What is the definition of a puppy mill?

A puppy mill is any dog breeding facility that places profit over the welfare of the dogs in their kennel. Puppy mills sell their puppies to pet stores or to unsuspecting consumers over the Internet. While these puppies are often crippled with a variety of health and behavioral problems, it's nothing compared to what happens to the parent dogs who are left behind. Stacked in cages in dark, unheated barns or living outside in rabbit hutches, they often spend their lives standing on stretched chicken wire. Of all the things these poor animals are deprived of - exercise, grooming, protection from the elements - the fact that these dogs can go their entire lives without seeing a vet is the most shocking.

They are considered nameless agricultural products by both state and federal standards. And the very agencies charged with inspecting these facilities and protecting these animals, the USDA or state departments of agriculture, are in place to promote agriculture not prosecute farmers who operate puppy mills as side businesses. This conflict of interest leads to untold suffering and a great reluctance on the part of these agencies to enforce the few laws in place to protect these dogs.

One USDA/APHIS inspector and her supervisor actually argued that live and dead cockroaches in food bowls in a Kansas puppy mill posed no harm to the dogs. Three veterinary teaching hospitals disagreed.

MLAR rescues and rehabilitates hundreds of dogs from puppy mills every year through innovative training programs, and our anti-puppy mill campaigns have reached over a quarter of a billion people. Our appearances on Oprah alone helped to change laws in multiple states and raised awareness for the plight of mill dogs around the globe. MLAR's award-winning undercover investigation with Lisa Ling is considered to be one of the most important and successful investigations in the history of animal welfare. We wrapped buses in DC, sponsored billboards in Los Angeles, St. Louis, Chicago and along the PA Turnpike, and our work with mill dogs has been featured on the Today Show, The View, People Magazine, Nightline, CNN, Newsweek, and the LA Times, to name a few.

Undercover Puppy Mills

Many puppy mills are lucrative sides businesses for dairy and crop farmers. The dogs often live in horrific conditions and suffer miserably. Watch this undercover footage and ask yourself why anyone would buy a puppy from a pet store or over the internet knowing the puppy's parents are going to spend the entirety of their lives living under these circumstances. When state inspectors in Pennsylvania told two Mennonite dog breeders to treat their dogs for fleas (dogs featured in this video), they shot them in their cages instead. In total eighty dogs were killed. The breeders were never prosecuted - what they did at the time was legal. A year later, MLAR was instrumental in pushing through new laws prohibiting such atrocities.

What can you do?  

Don't buy puppies in pet stores or over the Internet. Adopt one of the millions of purebred and mixed breed dogs and puppies pouring into our nation's shelters every year. Support pet stores that no longer sell puppies from puppy mills but now display dogs (and cats) for adoption from local shelters and legitimate rescues.  

If you are determined to buy a puppy from a breeder in PA, search the breeder's kennel name on PA's Department of Agriculture's website. You can find past inspection reports going back eight years. Has the breeder been cited when inspectors found dead rats in their dogs' food dishes? Did inspectors need respirators to complete their inspections because the stench of urine from the breeder's 364 dogs made it impossible to breathe? Did the breeder you called from an ad in the paper or a misleading website fail to provide his dogs with veterinary care? It's all there for the public to see. (

Use your power as a consumer. Many puppy mills are side businesses for dairy or crop farmers. One of the worst puppy mills featured on the Oprah show was selling their vegetables to health food restaurants in New Jersey at the time. Ask your local farmers' market or milk company if they are buying from farmers operating puppy mills.

It would certainly be wrong to say all Amish or Mennonite families in PA operate puppy mills (we said as much on Oprah). Support members of the Amish community who don't keep their dogs in rabbit hutches or breed dogs inhumanely.

Don't buy your pet food and supplies from pet stores selling dogs, puppies, or kittens.

As a non-profit MLAR must remain non-partisan, but we can urge you to support legislators who not only propose animal protection bills but also fight to get them passed. Often legislators introduce bills, receive positive press, then fail to follow through when the reporters leave and the public stops calling. Be persistent, call your legislators, ask about pending bills, and only vote for lawmakers (or judges or prosecutors) who place the welfare of animals above big business and self-serving special interest groups.

“It is my belief that when you actually see this, America, with your own eyes, that you are not going stand for it” — OPRAH WINFREY