What is a puppy mill?
What is EPMA doing about puppy mills?
There is a puppy mill in my area. How can I get the authorities to investigate and it shut down?
What are the puppy mill laws in my state?
How is puppy milling different than reputable breeding?
Why shouldn’t I just go to the pet store (including Heartland Pets) and buy a dog?
Where else can I get a dog?
How do I know I’ve found a reputable breeder?
Are all puppy mills the same?
I’ve heard a lot of different terms used to describe puppy mills. What is the difference between a puppy mill, a commercial breeder, or a puppy farm?
What if a breeder has a United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) license?
What does it mean if the store assures me that my puppy is registered or has papers?
What if a pet store assures me that their breeders are in compliance and that they only buy from the best breeders?
How do you know that the puppies sold in pet stores come from puppy mills?
I keep seeing the term broker. What is a puppy broker?
Isn’t the problem the breeders, and not the pet stores?
If pet stores stop selling puppies, will there be a puppy shortage?
What if I need a designer breed, hypo-allergenic dog, etc.? Can I only get those at pet stores?
Is your goal to shut down pet stores?
Can’t we you just get the puppy mills or pet stores shut down?
Where Do Puppy Mill Dogs Live?
I got a puppy from the pet store, but she's really sick, what happened?
Why are so many of these pet store dogs ending up in animal shelters?
What happens to all of those breeds of dogs I see in the movies?
Doesn't the AKC (American Kennel Club) help consumers purchase good dogs?
What Can I Do To Help?
As defined by the Humane Society of the United States, “Puppy mills are breeding facilities that produce purebred puppies in large numbers. The puppies are sold either directly to the public via the Internet, newspaper ads, at the mill itself, or are sold to brokers and pet shops across the country. The documented problems of puppy mills include over breeding, inbreeding, minimal veterinary care, poor quality of food and shelter, lack of socialization with humans, overcrowded cages, and the killing of unwanted animals. To the unwitting consumer, this situation frequently means buying a puppy facing an array of immediate veterinary problems or harboring genetically borne diseases that do not appear until years later. Sadly, some dogs are forced to live in puppy mills their entire lives. They are kept there for one reason only: to produce more puppies. Repeatedly bred, many of these “brood bitches” are killed once their reproductive capacity wanes. Thousands of these breeding operations currently exist in the United States. They breed dogs for profit, prioritizing financial gain over the health or well-being of the dogs. If a breeding operation breeds for profit and sells to pet stores or to consumers over the Internet, it is not a responsible breeding facility. While puppy mills may vary in size and conditions, any breeding operation that places profit over the health or well-being of the dogs can be accurately described as a puppy mill. The farming of dogs is an American disgrace. Take a stand against this industry. Do not purchase puppies in pet stores or on the Internet. Do your homework before you purchase a puppy. Better yet, visit your local shelter or rescue group and adopt a dog who already has no place to call home. Take pride in rescuing your dog and ask all of your dog-loving friends to do the same. It is high time to put an end to the pain and suffering forced upon the wonderful creatures that we call “man’s best friends”.
EPMA takes a stand against puppy mills on all possible levels, including supporting legislative changes, conducting investigations, and promoting public awareness and education. We are interested in helping past customers seek legal action as well. In the future, EPMA would love to volunteer to help rescue dogs from puppy mills that have been successfully shut down. Because most puppy mills are not illegal, we need help from the public to put an end to the consumer demand for their "product." You can help! It's important to know that, in many cases, puppy mills are not illegal. In most states, a breeding kennel can legally keep dozens, even hundreds, of dogs in cages for their entire lives, as long as the dogs are given the basics of food, water, and shelter.
First, please be aware that operating a commercial breeding kennel may not be illegal in your area. But if you have seen specific evidence of cruelty or neglect, the first agency to contact is a local agency with law enforcement powers, such as the local humane society, animal control agency or police or sheriff's department.
