Help Crack Down on Puppy Mills

I encourage you to take a minute of your time before August 15th to help crack down on puppy mills. Under the current requirements of the Animal Welfare Act, puppy millers (aka, commercial dog breeders) must be licensed and inspected by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) only if they sell their “livestock” to puppy brokers or pet stores. If they sell directly to the public via the Internet, telephone, or mail, they are completely ignored by the USDA. In other words, these puppy millers operate completely under the radar with no requirements to provide even minimum standards of care.

Please act now to help create change. The USDA has proposed a rule that will require puppy millers who sell puppies to individuals “sight unseen,” be licensed and inspected, and required to provide the same basic standards of care as those who sell wholesale to pet stores. This is a big step forward that will hopefully crack down on the worst offenders who perpetuate inhumane treatment of animals behind misleading websites, classified ads and mail order catalogues.

Until August 15th the USDA is hearing public feedback on this proposal. I invite you to declare your support by clicking on the link below:

You have my sincere thanks.

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
Author of Your Dog’s Best Health: A Dozen Reasonable Things to Expect From Your Vet
Recipient, Leo K. Bustad Companion Animal Veterinarian of the Year Award
Recipient, American Animal Hospital Association Animal Welfare and Humane Ethics Award
Recipient, Dog Writers Association of America Award for Best Blog
Recipient, Eukanuba Canine Health Award
Recipient, AKC Club Publication Excellence Award
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Please visit to read excerpts from Speaking for Spot and Your Dog’s Best Health.   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 and Your Dog’s Best Health are available at,, local bookstores, and your favorite online book seller.



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25 Comments on “Help Crack Down on Puppy Mills

  1. There is a myth at large in the land, a myth perpetuated by people who would end the breeding of purebred dogs and cats, a myth that is actually bought hook, line, and sinker by many people who keep hearing from the liked of Jane Eagle who have no perspective other than to tend the breeding of all domestic animals. That is the goal of HSUS, PeTA, ALF and THLN along with Best Friends and all animal rights radicals.

    Activists use this myth as a bludgeon to convince the public that dog and cat breeders are at fault for the animals that die in shelters. The myth is “overpopulation” as the reason for shelter euthanasia of healthy, adoptable dogs and cats, “overpopulation” that radicals trace to the folks who are doing things right – the majority of purebred breeders. But “overpopulation” is a brilliant propaganda campaign aimed at defaming purebred breeders. It’s time for a reality check. Writing in Anthrozoos Gary Patronek of Purdue University School of Veterinary Medicine and Andrew Rowan of Tufts University School of Veterinary Medicine have done a study on the shelter population. Patronek and Rowan compiled statistics from the pet industry, the American Kennel Club, the American veterinary Medical Association, the Humane Society of the US, the American Humane Association, and other sources to paint a picture of dog ownership in the US in a recent editorial in the scholarly magazine published by the Delta Society.

    The compilation did not include information about feral dogs, because (contrary to assertions from United Action for Animals) “the data indicates that this population is very small” and “it appears as though there are very few feral or unowned dogs in the USA today.”(Cats may be a different story, although there are no figures available to make that judgment, according to the report.)

    Rowan and Patronek report that about 52 million dogs live in 35 million US households. About 6.2 million dogs die each year, 3.8 million in homes, veterinary hospitals and under the wheels of a vehicle, and an additional 2.4 million in shelters. Each year, owners acquire about 7.3 million dogs, including 5.8 million puppies from pet stores and breeders, one million dogs from animal shelters, and 500,000 as adult strays or previously owned pets.
    12 Million households look each year to purchase a pet. All Puppies come from 3.3 percent of dog-owning households as follows:

    Show breeders, 1.8 million (31 percent); Never sell to pet stores or dealers, always know where their puppies go and take back a dog they sell anytime.
    Amateur breeders, 1.3 million (23 percent); sell direct
    Mixed breeds, 2.6 million (46 percent). (FREE ROAMING DOGS from owners who don’t care if they get preganant.
    Pet stores, 500,000(7 percent) bought from commercial kennels

    About four million dogs enter shelters each year (not the large numbers that are put out by the radical animals rights groups. Let see what happens to this number that do enter shelters: 400,000 puppies from households that produce litters but do not place the pups in new homes.
    Strays, about 2.2 million
    Reclaimed by their owners, about 600,000, (leaving 1.6 million strays available for adoption).
    Owner surrenders, About 1.8 million (300,000 for euthanasia and 1.5 million for adoption). Many people take their older dogs to shelters because euthanasia is free for them whereas at a vet it cost anywhere from 150 to 500 depending upon how you want it done.

