Puppy Mills

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Puppy Mills is an introduction to issues regarding puppy mills, pet stores, dog clubs, breeder and veterinary associations as well as government regulations that support them. Sadly, many organizations and retail establishments profit from large scale commercial dog breeding and lobby against measures to abolish puppy mills.


HSUS & Wayne County, NC Animal Control rescue 300 dogs in puppy mill raid. - Feb 2009

Puppy mills mass produce dogs usually sold in pet stores or on-line. There are approximately 1,500 pet stores in the United States that sell puppies. [1] There are approximately 4,000 to 5,000 puppy mills in the United States, with 75 to 150 breeding dogs in each. Dogs in puppy mills receive little care, socialization and exercise and are often stored in cramped, dark and filthy cages. Breeding dogs and puppies from mills are also often inbred, sick, malnourished and flea infested. Not surprisingly, many also have behavioral problems.[2]

Puppy mill kennels can be anything from small wood and wire mesh cages to tractor-trailer cabs or simply dogs tethered to trees. An Arkansas puppy mill had dogs imprisoned in cages hanging from the ceiling in an unheated, cinder block building. Female dogs are bred twice a year and destroyed when they can no longer produce litters for sale. Dogs and their puppies often suffer from malnutrition, exposure and lack of veterinary care. Puppies who survive unsanitary and abusive puppy mills must then endure grueling transport conditions. Brokers pack puppies for sale into crates to transport to pet stores. They are shipped in pick-up trucks, tractor trailers or air planes, often lacking adequate food and water, ventilation and shelter. Conditions don't improve much when they arrive at the pet store where they are kept in small cages without exercise or socialization. Also, unlike humane societies and shelters, pet stores do not screen prospective owners. Breeders, brokers and pet stores ensure maximum profits by not spending money to adequately care for breeding stock and their puppies. [3]

In February of 2009, the Humane Society of the United States (HSUS) partnered with Wayne County, NC Animal Control to rescue approximately 300 dogs in an early-morning puppy mill raid (top of page). [4]

Dog auctions

Dog dispersal and consignment auctions take place in across the midwest, mainly in the spring and summer. In a dispersal auction, the kennel is selling out all dogs and equipment to get out of business. A consignment auction sells dogs no longer wanted. Money from a consignment auction is used to buy more dogs and perpetuate misery. Auctions are horrifying experiences. Auctioneers have no concern whatsoever for the dogs, who are tossed around and promoted solely for their potential monetary value as "breeding stock". They are frequently injured, ill, missing limbs or even their bottom jaw. [5]

A 2007 HSUS undercover video exposed puppy mill dog auctions (below right).

American Kennel Club

HSUS undercover video exposes dog auctions used by puppy mills. - 2007

Although the American Kennel Club (AKC) has run advertising campaigns that imply a commitment to healthy dogs, they have no health standards for breeding other than a minimum age of 8 months. Registration indicates only that the dog's parents were registered as a recognized breed. It makes no claims on health, show quality or how a puppy was raised.

In 2006, the Board of Directors of the AKC signed a contract with Petland pet stores to facilitate the registration of dogs sold by Petland and purchased from the Hunte Corporation, the largest commercial puppy mill broker in the United States. After a brief flurry of controversy, they rescinded the contract. However, as Chairman Ron Menaker noted, the American Kennel Club has "been registering AKC eligible puppies from Petland, and every other company selling AKC registrable puppies for the past 122 years". [6] In 2006 the AKC registered 870,000 individual dogs and 416,000 litters. At $20 per dog and $25 per litter (plus $2 per puppy) the AKC brought in well over $30 million in revenue from registrations. Litters from puppy mills are the registry's largest source of income. [7]

In an August 2008 meeting of the AKC board, management and staff were directed to "aggressively pursue all registrable dogs in the commercial sector where all AKC rules, regulations, and policies are followed." [8] However, the AKC has no specific health standards and lobbies against breeding standards and other humane legislation. See also AKC, sections 3 through 5.

Empowering puppy mill operators

The AKC sponsors a seminar called "Legislative Empowerment" that teaches breeders, owners and others involved in commerce involving dogs how to oppose legislation and regulations. According to the AKC:

"Specifically, in 2007, the Canine Legislation department: Tracked nearly 400 state bills relating to canine ownership." [9]

The AKC also lobbies through the National Animal Interest Alliance (NAIA), a lobbying organization for animal commerce and agriculture based in Portland, Oregon. NAIA director Patti Strand, is a Dalmatian breeder and member of the AKC board since 1995. [10]

AKC, NAIA & state breeders associations

There are about 20 state pet breeders associations who are (not too surprisingly) located in the major puppy mill states. The most active and vocal ones are in Missouri, Pennsylvania and Ohio, home to the heaviest concentration of puppy mills or what the AKC refers to as "high volume breeders". Almost all pet breeder associations link to the NAIA and AKC websites. The mouthpieces for the Pennsylvania and New York Pet Breeders Associations are Amish and Mennonite puppy millers, whose U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) inspection reports list repeated violations. [11] See also PA puppy mills.


