Stop the cruelty: How you can help fight against puppy mills


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When I was 13, my parents bought me a puppy. A trusted veterinarian recommended a pet store, promising us the dogs there were healthy. Not two days after bringing the lively pup home, we woke up to find her listless on the floor. As I sat down next to her, she mustered up enough energy to find her way into my lap, where she lay until I got up to go to school.

When I came home, the dog was gone. My mom had brought her to a different vet, who told her the puppy was so sick there was no way we could keep her.

I was too young to know this at the time, but I would now put money on this assumption: Our maltese puppy came from a puppy mill. And if you’re unfamiliar with the term, it’s time to educate yourself.

According to the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, “A puppy mill is a large-scale commercial dog-breeding operation that places profit over the well-being of its dogs — who are often severely neglected — and acts without regard to responsible breeding practices.”

Puppy mill puppies are sold to pet stores and directly to the public, including via the Internet, through newspaper ads, at swap meets and flea markets.

The puppies are taken from their mothers at 8 weeks old, which means their mothers do not have the chance to care for them, says the Human Society of the United States. And when the mother dogs can no longer breed, they are discarded or killed.

Puppy mill conditions

Puppy mills are overcrowded and unsanitary, according to the ASPCA. The dogs housed there do not receive adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. There are no treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming.

In addition, the dogs are kept in cages with wire flooring to minimize waste cleanup, which injures their paws and legs. Breeding dogs often live out their lives outdoors or stuffed inside filthy structures without fresh air.

Potential health issues

So it’s no wonder that many puppy mill puppies are purchased with any number of health problems. Here are some listed on the ASPCA website:

  • Epilepsy
  • Heart disease
  • Kidney disease
  • Musculoskeletal disorders (e.g., hip dysplasia and luxating patellas)
  • Endocrine disorders (e.g., diabetes and hyperthyroidism)
  • Blood disorders (e.g., anemia and Von Willebrand disease)
  • Deafness
  • Eye problems (e.g., cataracts, glaucoma and progressive retinal atrophy)
  • Upper respiratory infections
  • Kennel cough
  • Pneumonia
  • Mange
  • Fleas or ticks
  • Intestinal parasites
  • Heartworm


The pups can also display behavioral problems due to lack of socialization, including shyness, aggression, fear and anxiety.

Where should you buy?

If you’re looking to add a pup to your family, always consider adopting from your local shelter or rescue group. Check out Petco’s adoption website here. And never buy from a pet store or website.

If you want to buy from a breeder, make sure you find a reputable one. Ask your vet or a professional dog trainer for a referral, contact a local breed club or attend a dog show.

If you’re not sure whether you’ve found a trustworthy breeder, look for these signs:

  • The breeder should only specialize in one or two breeds;
  • They will often keep the dogs in their home and will allow you to see where the dogs live;
  • They will encourage you to spend time with the puppy’s parents and encourage multiple visits before you take the puppy home;
  • Reputable breeders will have a good relationship with a vet and will provide documentation of the puppy’s vet visits and medical history;
  • They will provide a written contract and health guarantee; and
  • Puppies should not be available at all times since a good breeder will understand healthy breeding patterns.

How you can get involved

Here are just four of the many organizations working toward ending puppy mills. And there are many ways you can help.

The Humane Society of the United States

  • The Humane Society is extremely dedicated to ending the sale of puppy mill puppies. Head over to their website to sign a pledge to stop puppy mills. After completing the pledge, the Humane Society will send you updates by email on how you can help animals.
  • You can also purchase their Stop Puppy Mills cause gear from Humane Domain.
  • Donate money to help end puppy mill cruelty.


American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Americans


North Shore Animal League America

  • Sign the pledge. When you submit your information, you will be pledging to help end animal cruelty, support legislation that enacts tougher penalties against puppy mills and report cases of animal abuse.
  • Spread the word by sending this page to your friends.
  • Adopt one of their shelter animals. North Shore Animal League America is one of the largest no-kill rescue and adoption organization with hundreds of dogs, cats, puppies and kittens available for adoption every week. Search for your new pet here.
  • Make a donation. Past donations have helped rescue, rehabilitate and adopt more than 1,000,000 animals to date. Over the past decade, North Shore has saved an average of 20,000 dogs, cats, puppies and kittens annually.


United Against Puppy Mills

  • Volunteer. You can help the UAPM through three groups: zoning, legislation and public awareness. Members of the zoning committee coordinate with residents to prevent the creation or expansion of puppy mills. The legislation committee stays informed of dog-related legislation, communicates with lawmakers, performs Internet research and maintains a dialog with other animal advocates throughout the region. Members of the public awareness committee raise public awareness of puppy mills, organize and host public events, and assist in fundraising efforts.
  • Donate money, which will go toward funding the group’s advertising, brochures and booths at pet expos.

Madonna of the Mills

Need even more convincing? Check out HBO’s documentary, “Madonna of the Mills,” which chronicles Laura, an office manager from Staten Island, who has made it her mission to save as many breeding dogs as possible. She has rescued more than 2,000 dogs from Amish and Mennonite farmers in Pennsylvania. Learn more here.