The Realities of Puppy Mills

Puppy mills are dog breeding “factories” that put profits ahead of dog welfare. Documented abuse at puppy mills includes forced over-breeding, inbreeding, disease, overcrowding, filth and hunger. Moms are forced to breed over and over with little, if any, veterinary care. Once they can no longer reproduce, they’re usually killed. This often happens with dogs as young as only four years old. Puppies purchased from puppy mills frequently suffer from severe illness and behavioral problems. Puppy mill owners care about one thing – making money. It’s the sad and brutal truth.

What does this have to do with buying online?
The vast majority of puppies purchased online come from puppy mills. Don’t be fooled by their often slick websites. If you can’t visit the puppy first, you may very well be getting one from a puppy mill (this holds true for sites like Craigslist). There are lots of great dogs out there who need loving homes. Know where yours comes from.

What’s the best way to prevent getting a puppy mill dog?
Adopt from a local shelter. It’s the best way to throttle the puppy mill industry and stop its cycle of cruelty and abuse. View our available dogs. Can’t find what you’re looking for? Sign up for our wishlist and you’ll automatically be notified when your perfect match arrives.

Or see our list of rescues in the area.

And if you still choose to purchase a dog instead, make sure it comes from a reputable breeder.

How can I tell if a dog available online comes from a puppy mill or a reputable breeder?
It can be hard to determine whether you’re getting a puppy mill dog, which is why we always recommend adopting from a shelter or rescue. Nevertheless, here are some sure-fire puppy mill signs:

Pet Stores

Pet stores have long been one of the biggest sources of puppy-mill puppies. They often look for the lowest cost puppy to maximize their profit and often sell sick animals at astronomical prices. Hundreds of cities across the country have banned pet-store sales. In fact, Tempe and Phoenix had pet-store prohibitions until the state legislature rolled back those protections in 2016. The new state law, however, does require pet stores to clearly display the following information on each animal’s cage and in all online marketing materials:

  • The name of the breeder
  • USDA license number for breeders required to be licensed under USDA*
  • The federal website where prospective pet  buyers can look up information about the breeder

The law also requires Arizona pet dealers to source their puppies from breeders that have not violated provisions of the federal Animal Welfare Act.

You can help by:

  1. Visiting your local pet store (in person or online) and making sure the correct information is being clearly displayed
  2. Looking up the USDA license and confirming the breeder is in good standing.

*Breeders  that  own four or less breeding female dogs or cats on premises and sell offspring that are born and raised on premises, as pets, are exempt from USDA licensure.

If you observe that a pet store has not provided all required information or that a breeder who sources pets has been non-compliant in a report, please email with your findings. Download our Consumer Guide for step-by-step instructions on what to look for to help ensure pet stores are utilizing responsible breeders.

Together, we can help ensure Arizona pet stores are not sourcing their animals from heartbreakingly abusive puppy mills.

No Purchase Criteria

Reputable breeders are very choosy about selecting the right families for their puppies. They may do an extensive interview with potential applicants and may only let people recommended by prior buyers have an opportunity to get a dog from their litter. Puppy mills don’t care who you are as long as you don’t ask too many questions and have cash or a credit card.

Reputable breeders generally find their adopting families by referrals. They don’t need to advertise. Puppy mills place lots of ads online, often under the guise of being reputable. Some online postings go so far as to use the term “adopt” instead of buy.
No Inspections

Reputable breeders will gladly let you meet the parents of a puppy, see where the puppies were born and how they’ve been treated since birth. Puppy mills generally will not let you see any of their operation.

What can I do to show others that adopting is the way to go?
Regardless of the source of the animal, we know most pet owners are loving, caring pet parents. Here are a few ways you can help us convince others to adopt, not shop:

  • Schedule a tour or a group volunteer event at AHS and see the variety of amazing pets who need loving homes.
  • Did you know that approximately 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebreds? So you don’t need to purchase a dog to add a purebred to your family. Looking for a specific breed? Sign up for our wishlist.
  • A donation to AHS will help continue to fund our adoption programs. Make a lifesaving donation today.
  • Get social! Like our Facebook page and share our stories with your friends.
  • Know someone who’s looking for a dog? Share our adoptable dogs with them and let them know there’s nothing like a rescue pet.
  • Educate your friends and family.

Be the voice for animals. Adopt, don’t shop.

Sign up for our advocacy alerts.