Paws behind bars logo of the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project, Inc.


Frequently Asked Questions From Students

Compiled by Michelle Crean
Education Coordinator, Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project
Updated 23 February 2016

Thorp, a Chinese Crested Powder Puff, was so matted that his hair was sheared off in one piece!
(Click on any photo
on this page
for a larger view & caption)

What Is A Puppy Mill?   *   What Can I Do About It?   *   Laws/Legislation   *   ACTION ALERTS!


Little hound puppy in a WI puppy mill.       Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project receives many messages from young people. They are concerned about puppy mills, and want to help by writing essays and research papers, or doing class presentations. We enjoy helping these students -- who are tomorrow's pet guardians, law makers, and informed consumers.

       Here are many actual questions from students and our responses. You can browse by topic, using the links below, or just scroll down through the entire list. Your question might be answered here already.

        After reading these, if you have any other questions, or if something is confusing, please feel free to email us. Good luck with your project, and thank you for helping us "get the word out" about puppy mills!


Our Position   *   Puppy Mill History    *   Puppy Mill Locations   *   WI Puppy Mills

Common dog breeds in mills   *    Living Conditions   *   Health Problems

Mill Inspections   *   Pet Stores   *   Eyewitness Stories   *   Puppy Mills and Laws

Ending Puppy Mills   *   Gettting the Word Out   *   For More Information


Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Wisconsin Puppy Mill's Position on Puppy Mills

1. What is your position on puppy mills?

Puppies living in an outside wire cage in the cold winter.       Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project is dedicated to public education about Wisconsin puppy mills and ending the suffering of mill animals.

       Simply put, we don't feel that pets should be bred and raised like livestock. It's bad for the pets, bad for the parents, and bad for the unsuspecting people who buy them expecting a healthy, happy pet.

2. What steps does the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project take in fighting puppy mills?

       We have been working on legislation, providing relief to mill animals, and educating the public about commercial breeding facilities since 1998.

       We attend events, give lectures and presentations, and have hosted Round Table discussions with legislators, lobbied legislators in Madison and Washington DC. We've distributed materials like bumper stickers and tee shirts to help spread public awareness. We circulated a petition that was presented to our state legislators. We attended protests of the Thorp Dog Auction and pet shops that sell puppy mill puppies.

       On 1 December 2009, our 12-year-long dream came true, as, with his signature, Governor Doyle turned AB-250, the Dog Breeders Licensure Bill, into the ground-breaking Commercial Dog Breeders Licensure Law, now known as Wisconsin Act 90.

       That was just the first step -- throughout 2010 and the beginning of 2011, the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project was instrumental in formulating and gathering public support for ATCP 16, the Administrative Rules to enforce the new law. Act 90/ATCP 16 went into effect on 1 June 2011.

       The Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project also reaches people all over the world with our extensive website, has helped writers in the US and abroad with magazine articles, and answers many, many questions via email.

3. In your opinion, do you think enough people in today's society know about puppy mills?

       NO! That's why it's important that young people write reports to help tell people where those cute pet store puppies come from! The more people who know what is going on, the more outcry there will be to stop it, and the more people who will actively work to end puppy mills -- even if it's just to stop buying pets from pet stores, flea markets, classified ads, and over the internet, and instead adopt from shelters.

       To make it easier for others to help get the word out, we have "printer friendly" flyers, signs, and brochures that people can download from our website, print, and hand out.




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Puppy Mill History

1. How/When did puppy mills get started?

Outside runs at Silver Lining Kennels.       Puppy mills started right after World War II (1946 or thereabouts). When farmers' crops were failing, they needed to find another way to make money, so they started raising puppies -- whether they knew anything about taking care of dogs or not. Dogs were housed in whatever buildings were available, including barns, sheds, chicken coops, and rabbit hutches! To many "puppy farmers," the parent dogs were livestock, like their hogs or chickens or cows, and the puppies were just another "cash crop."

       Farming puppies started in the midwest, but as the number of pet stores grew, so did the number of "puppy farms" to keep up with the demand.

