Dog Auctions

I wish I were a fiction writer and the details within this blog were simply a product of my imagination.  Unfortunately dog auctions are a painful and despicable fact of life. As much as I dislike crafting blogs that are “downers” I’ve recognized the importance of educating as many people as I can about animal-related issues that undermine our humanity.  Dog auctions certainly fit the bill.  


In case you are unfamiliar with dog auctions let me fill you in.  Envision rooms filled floor to ceiling with crates and cages each housing dogs whose sole purpose in life is to make puppies.  Every dog in the room is identified by the number on the auction tag hanging round his or her neck. There are purebreds of multiple varieties although some might not be recognizable as such given their lack of health care and horrifically overgrown hair coats. And, of course, there are plenty of “designer hybrids” the mutts that are purposefully planned because they are “all the rage” and their litters will garner thousands of dollars.  One would think these rooms filled with dogs would be chaotic and noisy.  In fact the quiet is eerie; these are dogs with broken spirits- too scared to vocally protest and too disassociated from their miserable existences to invite attention from the humans peering into their cages. 


Six auctions are held every year in Farmerstown, Ohio.  In fact the next one is later this week on January 15th.  If you happen to live near Farmerstown, I encourage you to attend.  You will be surrounded by puppy mill proprietors who have come to socialize, discuss their trade, and buy and sell “livestock”. There will also be some representatives from breed rescue organizations, hoping to place some winning bids that will alter the dismal fate of as many dogs as is affordable.  Don’t take a camera with you- it will be confiscated.  You see, these are rather covert affairs- journalists and photographers are not allowed.  The photographic images accompanying this blog were obtained via an undercover operation.  At the upcoming Ohio auction 463 dogs are slated to be auctioned.  The dogs bringing the highest prices will be those with proven fertility records; already pregnant bitches are highly valued.  Details about each dog’s breeding behavior and previous litter sizes are provided, but information about basic temperament or breed-specific inherited diseases within the family tree will be   unavailable. 



If you attend an auction in Ohio, be sure to look for and meet Mary O’Connor-Shaver.  You will find her at the peaceful protest that is a visible presence on each and every auction day.  In my mind Mary is a hero, working tirelessly to convince Ohio legislators to ban dog auctions from her state.  I hope you will visit her website  Mary has been a huge source of information and inspiration for me.  

What can you do to help eradicate dog auctions and put an end to puppy mills?  Here are some suggestions:

1. Boycott puppy mills.  This means never ever purchasing a puppy from a pet store or from an on line source (site and sight unseen).  Visit your local shelter (a surprising number of purebred dogs wind up there) and contact local breed-specific rescue organizations.  If you decide to purchase a puppy from a breeder please take the time to read my article titled “A Dozen Simple Ways To Be Certain You Are Working With a Reputable Breeder” (
2. If you live in a state that sanctions dog auctions (Ohio, Kansas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, Wisconsin, Missouri) write your legislators and appeal to them to stop this madness.  And if there are efforts within your state to create legislation banning dog auctions, please pitch in.  This might involve organizing rallies, writing letters, and gathering signatures of support.
3. If you don’t reside in a state that sanctions dog auctions, write letters to the governors and legislators of the eight states that do.  Let them know you will no longer support their state in terms of travel and commerce until their dog auctions cease to exist.
4. Let your veterinarian know how you feel about dog auctions and puppy mills, and encourage him or her to take a public stance against them.  Goodness knows, they see first hand the horrific health issues and accompanying heartbreak produced by puppy mills.
5. If you are a teacher, educate your students about puppy mills and dog auctions.  Teach them about responsible ways to adopt a dog.  I firmly believe that educating children about these issues is the key success.
6. Please share this blog with anyone and everyone you know who loves a dog, and encourage them to take action. 

My youngest child attends college in Athens, Ohio.  During a recent Parents Weekend visit my husband, daughter and I checked out Petland, the pet store in Athens. We found no fewer than three dozen utterly adorable purebred and designer hybrid puppies- undoubtedly puppy mill progeny.  There were plenty of customers in the store that day interacting with the pups and contemplating adoption. I chatted with the store manager about the Boxer pup on display and asked to see the paperwork documenting if Boxer cardiomyopathy existed in the pup’s family tree.  Boxer cardiomyopathy is an inherited heart condition that prematurely ends the lives of afflicted dogs.  She responded by saying, “No, we don’t have that paperwork but no problem because Petland guarantees full refunds on any dogs that develop symptoms caused by an inherited disease.” No problem for Petland that is…….. 