    One million of the 3.1 million dogs available for adoption do get new homes, leaving 2.1 million additional dogs euthanized. However, this number is not broken down by health or temperament, leaving a gap in understanding of just how many healthy dogs die for lack of a home. Probably half of these were from owners who wanted the dogs to be euthanized.

    There are more dogs than ever in homes in the US according to a survey done by the American Association of Pet Product Manufacturers in 1994, and there are fewer dogs and cats than ever dying in shelters according to the latest study done by Tufts University. In 1992, APPMA showed 53.1 million dogs in US households; in 1994, the number jumped to 54.2 million dogs in 34 million households. And the Tufts study showed 1.8-2.1 million dogs euthanized in shelters, a far cry from the six or eight or more million claimed by animal rights activists.

    The chain of thought that blames the production of purebred puppies for the death of an unwanted mongrel in an animal shelter makes mockery of logic. It assumes that dogs are “one size fits all,” that a buyer will adopt an adult curly-coated 15-pound ball of fur of unknown origin and potential behavior problems when he really wants a Dalmatian or Doberman puppy to grow up with his children. And it removes the burdens of marketing, education, behavior modification, and veterinary care from shelters that buy into the message. After all, it’s easier to blame others, to be a victim, than it is to analyze and solve the problem.

    Yet repeated often enough and illustrated with pictures of forlorn dogs and cats in shelter cages or dead bodies dumped in barrels, the accusations take hold and are turned into anti-breeding legislation in counties and cities throughout the country.

    Educate the public on responsible dog ownership and you could remove 1.6 million from being put in shelters if Vets had a way to euthanize pets inexpensively so that the poor did not need to drop their older pets at shelters.
    As for this article and the Aphis rule it will only make the problem worse and it will doom health well bred dogs to a life in a warehouse kennel. The USDA guidelines does not allow for raising puppies in a home situation. Their rules are for raising lab animals only not companion animals. Show/hobby breeders are not the problem as they sell direct follow their puppies with contracts and do not allow the new owner to take a dog to the shelter it must always come back to the breeder if for any reason they cannot keep the dog.

  2. Really, you want the government to know you are against “puppy mills”? Gosh, where do you stand on murderers, pedophiles and rapists? For, or against?

    The rabid AR rhetoric against so-called “puppy mills” is absurd. The term itself is a pejorative intended to slur ALL dog breeding. It’s as offensive a term as any racial or ethnic slur you can come up with, so PLEASE do us all a favor and quit the mindless yammering about “puppy mills.”

    7 Things You Didn’t Know About Puppy Mills

    1) The phrase “puppy mill” has been promoted in the media by the animal rights movement, people who want to end all animal ownership. It is applied indiscriminately by these fanatics to anyone who breeds dogs.

    2) There are just two types of breeders: those who are humane and those who aren’t. Current laws prohibit inhumane, abusive and neglectful treatment of dogs. So-called “puppy mill bills” target according to number of dogs owned; however, what is important is the standard of care, not the numbers.

    3) Most commercial breeders have state of the art kennels. They need to meet stringent USDA standards and the standards of their state laws.

    4)”Sick” puppies do not sell. It is counterproductive for any industry to produce a defective product and expect to stay in business.

    5) Passing laws to outlaw “puppy mills” will not solve anything. Inhumane breeders are already in violation of existing laws. New, stricter laws will only affect those breeders who are dedicated and caring. We need to enforce cruelty laws that are already on the books.