For a little more detail on the history of puppy mills, please see:




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Puppy Mill Locations

1. Where are puppy mills located, and where are they most popular?

This dog has just been sold at auction from one puppy mill to another.       According to the Humane Society of the United States, thousands of "puppy farms" exist -- the number is probably actually in the tens of thousands. The seven states with the most puppy mills are Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, Oklahoma, and Pennsylvania -- but they can be found in every state in the United States, and in some foreign countries

       .We are finding that puppymillers are now moving from states with increasing regulation to states with no regulation.

2. Which other countries run puppy mill facilities?

       Many countries outside the US now have puppy mills. These include: Canada, Ireland, Russia and other eastern European nations, and many countries in South America and Asia.

       According to Wayne Pacelle, President of the Humane Society of the United States, puppies from China, eastern Europe, Russia, South America, Mexico, and South Korea were being sold in the United States until very recently! However, on 15 August 2014, the USDA announced a revised and updated rule under the Animal Welfare Act to help crack down on the import of puppies from foreign puppy mills. In brief, the new rule requires that puppies be at least 6 months of age, have veterinary certificates from their country of origin attesting to their good health, AND be vaccinated for rabies, distemper, hepatitis, leptospirosis, parvovirus, and parainfluenza virus (DHLPP) "at a frequency that provides continuous protection of the dog from those diseases and is in accordance with currently accepted practices as cited in veterinary medicine reference guides." See USDA Closes Another Loophole: New Regs for Import of Foreign Puppy Mill Puppies for more details, and read the final rule, USDA Animal Welfare; Importation of Live Dogs here




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Puppy Mills in Wisconsin

1. Is there an exact number of puppy mills in the state of Wisconsin?

Wire cages suspended on the sides of a structure that looked like a poultry building.       This is a tough question, because basically there are two kinds of puppy mills: those who sell wholesale to pet stores or laboratories, and those who sell directly to the public through classified ads, over the internet, at flea markets, etc.

       The breeders who sell wholesale to pet stores must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA does have minimum standards that the puppy farmers are supposed to meet. You can read more about the USDA Animal Welfare Act (AWA) in the USDA Regulations section of our Existing Laws page. Here, you will also find links to the USDA website if you would like to read the AWA in its entirety.

       In 2008, there were between 60 - 70 breeders registered with the USDA to sell puppies wholesale in the state of Wisconsin. You can see the 2008 list here. The list is alphabetical, so you'll have to scroll down nearly to the end. NOTE: The USDA no longer puts these lists on their website. You must file a Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request through their website for this information.

       By far, the largest number of puppymillers do NOT sell puppies to pet stores. They sell directly to the public at swap meets, through ads in the newspapers, over the internet, out of their cars in shopping plaza parking lots, directly from their farms or homes, etc.Until 2013, these were not regulated by the USDA. We estimate their number to be over 2,000.

     NOTE: On 10 September 2013, the USDA announced a revised and updated definition of “retail pet store” under the Animal Welfare Act to help ensure the health and humane treatment of pet animals sold sight unseen via phone, internet, and mail! For more information, please see: Internet-based Puppy Mills now Subject to USDA Regulation!

       As of 2008, we estimated that around 100 commercial breeders licensed as "Class A" or "Class B" with the USDA were operating in WI, and over 2,000 unlicensed and unregulated!

       NOTE: this number is changing and will change further as the new Dog Seller Law is enforced. Many commercial breeders are already opting to go out of business rathar than comply with inspection and licensing.

       As the licensing process progresses, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection will make the list of licensees available on their website. However, since rescues and shelters are also required to be licensed, not ALL of the licensees listed are puppymills! When this list becomes available, we will add a link to it.

2. Do you know of the largest one(s) in WI and where they are located?

        Yes, there are over 20 large mills running in Clark County. There is one large mill running in Sheboygan County. One very large mill in Green Lake County was recently closed by the miller selling off to Wisconsin Humane Society in Milwaukee (see Wisconsin Humane Society Buys Puppy Haven Dogs and Breeding Equipment for details). There are hundreds of other large mills running in other parts of the state.

       To get a really good idea about what a typical Wisconsin Puppy Mill is like, see: Inside A WI "Puppy Farm".

