By Jodi L. Hartley

Each year the Monday before Mother’s Day is The Humane Society of the United States’ Puppy Mill Action Week. As we think about how to honor and thank our human mothers, The Humane Society brings awareness to the thousands of canine mothers who suffer in puppy mills across the United States.

Puppy mills are large-scale breeding facilities whose sole purpose is to produce as many puppies as possible to make as much profit as possible. This means that the dogs in the facility being bred live in tiny, cramped, waste-filled cages and receive little to no human contact or veterinary care and only enough food and water for a minimal existence. Because of the lack of care, puppies born in puppy mills often have health and behavioral issues that may not be noticed right away.

A few states have passed legislation to try to better conditions for puppy mill dogs, but many dog lovers would still consider the requirements cruel and not nearly enough. Enforcement has been challenging as well. As animal lovers hope for more legislative help for these dogs, you can take steps to help eliminate this cruel industry and protect yourself from buying a puppy from a puppy mill.

  1. Don’t buy puppies from pet stores, the newspaper or online. Even if the store or advertiser says the puppies are from breeders licensed by the USDA, AKC, CKC or any other organization, it still means the puppies are coming from puppy mills. Keep in mind that a reputable breeder would never sell his or her dogs to a pet store or online. Reputable breeders want to meet and screen all potential buyers.
  2. Meet the breeder, the mother and father and see the whole facility. A reputable breeder will want to meet and check you out before selling a puppy to you. You too should do your own screening before buying a puppy. Go to the breeder’s house/facility and meet the breeder as well as the mother and father of the puppy. Ask to tour the whole facility and see all of the dogs who are there so you can see the conditions. If the breeder seems hesitant or unwilling to show you around, or the conditions are dirty, you want to avoid buying there.
  3. Adopt and rescue. The best way to help stop puppy mills is to adopt. Puppies and dogs of all breeds and ages are available for adoption through local animal shelters and rescue organizations. Sometimes a slightly older dog is a better fit for your family and lifestyle, and through shelters and rescue organizations, you can be matched to a dog best suited for you.
  4. Help puppy mill survivors. When puppy mill breeders can no longer produce puppies, they are no longer profitable to the facility. Some puppy mill survivors end up in the shelter/rescue system and can be adopted. It can take a lot of patience, love and guidance to help these dogs transition to life outside a puppy mill, but if you are up the task, it can be an amazingly rewarding experience. You may also help survivors by volunteering with or donating to your local animal shelter or rescue organization.
  5. Contact your legislators and the media. The Humane Society of the United States ( provides information and samples for contacting your legislators to request their support for tougher laws and enforcement to help eliminate inhumane conditions at puppy mills. HSUS also provides examples you can use for contacting the media to spread awareness regarding the plight of puppy mill dogs.

Article References:

The Humane Society of the United States: Anatomy of a Puppy Mill Raid: False Assurances

ASPCA: Puppy Mill FAQ

Cesar’s Way: How to Avoid Puppy Mills.


Jodi L. Hartley has been a writer and public relations professional since 1992. Her experience includes public relations and marketing for Club Canine, as well as volunteer work with animal rescue organizations. Hartley holds a bachelor’s degree in journalism and an M.B.A.