    6) All the breeders in this country cannot produce enough puppies to meet the demands of the American market. Currently, hundreds of thousands of dogs and puppies are imported from other countries to meet the demand.

    7) Breeders are not responsible for the presence of dogs in shelters. We have a problem with responsible ownership. Education is the key to improvement in this area.

  3. I think it is shocking how many “professional” people have jumped on this bandwagon to stop ALL good breeders from supplying healthy happy pets to the public. The comment made here by the blogger assumes that “good breeders” will just have to be “collateral damage” by being “negatively impacted”.. Really? this will be the death knell for many rare breeds and genetic diversity and certainly will lessen the availability of GOOD dogs to people while encouraging a flourishing “underground” of sick and unhealthy puppies sold in circumstances that will be much worse than the one shown above.. I do wonder if any of the supporters of these rules think about the deeper consequences of their bandwagon..or if they are “deep cover” for the animal rights groups like Best Friends ( formerly a cult church known as the Process Church of the Final Judgement)) HSUS/ASPCA and PETA.. all with the goal of eliminating the breeding of animals for domestic use.
    A good read is this:

    these rules are ones that will kill the breeding of not only dogs.. this “rule” applies to many many other animals as well. It is pathetic that the blogger concentrates only on ONE facet of this rule when it affects so much more.

  4. There are really good comments here. I hope you go back and rethink this one. Based on the phone conference, there are way too many things that are up in the air, undefined, vague, etc. This is a terrible proposal that will wipe out purebred breeding, starting with the rare breeds that have buyers thousands of miles away that will never meet ‘face to face’ with the breeder and the pups. It is pretty common for a breeder or buyer to have a puppy shipped from another breeder sight unseen because they have checked out references, history, health testing, and pedigrees. This rule would prohibit that! Way too many things wrong here that will damage, even end, the beautiful home breeding programs.

  5. Enforcement is the key to getting rid of puppy mills. In Pennsylvania our wonderful new puppy mill law has and is not being enforced. Gov. Corbett appointed a bank teller to be the the dog law director!! Thousands of dogs froze last winter with no puppy mill inspections and enforcemnt. Now we are home state to hoarders. Forgive them. They are trying.

  6. @ Jane Eagle yes, owning a pet is a privilege BUT the last time I looked, as an American it certainly IS my right! And it is my right to be able to choose where I purchase my pets! and it won’t be pet stores, DEALERS or mills! just sayin’!

  7. While we agree that puppy mills need to be targeted(preferably shut down) the already over worked USDA inspectors would now be coming to the small hobby breeders and we as tax payers will pay for this!
    Another issue-in lieu of stud service fees-many breeders take a pup back to continue our lines that have passed expensive genetic testing. If this passes as it is presently written—we breeders would not be allowed to receive that puppy unless we personally picked it up at the other breeders house UNLESS we were licensed as(shudder) DEALERS! This proposal is poorly written and vague in it’s present form! Vote to FAIL this proposal for now!
    We should all put our experience and ideas together to re-write this to protect ethical breeders while enforcing stricter regulations on pet stores and mills.
    And don’t forget-IF this passes in it’s present state..Stores and Mills will be exempt from inspections if clients come in person to purchase pets! YIKES! They can mass breed in substandard conditions yet my pups that are home raised, go to the vet, are highly socialized can not have me send them under any circumstances with out being licensed! I show my dogs-sometimes I can help a buyer out of my area by bringing the puppy to the dog show I may be attending in THEIR area. Under this proposal I would be breaking the law unless licensed! Some of these folks already have a dog of mine-why need to make the trip again?
    So, while I hate animal abuse and suffering-the small hobby breeders are not the culprits here but will be the main target under this proposal!
    Thanks for listening! Kathie Vogel Breeder of Merit AKC Bichon Frise’ since 1970