4. Do you know approximately how many dogs are at the largest puppy mill(s) in Wisconsin?

       We have documented as many as 2,100 dogs (adults and puppies) in one mill alone. Most of the larger ones have an average of 200-400 dogs at any given time. Remember, the majority of adult (parent) dogs live in these mills all their lives!




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Dog Breeds in Mills

1. Which breeds of dogs do you most commonly see in puppy mills?

Mama Corgi and pup -- note size of the mesh in the cage bottom and the size of the dogs' feet.       This varies. If a breed is popular for some reason, the mills turn out as many as they can, as fast as they can. Breeds that win prestigious dog shows, such as Westminster, become very popular. So do those featured in tv shows and movies.

        In general, puppy millers prefer smaller breeds. Small breeds are always popular and sell easily. Smaller dogs don't take up as much room so you can fit more into a given space. They also don't eat as much, so food costs are lower.

       West Highland terriers, Boston terriers, cairn terriers, shih-tzus, bichons, poodles, Yorkshire terriers, and chihuahuas are always popular. French bulldogs were very popular in past years, and some millers are raising beagles in quantity this year.

       Larger dogs include labrador retrievers, akitas, boxers, etc. A Michigan puppy miller who was just arrested was raising dobermans, rottweilers, and other breeds.

       A new trend is toward so-called "hybrid" breeds such as "puggles" (pug-beagles), "doodles" (crosses of labrador retrievers, golden retrievers, etc. with poodles), "schnoodles" (schnauzer-poodle), and the "poos" (cockapoo, shitz-apoo, yorkiepoo, etc.). There are many, many more imaginative "hybrids" being bred -- some, with parents that are already a mix of two or more breeds. Millers are creating their own "designer breeds" and "breed registries" to go with these mixed breed puppies.

       People see these "rare" breeds in pet stores or on the internet, think they are cute, and are willing to pay a lot of money for them.

2. Are dogs the only types of animals that come from mills?

       NO-- For the most part, ALL animals that are sold in pet stores (including kittens, birds, rabbits, hamsters, lizards, etc.) come from a "mill" of one sort or another.




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Living Conditions in Puppy Mills

1. What care do they give the puppies at puppy mills?

Mama Westie and the cage she has spent her entire life in.       This depends on the breeder. Some puppies are relatively well cared for in the sense that they are kept clean and have basic vet care (for shots, tail docking, etc.). In general, though, puppies get just enough care to keep them alive so that they can be sold. Some breeders cut off tails and dew claws themselves with kitchen or garden shears to save on vet costs. Many puppies may never have seen a vet, may not have had enough to eat, probably lived in filthy cages, and may never have known a friendly human hand just petting them.

2. What are the living conditions in puppy mills?

       The puppy millers who sell to pet stores must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA does have minimum standards that the puppy farmers are supposed to meet. However, there are many, many puppy millers and just over 100 USDA inspectors for the entire United States. Many times, the puppy millers can break the rules and not get caught.

       Remember, the largest number of puppymillers do NOT sell puppies to pet stores. They sell directly to the public at swap meets, through ads in the newspapers, over the internet, out of their cars in shopping plaza parking lots, directly from their farms or homes, etc. Here in Wisconsin, there is absolutely NO regulation or licensing required.

       The puppies may be sick, undernourished, filthy, and injured, but it is the adult dogs who suffer the most. If a puppy is born with an obvious defect and can't be sold to a pet store, directly to the public, or to a laboratory, chances are excellent that it will spend its entire life in the same mill, or be sold to another mill, as a breeder.

       Many puppy mill breeder dogs live their entire lives on wire mesh in small cages which aren't cleaned anywhere near often enough. Others are in outside pens, on bare dirt. They are fed cheap food and as little as possible. They frequently don't have fresh water available; sometimes, they are forced to drink from water bottles such as are used in rabbit cages.

