Buyer Beware: The Dark Truth About Online Pet Sales

There are over 10,000 puppy mills across the United States. Some of them are licensed, some of them aren’t; but almost all of them sell site unseen through websites, forums and Craigslist.

Translation: The internet is full of puppy mills…. Don’t believe me? Google “puppies for sale near me”. Go ahead. I will wait….

What websites popped up?

Various Breeders? ?

These are all forums for puppy mills to hock their products. By products, I really mean puppies… But puppy mills don’t view puppies (or dogs for that matter) as living, breathing souls. They see them as money, as a cash crop. We are starting a new educational series “Buyer Beware”, where we focus on exposing online puppy mills as just that. Fancy websites that are a front for a very cruel and inhumane industry. Not only will this educate a few people about how easy it is for puppy mills to lie, BUT anytime anyone searches for these breeders in particular, our articles will pop up 🙂 And hopefully catch a few more potential puppy buyers. 

(*cough*… Puppy Mills…. *cough*….)

For our first edition of “Buyer Beware” we wanted to start close to home and we wanted to start by showing how easy it is to get wrapped up in the puppy mill world when trying to add a new furry friend to your family. In this day and age, the internet is where we go to for everything. Movie times, restaurants, news, weather…. So why not use it to find an adorable new puppy? The general public doesn’t know the rules of buying from a reputable breeder; getting on a list, visiting the parents, contracts, etc. What they do know is that it is easy to click, buy and ship. So I started from the beginning. 


In less than a minute I was given 465,000 results. That is a lot of information to click through, especially for someone who just really wants to buy a puppy. So, for good measure, I clicked on a few breeders that appeared on the first two pages. 

I found Century Farm Puppies, Coldwater Kennel and Cuddles and Snuggles Place…. Let’s start by talking about what these pages have in common. 

√  Pictures of cute puppies (in front of blankets/tarps) 

√ Health guarantee

√ Offer to ship 

√ USDA License

√ Far away photos/Descriptions of their perfect farms 

It sounds perfect! Those puppies all looks so adorable AND the breeders take all major credit cards. What more could a person want? 

Well… Here is what they aren’t showing you. 


44 adults, down from over 75



Lots and lots of dogs


A depressing amount of dogs… 

You see. Legally, these puppy mills don’t have to disclose their actual number of dogs to potential buyers. In fact, they can keep you as far away from the property as they want (which is why they offer to ship or meet you halfway!) Now think back to those fancy websites… What didn’t they show you? Photos of the actual parents!! You get so swept up in seeing the pictures of adorable puppies, that you don’t give a second thought to the parent dogs! 


Actual photos of dogs from Coldwater Kennel. In the metal kennel to the right are actual boxes the mothers are kept in.  Follow this link to see a video from inside Coldwater Kennel.


Century Farm Puppies also admits that none of their puppies are raised in their home. 

Now lets look at some of the red flags on those websites. 

√ Offer to ship/meet off site

√ Breeder sells lots of different breeds

√ Cuddles and Snuggles says right on their site that they are “not responsible for any Bills including Medical Bills  and Vet. Bills incurred by the purchaser of the dog”. 

√ Always has puppies available for sale

√ Accepts all major credit cards 

√ Century Farm Puppies admittedly sells their “cheap” dogs to a pet store in Ames. We have also exposed their puppy mill before.

√ Inspected and in good standing with the state/USDA

On top of the things they aren’t showing you and the numerous red flags, lets not forget the very lax rules that USDA inspected kennels are required to follow: 

-Inspections are “Risk-based,” meaning that facilities that meet a certain criteria are inspected “as seldom as once every 2 to 3 years.”
-Cage size: must be 6 inches larger than the size of the dog, on all sides
-Up to 12 dogs can be housed in one cage
-Dogs never have to be let out of their cages. Breeders only need to have an exercise plan
-There is no limit to the number dogs a breeder can have—many have over 1,000
-There is no age limit for breeding dogs. If a dog is able to produce puppies for ten years, that’s how long they could be in the facility.

For more information, click here.


So how can you avoid a puppy mill? 

  1. Consider adoption first.There are thousands of puppies and adult dogs who are waiting their forever home in your local shelter or rescue! is a fantastic resource. 
  2. Find a responsible breeder and visit the premises. #ShowMeTheMommy is our rule! Always always always demand to see the parent dogs. 
  3. Absolutely DO NOT “rescue” a puppy mill puppy by buying him.If you are visiting a breeder and you disagree with anything that you see, RUN don’t WALK away and make sure to contact us! 
  4. Don’t get a puppy from a pet store. Ever. Pet store Puppies ARE puppy mill puppies
  5. Don’t fall for “USDA” licensed or “AKC” registered. Those aren’t safety blankets and those breeders can absolutely be puppy mills. 
  6. Do your part: Help us educate about puppy mills! Share our mission and educate your friends, family and coworkers! 


Stay tuned for the next edition in our Buyer Beware chronicles! Until then, don’t forget to check out our facebook page and stay update on all that we do to help the dogs trapped in puppy mills. 

And don’t forget… A little bit of investigation can go a long way. 


What is a puppy mill?