What are you willing to do to help stop this madness? 

Best wishes, 

Nancy Kay, DVM
Diplomate, American College of Veterinary Internal Medicine
Author of  Speaking for Spot: Be the Advocate Your Dog Needs to Live a Happy, Healthy, Longer Life
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association 2009 Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, 2009 Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, 2009 Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Become a Fan of Speaking for Spot on Facebook  

Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot. There you will also find “Advocacy Aids”- helpful health forms you can download and use for your own dog, and a collection of published articles on advocating for your pet’s health. Speaking for Spot is available at, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.

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36 Comments on “Dog Auctions

  1. This is horrid. My sister works with Last Hope and they take in puppy mill dogs. It is heartbreaking to see these poor animals. They are haveing to be taught how to eat, drink, play and bark. They also, have seperation issues with their kennels. One of the dogs she had would only walk in circles when she was taken out of the kennel because that is all she knew. I believe that these people that do this ought to be made to live the same way and treated the same. See how they would like it. I know that they can not speak for themselves so it is up to us.

  2. Congratulations, Mary on such a successful event and thanks for all you are doing. I will be sending my letters out to your Ohio legislators tomorrow! Just wait till they read what this California veterinarian has to say!!

  3. Saturday’s Ohio dog auction was blessed with 17 supporters who braved the 31 degree weather in Charm to serve as a strong voice for the dogs! We also wish to give a special thanks to Deborah and Mike Lucas, who shared their heartfelt story about Sophie, a puppy mill rescue from MN breeder, Wanda Kretzman (Clear Water Kennel), and Faith Dower, who drove seven hours round trip from WV to join our pack of dedicated animal advocates!

    The highlight of yesterday’s rally was a double bonus; receiving recognition from a Holmes county resident who confirmed that our campaign to raise awareness of Ohio dog auctions and their relationship to puppy mill breeding is gaining tremendous support from the locals, and rescuing five beautiful companions (a poodle, two yorkshire terriers and two bichons) as part of our undercover investigation to be aired in the next two weeks on Local 12 WKRC TV (Cincinnati, OH)!

    Given the tremednous outpouring of support following Dr. Nancy Kay’s excellent article on dog auctions, we wanted to encourage those of you outside of Ohio to write to the following elected officials asking them to support a ban on Ohio dog auctions. Emphasize that you will not be spending any dollars in Holmes County until this event no longer takes place in their community!

    1. Holmes County Commissioners (Joe D. Miller, Ray Eyler and Robert L. Ault)
    2 Court Street, Ste 14
    Millersburg, OH 44654-2001
    Phone: 330-674-0286
    Fax: 330-674-0566

    2. Governor John Kasich

    Again, we greatly appreciate everyone’s support and dedication to our campaign! Thanks for continuing to serve as a strong voice for the dogs!

  4. Will the insanity ever end? Why we still have auction, puppy mills, and why there are still people who either aren’t aware, or don’t care, going and purchasing (I should say dropping huge amounts of money) dogs at Petland is beyond logic. Don’t worry about this not being a “positive” post for you – it’s value is important! We need to continue working to stop the nonsense.

  5. This is so sickening and morally bankrupt I can’t even begin to express my outrage and the pain I feel at the mere thought of this heinousness. I don’t live on such a state, but I know people who do. This makes me wonder if there isn’t something can be done, or at least started (I’m sure the Republican House is hopeless) at the federal level.

  6. I live in Ohio and am sickened by the cruelty and inhumane conditions of these unfortunate animals. We adopted a very loving, great family dog at our county shelter. I wish I could have taken more. The work is not only in fighting puppy mills, but getting people to spay/neuter and adopt from those organizations that rescue homeless or unwanted animals. I will never go anywhere else. For what it is worth, the Petland that opened near me closed within a year or so of its grand opening.