Cruelty or neglect laws vary by state but typically address conditions such as animals without food and water, sick dogs who are not being medically treated, or dogs without adequate shelter from the elements. Prepare specific details of your complaint in advance, and after you have made a report get a case number or contact information related to your case. If you do not hear back from the local authorities within a week, please call them back to ask for an update, but be aware that if there is an ongoing investigation some information may not be available to the public. If you can't get local help for the situation or are not sure who to call, please contact The HSUS at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may also wish to contact the United States Department of Agriculture Animal Care Division and find out if the USDA licenses the facility owner. Only "wholesale" breeding facilities (those that sell puppies to other businesses who in turn sell the puppies to the public) are required to be USDA licensed—this is a small portion of all the large-scale breeders in the country. Currently licensed breeders and some of their most recent inspection reports are available on the USDA/APHIS website.
The HSUS Puppy Mill Task Force tipline, 1-877-MILL-TIP, is available to anyone with information on a possible crime involving puppy mills—especially information from those with "insider" knowledge, or from law enforcement officials who might be aware of such operations. If you witnessed deplorable conditions in person and wish to file a complaint with the HSUS, please call 1-877-MILL-TIP or report it here. You can also file a complaint with the USDA by clicking here.
If you have purchased a puppy and wish to report problems to The HSUS, please complete the Pet Seller Complaint form. This form allows us to track data accurately and ensure that we have as much information as possible to help us in our fight to stop puppy mills.
Find out how your state's laws regarding puppy mills by clicking here.
Puppy mills exist for only one purpose – to make money. In a puppy mill, there may be as many as 30 different breeds and up to 800 or more breeding dogs. Every female is pregnant with every heat, including their first heat at 6 – 10 months old when they themselves are still a puppy. The puppies receive little to no medical attention, are not socialized with people, are almost always taken from their mothers too young, and often start their lives out in the world sick and scared. There is absolutely no regard to the health and well-being of the breeding dogs and when they can no longer produce puppies, the majority of them are killed.
Most often, a reputable breeder has great interest in one or perhaps two breeds. The purpose of their breeding program is to continually strive to bring their bloodlines closest to the breed standard. A reputable breeder spends a great deal of time, effort and money showing their dogs, socializing their dogs, having their breeding dogs tested for genetic defects, and being very careful to place their puppies in permanent, loving homes. A reputable breeder will at any time for any reason, take any of the puppies they’ve bred back into their care for the lifetime of the dog, taking full responsibility for the dogs that they have produced. A reputable breeder wants to know about you and develop a relationship with you. They enjoy updates and photographs of their puppies as they grow and are always available to help with any questions or concerns about their puppies.
One of the most important things to know is that a reputable breeder has nothing to hide. They want you to meet the parents of the puppies and see the environment the puppies are raised in. We believe there are many reputable breeders out there, doing a fine job of raising healthy and sound puppies. Buyers must do their homework – contact the National Breed Clubs and find out who the reputable breeders are. Visit the breeder, meet the parents of the puppies, inspect the environment the puppies were raised in, ask lots of questions and if it feels like they’re hiding something, they probably are and you’d be best served to move on.
99% of these puppies come from puppy mills. When you purchase a puppy in this way, you are directly supporting a puppy mill and contributing to the pain and suffering of the parent dogs. Pet store employees will tell you that they only deal with “USDA licensed” kennels and the puppies have AKC (or other types of) papers.
Unfortunately, these are the two organizations that give people the serious misconception that these puppies come from reputable kennels. The only thing that AKC papers mean is that the puppy and its ancestors are purebred. AKC papers mean absolutely nothing about the health and temperament of the puppy and nothing about the quality of the breeding establishment the puppy came from.
Furthermore, if you do, your cash pays for 2 breeding dogs to be locked in a cage and neglected for another heat cycle. If YOU create demand for puppy mill puppies, you keep puppy mills in business. Puppy mills will go out of business if the demand from consumers is gone. Adopt, don't shop, and tell all your friends to do the same!