Breeding dogs in puppy mill

The USDA Animal & Plant Health Inspection Service/Animal Care (USDA/APHIS/AC) is responsible for inspections, reporting and enforcing the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). The AWA is the only federal law that regulates animals bred and sold by dealers, animals in entertainment, zoo animals and laboratory animals. [12] Even minimal requirements under the AWA are rarely enforced. [13]

USDA certified puppy mills

There are only about a hundred USDA inspectors to monitor 10,000 facilities across the country, ranging from research labs to zoos. Furthermore, "standards" are abysmal. Federal guidelines allow a medium sized terrier to be kept in a cage the size of a clothes drier for its entire life. The AWA is hardly the gold standard for compassion. For example, the act does not say you cannot have 300 dogs confined to cages for their entire lives; never to be taken for a walk or receive any personal attention, let alone be a part of a family. A breeder passes USDA muster as long as the dog has food, water and enough space to turn around. Adhering to USDA standards does not prove that a breeder is not a puppy mill. Even more so since even these standards are not enforced. Many licensed breeders for large chains like Petland, have significant violations. [14]

See also USDA & NABR & the Animal Welfare Act.

Hunte Corporation

The Hunte Corporation touts itself as the largest puppy dealer in the world, with sales in the U.S., Argentina, Chile, Mexico, Panama, Puerto Rico, Spain, and Japan. The company distributes animals through retail chains such as Petland. [15] According to a November 2007 article in the Tulsa World, the company buys and sells 90,000 puppies each year. Hunte is located in Goodman, Mo. and buys and sells purebred puppies for markets in 30 states. [16] See also Hunte Corporation.

USDA & the Hunte Corporation

In September 2001, U.S. Rep. Roy Blunt of Missouri announced that the USDA had approved a $900,000 guaranteed rural development loan for the company to purchase equipment for its McDonald County operations; restructure its debt, and expand its operations. The loan followed a $3.5 million dollar loan from the USDA the previous year. According to Hunte, sales for 2001 would exceed 26 million, up from one million a decade earlier. [17]

Petland investigation

Nationwide protests of Petland: country's largest retail puppy mills supporter. - January 2009

During a November 2008 news conference in Washington, DC, HSUS revealed the results of an 8 month investigation into Petland Inc., the country's largest chain of stores that sell puppies. According to the investigation, many of the company's stores support puppy mills. The 140 Petland stores sell tens of thousands of puppies every year. In the largest puppy mill investigation on record, HSUS visited 21 stores and 35 breeders and brokers who sold puppies to the stores. The investigators also reviewed interstate import records of an additional 322 breeders, USDA reports and more than 17,000 individual puppies.

This was the latest in a series of HSUS investigations exposing puppy mills, dog auctions and pet stores nationwide. In spite of assurances by the company that Petland "knows its breeders and deals only with those who have the highest standards of pet care", many puppies came from Missouri and other midwestern puppy mills. Investigators visited 35 Petland breeders and witnessed massive, factory farm style operations. Dogs and puppies lived in appalling conditions; including filthy, barren cages reeking of urine and general inadequate care and socialization. Many puppies were also purchased from "pet distributors" or brokers; who also bought from puppy mills. Some of Petland's puppies were also ordered on-line from pet auction sites like the Pet Board of Trade. [18] These findings revealed that Petland does not screen breeders, according to its claim and in fact, might not even know a breeder's name until after a purchase. Another common sales pitch by the staff was that their breeders were "USDA licensed". However, according to an audit of over 100 publicly available inspection reports; over 60% of the company's breeders listed serious animal welfare violations. In fact, many USDA licensed breeders had a history of substandard care; yet remained licensed. The investigation documented dirty, unkempt enclosures under regulation size; inadequate shelter from cold and inadequate veterinary care. Some breeders had sick and even dead dogs, left in cages. [19] See also Petland.

Petland rallies

HSUS's Stop Puppy Mills campaign has held several national demonstrations against Petland's support of cruel puppy mills, in coalition with other humane groups. There are also regular demonstrations held by local groups against this company. [20] At the first rally in January of 2009, demonstrations were held in front of 22 different Petland stores. Organizers included HSUS state directors, other humane groups and local citizens. Demonstrators passed out fliers explaining the pet store/puppy mill connection. One flier included a photo of one of the company's USDA licensed breeders that showed dogs confined to small, wire cages. Two of the demonstrations combined with blanket and towel drives for local animal shelters. Also attending the rallies were former customers whose puppies had nearly died and required emergency veterinary care. [21]

