Published: August 29, 2023  

Last updated: September 14, 2023  

Just typing the words “puppy mill” makes me cringe. The thought of dogs in disgusting conditions, forced to breed and to live in tiny, feces-ridden crates turns my stomach. My heart goes out to those poor dogs and puppies… and the unexpected new dog owners that buy or adopt one of these dogs.

If you are looking to get a puppy or even adopt a puppy mill dog, then read on so you are prepared for what to expect.

white dirty puppy biting the bar on cage

The Dark Side of Puppy Mills

A puppy mill is an inhumane, commercial dog breeding facility where the health of the dogs is disregarded to maximize profits. It’s all about the money, not the dogs to these people.

There is nothing good to say about puppy mills.

These breeding operations often house many dogs and puppies in substandard, cramped, and unsanitary conditions. The dogs used as breeding machines are often sick, never loved or cared for, they are crate-bound, and may have never stepped in grass.

Puppies born in a puppy mill are often sold as young as 6 weeks old (too young to leave the mother) to pet stores, who then sell them to you. Some puppy mills will also sell directly to you, pretending to be a “rescue” organization.

Because dogs in puppy mills are denied adequate shelter, nutrition, socialization, and sanitation, it’s common for their puppies to have inherited behavioral and health issues and congenital defects.

It’s crucial for you to be aware of the unethical practices of puppy mills and make informed decisions when choosing to purchase or adopt your future dog.

Breeding Machines

In puppy mills, female dogs are bred at an alarming rate with the main goal of mass-producing puppies for profit. Female dogs are often bred during every heat cycle, with little to no rest between litters.

This excessive breeding takes a toll on the females, leading to various health problems and decreased lifespan.

Living Conditions

Puppy mills are notorious for their deplorable living conditions. The dogs and puppies are typically confined to small, overcrowded cages, providing little room for movement.

These cages are often stacked on top of each other, leaving dogs in their own waste and filth, leading to a high risk of disease and illness.

Puppy mills have been noted to have dozens or even hundreds of dogs in their breeding program.

Lack of Socialization and Exercise

Proper socialization is essential for all puppies, but in a puppy mill, there are no socialization and exercise opportunities.

They do not get the proper exercise and physical stimulation during these very formative weeks before going to your home.

This almost always results in behavioral issues and poor temperament.

Health Issues

Puppy mills do care about the dog or puppy’s health. Remember, it’s all about the money to a puppy mill operation and it costs too much to keep a dog healthy.

As a result, they often disregard healthy breeding traits and safe practices. This negligence can lead to puppies being born with genetic disorders, congenital defects, and other health issues.

It’s essential to be aware of these risks and choose a responsible breeder or rescue when looking to get a dog.

sad looking puppy with paws on cage

Are Puppy Mills Illegal?

It’s beyond my imagination why operating a puppy mill is still legal in many areas, as long as they provide the minimum basic care requirements such as food, water, and shelter. This has led to thousands of puppy mills operating across the U.S., supplying dogs for pet stores and unsuspecting customers.

According to The Humane Society of the United States, there are 14 states that have NO laws to address puppy mills. And if you live in Missouri, you have the most puppy mill dealers at a whopping 31!

Times are changing so I am hopeful that new laws will be created to stop puppy mills. I am also realistic in knowing that even with laws there will be people finding ways around those laws.

This may be an unpopular opinion, but it comes down to you and me… we need to stop buying and adopting these puppy mill dogs. For as long as there is demand there will be scumbags selling these poor dogs.

Here is a list of states that have no laws regarding puppy mills:

  1. Alabama
  2. Alaska
  3. Arkansas
  4. Florida
  5. Hawaii
  6. Idaho
  7. Kentucky
  8. Mississippi
  9. Montana
  10. New Mexico
  11. South Dakota
  12. Tennessee
  13. Utah
  14. Wyoming

And many other states have minimal laws that allow puppy mills to slip through the legal system.

dad and daughter petting a pug puppy inside a pet store

Where Do Puppy Mills Sell Their Dogs?

Pet Stores

According to the Human Society of the United States, Petland is the only national pet store chain that still sells puppies. But that does not mean that your local pet store isn’t selling puppy mill dogs too.

When looking to get a new puppy or dog, I recommend staying away from pet stores. No reputable breeder will give their puppies to a pet store to sell.

