Puppy mills are a sad part of our modern life.
Profiting from dogs that are bred in this environment is pretty deplorable. But it’s not just the profit factor, it’s the unnoticeable ricochets throughout not just the puppy’s life, the mother and fathers life, but their human family too. These puppies are ticking time bombs.
I’ve worked with a number of dogs from puppy mills during my time in this industry, and, it’s not a pleasant thing to go through.
Sometimes, there are rare occasions where it works out just fine, but, it’s not always the case. It’s not always going to be the case.
In this piece, I want to discuss everything about puppy mills and my experience of them and the dogs that come from them.
What Is A Puppy Mill?
A Puppy Mill is a facility (which may be a factory, a yard, a home, or something in between) that attempts to mass produce puppies, churn them out and sell them on. So on, and so forth, with little regard for the health, wellness or breed, simply in pursuit of profit.
Often those who head up these facilities will not allow you to see the mother or father, they’ll often be designer crosses, and often they wont be registered with a kennel club. However this doesn’t mean they won’t be registered. Sometimes they’ll claim they were an unplanned litter that brings them over their quota, or you may get ‘lucky’ and get the certain number of accepted litters allowed by the kennel club with whom they register.
Is There A Puppy Mill Near Me?
It’s really hard to know, because they can’t label themselves such and make it easy for us responsible pet parents (or future pet parents!) to make the choice.
Instead they pose as legitimate breeders with love and good intent in their hearts, though perhaps forgivable naive… nope. Instead these charlatans are in it for the cash and are happy to dupe the unsuspecting into their trap.
These modern day highway men (or women) may live in a home environment doesn’t mean these puppies are ‘normal’ or that they have been properly bred. However, in the most instance, it will be the case that they will be easy to find. Whether that’s because they use facebook, Nextdoor, patch craigslist, or “Third party” brokering sites to move their puppies for them. It’s incredibly rare you’ll find a good breeder on google.
Why Do People Run Puppy Mills?
Because they’re dicks. Essentially.
They have found an avenue to make money, they don’t care for dogs (or animals typically) and see them as a crop or a cash cow.
Where Do They Get The Females?
Sometimes these dogs are stolen, other times they’re dogs they’ve bred… or worse ‘rescued’. It’s a pretty sad situation, but these people rarely care about the dogs they’re producing. They’ll obtain dogs from wherever they can.
Why Is A Puppy Mill Puppy Problematic?
Well, there’s a whole bunch of reasons for this. I’ll investigate them with you below, but generally? They are almost always problematic, if not for
Genetics, Epigenetics & Stressed Mothers
Little concern for the pup’s entry into this world, the genetics of the parents are not considered. Poor temperaments, bad health, and even the birthing conditions can play a part in creating a dog who is prone to anxiety, reactivity, and a whole host of problems.
Not only because of the lack of vaccinations and the added exposure that these puppies go through in utero and in their early days, but because they’re not being ‘ethically’ bred, a dog who produces puppies with a life-threatening condition will be bred again, and the puppy will be sold as ‘normal’. They often lack proper vaccines, and veterinary checks. They can be very feeble pups and often? They get sold on at a younger age than legal or advisable.
These pups are problematic. Because of the issues above? These pups often come out with severe behavioural problems. Understanding the world can be an insurmountable task for these puppies, either because of poor health, or poor temperament or because of their first few weeks in this world during a period of critical socialisation and the single most rapid period of brain growth that a puppy will experience.
It’s entirely probably that the puppies produced in these mills are emotionally stunted.
Because they’re not socialized, because they live in remarkably poor conditions, because they are afraid, sometimes underfed, and coming from bitches who are unstable, unhappy and unloved? The emotional range of these puppies can be drastically limited compared to a well-bred pup. Which can result in a dog who is less predictable, or a dog who is limited. It can even mean that their sense of smell is limited! Shocking, huh?