The puppy miller turned this puggle over to a rescuer because part of the foot had been chewed off -- and the pup could not be sold.       They may be blind or have legs missing; they may have genetic defects that are being passed along to the puppies (such as heart murmurs, knee or hip problems, deafness, etc.). They have rotten teeth and infected mouths from the poor food. They are never taken out of the cages except to breed, and have none of the pleasant interaction with humans that we take for granted with our own pets (such as being talked to in an affectionate tone of voice, petted, played with, or exercised).

       When they do see humans, they are treated very roughly, grabbed by the scruff of the neck, hit, kicked, etc. In some mills, cages are stacked two and three high. With those wire mesh floors, you can imagine what life is like for the ones on the bottom, since they are never removed from the cages to go to the bathroom.

       Even worse, some dogs are housed in open pens outside all year round, in winter and summer, snow and heat and rain, with little in the way of shelter. No warm beds or blankets.

       Sometimes, many dogs are put together in one cage, and they don't always get along. The more dominate dogs will get more of the food, and may also bite and injure the other dogs. In many mills, vet care for the adult dogs is nonexistant -- some millers "debark" the dogs themselves, very inhumanely. If a mother dog has problems whelping her pups, the millers may perform their own "cesarians" with a kitchen or pocket knife. Puppy mill "breeding stock" may have several types of cancer due to having been bred constantly. When they are no longer useful to the breeder, they may be shot, beaten to death, abandoned, or worse.

       The smell is horrible; there can be flies and bugs and rodents. Many are "tagged" with cattle tags on rusty chains around and sometimes inbedded into their necks, and at least one mill punched the tags through the dogs' ears just as they did with their cows.

       The worst part is, many puppy millers don't see that they are doing anything wrong. To them, the dogs are "livestock," just as chickens, cows, and rabbits are. They can't understand why people would actually bring a dog into the house!

3. How do they keep track of all the puppies at the puppy mill? (such as new births, ages, etc.)

This dog was branded on her head, had tags punched through both her ears, and also had a tag on a rusty chain around her neck.       Farmers generally keep good records on their "livestock." The parent dogs are often given numbers. The numbers may be on their cages, or on tags either hung on chains around their necks, or punched through their ears (like the ear tags on cattle). The parent dogs probably never know names like pet dogs do. The farmers keep records of when each mother dog has puppies.

       The USDA has rules on how breeders who are licensed with them should identify their dogs. You can read them here. At the top of that same web page, you can read the story of Little Tag 19 to see how one "puppy farmer" marked his "breeding stock."

4. How many puppies die a year in the United States at puppy mills?

       I don't think anyone can answer that for sure. I would guess, given the number of puppy mills and the number of puppies born every year (estimated by the Humane Society of the United States to be two to four MILLION) that the number of puppies and adult dogs that die would be in the thousands -- but that would be just a guess.

5. What do the owners of the puppy mills do with the puppies that pass away?

       In general--Some are buried, some go to landfills (dumps), some are cremated. Sad to say, some are put in the compost heap or go to dealers who dispose of dead animals.




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Puppy Mill Inspections

1. Who inspects breeding facilities and how does one measure any problems at the facility?

A Mama dog tries to walk on the wire mesh of her filthy cage. This is a USDA licensed and inspected facility.       As mentioned above, in most states , NOBODY inspects the majority of breeding facilities, as they sell puppies directly to the public and are therefore not subject to federal regulation. In some states, there are humane and zoning laws in effect, but inspections are rare unless there is a complaint.

       The USDA regional inspector is responsible for keeping tabs on the USDA-registered facilities (remember, these are only the ones who sell wholesale to pet stores, etc.)

       You can read more about the USDA Animal Welfare Act regulations here. Part 3, Subpart A deals with Specifications for the Humane Handling, Care, Treatment, and Transportation of Dogs and Cats.

       Another good resource for further information on exactly what the AWA covers and what inspectors look for can be found on the AWA Animal Welfare Publications and Reports page. Some links to factsheets with overall information can be found here, and if you scroll down nearly to the bottom of the page, you will find the Inspection Guides and Manuals section, which has links to the Policy Manual and various sections on what inspectors are to look for in each licensing category.

       Please note that for over 9,000 licensed facilities (including breeders, dealers, transporters, and various types of research facilitie) nationwide, there are only about 100 inspectors!

