How to Avoid Buying a Puppy From A Puppy Mill

9 minute read By Lucy Hughes
Reviewed by: Pawrade Team
September 22, 2022

A dirty puppy peers out from behind a cage at a puppy mill

You and your family have decided the time is right to welcome a four-legged companion into your home! As the excitement builds, you may not know where to turn to. Do you look on social media marketplaces? Do you do a google search for “puppies for sale near me?” Do you go to the pet store? Or do you turn to a company that does the research for you, allowing you to connect with hand-picked, pre-screen breeders? 

Buying from a puppy mill only perpetuates the inhumane treatment of animals. Instead, consider working with a company like Pawrade that connects you with reputable breeders that care for their puppies. By learning how to stop puppy mills, you can make a difference in not just one dog's life, but many. But before that, you’ll need to know the difference between a puppy mill and a breeder.

Learn about the horrors of puppy mills, why you should not buy your dog from a pet store, and how to help fight puppy mill sales by finding a dog with Pawrade. 

What Exactly is a Puppy Mill? 

If you’re wondering what is a puppy mill, it’s essential to turn to the experts for a clear puppy mill definition. According to the University of Michigan’s Animal Legal & Historical Center, a puppy mill is a facility “where dogs are forced to breed their whole lives until they are physically incapable.” When a dam is viewed as not being useful to the bottom line, the dog can expect a tragic ending, being ditched on the side of the road, or even worse, death. Puppies and dams in puppy mills suffer behavioral and psychological abuse and lack proper nutrition, healthcare, living conditions, and exercise needs.

The puppy mill industry is just a money-making scheme. That’s why puppy mills are good for the person/people making a profit at the top but not for anyone else, especially the puppies. These facilities not only bring unimaginable pain to pups but also place an undue burden on every animal shelter across the US and negatively impact society.

We will explore the horrid conditions of life in a puppy mill below, but first, it’s imperative you know how to spot the signs of a dog from a puppy mill vs. a breeder and why this dog breeding practice is so inhumane.

Let’s answer “what is a puppy mill vs. a breeder?” and discuss how to spot pro puppy mills. If you notice any of the following after you’ve found a puppy, STOP! Do not buy a dog if they exhibit these red flag puppy mill or bad breeder behaviors: 

  • They are eager to accept payment for the dog without any information or screening about you 
  • The mother produces constant litters, several in a year 
  • They cannot tell you the purpose of breeding 
  • They won't allow you to ask questions
  • They have no knowledge of individual personalities, the breed, or the parents
  • They have no health papers or records of vet visits
  • They don't offer a health guarantee 
  • The puppy is in poor health, unkempt, in obvious distress, or shows concerning behaviors

If you’re wondering how to stop puppy mills altogether, it starts with recognizing the signs and avoiding these places entirely (not giving them any money or attention, essentially driving them out of business). There are many ways you can take action against the cruelty of this industry, but it all starts with educating yourself and learning how to spot the signs of puppy mill practices so you can avoid them.


Is a Pet Store Considered a Puppy Mill?

If you're looking to bring a new tiny furry friend into your life, it's important to know how to avoid puppy mills so you don’t accidentally support a cruel organization. But where do retail pet stores that sell puppies fall on the spectrum?

While it may not exactly fit the definition of a puppy mill, pet stores are terrible places to buy a puppy. Oftentimes, you’ll have no idea where the puppy came from or if the facility provided a loving, happy atmosphere. Pet stores are full of dogs bred without genetic testing or a health guarantee. 

A pet store will not take the time to thoroughly educate customers on proper dog care, specifics about the breed, socialization and training tips and techniques, or provide lifetime support. The most they may do is try to sell you a book!

A pet store may have a contract with a puppy mill or dog broker requiring a certain number of puppies up for sale in a variety of breeds. These brokers may forge documents, selling you a false sense of security for proper medical care or club registrations. In contrast to a good breeder who will always take back an unwanted puppy, pet stores have no-refund policies, therefore encouraging dogs to be dropped off at shelters or rehomed with another problematic situation. 


