will be there to answer questions, information, and respond to problems
  • Usually have homes lined up in advance

Articles on Puppy Mills, Backyard and Commercial Breeders

A Horrible Hundred 2016: Puppy Mills Exposed, Humane Society of the U.S., 2017

The Horrible Hundred 2015: Puppy Mills Exposed, HSUS, May 2015

100 Horrible Puppy Mills in America, The DoDo, May 2015

The Dog Factory: Inside the Sickening World of Puppy Mills, Rolling Stone, January 2017

10 Signs Of A Backyard Breeder, It’s Dog or Nothing, April 2014

Reputable Breeder or Puppy Mill?, Bailing Out Benji, February 2012

Puppy Mill Doublespeak, What Shady Puppy Producers Might Tell You—Decoded, HSUS

A Closer Look at Puppy Mills, ASPCA

I Worked for a Puppy Mill, Vice, September 2014

10 Signs That a Puppy is from a Puppy Mill, I Heart Dogs, October 2014

Puppies ‘Viewed as Livestock’ in Amish Community, Says Rescue Advocate, ABC News, March 2009

The Amish and Puppy Mills, The Puppy Mill Project

Helpful Articles and Resources

Puppy Mill Laws By State, Protected Paws

Puppy Mills, Then and Now, A Decade of Progress (PDF), HSUS

Why You Should Never Buy a Puppy Online, ASPCA

How to Find A Responsible Dog Breeder, HSUS

How to Find A Responsible Dog Breeder, PDF, HSUS

Breeders vs. Puppy Mills, How to Find A Good Breeder, Your Dog’s Friend

News on Puppy Mills & Related Issues

USDA Blacks Out Animal Welfare Information, Science magazine, February 2017

The HSUS Challenges USDA Over Mass Removal of Animal Welfare Records, Huffington Post, February 2017

San Francisco Wages War on Puppy Mills, FOX61 News, February 2017

Sponsors to Amend Puppy Mill Bill, NorthJersey.com, February, 2017

Puppy Mills Aren’t Partisan: Animal Abuse Deserves Scrutiny, The Hill, February 2017

50 Puppies Found Packed in Overnight Van As Pet Store Denies Abuse, Huffington Post, April 2016

Petland Has Dirty Paws, Bailing Out Benji, February 2014



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