How to Help Shut Down Puppy Mills

Puppy Mill

Each year, approximately 1.5 million shelter animals are euthanized (670,000 dogs and 860,000 cats). Source: ASPCA. The solution is not to shelter unwanted pets, but to SHUT DOWN THE PET MILLS. Anyone who wants a pet will just have to adapt one from a shelter.

Puppy mills are abusive institutions that neglect dogs so that they can sell as many puppies as possible. The best thing you can do to shut down mills is to adopt dogs from shelters instead of buying them from pet stores. If you know of an abusive puppy mill, you may be able to report it, but you may find it easier to advocate for stricter laws. Make sure to educate your friends and family so that they can reduce the business a mill receives and shut them down for good.

Boycott Puppy Stores

Almost every pet and puppy store that sells puppies receives their dogs from a puppy mill. Buying these dogs, even to rescue them from the store, will encourage mills to keep breeding dogs in abusive conditions.

Some pet stores may advertise their puppies as coming from USDA breeders, but this does not mean that the puppies came from humane conditions. Stores that sell puppies from USDA breeders are actually more likely to buy from puppy mills.

Some pet stores will hold adoption events by bringing in dogs from local shelters. Verify with your local shelter that these dogs do indeed come from them before adopting at one of these events. Puppies sold online also often come from puppy mills.

Adopt From a Shelter or Rescue

Animal shelters and rescues are the best place to adopt dogs in need of a home. Many will even adopt out puppies or younger abandoned dogs. By adopting dogs from shelters, you make room for more dogs to have homes. Check out your local Humane Society or Society for the Protection of Animals (SPCA) for adoptions.

Your county or municipality may run an animal shelter where you can adopt animals. These will often post adoptable dogs or puppies on their website. They may even have special events where they waive the adoption fees. If you're looking for a specific breed, research a rescue that works with that particular breed. For example, if you want a greyhound, look for a greyhound rescue.

Closing a Local Puppy Mill

In the US, puppy mills are regulated by the USDA. As long as the mills provide dogs with basic care, such as food, shelter, and water, they are allowed to operate under the Animal Welfare Act (AWA). This means that the puppy mill may not be illegal, and you cannot take direct action.

That said, some states and counties have specific animal welfare laws that might restrict or outlaw these mills. In the US and Canada, there are about 70 municipalities that require pet stores to get their animals from shelters and not breeders or mills. If you live in one of these municipalities, you can find stores that buy from mills and report them.

Find Evidence of Neglect

Because puppy mills are permitted under the AWA, you may have to prove that there is extreme neglect in the mill to force it to close. This can be extremely difficult to do. As long as puppy mills provide the dogs with basic food, water, and shelter, they can keep as many dogs as they like, even in dismal conditions.

That said, you can start to slowly build a case. If the dogs are sheltered outside in kennels with no protection from the elements, you may be able to make a case for animal neglect. If you know of sick puppies that came from the mill, you may be able to demonstrate that the mill is not providing sanitary care.

Never trespass on property or break into a facility that you suspect might be a puppy mill. You can be arrested, and this will not help close the puppy mill. Instead, gather what information you can legally, and file a report with the authorities.

Contact the Authorities

If you have evidence that a puppy mill is neglecting their dogs, you can contact the appropriate authorities to shut them down. There are many different legal venues you can reach to open an investigation. What is The Humane Society doing about puppy mills?

The USDA is responsible for overseeing puppy mills and breeders in the US. In most cases, they will be the only place to file a complaint. In the UK, your local authority is responsible for licensing breeders or puppy farms. Visit your council for more information about reporting a puppy farm.

If puppy mills are illegal in your area, you can contact law enforcement to report your suspicion of a local puppy mill. They will handle the investigation and collect evidence.

Inform an Animal Defense Organization

It can be extremely difficult to shut down a puppy mill on your own, and it is not advised that you contact the mill yourself directly. Instead, reach out to a local or national organization with experience in animal defense. They will be prepared to handle the legal aspects of the closure. Some places you might call include:

Animal Legal Defense Fund
Humane Society of the United States
The Puppy Mill Project
National Mill Dog Rescue

Rehome the Rescued Dogs

If you do manage to shut down the puppy mill, you should make sure that all of the dogs find new homes. Otherwise, the dogs will likely end up at a shelter, and many might be euthanized.

You should petition friends on your social media sites to encourage them to adopt or to share the news that these dogs need homes.
Upload notices on websites like Petfinder and Adopt-a-Pet to reach out to potential homes.
You can hold an adoption event where you pair the dogs with new owners.
You may want to organize temporary shelter for these dogs at a local no-kill shelter.

Becoming an Advocate

If you want to make puppy mills illegal, you should reach out to your local municipal, state, province, or council leaders. Let them know that you want new regulatory laws to be introduced to outlaw puppy mills. Calling or writing letters to your representatives will let them know that you are serious about this issue. You might even want to organize a campaign where you get others to all call about the same issue at the same time.

Circulate a Petition

Petitions are a good way of encouraging your local representatives to take action. Write up a petition for stricter regulations for breeders. You can stand out in front of grocery stores, universities, and shopping centers to encourage people to sign, or you can start an online petition that you share through email and social media.

Websites like or The Petition Site are good places to start petitions. If there is an existing petition with many signatures, you might sign that instead of making your own. Share it with your friends so that they can help it gain momentum.

Tell Your Friends to Adopt

To reduce the amount of business that puppy mills receive, encourage friends and families to adopt their dogs from shelters or rescues instead of buying them from stores. If someone you know mentions that they want to adopt a puppy, you can say, "That's sounds great. Are you going to rescue one from the shelter? That's the best way to find a healthy puppy that wasn't born in a mill.",

If they want a purebred, you can offer to go check out the breeder with them. You can say, "Make sure you visit the breeder so you know that the puppy didn't come from a mill. I'd love to come check it out with you if you're worried about that."

Explain What Problems a Mill Puppy May Have

If your friend seems insistent on going to a puppy mill, you might try to warn them that mill dogs are more likely to have genetic or behavioral problems. These puppies may also be infected with a disease like mange, kennel cough, or parvovirus. You might say, "You know that puppies that come from pet stores may not be as healthy, right? In fact, they're more likely to be sick when you adopt them."

You should also remind them, "Puppies from mills are taken from their mothers too soon. The dog may develop bad habits or behavior problems. It's safer just to adopt."

Share Articles on Social Media

When you find news stories about puppy mills, share them on social media so that your entire social network can learn about the abuses and problems caused by puppy mills. This will help prevent others from buying from mills. You can also share links to petitions or donation drives to help shut mills down.