       Here in Wisconsin, thanks to Act 90, the Wisconsin Department of Agriculture, Trade, and Consumer Protection inspects and licenses all dog sellers and shelters who sell/adopt more than 25 dogs per year from more than 3 litters. You can read more about DATCP, licensing and inspections in WI, and the new regulations here.




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Health Problems of Mill Puppies/Dogs

1. What kinds of problems are dogs prone to when they come from puppy mills / What are the most common diseases that they develop or are born with?

A puppy mill pup says goodbye to his Mom on the day that he is purchased. This pup was very small, had crooked feet, and an inherited disease that caused tremors and seizures.        Common problems of puppies born in puppy mills are: parvovirus, intestinal worms, kennel cough which can progress into pneumonia, skin problems including mange, giardia (a gastro-intestinal infection), distemper.

       Also, puppy mill puppies can suffer from a number of hereditary conditions such as deafness, heart murmurs, knee and hip problems, eye problems, kidney problems, thyroid conditions, seizure disorders, neurological conditions -- and many, many more, caused by poor breeding practices

       They can also show temperament problems such as aggression (biting for no reason) and may not know how to act with people or in a home because they have never been held and petted or even have been inside!

       Frequently, puppies who cannot be sold because of genetic or health problems are kept as breeders -- dogs with heart problems, seizure disorders, etc. The parent dogs who live in the mills can be blind, deaf, missing legs, generally have very bad teeth and mouth infections, plus all of the above -- puppymillers don't waste money on vets; when the parent dogs are sick or can't have any more puppies, they are killed or disposed of.

       You can read about some of the problems documented in puppymill dogs that were bought at a Wisconsin dog auction here. You might also be interested in our Puppy Mill Survivors: Caring for Rescued Mill Dogs page.



Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Puppy Mills and Pet Stores

1. Do ALL puppy millers sell dogs to pet stores?

This little puggle spends his days lying on wire mesh in a brightly-lit "state-of-the-art" cube in a Petland pet store. No blankie, no mat, no toys -- no hope.       NO! Only a small percentage of "commercial pet breeders" sell to pet stores. The majority -- thousands -- sell directly to people over the internet, through ads in newspapers, at flea markets, etc.

2. What number/percentage of dogs in pet stores come from puppy mills?

       I do not know of any pet stores selling live animals that do not buy MOST of them from mills of one sort or another. Some pet stores do occasionally buy animals locally, and a very few are from well-meaning small breeders who don't realize the dangers facing their puppies by selling them through pet stores.

       In November 2008, the Humane Society of the United States released the results of an eight-month investigation into one large pet store chain. This study proved conclusively that, though representatives of the chain denied it, puppies in their stores came from puppy mills.

3. Why do pet stores get their puppies from puppy mills?

       Most pet stores get puppies from puppymills for two reasons:

  1. Responsible breeders do NOT sell puppies through brokers or pet stores; they are proud of their puppies and want to make sure that they go to the best possible homes. They want to meet the people buying their puppies, they ask questions and conduct interviews, and if they do not think the prospective customer will give their pups a good home, they say NO. Pet stores, on the other hand, will sell an animal to anyone who has the money.

  2. Responsible breeders cannot produce enough puppies to stock all the pet stores. The commercial volume breeders (aka puppymillers) feel that they are necessary to breed all the puppies that people want, at a low enough price that pet store owners can sell them and still make a profit.

4. How do the puppies get from the puppy miller to the pet stores?

       Generally, they are sold to brokers or dealers, who put them in huge semi trucks (kind of like moving vans) and truck them around the country to the pet stores. You could pass one of these trucks on the highway and never even know it was filled with puppies!




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   In Our Experience....

1. How many dogs that you have seen or worked with would you suspect come from puppy mills?

This puppy mill - pet store puppy is the reason the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project exists.       Wow. A lot, particularly since one of the things that Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project does is, attend mill auctions and work with rescues who are rehabilitating mill dogs. Many of these dogs are profiled on the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project website.

       Two of my own dogs came from puppymills, and, working with a rescue, I have met puppymill survivors rescued from cruelty cases in my own town. I have also helped transport puppymill survivors to their foster homes for rehabilitation and eventual adoption.