  7. Thanks for all of the comments. Many important points have been raised about rescue organizations. The vast majority of rescue organizations are comprised of hard-working, devoted people trying to improve the lives of animals who truly need a second chance. Unfortunately, as with most things, there are going to be a few bad apples in the barrel. Not all rescue organizations are ethical and honorable- they use animals as a means of monetary gain. This does not mean that rescue organizations should be condemned- they are a fabulous resource for finding your next family dog. But remember, whether adopting from a shelter, humane society, rescue organization, or breeder it is important to pay a visit. Promise me you will never get a dog site and sight unseen!!

  8. Please be aware that a large percentage of dogs auctioned at these hideous events are actually STOLEN pets. The organizers employ “bunchers” who go around stealing pets out of back yards, cars, lie about giving them good homes and even break into houses to get them.

    Pet theft is aavage assault on animals and humans. Theft for this purpose is devastating, never knowing the fate of the stolen companion.
    A great amount of money is spent to deny these sicuations but the public is hopefully becoming more aware of them.

    Please take the time to read Judith Reitman’s book “Stolen for Profit”, (Pharos Books, 1992) and in addition you will also discover how the medical establishment is funding a national pet-theft conspiracy. Reitman is an excellent researcher and once the facts have broken your heart, you will hopefully get engry enough to take action against this shameful business.

  9. I adopted a female pom a year ago. She was a mom at a puppy mill. I never met a dog so scared of everything. She now is a love and has made so much progress but I cant say enough about the horrible mistreatment of these animals. To this day she hides at the sound of setting the remote on the coffee table. I cant even imagine what she must have gone through.
    I dont like these people a lot!

  10. Dog auctions are a tragic embarrassment to Ohio and it’s humane-minded citizens. We have been asked if people should “buy” or “rescue” these dogs. We are asking for an all-out boycott of this event. We have studied the numbers from past auctions and believe that in most instances, the dogs being offered at this auction are not mill cast-offs but were, in many cases, purposely bred to supply AUCTION BUYERS, including rescue groups. Buying at the auction will simply mean that it will be profitable. If it is profitable, it will continue and MORE dogs will be bred for sale at future Ohio Dog Auctions. That said, we do understand compassion for the dogs being sold and know that there will be some who will buy. We understand both sides of the situation, and hope that in the long run, not buying will produce the best outcome to end these auctions altogether.

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  13. Jane Eagle is correct, reputable breeders do not make people return a dog for a health guarantee, kudos to the kennel for changing its policy.

    At some point people need to stop being polite and naming and shaming. All of these breeders have neighbors. All of them have vets.

    Jill in Nebraska sounds either mentally ill or intentionally dishonest.

    Thank you Dr. Kay for taking a stand.

  14. Why do we make it so easy for the puppy mills to get new breeding stock by taking the unwanted from them and giving them space for a new generation?

    Taking dogs away is not the answer, that is contributing to the mill’s lousy business practice! dogs out, more young dogs in.
    There must be a different way.

  15. I used to attend auctions, and if we had to make that horrible choice, we would buy the breeding age females before the puppies.

    If anything, this account is more tame and toned down than what I saw. Five years of attending 6-10 auctions a year was as much as I could stand. To watch dogs you were trying to save being driven away by commercial breeders was painful.

    To profit off the pain of other lives is reprehensible. Yet that is exactly what happens.

  16. Jill in Nebraska obviously has never been involved with a rescue … I do rescue we charge for adoption fees but we also spay or neuter every animal before it leaves our care
    We also pay for training in some cases and shots food toys leashes collars and anything else the dog would need before he is rehomed
    all of this costs money and since we are a non profit organization 100% of the money “earned” from any adoption goes right back into the pool of funds used to rescue the next animal not ever reaching my pocket

    Rescuers don’t do it for fame or money we do it for love of those animals
    and because every animal deserves security and a great life however long they have left to live it

    On these auctions I have never heard of such things OMG I am horrified by the idea of selling these dogs off like they are just things rather than living breathing creatures poor babies

  17. I enjoy your blogs and forwarded the last one to a friend.
    She sent this blog back :'(
    I have seen so many shows on puppy mills, both Oprah and Caesar did shows.
    Education is the key but how do we get people to stop.
    I own a dog and cat boarding kennel and get LOTS of clients who purchased dogs at pet stores. Many knowing they were puppy mill dogs but wanting to save the puppy.
    My response is yes you may have saved that puppy from life in a pet store but what about its sister that may have been very pretty and the puppy mill kept her for breeding?
    Some believing the lies of the pet store that they are not puppy mill dogs. Now I have heard they are having childrens birthday parties in the local pet store.
    It is a very frustrating situation but no one contacts me before they get a puppy.

