Additional Puppy Mill FAQs

Why is the SF SPCA focusing on the puppy mill problem?

As a shelter that adopts out over 4,000 animals each year and as a veterinary hospital that sees nearly 20,000 owned animals each year, we have a good sense of what is happening with cats and dogs in this city. We see a lot of newly adopted breeder puppies with medical and behavioral problems. Dogs that live a lifetime with discomfort from congenital problems and dogs that die early from inbred diseases. We also see a lot of dogs surrendered due to these same issues. So we decided to conduct a survey and were shocked to find that in a socially responsible city like San Francisco, approximately 30% of people are getting their puppies from puppy mills!

No one wants to be duped into supporting something that goes against their own ethical beliefs. We are a city that rides our bikes to work, takes bags to the grocery store, shops at farmers’ markets, and installs solar panels. We are not a city that would knowingly support and perpetuate puppy mills. So we wanted to educate the public.

Are there kitty mills too?

Yes, there are kitten mills (or catteries) with equally deplorable conditions. As with puppies, you should never buy a cat online from an unknown breeder. While our survey shows that cat mills are not nearly as big of an issue in our community, we strongly encourage you to get your cat from a shelter or rescue.

What about small animals (pocket pets)?

Small companion animals (hamsters, gerbils, chinchillas, mice, rats, guinea pigs, hedgehogs, bunnies, etc.) sold in pet stores and online are almost always from animal mills. These small animals have an extremely high euthanasia rate. If you are thinking of adopting a “small”, we strongly encourage you to visit San Francisco Animal Care and Control to adopt one – rather than perpetuating their breeding in animal mills. And also consider boycotting stores that sell these pocket pets.

In what ways are puppy mills websites deceptive?

Puppy mill websites will obviously not show you the realities. They will show you the cutest puppy frolicking in the grass, not the puppy’s mother covered in feces and ticks. They will use phrases such as “from our family to yours” or “our puppies are hand-raised on a farm”. They will also co-opt the word “adoption” and sometimes will pose as a rescue group, which is why you should never buy or adopt a dog from a facility that you haven’t personally visited – responsible breeders and legitimate rescues will insist that you visit them. Finally, animal mills will use celebrity endorsements and customer testimonials to make you feel comfortable with your decision. Don’t be duped!

Is my dog from a puppy mill?

If you didn’t meet the breeder in person and didn’t visit the facility, there’s a good chance he or she is. But of course you love your dog, so continue to love your dog with all your heart. If he or she is from a puppy mill, make sure that your next dog isn’t. And if your friends talk about getting a new dog, please educate them on how they can avoid getting a puppy mill dog.

What about getting a puppy from a pet store?

Almost all pet store puppies are from puppy mills. Do not buy your puppy from a pet store. Consider boycotting stores that sell puppies.

How do I really know if it's a responsible breeder? Is there a stamp of approval?

Unfortunately, there isn’t a “stamp of approval”. But if you follow our guidelines, you should be able to tell. It’s pretty easy, actually. If you don’t visit the entire facility where the puppies are bred, you are probably getting a puppy mill dog.

Your dog will be your companion and family member for a long time. It’s worth doing a little bit of extra work to know you are getting a healthy dog from a responsible breeder.

Aren't shelter animals defective too?

Here at the SF SPCA, we adopt out about 4,500 animals every year. We can assure you that shelter animals come in all shapes, sizes, and conditions. While we do have some special needs animals with medical or behavior issues, we also have dogs and cats that are in perfect health and incredibly well-behaved. We like to say that our “special” cases are “holding out for a hero”. If you have a big heart, we invite you to come meet some of our longer-term animals who need a little extra love.

Remember too that mixed breed dogs have fewer genetic problems. And please consider adopting an older dog – you can get a better sense of the personality of an older dog than a puppy.


If I get a puppy mill dog, aren't I "rescuing" him or her?

Giving money to puppy mills helps to perpetuate the suffering that happens in puppy mills. You can rescue a puppy mill dog from a shelter or a rescue organization, but please don’t give money to unethical puppy mills.

Are there any laws that regulate puppy mills?

The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires that commercial breeders selling to pet stores be licensed by the USDA. Unfortunately, these regulations do not apply to breeders selling directly to the public, including internet sales. This loophole means that many puppy mills operate without license or fear of inspection. No one can regulate the standards of care at these facilities, and they are not accountable to anyone.

Wholesale breeders, such as those supplying pet stores, and the shipment of live animals is regulated by the USDA under the AWA. The AWA requires breeders to be licensed, inspected, and regulated to ensure the very minimum standards of housing, care, and medical treatment.

As we know, the law is poorly enforced.There are approximately 5,000 puppy mills in America and only a handful of USDA agents to inspect them. When infractions are discovered, the breeder routinely receives “a slap on the wrist”. And nothing in the welfare legislation does anything to change people’s minds about the idea that puppies are disposable merchandise.

In 2010, the Office of the Inspector General released a report detailing the USDA’s lax and ineffective enforcement of the AWA against puppy mills. As part of the investigation, auditors visited 81 facilities and reviewed records documenting 28,443 violations over a two-year period.

I still really want a purebred dog. What should I do?

It is estimated that about 25% of shelter dogs are purebred, so please check out our dogs here or at another shelter or rescue. Not only will you be saving a life, but you will ensure that your money is not going to support a puppy mill. Or you can always go to a responsible breeder, one who cares about the well being of their dogs. Learn more about responsible breeders here.  Lastly, there are some breed-specific rescues that have purebreds for adoption.

Here are a number of breed-specific rescues in the SF Bay Area and surrounding areas:

Bad Rap (pit bulls) –
Bay Area Shih Tzu Rescue –
South Bay Pure Breed Rescue –
Bull Terrier Rescue –
NorCal Collie Rescue –
Russell Rescue –
Malamutes Unsettled Seeking Homes –
NorCal Golden Retriever Rescue
Camp Cocker –

Other rescue organizations in San Francisco:

San Francisco Animal Care & Control
Rocket Dog Rescue –
Muttville –
Copper’s Dream –
Wonder Cat Rescue –
Wonder Dog Rescue –
Saving Grace Rescue –
Family Dog Rescue –
Loup Garou –

In the SF Bay Area and surrounding areas:

Animal Friends Rescue Project, Pacific Grove –
Auburn Area Animal Rescue Foundation –
Berkeley Humane Society –
Big Dog Rescue –
California Underdog Rescue – Oakland –
Companion Animal Rescue Effort – Santa Clara County –
The Dog Spot Rescue – Sacramento –
East Bay SPCA –
Friends of Canines – Tracy –
Furry Friends Rescue – Fremont area –
Happy Tails – Sacramento –
Home at Last Rescue – Berkeley –
Hopalong And Second Chance Animal Rescue – Oakland –
Humane Society of Silicon Valley –
A Leg Up Rescue – Petaluma –
Milo Foundation – Berkeley –
Nike Animal Rescue Foundation – San Jose –
North Bay Canine Rescue – Petaluma –
Ohlone Humane Society– Fremont –
Peninsula Humane Society & SPCA
Pets in Need – Redwood City –
Pound Puppy Rescue – Palo Alto –
Small Dog Rescue – Chico –
Smiley Dog Rescue – Oakland –
Tony Larussa’s Animal Rescue Foundation – Walnut Creek –
Tri-Valley Animal Rescue – Livermore, Pleasanton, Dublin area –
Valley Humane Society – Pleasanton –

If you are not in the Bay Area:

Pet finder – Online directory of shelters and rescue groups, – Online directory of many California pet adoption resources,

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