Class action against Petland & Hunte

In March of 2009, HSUS members and other consumers filed a class action lawsuit against Petland and the Hunte Corporation for conspiring to sell unhealthy mill puppies to unsuspecting consumers in 20 states. Petland denied supporting substandard facilities and claimed to follow "Humane Care Guidelines" developed in conjunction with the USDA. However, the USDA informed HSUS in writing that it had no record of any such guidelines.[22]

On August 7, 2009, Judge David G. Campbell of the Arizona federal district court dismissed the plaintiffs' complaint against Petland and Hunte Corporation. The plaintiffs were given the option of refiling the Petland complaint, but must add allegations. According to the judge's decision, the plaintiffs did not establish that Petland and Hunte had a duty to inform customers that their puppies were from mills; thus could not sue the companies for non-disclosure. The judge did not allow oral argument. [23]

Statements from former AKC & USDA inspectors

Tethered dog in puppy mill

Although AKC policy bars employees from speaking to reporters without permission, six former inspectors gave lengthy interviews for a Philadelphia Inquirer investigation in 1995.

"When people buy an AKC dog, they expect it to be of high quality and they expect the papers to truly match the dog. But that's not often true. It's just so much window dressing. The American Kennel Club is in the registration business and not the deregistration business. It's the cash cow." Robert Nejdl, "dean of AKC investigations" and AKC's first investigator (ret 1994).
"The only difference between the AKC and counterfeiters is the color of money. They sell something that they're never going to run out of, and it doesn't cost them anything. The AKC is shipping out registration papers daily they knew should have been canceled out. The bottom line is the AKC, they don't give a damn (about conditions) as long as the checks don't bounce." Robert E. Hufford, former AKC manager of field agents, 1986 - 94.
"An infinitesimal percentage of those noncomplying subjects were, to my knowledge, ever disciplined, sanctioned or suspended. When breeders failed to comply with AKC rules, (I) was instructed to "assist the subject of inspection in re-creating records." Rona Farley, AKC inspector, Pennsylvania, 1991-95 (Estimated a 90% failure of inspected breeders to meet record keeping requirements in four years of inspections.)
"AKC management fought me tooth and nail about what cases should be prosecuted and mostly on what dogs (papers) should be canceled. They never wanted dogs canceled, even when I had shown fraud. They said they didn't want to harm the poor consumer. My answer was `The harm has been done. You are augmenting the harm.' Boy, did that get me screamed at." Sharon D. Reed, AKC investigator, PA & NJ, 1986 – 91.
"They didn't want to know anything that would upset the applecart. They wanted everything to run smoothly, get the registration money, don't make waves. The bottom line is get the money." Mike Reilly, AKC inspector, California, 1985-94.
"The name of the game is don't cancel. If they take too many dogs out, they might have to refund money ...That's going to affect their revenue." Martie W. King, AKC investigation, PA, 1986 - 90. [24]

According to former USDA inspector Marshal Smith:

“My territory included 40 kennels in northwest Arkansas. I approached my new job conscientiously. Records of these pet producers were transferred to me from a retiring inspector who told me, "If you’re smart you'll do what I did, you’ll check everything is OK." I told him that I intended to abide by the law. Another assumption: I assumed he was a lazy good old boy, that he was not voicing the agency's mindset. The kennels I visited had seemingly never been inspected. I was overwhelmed by what I saw: the wretched looking animals, the mounds of fecal matter reaching in some cases to my knees, at very least to the wire caging of the rabbit hutches which most puppy millers used to house the dogs."

The inspector recorded scores of violations for his supervisor in Little Rock, only to find that such cases languished for years before coming to hearing, when they would invariably be dismissed. [25]

See also USDA, section 3.

Federal legislation & industry opposition

HR 3058: Puppy Protection Act, 107th Congress, 2001-02 (defeated)

The S 1478/HR 3058 Puppy Protection Act (PPA) was an amendment to the Animal Welfare Act which would have protected animals living in laboratories, puppy mills and pet stores. It was introduced by Senators Rick Santorum (R-PA) and Richard Durbin (D-IL). [26] The PPA included a "three strikes and you're out" system, limits on litters for breeding females (to recover between litters) and a minimum breeding age of one year for females. It also contained requirements for adequate socialization with other dogs and people, to prevent future behavior problems. The House-passed version of the Farm bill H.R. 2646, did not contain the puppy mill provision. [27] Opposition to this bill included breeder and industry lobbies like the AKC, the NAIA and the American Veterinary Medical Association (AVMA). [28], [29]

HR 2669 Pet Animal Welfare Statute (PAWS), 109th Congress, 2005-06 (defeated)

The Pet Animal Welfare Statute S 1139/HR 2669 (PAWS) was introduced by Senator Richard Santorum of Pennylvania, a state long plagued with the problem of unregulated breeding operations or puppy mills. PAWS classified home breeders producing over six litters and selling over 25 animals a year, as dog and cat dealers. The bill would have required them to meet minimal standards of housing and care. [30] Opposition to this bill included the NAIA Trust. [31]