       A friend in Boston Terrier rescue has a very nice little Boston Terrier who was rescued from a dumpster at a puppy mill auction. He didn't sell, so the miller just threw him away with the trash. His picture is also on the WPMP website, Rascal the Dumpster Dog.

       Ms. Ribbens, executive director and founder of the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project, first learned of the plight of puppymill dogs because of Mr. Peabody, her Dalmatian purchased from a pet store (see Mr. Peabody's Story). In fact, the WPMP website is dedicated to him.

       Another of her Dalmatians was a product of the puppymill pictured on the home page of our website and in several stories (Inside A WI "Puppy Farm", Interview with a WI "Puppy Farmer", etc.) She adopted this dog as a puppy from a local shelter after the person who originally purchased the puppy directly from the puppy miller decided he/she didn't want this Dalmatian after all because "she didn't have enough spots."

       Shelters see a surprising number of pet store/puppy mill dogs being surrendered by their owners.

       If you have ever seen a puppy in a pet store, or know a dog or puppy who was bought at a pet store, there is a 99% chance you have been looking at a puppy mill puppy.

2. Have you ever been to a puppy mill? If so, could you describe some of what you saw and what you were thinking/feeling as you were there.

What did I do to deserve this? this mama dachshund seemed to be asking.       Ms Ribbens has been to many, as well as the Thorp Dog Auction. She says, "I am always shocked by the way people can treat animals and see absolutely 'nothing wrong with it.'"

       For first-hand descriptions of Wisconsin puppy mills, please see:

3. In your opinion, has this issue grown or shrank in the past 10 years?

       In Wisconsin, the problem had definitely grown, because until 2011, we had no regulation of breeding facilities and very weak humane laws. (see Existing Laws; there is also a link to Wisconsin Chapter 951: Crimes Against Animals). However, this situation is changing and will change further as the new Dog Seller Law is enforced. Many commercial breeders are already opting to go out of business rathar than comply with inspection and licensing. You can read more about Wisconsin's new regulations here.

       Puppymillers appear to be moving their operations into unregulated states from Wisconsin and from other states that are working on or have passed stricter regulation.

4. How many puppy mills have you witnessed being shut down in Wisconsin, if any?

This dog was rescued when the puppy miller who owned her was arrested.       Just a few, so far. However, we expect to see many more as the new law is enforced.

       In states with no regulation, in order to shut one down there needs to be evidence of lack of food, water and shelter, meaning a violation of minimum animal laws. Most of the puppy millers provide these bare essentials because they know they cannot be prosecuted if they provide these basics.

       What conditions will get a puppy miller put into jail actually depends a lot on the humane laws of the state involved. Some states make it easier to arrest and convict mill owners because they spell out exactly what is considered "adequate" food, shelter, and care.

       I've seen it stated many times that arrests aren't made until animals are dying. However, with more attention being given to puppymills now, people are reporting puppymillers sooner, more priority is being given to investigating the complaints, and more puppymillers are being arrested. Before the new Wisconsin law went into effect, one Wisconsin puppymill was shut down by the health department because the cages were so crowded and filthy!

       For articles on the closing of some Wisconsin puppy mills, please see:




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Puppy Mill Laws

1. Does Wisconsin have ANY laws pertaining to puppy mills as of right now?

Precious Lady, a scarred golden lab, was purchased at the Thorp Dog Auction, 10 March 07       YES!!! On 1 December 2009, our 12-year-long dream came true, as, with his signature, Governor Doyle turned AB-250, the Dog Breeders Licensure Bill, into the ground-breaking Commercial Dog Breeders Licensure Law, now known as Wisconsin Act 90.

       That was just the first step -- throughout 2010 and the beginning of 2011, the Wisconsin Puppy Mill Project was instrumental in formulating and gathering public support for ATCP 16, the Administrative Rules to enforce the new law. Act 90/ATCP 16 went into effect on 1 June 2011.

2. Have any laws changed, or become stricter, in Wisconsin in the last 5-10 years?

       Please see above paragraphs in red! You can read more about Wisconsin's new regulations here.