Do your research. Take a little time and figure out what kind of dog is the best fit for your lifestyle and family. All of your research can be done on the internet and with your veterinarian and shelter's help. Also, if you find a breed that fascinates you, buy a breed specific book. If you want a specific breed, we may have it, the local shelter may have it and of course a reputable breeder will have a litter or two each year. There is a rescue organization for every pure breed that exists. You can find the rescues on the internet as well. Otherwise, open your heart and home to a beautiful mixed breed dog - or the American Shelter Dog, as we like to call them! There are a handful of great shelters right in Erie County.
Good breeders don't sell their pups at pet stores, online, in a flea market, or via a newspaper ad. They will not only welcome you, but require you to see the parent dogs in their home environment, with your own yes. They may make you visit the puppy before you take it home. There will probably be a waiting list for a pup from a good breeder. The breeder will extensively interview YOU to make sure YOU are a good fit for their fur-baby. They will send you with complete and professional vet records, and will be able to show you medical records from your pup's parents that indicate they are free from genetic diseases (this is NOT the same thing as an AKC paper). Click here to learn how to find a good breeder.
Yes and no. There is variation across facilities. Some may be better or worse than others, but any breeding operation that places profit over the health or well-being of the dogs meets the commonly accepted definition of a puppy mill. Puppy mills are in business solely to make a profit. Veterinary care, staffing, and humane living conditions are expensive and cut into the profit margin, particularly for large numbers of dogs. Mills keep overhead costs as low as possible to maximize their profits.
These terms all describe the same thing – a breeding operation that breeds dogs exclusively for profit and keeps the costs for caring for the dogs as minimal as possible. There is a difference, however, between these types of operations and responsible breeders. We will never use the term puppy mill, commercial breeder, or puppy farm to describe a responsible, reputable breeder. To learn more about what makes someone a responsible breeder, click here.
In order to sell to a pet store, a breeder must obtain a USDA license. The fact that the breeder has a USDA license does not provide an assurance of quality or humane breeding. Instead, it means that it is held only to very minimal standards of care and is most likely a puppy mill. To learn why a USDA license does not mean that you are purchasing a responsibly-bred pet. Responsible breeders do not sell to pet stores, and are prohibited from doing so by their breed club guidelines.
It simply means that your puppy is registered with the American Kennel Club (AKC) and that his or her parents are registered with the AKC as a purebred. Contrary to popular belief, this registration means nothing with respect to the quality of breeding (and whether the breeder conducts appropriate genetic testing) or the conditions in which the puppy was bred. The AKC has a long history of opposing legislation that would improve conditions for dogs living in mills and supports the commercial dog breeding industry. Read more here. We have seen first-hand the profits that the AKC makes from registering puppy mill dogs sold at dog auctions. Other registries, such as the ADR and ACA, are the same.
Unfortunately, this doesn’t mean anything more than that the breeders are licensed to sell to pet stores and that they meet the USDA’s minimal standards. The USDA’s standards for care of companion animals are extremely minimal, and these standards are not adequately enforced. Pet stores will often tout that their puppies only come from the best USDA-licensed facilities, yet the conditions in USDA compliant facilities are often far below what most people would consider acceptable for companion animals. This is otherwise dubbed "pet store doublespeak." Read more here.
We have done our research and connected Heartland Pets to nearly 40 puppy mills across the country right at the beginning. You can trace the origin of a puppy sold in a pet store through federal and state records. Commercial breeding facilities or their brokers that sell to pet stores must be licensed by the USDA. Pet stores are required to provide the name of the breeder for each puppy. You can look up a registered breeder on the USDA website and see the number of adult animals, puppies, and any violations that the breeder has incurred. In addition, when a puppy is shipped from out of state, a veterinarian must file a health certificate with the state department of agriculture for every puppy shipped into the state that identifies the breeder or broker. By looking at the breeder or broker on the health certificates, or by going into the pet store and looking at the name of the breeder, you can see where pet stores are sourcing their puppies from. If you would like to research a breeder on the USDA website, click here. Or if you’d like to see all the research we have about puppies from Heartland Pets, click here.