Durbin-Vitter PUPS Act: Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act

In May of 2010, responding to scathing report by the USDA Inspector General (IG), critical of the government’s handling of puppy mill investigations, Assistant Senate Majority Leader Dick Durbin (D-IL) and Senator David Vitter (R-LA) called for immediate changes in the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS); promising to work with Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack on administrative and legislative reforms. According to Senator Durbin:

“This report raises serious concerns about APHIS’ ability to enforce the law, ensure the welfare of animals, and crack down on the most negligent and irresponsible dog breeders,” Durbin said. “While USDA has already begun to make administrative changes at APHIS, more needs to be done. I will work closely with Secretary Vilsack to ensure these changes address the complaints detailed in the Inspector General’s report. I’ll start today by introducing a bill that will close the loophole that allows large breeders to sell puppies online, escaping inspection and oversight.” [32]

Raids, investigations, USDA reports, violations & breeder information

USDA AWA reports

As of May 26, 2009, the USDA began posting all inspection reports for animal breeders, dealers, exhibitors, handlers, research facilities and animal carriers by state. See also USDA Animal Welfare Inspection Reports.

Articles & sources

SourceWatch articles


  1. Pet stores, Petshoppuppies.org, accessed January 2009
  2. Laura Allen Rally Against The AKC's Support Of Puppy Mills, Bestfriends Network News, April 2007
  3. Puppy Mills: Dogs Abused for the Pet Trade, People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals, accessed February 2009
  4. Approximately 300 Dogs Rescued from N.C. Puppy Mill, Humane Society of the United States, February 2009
  5. Puppy Mills Breed Misery: Auctions, Coalition Against Misery, accessed November 2009
  6. American Kennel Club, Search.com, accessed January 2009
  7. Laura Allen Rally Against The AKC's Support Of Puppy Mills, Bestfriends Network News, April 2007
  8. Highlights from the August 2008 Board Meeting, American Kennel Club News, August 2008
  9. Taking Command, 2007 Year End Review, AKC Newsletter, accessed May 2009
  10. AKC Announces Board of Directors Election Results, AKC, March 2007
  11. Libby Williams Animal interest groups such as NAIA, Best Friends Network, January 2007
  12. Animal Welfare Act and Regulations, U.S. Department of Agriculture, May 2009
  13. Project R&R: Animal Welfare Act, New England Anti-Vivisection Society, 2009
  14. Tim Vanderpool A Dog's Life: Petland stores feel the heat over a puppy-mill protest, Tucson Weekly, April 2009
  15. Jane Seymour That Bulldog in the Window: The Corporation, Friends of Animals, 2005
  16. Omer Gillham Puppy Showcase: Hunte Opens Doors to Huge Facility, Tulsa World, November 2007
  17. Jane Seymour That Bulldog in the Window: The Corporation, Friends of Animals, 2005
  18. Welcome to the pbtmarketplace.com!, pbtmarketplace.com, accessed November 2009
  19. HSUS Investigation Ties National Petland Chain to Large-Scale Puppy Mill Cruelty, HSUS, November 2008
  20. Stop Puppy Mills: Petland Rallies, HSUS, accessed November 2009
  21. Demonstrators Rally Nationwide to Tell Petland to Stop Selling Puppies, HSUS, January 2009
  22. Petland Faces Class Action Lawsuit for Peddling Unhealthy Puppy Mill Dogs in at Least 20 States, HSUS, March 2009
  23. Laura Allen Judge Dismisses Lawsuit Against Petland and Hunte - For Now, Animal Law Coalition, August 2009
  24. Karl Stark Digging into the AKC: Taking cash for tainted dogs Philidelphia Enquirer, December 1995
  25. The Betrayal of Animal Protection: The Corruption of the USDA, The Defender, Vol. 3, No. 2, Winter 2004-2005
  26. H.R. 3058: Puppy Protection Act, govtrack.us, 2002
  27. U.S. Senate Passes Farm Bill Addressing Animal Fighting, Puppy Mills, Farm Animals and Bears, HSUS, February 2002
  28. WE WON!!! Puppy Protection Act Defeated, Dog Press, April 2002
  29. Letters needed in opposition to the 'Puppy Protection Act', National Animal Interest Alliance, Action Alert, accessed January 2009
  30. Text of S. 1139, 109th: Pet Animal Welfare Statute, govtrack.us, 2005
  31. Action Alert: NAIA Trust opposes (PAWS) S 1139/H 2669, NAIA Trust, accessed January 2009
  32. Durbin-Vitter PUPS Act: Puppy Uniform Protection and Safety (PUPS) Act Summary , May 25, 2010

External articles

External resources