The Realities of Puppy Mills

Puppy Mills - sad and severely neglected mama dog

Puppy mills are dog breeding “factories” that put profits ahead of dog welfare. Documented abuse at puppy mills includes forced over-breeding, inbreeding, disease, overcrowding, filth and hunger. Moms are forced to breed over and over with little, if any, veterinary care. Once they can no longer reproduce, they’re usually killed. This often happens with dogs as young as only four years old. Puppies purchased from puppy mills frequently suffer from severe illness and behavioral problems. Puppy mill owners care about one thing—making money. It’s the sad and brutal truth.

View the reality of puppy mill conditions at (Warning: this site has graphic photos and a video that some people may find disturbing.)

Learn more about the psychological damage suffered by puppy mill dogs at

What does this have to do with buying online?

The vast majority of puppies purchased online come from puppy mills. Don’t be fooled by their often slick websites. If you can’t visit the puppy first, you may very well be getting one from a puppy mill. There are lots of great dogs out there who need loving homes. Know where yours comes from.

What’s the best way to prevent getting a puppy mill dog?

Adopt from a local shelter. It’s the best way to throttle the puppy mill industry and stop its cycle of cruelty and abuse. View our available dogs here.

Or see our list of rescues in the Bay Area. Click here to find a shelter near you

And if you still choose to purchase a dog instead, make sure it comes from a reputable breeder.

How can I tell if a dog available online comes from a puppy mill or a reputable breeder?

It can be pretty hard to determine whether you’re getting a puppy mill dog, which is why we always recommend adopting from a shelter or rescue. Nevertheless, here are some sure-fire puppy mill signs:

  1. No purchase criteria: Reputable breeders are very choosy about selecting the right families for their puppies. They may do an extensive interview with potential applicants and may only let people recommended by prior buyers have an opportunity to get a dog from their litter. Puppy mills don't care who you are as long as you don't ask too many questions and have cash or a credit card.
  2. Advertising: Reputable breeders generally find their adopting families by referrals. They don't need to advertise. Puppy mills place lots of ads online, often under the guise of being reputable. Some online postings go so far as to use the term “adopt” instead of buy.
  3. No inspections: Reputable breeders will gladly let you meet the parents of a puppy, see where the puppies were born and how they’ve been treated since birth. Puppy mills generally will not let you see any of their operation.

For more information on responsible breeders, see our position statement.

What can I do to show others that adopting is the way to go?

The San Francisco SPCA does not encourage criticizing the purchase of purebred dogs. We prefer to inform others of the facts. Here are just a few:

  • Many people are fooled by the sophisticated advertising techniques of online “purebred breeders” who are in fact puppy mill owners.
  • Most people know that puppy mill puppies are sold in pet stores, but don’t know they are also sold online.
  • As targeted online advertising from these sellers becomes more sophisticated and pet stores continue to go out of business, online puppy sales will continue to increase.
  • It is estimated that up to 45 percent of all puppies are acquired online — and virtually all of these dogs are from puppy mills.
  • About one million breeding female dogs are confined in puppy mills throughout the country.
  • About three million cats and dogs are euthanized in shelters every year.
  • Approximately 25 percent of dogs in shelters are purebreds, so purchasing a dog is not the only way to get a purebred dog.

I live in San Francisco, one of the most socially conscious cities in the country. Are puppy mills really a problem here?

Despite their commitment to animal rights, San Franciscans often unwittingly support puppy mills. In a 2012 SF SPCA survey of 426 dog owners in the city, online purchase ranked first as the way to buy a puppy. The survey indicated that about 30 percent of puppies purchased in San Francisco are from puppy mills. Fifty-one percent of those who purchased dogs online would not knowingly purchase from a puppy mill, yet 19 percent don’t know about puppy mills.

How can I help put an end to puppy mills?

I have more questions about puppy mills.