       Previous to that, a law was enacted in 2001 relating to the licensing of pet breeders, pet dealers, kennels, and animal shelters. This provision, also known as the “puppy mills” law, was scheduled to take effect February 1, 2004. However, all provision for funding was taken out by line-item veto. The law was repealed due to lack of funding. (For details of this law, please see: Legislative Brief: History of the PFL (PDF)) This turned out to be a blessing in disguise, because Act 90 is a much better and stronger law!

3. What is the punishment for running a puppy mill?

       Punishments depend on the laws of the state (or whether or not the breeder is USDA-licensed). In most states, complaints about conditions at a commercial breeder are investigated by local law enforcement. In some cases, a Humane Officer is also consulted to decide whether conditions fall under the anti-cruelty laws already in place. Some police officers are very careful about trying to help animals in bad conditions; some see these calls as a waste of their time. If the animals are in really terrible shape, a warrant can be served and the animals taken away. The owners may pay a fine or go to jail, depending, again, on the state and local laws.

       If the breeder is USDA-licensed, the USDA will investigate. If they find violations of their standards, they will give the breeder a chance to "fix" them. If the breeder doesn't fix the violations within a certain amount of time, he can be fined, or lose his USDA license. Again, if the animals are in immediate danger, or there are dead or dying animals on the premises, the inspector can call in law enforcement to confiscate them. I believe that any legal action must still go through the local law enforcement, but you might want to check that out with the USDA (; there is a Contact link, and I've always found the folks there to be very good about answering questions.)

       The ASPCA has a very good web page that will help you to find out the laws in your state and who enforces them. Please see: ASPCA Advocacy Center State Animal Laws. You might also ask the police or the prosecutor's office in your area how animal abuse complaints are handled.

4. Why aren't there stricter national laws regarding puppy mills?

       That's a very good question, and one which you might address to your representatives to Congress! Perhaps you might call them and talk to their staff members to see why this issue has not been fully addressed on the national level. We enthusiastically support stronger federal laws.

       As mentioned before, there are basically two different types of puppy mills: those who sell wholesale to pet stores or laboratories, and those who sell directly to the public through classified ads, over the internet, at flea markets, etc.

       The breeders who sell wholesale to pet stores must be licensed by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The USDA does have minimum standards that the puppy farmers are supposed to meet. Unfortunately, they currently are funded for just over 100 inspectors for an estimated 9.000 licenced facilities. You can read more about the USDA Animal Welfare Act (AWA) here.

       On this page, you will also find links to the USDA website if you would like to read the AWA in its entirety, and a link to the lists of license holders, by category and state. You might also be interested in reading Animal Welfare Regulations, "PART 3 -- STANDARDS, Subpart A -- Specifications for the Humane Handling, Care, Treatment, and Transportation of Dogs and Cats," which you'll find links to midway down the page.

Puppies in a cage awaiting sale at a swap meet.       By far, the largest number of puppymillers --estimated to be in the thousands -- do NOT sell puppies to pet stores. They sell directly to the public at swap meets, through ads in the newspapers, over the internet, out of their cars in shopping plaza parking lots, directly from their farms or homes, etc. In most states, there is absolutely NO regulation, licensing, or inpection required.

       Some other states do have good laws. To read about the standards of care required by Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, please click here.

       Recently, legislation was introduced on the federal level to "close the loophole" by requiring anyone who sells more than 50 puppies a year by any method to be licensed by the USDA. This legislation was called the Puppy Uniform Protection Statute. Unfortunately, this bill was not made into law. If it had been, it would have been very difficult to enforce without also increasing funding so that the USDA could hire more people to do inspections and follow up on complaints.

       Due to the hundreds of bills introduced every session, this process can literally take years, with the bill having to be reintroduced in every new session of Congress. And, of course, there is some very stiff opposition from the pet industry lobbies.

       To give you some understanding of the legislative process, please How a Bill Becomes a Law on the ASPCA website.

       To read about the standards of care required by Colorado, Pennsylvania, and Nevada, please click here.