I recommend adopting before buying a dog from a breeder but also know there is a time and place for getting a puppy from a reputable breeder.

Online Websites and Ads

You can sell anything online nowadays, making it convenient to buy anything. But it’s also easier to get scammed.

With the use of online ads and social media platforms, adorable puppy photos, and misleading descriptions, it’s easy to fall for the scam of puppy mills.


Websites are also common tools for puppy mills to reach potential buyers. Just as with online sales, puppy mills create professional-looking websites that can be misleading.

four sad looking puppies huddled together

Puppy Mill Red Flags and Warning Signs

To protect yourself and avoid supporting puppy mills, pay attention to these red flags when getting a puppy:

  • A wide range of breeds are available. Responsible breeders typically focus on one or two specific breeds.
  • Puppies are available all the time.
  • Vague language or avoid answering questions about the breeding environment.
  • Little or no information about the parents of the puppies. It’s always important to meet the parents, at the very minimum the mother dog, to help ensure that the dogs are healthy and well-cared for.
  • No veterinary records are available. Reputable breeders will provide the puppies’ medical history, including vaccinations and treatments.
  • Pressure to make a quick purchase or complete transactions exclusively online.
  • Lack of information and unwillingness to provide details about their breeding practices, history, or the puppies’ parentage.
  • Responsible breeders are open to inspections of their facilities. Be cautious if a breeder refuses to let you visit.
two brown and black puppies with noses sticking out of rusty cage

Frequently Asked Questions

How do puppy mills operate?

Puppy mills are large-scale dog breeding facilities that house and breed hundreds of dogs in deplorable conditions. They often force female breeding dogs to live in small cages, reproduce continuously, and provide little to no veterinary care.

Their primary goal is to maximize profits, usually compromising the health and well-being of the dogs they breed.

Why are they considered bad?

Puppy mills are considered bad because they prioritize profits over the welfare of the dogs. Most mills disregard the dogs’ physical and emotional health, resulting in poor living conditions.

The lack of proper health care, socialization, and exercise can lead to serious health and behavioral issues in dogs. Furthermore, overbreeding can cause even more health problems for both the puppies and the mother.

Signs of a puppy mill-bred dog?

Some common signs of a mill-bred dog can include health issues like respiratory, skin, and ear infections; genetic disorders; parasites; and behavioral problems such as excessive fearfulness or aggression.

Lack of proper socialization and poor living conditions in puppy mills may contribute to these issues.

Differences between puppy mills and breeders?

Responsible breeders prioritize the health and welfare of their dogs, breed only healthy and well-tempered dogs, provide appropriate veterinary care, and place their puppies in suitable homes.

On the other hand, puppy mills focus on profit, often neglecting the dogs’ well-being, and generally have poor breeding practices that can lead to various health and behavioral issues in the puppies.

How to avoid supporting mills?

To avoid supporting puppy mills, you should research and choose reputable breeders, adopt from shelters, and rescue organizations, and avoid buying puppies from pet stores that source their animals from puppy mills. Always ask the breeder questions about the parents’ health, living conditions, and breeding practices to ensure you’re not unintentionally supporting the puppy mill industry.


It’s unfortunate that puppy mills still exist today. How someone can be so inhumane to a dog and want to profit by forcing them to have puppies is unimaginable.

It’s all about the money, not the puppy.

Getting a dog is a very emotional decision and it’s easy to get sucked into a puppy mill’s deception. Take your time in finding the right dog for you. Do your research, ask lots of questions, look for references, and never buy or adopt a dog sight unseen.

If you choose to adopt a dog that was used as a puppy mill breeder, then be prepared for a long healing journey. Most of these poor dogs have been mistreated, never socialized, and have no idea how to be a pet. They understandably lack trust and can be very sick. It can be very challenging to reverse any damage done by living in a puppy mill, so it will be crucial you have the patience and skills to help rehabilitate this dog.

What’s Next?

About the Author

Debi McKee

Debi McKee is the expert behind Rescue Dogs 101 where she guides you in your journey of adopting and raising a rescue dog every step of the way. She is a mom of 3 human kids and 4 dogs and volunteers for a local dog rescue and Humane Society. Click here for more about Debi and her passion for helping you and your dog.

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  1. I have a puppy mill rescue dog. Ive had her 5 weeks now. She is slowly getting housebroke. The hardest thing is she is scared of people because she has never been socialized. She is attached to my hip, bult i love her.

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