  8. I have to say I am a bit tired of how much energy a lot of people put into this Stop the Puppy Mills campaign. Animal cruelty is animal cruelty and laws for that are in the books just about anywhere in this country. Why is animal cruelty still happening, because there isn’t enough money to go around to enforce those laws. USDA is already not able to keep up with the facilities they are currently inspecting, so how would a new law that forces thousands more breeders to get licensed going to change that? People who don’t take care of their animals, wether they have one animal or 100, don’t care about those laws, they will continue to do what they are doing until they get caught, then they hand over their animals and walk away with a slap on the wrist, they move to another location and start over, if they don’t care about each individual animal, those laws don’t affect them on an emotional level. Now if you take the breeders who are into breeding dogs because the dogs are their life and passion, such breeders look at their options and they are often not willing to take the risk that they will not be able to meet the requirements of the new laws. The choice is simple when you love your dogs, you stop breeding and being a breeder to protect the dogs you have, you don’t want to risk that somebody finds you out of compliance for whatever reason and takes your dogs away.
    Another thing that most people who support these laws don’t consider is that the pet buying public who wants puppies is not going away, if the demand is not met by breeders, large and small scale, in this country, that opens up the market for puppies from out of country. Do we just care about “puppy mills” in the US? Anybody who really loves dogs should really learn to think global and should think about how decreasing the numbers of breeders or puppies produced in this country will just open up opportunities for “puppy mills” outside of our borders.
    I keep shaking my head how this is all so screwed up, if people don’t like commercial breeders, why don’t you get involved to increase the numbers of puppies produced by responsible breeders? Wouldn’t it be great if every puppy born would come from a loving environment, from parents that were health and temperament tested and if a home doesn’t work out, there is a person to fall back on who will ensure that the dog will find another loving home? If all puppies came from such an environment, we wouldn’t need large commercial breeders, we wouldn’t need shelters and rescues. Wouldn’t that be a win-win situation?

  9. I disagree that the proposed law will improve the wellbeing of animals in puppy mills and agree with the AKC that the proposal is “unreasonable and virtually impossible for many small hobby breeders to comply with the strict kennel engineering standards that were designed for large commercial operations. It would create unreasonable hardships that could threaten genetic diversity, the future of a vast number of responsible small hobby breeders and the very existence of some rare breeds.” I am disappointed that you have gone on record as supporting the proposal.

  10. I second what many other hobby breeders have posted. Though aimed at the commercial breeders who maintain dogs in conditions similar to the picture posted with this column (and far worse!), this bill will have severe repercussions for the reputable hobby breeder, as well as limiting the activities of rescue groups. Without the hobby breeders, many of whom have made improvement of “their” breed their life’s passions, buyers will be driven to the very pet stores and commercial operations the bill opposes. Dr. Kay, please research and write about the “other side”

  11. Thanks, Dr. Kay for this important info – I have been firsthand inside one of these horrible places on an animal control bust, and it was hell on earth.

    The debate will rage on and not be put to bed anytime soon, but I applaud you efforts to raise awareness a find a workable solution to the problem of puppy mills.

    I know this is a topic near and dear to your heart, and you are to be commended for helping those without a voice.

  12. Dr. Kay wrote about stopping “puppy millers (aka, commercial dog breeders)….” Commercial dog breeders are already regulated, but these regulations are spottily and selectively enforced, if they are enforced at all. These new APHIS regulations, however, would attempt to regulate and license the small hobby breeders who supply those of us who want a well-socialized, well bred purebred dog. Gone would be the home raised pups we now enjoy, and, thanks to the ‘breeding bitch” limitations, gone would be the rare, specialized breeds with already limited genetic diversity.

    In the opinion of the Animal Rights groups such as H$U$ that are pushing these regs, all breeders, regardless of size, are Puppy Mills, and should be put out of business. With former H$U$ lawyer Sarah L. Conant now an APHIS Enforcement official, it is imperative that we call for the immediate, total withdrawal of these proposed regs.

  13. OMG. Are you aware that the Animal Activists pushing this bill have also suggested that since enforcement would be virtually impossible, they would “help” to be the enforcers. Oh please. That’s a scarey thought in itself.

    This would be the end of responsible breeders per say and would leave ONLY the huge commercial breeders. Good luck with that Nancy Kay. You had better read this much more carefully or you will not have anything to take care of in your practice…Oh that’s right you would have the puppy mill puppies and that would give you lots more business.