    May I print your article to hand out to clients?

    Wags and Good Wishes
    Terry Shackleton

  18. What can we do to get rid of the puppy mills? I sent in a vote though I am not from Missouri to help get the legislation passed. I now understand that they might repeal it. I am not buying a puppy. I sent a donation to the Humane Society Legislative fund u although I would prefer to send the money somewhere where it is not used for salaries. What else?

  19. Thanks for bringing this important (and heart-wrenching) topic to the forefront.

    I think states can legislate all they want, but nothing will change unless people’s attitudes change about where their pets come from. And the best way to change their hearts is by educating their minds, as you have done here. A pet store is no place to acquire a family member – you don’t go to the ‘kid store’ for a child!

    I was on a puppy-mill raid with animal control once, and the conditions there (similar to what you describe here for the auctions) were deplorable – literally criminal.

    Take advantage of the literally millions of adoptable pets in shelters and be a part of the solution, not part of the problem.

  20. Thank you Nancy. As a behaviorist I see puppies and dogs who have come from puppy mills and many indeed suffer behavioral issues that could only come from a distressed breeder/mother dog and living in cages. Has anyone seen the article in OCT 2010 in TIME magazine? It was the cover story about the science of what is passed on to a fetus from the mother. It’s a tremendous article and speaks to exactly some of the issues I see from puppies coming from puppy mills.

    We can do something. Our eyes have been opened so let’s keep the momentum moving ever so strong to eradicate Puppy Mills which will in turn shut down these Dog Auction Houses.

    Send this to everyone you know…. We are their only voice.

  21. “Love” your very sad Dog Auction Blog.

    I’m scheduled to run a workshop (about living with and training dogs) for elementary school kids at an animal focused Science Day in a couple of weeks. With your permission I’d like to bring copies of this particular blog with me for the parents.

    I will of course include full attribution and your website information.

    Thank you,


  22. Wonderful job, Nancy! For those who are unaware of what these puppy mills do to these dogs, let me tell you about the little 9 yr. old Japanese Chin we pulled from the Humane Society who rescued him from a puppy mill. He spend 8.5 years of his life as a breeder dog, in a cage. He has arthritis in his spine so bad that he had a hump that looked like a camel, and when I put him down, he couldn’t walk because he had no muscle tone. He staggered like a drunk. He is blind due to untreated corneal ulcers, and very possibly being in a lower cage with all that amonia dripping down on him from urine. He is deaf due to untreated ear infections. Now, 9 mo. later the hump has leveled out due to exercise and he gets around good as long as he’s in familiar surroundings. He cannot be walked on a leash, cannot do stairs but he is a happy little guy and doesn’t scream anymore when he’s picked up.

  23. Debbie raises such an important point. Not only do many of these puppy mill dogs come with significant health issues, unfortunately behavioral issues are also commonplace. Such issues often end up in early abandonment or attempts to rehome these poor dogs. No question- everyone involved suffers.

  24. The other piece of this hideous puzzle is that the pups born in mills potentially suffer more than illness or genetic disease. The stress their mother experiences throughout gestation effects the pups in utero. Stressed and anxious mothers are more likely to produce pups with emotional and behavioral challenges. These pups are born with less potential for becoming good pets in the average household.

    Buying a puppy mill bred pup is like buying a car which may or may not have all the bolts properly fastened. When the bolts fail in a car the driver may be killed. When a dog does not behave appropriately due to the deficiencies of breeding practices, they are the ones that die.

  25. The idea that rescue groups are making a “profit” off adoption fees is ridiculous. The auction price might be low, but the vet care (spay, neutering, shots, etc.) are not. Nor is the food or shelter needed for the dog. I get that groups like HumaneWatch want to demonize rescue groups, but to read it here is disheartening.

  26. Despite my heavy involvement in the fight against puppy mills, I never realized that states actually SANCTION such things! I always thought they were underground and somewhat illegal. I just can’t stop thinking how similar this is to slave trading. What did it take to stop that? Oh, right, a war. Don’t we learn anything from the past? I hope everyone reading this will at the very least go out and tell three people what they learned. That’s an easy way to begin creating change.