What is the Quality of Life Like for Puppies in Puppy Mills? 

Horrible Living Conditions

One of the most significant differences between a puppy mill vs. a breeder is the type of care and love the dogs will receive over the years. A puppy mill facility only views dogs as livestock and therefore tries to make as much money as possible, neglecting the health of the animals in the process. Dogs raised in puppy mills live in unsanitary, deplorable conditions and stay in small cages 24 hours a day, seven days a week, with barely enough room to stand up in or turn around. They often become sick and don’t receive proper care for health issues.

An overflow of dog urine and feces poses a serious biohazard and can spread deadly bacteria and cause damage to dogs’ airways. The cacophonous noise of hundreds of stressed, barking dogs can have terrible mental effects on dogs’ psyches, and the extra stress can cause dogs to stay in a “fight or flight” mode their entire lives.

These poor dogs might never feel cool grass under their paws or know what it feels like for the sun to shine on their face and the breeze to tickle their fur. 

Lack of Proper Healthcare

In addition to their gross living conditions, puppy mill dogs lack access to proper veterinary care and are not up-to-date on necessary vaccinations and dewormers, quality food, vitamins, and regular veterinary exams that are crucial for nursing dams, healthy sires, and growing puppies.

A disgusting habitat can harbor so many detrimental, potentially life-threatening health conditions, ranging from parvovirus, leg sores that never heal, stunted growth, and mastitis in nursing dams. This type of puppy will grow up to experience several recurring serious health conditions because of their lack of proper care during the first three months.

Poor Socialization Skills

Already fraught with health problems, a puppy from a puppy mill will not have had any necessary exposure to different stimuli to help them form a proper view of their world. Early neurological stimulation and free interaction with littermates and moms allow puppies to explore the world around them and learn crucial survival and social skills. Unfortunately, when dealing with unethical sellers, there’s no difference between a backyard breeder vs. a puppy mill. Both of them will do anything to convince buyers to make a purchase, even if the conditions for the puppies are terrible.

A clear sign of a puppy mill dog is that he or she hasn’t learned how to socialize properly. Puppy mills do not allow any natural chance to interact with their pack and are often taken away too early, stunting their physical and mental development. These affected puppies can grow to be fearful of strangers, skittish, and aggressive with social and separation anxiety problems. They may take an extremely long time trying to adjust to a completely new environment after leaving the puppy mill due to their extreme isolation and absent opportunities for mental stimulation.

It’s a travesty to come across a puppy from a puppy mill who has never known a human’s loving affection and touch. An attention-starved puppy that is cowering in the corner from fear and not making eye contact with anyone is a heartbreaking scene that never needs to happen. 

The first step in how to stop puppy mills is to remain committed to supporting animal welfare by purchasing only from reputable breeders and organizations. That way, it’s guaranteed that the breeder brought up the little pup in a loving and humane environment.

Does Having a Lot of Breeding Dogs at a Kennel Make it a Puppy Mill? 

Some people like to throw around the term “puppy mill” to pertain to any breeder with breeding dogs. They will misuse the term to fit narratives of all breeders as irresponsible people who deserve shame and ridicule. However, this viewpoint is simply untrue. 

Just because a kennel has a large number of breeding dams and puppies does not mean the facility is a puppy mill! A kennel that raises several litters of puppies can absolutely staff a group of puppy-loving employees who care for growing pups and mamas like their own pets. These types of facilities have amazing relationships with local veterinarians, keep carefully updated medical records, and ensure their puppies get plenty of outside time and exposure to stimuli they will encounter when they go home. Their facilities are sparkling clean, well-lit, climate-controlled, and offer plenty of outdoor space and play yards. 