  14. Please remember, according to the AR agenda, anyone who breeds a litter is a “puppy mill.” The real difference is between the small hobby breeder who work a full-time job to support their “hobby,” rather than the commercial breeders who treat dogs like livestock & insist that the dogs support them. It is not the SHB who is responsible for the animals filling our shelters. The mis-begotten rules APHIS would impose on all of us are not there to protect our pets; they are there to insure that in 10 years or less there will be no more family pets.

  15. paraphrasing Dr Kay:
    “the proposed change in USDA regulations will adversely affect hobby breeders- aka, reputable breeders… I do believe that hobby breeders could be negatively impacted as innocent bystanders in the fight against puppy mills, I’m not sure there is any easy way around this.”

    sure there is – first off, OPPOSE THESE APHIS CHANGES. the negative impact is truly awful and the positive impact… well there isn’t one. puppy mills and bad breeders will continue to find ways to cut corners and minimize costs. the proposed changes are UNENFORCEABLE with current USDA staffing and only honest breeders would attempt to comply.

    secondly, EDUCATE THE BUYING PUBLIC on identifying and finding quality puppies and adults, identifying and finding Responsible Ethical Breeders, and MOST importantly being RESPONSIBLE dog owners. animals from Responsible Ethical Breeders NEVER wind up in shelters, our contracts prohibit that and we enforce our contracts! bad breeders don’t require a dog be returned at any age for any reason, and a lot don’t even have contracts. IT IS UP TO THE BUYERS TO SPEND THEIR MONEY WITH RESPONSIBLE ETHICAL BREEDERS, not pet shops, puppy mills, and bad back-yard breeders.

  16. I’ve heard from several of you, both publicly and privately, with genuine concerns about how the proposed change in USDA regulations will adversely affect hobby breeders- aka, reputable breeders. First off, let me say thanks very much for taking the time and making the effort to share the “other side of the story” with me. I truly appreciate your concerns. While I do believe that hobby breeders could be negatively impacted as innocent bystanders in the fight against puppy mills, I’m not sure there is any easy way around this. What I do want is for the government to hear from many many people as loudly and clearly as possible is that we are fed up with puppy mills.

    Warm best wishes,

    Dr. Nancy

  17. OH NO, NO, NOOOOOOOOOOOO!!! PLEASE DO NOT VOTE FOR THIS BILL!! It will NOT crack down on the puppy mills. What it will do is require EVERY SINGLE DOG BREEDER TO COMPLY WITH THE USDA requirements to sell or transfer a dog or puppy. This includes rescue organizations. As written, it will bring an end to the sport of pure bred dogs. Please – you don’t need to just take my word for this – by all means GO TO THE AMERICAN KENNEL CLUB WEBSITE – AKC and it will explain in detail why this bill is written incorrectly to correct the puppy mill situation and will absolutely DESTROY the pure bred dog fancy for those of us who have devoted our entire life to the benefit of raising healthy, happy, well cared for and loved dogs for pets or events. The proposal applies to ANYONE who has 4 females or more. There are NO breeders who can set up their establishment per the USDA requirements for commercial breeders nor would they want to as it significantly limits the personal contact with the animals as they are NOT TO BE KEPT IN THE HOUSE – ONLY IN THE COMMERCIAL KENNEL BUILDINGS ON CEMENT FLOORING!!!!!!!!! And many, many more restrictions that are not conducive to small hobby kennel breeders and dogs. Please, I BEG OF YOU, do NOT let this proposal pass!!!!!

  18. Although this is needed, the USDA is not the agency to conduct the inpsections. Their guidelines for inspections is the Animal Welfare Act (AWA) which leaves
    so many areas that does not cover commercial kennels living conditions etc. The USDA inspections leave a lot for abuse and neglect. This is almost useless in my opinion. If you go to the USDA site APHIS and read the inspections reports they continually state “Non-compliance, Repeat” which gives the breeders a complete pass on neglect and abuse. Many commercial breeders to this day that have been in business over 9 years have never been inspected. These sell at auctions, Petshops etc. Many, many need to be shut down but USDA chooses to let them pass. IF this legislation is added to the inspectors, what will happen? NOTHING.

