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What is a Puppy Mill?

Michael Pollick
Updated Jun 04, 2024
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While it may be surprising to hear, many puppies and dogs purchased from pet stores come from puppy mills. Some say that 99% of all pet stores that sell puppies get them from puppy mills and not legitimate, professional breeders. Legitimate breeders typically do not sell their puppies and dogs to pet stores because these breeders usually prefer to interview prospective owners before adopting a dog out.

A puppy mill is capable of providing healthy animals to pet stores, but quite often the remaining puppies are kept in substandard and overcrowded cages. Veterinary care may be spotty or non-existent. If one puppy in a poorly-managed puppy mill contracts a contagious disease, then the chances are very high that other puppies will soon be infected. Canine diseases such as parvo often run rampant in a filthy, improperly constructed puppy mill.

Puppy mill operators may or may not be experienced breeders. Female dogs of breeding age can become exhausted if not given enough time to recover between litters, but inexperienced breeders rarely allow such rest periods. Puppies produced in a puppy mill are often the result of indiscriminate cross-breeding, which means the animal may inherit the worst traits of both breeds. Contact with caring humans may also be a rare event in a typical puppy mill, so a dog's socialization skills could also be compromised.

Operating a puppy mill is not technically illegal in many states, since the difference between a legitimate commercial breeding facility and an unscrupulous backyard breeder can be challenging to prove in court. A suspected puppy mill operator must be proven guilty of violating other laws, including cruelty to animals or operating a business without a license. Having a large number of puppies in small cages is not necessarily a crime in and of itself. It is not illegal to breed animals solely as a source of income, either. This is why animal protection societies have a difficult time shutting down a suspected puppy mill.

Consumers can take several steps to avoid dealing with a puppy mill. One important step is to ask pet store owners and private sellers specific questions about the animal's background. Commercial pet stores may post a strict "No Puppy Mills" policy, but this is no guarantee. Legitimate breeders should have documentation on the animal's veterinary care and place of birth. Puppy mill operators may not supply complete records, or the information may be inaccurate and misleading. Be aware of purebred puppies being offered at a significant discount — this could mean the animals are not registered purebreds or they may have undisclosed health problems.

All Things Nature is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Michael Pollick
By Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to All Things Nature, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a wide range of topics. His curiosity drives him to study subjects in-depth, resulting in informative and engaging articles. Prior to becoming a professional writer, Michael honed his skills as an English tutor, poet, voice-over artist, and DJ.
Discussion Comments
By Logicfest — On May 27, 2014

@Terrificli -- good suggestions, but don't shut out your local pet store too quickly. A lot of those are family run businesses that provide much needed jobs in your community.

If you wonder about the legitimacy of their sources for puppies, ask the owner about where he or she gets their dogs. If the owners know their customers are asking, they can check and do some self policing to make sure they aren't supporting puppy mills.

There's nothing wrong with supporting quality, local breeders but don't leave the local pet store owner out in the cold, either. In fact, that store owner might be a good ally in the fight against puppy mills.

By Vincenzo — On May 26, 2014

@Terrificli -- better yet, check out the dogs at your local pound that need homes. Mutts are great dogs, too, and there is no shortage of loveable mutts that will be a great addition to your family.

By Terrificli — On May 25, 2014

There wouldn't be any puppy mills if there wasn't a high demand for puppies. While it might be tough for an individual to cut into that demand, there are some things people can do to make sure they aren't buying dogs that were cranked out of puppy mills.

For example, there are a lot of smaller breeders operating out there that do take proper care of their dogs. Do some research on the Internet and find them or visit with your local vet and ask for some suggestions.

Michael Pollick
Michael Pollick
As a frequent contributor to All Things Nature, Michael Pollick uses his passion for research and writing to cover a...
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