A quality facility will also be current on regulations and guidelines. They will put the dogs’ welfare, happiness, and cleanliness above profits to ensure every dog lives a healthy, long life. Their ultimate goal is to match a quality puppy with a happy, loving home. There are no reasons why puppy mills are good, and the only right choice is to use responsible breeders who provide top levels of care to every puppy.

The Importance of Finding a Responsible Breeder 

Now that you have a better picture of why puppy mills and pet stores are such horrible, depressing places to get your puppy, you may be wondering why it’s important to find a responsible breeder when buying a puppy. We’ve got you covered!

What Does Responsible Breeding Look Like? 

An amazing, responsible breeder will:  

  • Spend countless hours checking bloodlines and genetics, searching for the best pair to make the best litter 
  • Stay right there at the mom's side when she is giving birth to her litter to ensure mom and babies are safe 
  • Assists the mom around the clock in rotating the babies to ensure each one gets the proper nutrition 
  • Spend hours and hours socializing the puppies with other pets and children 
  • Begin potty training so the new owners will have fewer problems with it when they bring their new baby home
  • Work with their vet to find what food best suits their breed
  • Take every one of the puppies to the vet for all their scheduled vaccines and health checks
  • Be sad to see their little pups go but are thrilled to see them begin their lives in their forever homes knowing they’re as prepared as possible 

Why Buy A Dog from a Reputable Breeder?

An expert breeder will hold a wealth of knowledge about their puppies, and they’ll be excited to tell you all about them! They’ll know individual puppies’ personality traits, detailed eating habits, how they’re coming along with socialization, and other preferences. In addition, they’ve paid careful attention to the most optimal traits and pedigrees of parents and have put a lot of effort into making the dogs they produce conform to the breed standard as closely as possible. The temperament of well-bred dogs can be counted on through generations of observation, training, and genetics.

In addition to specific puppy knowledge, a great breeder has in-depth expertise on the breed itself before they even start the breeding process. They’ll know what to expect with temperament, characteristics, grooming needs, potential breed-specific health problems and how to avoid them, training tips, and be available to provide support throughout the puppy’s lifetime to maintain that special relationship. 

You can also feel good about buying a dog from a reputable breeder since they are not adding to the problem of dogs ending up in shelters. Breeders go to great lengths to ensure their puppies do not end up in shelters using microchips and their legally binding contracts. Good breeders will always take their puppies back if the families can't care for them anymore, no matter the reason. 

Is it a Good Idea to Visit a Breeder’s Home? 

While new puppy parents may be tempted to drive up to a breeder’s kennel or home, it’s not recommended for a few reasons. Through our process, you can rest assured that we’ve done the hard work of finding quality breeders with happy, healthy puppies ready to be adopted. 

In-person visits are not currently allowed because of the potential personal and health risks to the breeder, their family, and their puppies, especially in the age of COVID-19. However, our breeders are happy and willing to schedule audio and video calls between you and your possible new pup, keeping you updated with details and milestones along the way.  

Whether in a separate facility or in a home, a breeder’s space is often personal and is a place of business worthy of protection. They take great pride and care in maintaining a safe, controlled environment to provide the healthiest space in which to raise the puppies. Breeders need to minimize their personal risks so they can stay healthy to care for their puppies.  

It only takes one exposure for young puppies that are not able to be fully vaccinated to completely spread and devastate an entire kennel, even wiping out all canines. Some deadly parasites, viruses, and bacteria can survive on human skin, clothing, equipment, or the environment, and transmission happens when a puppy or human comes into contact with any such contaminated entity. Some of these illnesses humans pass to dogs are parvovirus, distemper, bacterial infections like salmonellosis and MRSA, tuberculosis, and ringworm. 

In addition, the surge in puppy stealing (or “puppynapping”) leaves breeders vulnerable to devastating puppy theft. Some sources report that dog thefts have increased by 250% since the COVID-19 pandemic began in early 2020. To ensure security, we keep our breeders’ information private. 