  27. WOW. I thought I was generally well-informed and up-to-date on issues of concern for dog welfare and health, but I was unaware of these auctions. With the major information overload we all contend with nowadays, I can’t thank the author enough for bringing attention to this issue. There is nothing “downer” about this or any other Speaking for Spot post. Keep up the good work, Dr, Kay, you’ve got a secondary career in canine investigation journalism!

  28. As a dog writer, I am infuriated to learn about dog auctions. As a human being, I am sickened that the Almighty Dollar so completely rules mankind that we give no thought to the misery and cruelty we impart on other sentient beings. I applaud the rescue organizations who attend the auctions in an attempt to buy freedom for some of these victimized dogs.

  29. Dog auctions is a subject Bernese Mountain Dog people know all too well. I know for myself, even though I grew up in the Midwest, I had never heard of the horrors of dog auctions until they came to light on our yahoo group, the Berner-L, about 7 years ago. A dedicated group formed a non-profit BARC (Bernese Auction Rescue Coalition) and proceeded to attend the dog auctions and purchase the dogs and puppies. As a result of their efforts they have saved hundreds of Berners from lives of pain and misery as “breeding factories” for the puppy millers and almost certain discard and death when they could no longer “produce”. You’ll find more information on puppy mills and auctions at Thank you Dr. Kay for writing on this most difficult subject. I am still amazed that so few people have heard of the auctions.

  30. Thank you so much for writing on this subject. What a miserable life for these dogs. It saddens me that human beings are capable of treating other species in this manner.

    For the action points, I’d like to add: Don’t shop at stores that sell puppies & kittens. Don’t support stores that trade in misery, even if you’re just buying food, treats, etc. In my town there is a store that sells high quality food and treats, but also puppies and kittens. I refuse to shop there and instead drive 120 miles for pet supplies from a store that promotes rescue.

  31. Thanks for a timely and informative post.

    Equally disturbing (but perhaps even more underground) are the so-called ‘rescue’ groups who purchase dogs at auction, bathe and brush them, mark up the price and re-sell the dogs, all the while calling the initial transaction a ‘rescue’ and the second transaction an ‘adoption’.

    Often these dogs are purchased for pennies on the dollar; at a recent auction here in Nebraska, retired breeding dogs were going for $1 a crate, with four dogs in each crate. At .25 a dog, the ‘rescue’ organization who buys wholesale, and then retails the puppy mill overstock at $250 apiece is making a tidy profit off such misfortune.

    And of course, this does nothing to inhibit, prevent or put an end puppy mills. In fact, just the opposite — it frees up kennel space so that the commercial producer can begin production all over again.

    And the folks who patronize the ‘rescue’ organization, buy dogs there, donate money and/or volunteer either have no idea that they’re part of the puppy mill business cycle, or they’re in abject denial.

    I don’t know what the solution is, but to buy dogs at auction and misrepresent that activity to clients/constitutents is surely to be part of the problem.

  32. So heartbreaking, so wrong.

    I support all your action points.

    Public education is necessary and asking people to boycott places that sell puppy mill puppies is important … but the thing is, for many people, the chance to make life better for this one animal, is a compelling reason to buy it, to save it. Some people may ask … if I walk away from this animal (in a pet store) what will be its fate? Add to that that it is a cute and appealing animal and the store has a sale.

    It may be pie-in-the-sky, but it would be great to shut puppy mill operations down completely.

  33. PS: re “no problem because Petland guarantees full refunds on any dogs that develop symptoms caused by an inherited disease.” No problem for Petland that is…”
    The one time I bought a purebred dog from a very reputable breeder, like everyone should, he offered a clause in the contract that if the dog were to develop any genetic disease, I could have 100% refund. I told him that wasn’t acceptable, since by the time anything might show up (of course nothing ever did), the dog would be part of my family, and I would not return him for any reason. The kennel changed the contract to read that I would keep the dog and get a refund.

  34. I would like to see everyone who attends these horrors and everyone who would “rather not know” and put them all in a small cage with similar care (none) for a minimum of 10 years.

  35. Sickening to read but this has to be posted world wide. How can “Human” beings treat these defenseless animals so cruelly? My heart breaks every time I think about puppy mills. I supported Missourians who passed their law only to hear it really is a farce. Too much money trading hands is what it sounds like. This country has to step up and stop these cruel practices.