Brokers are pet dealers that obtain puppies from breeders, transport them, and then re-sell them to pet stores (in other words, a “middle man”.) Brokers need a Class B USDA license to operate. Brokers are a key part of the puppy mill supply chain as most pet stores obtain their puppies from brokers, and not directly from the breeders. Brokers often ship large quantities of puppies at a time for long distances in crowded conditions, creating a significant risk for the spread of illness.
It is legal for an UNLICENSED breeder to sell to a broker with a license, who then sells to pet stores like Heartland Pets. That means that some pups in Heartland Pets DON'T even come from licensed breeders. Don't buy their lie. Without licensing and inspections, this "breeder" could hold that pup's momma in horrific and legally cruel conditions for her entire life.
Pet stores are the primary sales outlet for commercially-bred puppies. Pet stores are necessary to sustain and perpetuate the puppy mill industry. It is imperative to cut off the end of the supply chain to decrease the number of puppy mills. Further, pet stores are complicit in consumer fraud. Pet stores often misrepresent the true origins of their puppies and mislead consumers into believing that they are purchasing a responsibly and humanely-bred puppy. Focusing our educational and advocacy efforts on pet stores is an extremely effective way to fight puppy mills.
Absolutely not. There are millions of dogs in shelters and rescues needing homes at this very minute. Many shelters and rescues have puppies available, and there are thousands of puppies available on Petfinder.com. The idea that consumers will no longer be able to obtain a puppy is a myth perpetuated by pet stores that sell puppies. Did you know that 4-6 million perfectly adoptable pets are euthanized every single year in the US alone due to pet overpopulation? There is no need for cruel mass breeding of puppies when there are already so many pets that need homes.
There is no such thing as a designer breed, or a truly hypo-allergenic dog. A designer breed is a mixed breed dog, or what many refer to as a “mutt”. You can find this at your local shelter. Many “specialty” breeds are unhealthy and should not be bred in the first place. For example, “teacup” breeds are bred by taking the runt of one litter and breeding with the runt of another. Breeding dogs for appearance or based on popular trends results in unhealthy dogs that are not properly tested for temperament or genetics, undesirable physical and mental traits, and often a surplus of those dogs in shelters. Read here to learn how the creator of the Labradoodle regrets his creation. If you want a specific breed of dog, you can find nearly any breed at a breed-specific rescue, or find a responsible breeder that specializes in that particular breed (and will not sell a puppy to you without meeting you first).
No. In fact, we love pet stores! We support pet stores that sell quality food, pet supplies, and offer services for pet owners. In 2014, Americans spent over $58 billion on their pets. We simply want pet stores to operate humanely and to stop exploiting animals for profits. There is a wave of stores across the country that provide space to showcase rescued animals available for adoption. There are many ways for pet stores to be successful and profitable without supporting cruelty – both local family-owned businesses and large national chains are thriving without selling animals. Learn more here.
It isn’t that easy. We’ve been pushing for progress in Erie County for a long time, but more momentum from voters is needed. We’ve tried to address the problem at the state level, however the state officials will not get behind a comprehensive reform that would eliminate puppy mills because a large proponent of PA voters are in FAVOR of puppy mills, specifically in Lancaster County. Here’s a list of places that have been able to enact bans on the SALE of puppy mill pups in their municipalities. We want to do this too. Millcreek Township officials say they can’t do it.What do you think?
To save money on the cost of housing dogs, puppy mill kennels can consist of anything from small cages made of wood and wire mesh to tractor-trailer cabs or simple tethers attached to trees. Because of this make-shift housing, mothers and puppies often suffer from year-round exposure to temperature extremes. The moms & dads in the mills are stuck there their entire lives. No cuddly beds, fun toys, or snuggling with a human. In a puppy mill, a dog is no more than a caged livestock forced to breed for the profit of a greedy human.