How Healthy is a Dog from a Breeder? 

By buying from a reputable breeder, you are investing in a healthier dog with fewer health problems, resulting in fewer veterinarian bills. It's impossible to predict the future health of a puppy. Most breeders may perform health tests on the parents and track litter hereditary issues. By the time the puppy is purchased, the price will never come close to the amount of time and hours invested in it, starting before it was even conceived. Comparing a puppy mill vs. a breeder who is reputable is impossible because breeders prioritize the health of their dogs before making sales.


Pawrade Does NOT Support Puppy Mills!

At Pawrade, we’re dedicated to educating people about how to stop puppy mills and how to distinguish between a puppy mill vs. a breeder. We have a ZERO TOLERANCE stance on puppy mills and backyard breeders who breed puppies purely for profit in inadequate conditions without proper food, water, medical care, socialization, comfort, affection, and tender loving care! We pride ourselves on the highest expectations of breeder quality in the industry. We have a 100% no puppy mill promise due to our diligent vetting to ensure your puppy is coming from a reputable breeder.

We take a Puppy First Approach to ensure the health and well-being of all the puppies we offer for adoption. We evaluate and hand-select breeders using a meticulous, thorough process that allows us to be extremely involved in every step of the process, from before birth to when your puppy is snuggled in your arms. Breeders keep the puppies in their possession until they are adopted and meet their new families to ensure a smooth transition.

Our Breeder Selection Process 

Our team is in constant communication with breeders, fostering relationships and checking on milestones. Having a team working together diligently behind the scenes to provide the very best puppies from the very best breeders gives us great joy to offer such an amazing service. 

In order to be considered as one of our breeder partners, breeders must apply and meet a thorough list of qualifications. Our breeder program is invitation-only, so not just any breeder is accepted. 

We require a variety of health documents from our breeders proving up-to-date, high-quality veterinary care given on a schedule that’s best for growing puppies. We also require the breeder to provide veterinarian references. 

In addition to our diligent efforts, we keep all the required paperwork organized for you in a secure transaction management platform so that documents can be available for you once you have your puppy in your arms. And all this happens before you even start browsing for your new canine companion! 

Pawrade Goes Above and Beyond the Sale 

Once you select the puppy for sale you want to adopt, we also facilitate a relationship with your breeder. We can provide updated pictures, videos, and calls at your request to check on your growing, furry friend in action. 

We also offer a variety of travel options to ensure the puppy’s travel method is best suited for the puppy first and foremost as well as the breeder's requirements and customer's preferences. We deliver carefully from the breeder’s door to your door. 

One option to get your puppy is on an airplane. We only transport puppies via plane in a temperature-controlled area of the plane or a flight nanny with the puppy on the lap of a nanny in the main cabin. 

We can also use specialized pampered ground delivery for breeds that can't travel via plane or for customers within a certain range who prefer ground travel. New puppy parents can also pick up the puppy themselves at a meetup spot while receiving the utmost care when traveling. We coordinate all of this to make sure the puppy is always in the best care from start to finish during the travel process with our Puppy First Approach. 

And finally, our commitment to you does not end when your new family member comes home. In addition to your breeder's health guarantee, we go above and beyond and provide a comprehensive Health Guarantee, ensuring this transition is as stress-free and enjoyable as possible for you and your family. We are here to make sure that your health guarantee claims are processed and that you get the money back you are entitled to per the terms of the breeder’s health guarantee if needed.

So, what are you waiting for? Be bold and take a stand against puppy mills by choosing to work with Pawrade to minimize puppy mill sales and ultimately limit their unethical breeding practices. 


Lucy Hughes profile picture

Lucy Hughes

Lucy Hughes has been teaching and writing professionally for half her life. She has a passion for helping people choose a puppy and lead an exciting life with their new furry companion. She enjoys spending quality time with her family and her beloved Golden Retriever, Bowie.

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