What are the laws in your state, and who is in charge of enforcing them?




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Ending Puppy Mills

1. Are puppy mills anywhere near coming to an end?

Close-up of the wire cages the pups were kept in. Note how the paws are splayed to keep from going through the mesh.       We can but hope. An end to puppy mills comes closer every time a student like you writes a paper to help educate people about puppy mills. The more people know about puppy mills, the more they want to do something to help the puppies and the parent dogs.

       We are also hoping for better laws to put an end to puppy mills. However, it is very difficult getting new laws passed.

3. Is there any way we can prevent puppy mills?

       The best thing people can do to fight puppy mills is, NEVER buy a puppy at a petstore, from a classified ad advertising several different types of dogs for sale, over the internet, etc.! If nobody buys puppies from pet stores, then pet stores won't buy so many puppies from puppymillers. If people don't buy puppies from classified ads or over the internet or from a place with signs beside the road -- it won't be profitable for the puppymillers to raise puppies any more.

       Letting people know about puppy mills is another major step toward ending them!

3. In your opinion, what is the best suggestion one could give to a potential puppy buyer on buying a puppy?

       We actually have two suggestions:

  1. NEVER buy a puppy at a petstore!

  2. Do your homework before buying or adopting a pet. Be sure you are ready to be responsible for a pet for its entire lifetime!

       People should educate themselves about the breed of dog they are interested in, and adopt from a rescue or shelter -- or buy from a responsible breeder. We have several pages on our website devoted to choosing a puppy:

4. What other organizations are out there that are trying to prevent puppy mill success?

This pup at Silver Lining Kennel seems to be saying, Get Me Out of Here!       I'm not quite clear on what you mean by "prevent puppy mill success." If you mean, what other organizations are trying to do away with puppymills, there are many, including: Best Friends, Humane Society of the United States, ASPCA, PETA, Hearts United For Animals, North Penn Puppy Mill Watch in Pennsylvania, Main Line Animal Rescue (the one whose billboard got Oprah's attention) and many many many other national organizations, shelters, rescues, and local organizations.

       If you mean, what other organizations are trying to block regulation of puppy mills -- that would be breeders' associations, pet stores -- all those who raise and sell pets for profit. For instance, in Wisconsin, a new organization has been started to fight anti-puppymill legislation. It is called the Wisconsin Professional Pet Breeders Association. Its president was, at the time of organization, the largest "volume breeder" of dogs in Wisconsin, and the treasurer is the owner of the only auction house in Wisconsin that sells dogs. Also, some "hobby breeders" organizations are afraid that regulation of puppy millers will affect them, and claim that any such regulation is against their constitutional rights.




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   Getting the Word Out

1. Do you have any suggestions as to what may be the most effective way to get the message out?

Bentley, whose back legs are paralyzed, is a puppy mill dog who goes to protests and rallies to tell people about puppy mills.       There are many ways to get the word out -- for instance, many pet store protests are being scheduled in Wisconsin. Please see our Calendar page for details.

       We also have bumperstickers, window signs, and t-shirts available on our Get the Word Out! page, as well as downloadable and printable window signs, fact sheets, posters, etc.

       See our What Can I Do? section for many more suggestions.

       We also urge our supporters to contact their state legislators and request regulation of commercial pet breeding. It is vital that ALL residents of the state let their elected officials know they SUPPORT such legislation. (Click here to Find YOUR legislators.)




Tiny blue paw print bullet point   For More Information:



What Is A Puppy Mill?
What Can I Do?
Laws/ Legislation


Home   *   Contact Us   *   Site Map 

What is a Puppy Mill?   *   What YOU Can Do   *   Laws/Legislation   *   Action Alerts

Thorp Dog Auctions   *   Puppy Mill Survivors   *   Photo Album

Guide to Finding a Pet   *    Breeders With Pride   *   Drive To Save Lives!


© Copyright, 2008. The Wisconsin Puppy MIll Project
P.O. Box 926    *    Sheboygan, WI 53082-0926   *

Article and Photos Copyright © 2007, Kelly Beauparland. All Rights Reserved. Used with permission.

Website design by Hook & Web Designs