Much like livestock, puppies are taken from their mothers at a young age and sold to brokers who pack them into crates for transport and resale to pet stores. Both sick and healthy puppies are packed into pickup trucks, tractor trailers, and/or airplanes. Puppies who are shipped like commodities from mill to broker, from broker to pet store can travel hundreds of miles often without adequate food, water, ventilation, or shelter. By the time the puppy has reached the pet store, they have survived the unsanitary conditions at puppy mills and the grueling transport to the pet stores, they have rarely received the kind of loving human contact that is necessary for them to become suitable companions.
With questionable shot history, filthy conditions and poor ventilation - parasites, lung infection, ear infection and diarrhea run rampant and may not show up until after the pup goes home. This is called an incubation period. Lung infections are almost always life threatening in puppies. If the pup makes it through the beginning, typically they fall ill with some sort of expensive genetic condition at an early age. Many, many dogs from Heartland Pets/puppy mills have genetic environmental allergies. This condition, also called atopy, shows up commonly when two affected parents are bred. Imagine how the mom & dad feel - extremely itching themselves to the point of fur loss and raw skin infection each year during their bad season!
Due to inbreeding and over-breeding, unmonitored genetic defects and personality disorders, often passed on from generation to generation, are common. Pet shop customers can end up with very high veterinary bills. Often these sick, unsociable, or maladjusted dogs are abandoned within weeks or months of their adoption by frustrated buyers—furthering the companion animal overpopulation crisis.
Some people impulsively obtain purebred dogs, even though they may not be ready for the commitment that animal companions require. Movies, TV shows, and commercials have caused a jump in the popularity of certain breeds, yet very few potential dog caretakers take the time to investigate the traits and needs of the breed that they are considering. Dog breeders see this as an opportunity for a profit. When there is a surge in demand for a particular breed, puppy mills try to meet that demand, but when Jack Russell terriers don't turn out to be just like Frasier's "Eddie" or St. Bernards don't act just like "Beethoven," rescue groups and animal shelters become flooded with these breeds.
The AKC receives millions of dollars from breeders who pay AKC registration fees. Buyers may be swayed by talk of "papers" and "AKC registration," but these papers cannot ensure good temperament or good health. It turns out that the AKC may not be what you think it is! Learn more here.
Every year, animal shelters destroy millions of dogs -- including purebreds and puppies -- and cats. PLEASE adopt a companion animal from your local shelter, humane society, rescue organization or veterinarian. You can also find animals to adopt at www.petfinder.com and www.pets911.com.
Contact us! We have one ready to help!
Sign up to be a local volunteer for Erie Puppy Mill Awareness
Use social media, drag a friend to one of our events, or bring it up the next time you get coffee with a pal. If you don’t speak up, who will? It is time to expose America’s Dirty Little Secret!
Cruelty (lack of adequate food, shelter, water in Erie County call the Humane Society of Northwestern PA at 814-835-8360). Suspect an unlicensed kennel or poor conditions inside the kennel? – call Brian Froess, Erie County at 814-934-2983).
Did you buy a pet from Heartland Pets? Send us your puppy’s purchase paperwork. We’ll research the “breeder” for you. Did you have a bad experience? Tell us YOUR story! It can help prevent animal cruelty in puppy mills from continuing.
Donate to PayPal account, mail a check to our PO Box, or buy one of our fun and functional fundraising items.
Buy a t-shirt, wear it around town, and start a conversation. Tag your self and
“check in” on social media to make your statement even louder.
Photo Credit: National Puppy Mill Project
Photo Credit: National Puppy Mill Project
Photo Credit: National Puppy Mill Project
Photo Credit: National Puppy Mill Project
Erie Puppy Mill Awareness