Because of the environment in which these pups are raised in, they are terribly susceptible to parasites and nasties, whether this is worms, ticks, fleas or parvo, or giardia… which can be life-threatening to a young pup…
Supporting unethical breeding
Not only does this hand profit and effectively encouragement to a puppy mill-er (that needs to be a better word, huh?) but it takes the money out of the hands of decent breeders who truly deserve the support for the love an attention they put into their dogs and, essentially, it’s all because the puppy mill people decrease the barriers to entry for a new puppy parent – which isn’t fair.
And, it’s illegal…
In many places across the world, puppy mills are illegal for the way they treat their dogs. So, supporting them is technically illegal too. Nevermind the fact that they’re often sold too young (which is often illegal also).
Can Puppy Mill Puppies Be Rehabilitated?
Uhm… sometimes? But it often takes a lot of time, patience and often money to do so.
If you’re going to rehome a puppy mill puppy (because I know you’re not going to buy a puppy mill puppy…) it’s going to be a journey, full of heartbreak and exhaustion (emotionally and physically) but it can be done.
What To Do If Your Puppy Is A Puppy Mill Puppy
Train them, guide them, socialise gently and play puppy whack-a-mole as they develop and you tackle problems step by step and make sure to keep up with regular vet checks. You also may wish to consider getting a DNA test done for both breed and for potential health issues. This is perhaps not what you want to hear? But it’s going to be a slow process where you will have to consider your dog as a true individual, very few ‘stories’ will apply to them, and they will often need the most gentle treatment and guidance possible, whether this is with slow desensitisation to a collar, to sound, and to the world, or with larger issues.
Reporting A Puppy Mill
Contact your local authority, whether this is a non-emergency police number or your local dog warden or large rescue organisation like the ASPCA or RSPCA, these people will be able to point you in the right direction for how to go about reporting this.
Often, If It’s Too Good To Be True? It’s Not A Good Place.
If you find the “Puppy of your dreams” is magically available? Then it may just be wrong. If they’re suddenly available… if their images have been used before…
Sometimes you can tell.
Always reverse image search the images of the supposed mother and father, and if you can or you’re truly concerned? Track it back. I’ve even had friends of mine who have had their neutered dogs been claimed as the “stud” for a litter he could never have sired… these people are tricky and to stay one step ahead of them? Is tough work.
Be vigilant. And if you’re unsure? Then there’s no harm in waiting for a different litter.
The Red Flags
If you’re reading this and now worried that the puppy you’re planning on bringing home may be a puppy mill pup? Then there are a few things that may give you warning…
🚩 Selling multiple breeds
🚩 Not meeting the mother or father (illegal in some countries, such sa Lucy’s Law)
🚩 Lack of Kennel Club registration
🚩 Or charging extra for kennel club registration
🚩 Being Bred for colourations or markings
🚩 No contract
🚩 Minimal questions from the breeder about you.
🚩 Changing the terms of your agreement
🚩 Refusing for you to meet puppy before puppy goes home.
🚩 Not giving puppy food or supplies
Remember that our dogs are our best friends, and to set you up, and your pup up for the very best chance of success in the future? Avoid puppy mills, avoid less than ethical breeders. The price may be more from a great breeder? But in the long term it’s worth the investment.
You want a breeder who is protective of their pups, with whom you’ll get support, open conversation and will not compromise on the welfare of their dogs. Speak to people, research them, their breed, their achievements, and even speak to people who have purchased puppies from them in the past.
Why Not Ask A Trainer To Help You Investigate?
Oftentimes, we’ve been around the block, and you can kind of get a sixth sense about something if it’s not right.
I can help there. I can soundcheck you and what your breeder is saying and claiming. I’ve helped a number of people avoid scams and puppy mills in the past, and I’d be happy to help you find your forever family member without supporting a puppy mill.
Get in touch and let’s Investigate your puppy options together!
Need help? Book a bark day!
Author, Ali Smith
Ali Smith is the Positive Puppy Expert, dog trainer and is the founder of Rebarkable. She is passionate about helping puppy parents get things right, right from the start. To help create a puppy capable of being a confident and adaptable family member and keep puppies out of shelters.
Ali has won multiple awards for her dog training, and has had her blog (this blog!) rated as 2021 & 2022 worlds’ best pet blog!