  19. Dr. Kay, I would like to second Courtenay and politely ask you to please do your homework on this subject. Please go to the USDA page and read the many excellent comments that have been made about how this will affect working dogs, rare breed dogs and many other responsible breeders. Then read what the actual requirements are to be USDA licensed. Breeders couldn’t keep their dogs in the house anymore and raise puppies in the living room, because that would NOT meet the requirements for a USDA licensed facility. Here are some resources to start with:

  20. This issue is so huge, most if us, even in rescue, cannot comprehend the extent of it. All those horrendous pictures you see of puppy mills? They are the USDA LICENSED ones!!!! Most meet the “standards of care” required; so can you imagine the unlicensed ones?
    This is a great place to start! There is a high-profile lawyer in New York, Susan Chana Lask, Esq. (look her up on FB) who has made it her mission to close down every puppy mill in her state…for starters :-) And that really needs to be done: close them ALL, everywhere.
    At the same time, we need to find a way to control breeding; with 5 million dogs being killed in US “shelters” every year, we really don’t need more! In my little suburban neighborhood, in a 2 block radius, are 5 backyard breeders, who will NOT be addressed under this new and much needed law! If we assume that they each have only one female (please, God!), that’s 40 – 100 puppies a year, in 2 blocks!!! I see “puppies for sale” signs all over the place! It seems that some people have decided that raising puppies is a much more lucrative backyard hobby than gardening :-(
    And these millions of puppies from backyards all over the country every year are totally unregulated.
    I am trying to figure out some realistic law that could be passed, somehow requiring EVERY dog, cat, puppy or kitten who is sold to be microchipped by the breeder. That way, when their progeny ends up in OUR tax-funded shelters, where WE pay to house, feed, adopt, or kill these millions every year, the BREEDER can be charged for the costs of care. As it stands now, the breeders make the money, and all of US pay the costs…and no one more than the innocent animals who are killed for the crime of being unwanted.
    Anyone who can figure this idea out, please: run with it!!! So far I can only think that if a breeder doesn’t chip their progeny, then the buyer will have to, and be responsible for that animal for the rest of their life…which would include no animals killed for any reason other than temperment or suffering. I’m still trying to figure out how this could be enforced; an obvious way would be that every animal who goes to a shelter, veterinarian or groomer would have to be checked for a chip; but I hate to put this on vets or groomers, so I’m still thinking.
    THIS HAS TO STOP. “Owning” a dog or cat is not a right, it is a privilege; and breeding them is definitely not a right!!!
    And I seem to need to put a disclaimer in, every time I make a pst like this: I am NOT see responsible breeders as a problem; and by responsible, I mean those breeding for excellence (not just looks), and who will always take a puppy back, even years later. They do exist; I know some!

  21. Hi, Dr. Kay. There are some major problems with this change to the AWA. The intention is good, but it has unintended consequences. The proposed change adds to the definition of “retail sales” in a way that negatively impacts the small-scale hobby breeders doing things right (carefully choosing dogs who are physically and behaviorally sound, raising dogs in the house underfoot and/or in immaculate kennels, genetic testing on breeding stock, socialization of puppies, excellent vet care) by essentially requiring them to now become federally licensed, lumping them in with the high-volume commercial kennels.

    IMO, if they are going to do something about this, USDA/APHIS first must enforce licensing of all high-volume commercial kennels no matter how they are selling dogs.

    I don’t know what can be done about the “sight unseen” issue other than educating people about not buying dogs sight unseen, and not buying dogs from pet stores.

  22. Everyone wants to stop the abuse of Puppy Mills. Unfortunately this bill punishes responsible hobby breeders as well. Many of whom ship puppies directly to their new, well screened loving homes. It would actually limit many rescue groups who also ship foster and rescue dogs. Hobby breeders would have the same requirements as commercial breeders and be forced to licensing and commercial conditions. In home raised dogs would not meet the USDAA standards.