When you are in my position, the term “puppy mill” is one that you hear every day. Your friends use the word, your Facebook newsfeed is full of stories about puppy mills… But we often forget that the general public doesn’t always know what a puppy mill is. So we want to take the time to get back to the basics and explain what we believe puppy mills are and some facts about them and why they exist. We will not use any scary pictures to get our point across, we believe the facts are scary enough. Intertwined in this article are other articles that will go more in depth on that particular subject, this is meant to be an overview. Clicking around will provide further information. 

What is a “puppy mill”?

Our definition of the term “puppy mill” is a breeding facility in which the profit is more important than the welfare of the dogs. Think of it as a factory farm for puppies. The parents are bred every heat cycle until their bodies give out. They are forced to live in cramped cages their entire lives, their paws never touching the ground. These parent dogs are not always fed healthy food or clean water and they are very rarely (if ever) seen by a vet for illness or injury. 

A puppy mill can be obvious, or it can be well hidden.

jackson kruse

What are the worst states when it comes to puppy mills?

The Midwest has the highest concentration of puppy mills, although there are other mills across the country. The Midwest is commonly referred to as “The Puppy Mill Belt”. Missouri and Iowa are the highest offenders when it comes to the sheer number of mills, but Ohio and Pennsylvania are horrible when it comes to unlicensed mills and violations. Puppy mills operations are easily hidden among agriculture buildings. The Amish and Menonite communities are also big into dog breeding. Lancaster County is one of the worst counties in the entire nation. However, they make up a small percentage of the total. 

Breeders&Brokers (1)

If puppy mills are so bad, why do they exist? 

One of the most common questions we receive is, “Why are puppy mills legal”? The answer, plain and simple, is that the USDA and state agencies allow them to exist. Not every USDA licensed dog breeder runs a horrible operation. But they are all required to follow the same very lax laws the USDA set forth in the Animal Welfare Act. According to the AWA: 

-Cage size: must be 6 inches larger than the size of the dog, on all sides
-Up to 12 dogs can be housed in one cage
-Dogs never have to be let out of their cages. Breeders only need to have an exercise plan
-There is no limit to the number dogs a breeder can have—many have over 1,000
-There is no age limit for breeding dogs. If a dog is able to produce puppies for ten years, that’s how long they could be in the facility.

– The inspections are “risk based”. Meaning if there are no violations, the breeder might not see an inspector for a few years. 

– The AWA does NOT cover emotional well-being. 

And there are a 115 inspectors to inspect for every single USDA facility… in the entire United States. That includes breeding facilities, factory farms, zoos, circuses, transport vehicles, testing facilities, labs and more…. 115 people to cover over 12,000 facilities.  Do you think that is enough?
For more information on the AWA, click here. 


Example of how the AWA figures up cage size.

Where are puppy mill puppies sold? 

Thousands of puppies are sold from puppy mills each year– and the general public is completely unaware of where they just got their new puppy. The breeder will “meet you half way”, so you don’t have to make the full trip, the breeder will ship the puppy on an airplane to you, or buyer doesn’t even know the purchaser because the transaction was made through a pet store. The BEST way to avoid purchasing a puppy from a puppy mill, is to adopt. But that isn’t always something the public is willing to do. So the next best way to make sure you are not buying from a puppy mill is to check out the parents, see the facility (all of it) and resist temptation from saving a puppy from a place that you deem non-reputable. You are only creating a hole for the breeder to fill with more puppies. 

Pet Store: According to the ASPCA: Breeders who sell puppies to pet stores must hold a USDA dealer license, and many states also require breeders to obtain a license to have a dog-breeding kennel. So the statistic is that 99% of puppies in pet stores are from puppy mills. They come from breeders that have enough dogs to constantly keep the cages full of puppies. And the stores will sell puppies like they would a pair of jeans, to anyone with a credit card. They don’t care where that puppy is going or how it will end up. The fact of the matter is, no reputable breeder would sell through a third party. They would want to know exactly where the puppy is going, and more often than not, they require an application and the puppies are required to come back to them if the family can not care for them any longer. 

Internet: Fancy websites and Craigslist are a very easy way to sell a lot of puppies and keep people off of the property at the same time. The ASPCA and the HSUS both agree that you should never ever buy a puppy from the internet (alone). You MUST see the property where the puppies are born and raised. Anyone can design a fancy website, but you should look for these red flags. 

– If the breeder has several breeds of dogs available. 

– If they ship puppies to you

– If they offer to meet offsite. 

– If they are selling their puppies on CraigsList

– If they won’t allow you to see their property

Newspapers: Classified Ads are way that puppy mills get rid of their puppies. You would have no way of knowing what kind of breeding facility they run, because they ad is only a few sentences long. 

Dog Auctions: Dog Auctions are horrible events in which breeding dogs and puppies are sold to the highest bidder. The dogs are very rarely in good condition. The breeders selling the dogs may be going out of business, they could be getting rid of a certain breed, or they could be getting rid of the dogs that are too old. For an inside look on an auction, click here

Don’t the puppies deserve homes too? What happens to them if they don’t sell? 

This is another one of the most common questions that we are asked. The puppies always sell, because there is always someone that doesn’t know about the pet store/puppy mill connection. What will happen, and what has been happening, is that the public is becoming slowly more aware. This means that the puppies are staying longer in the stores, showing that there isn’t a high demand for them. When the puppies sit longer, the store puts them on sale and keeps dropping the price until they are sold. If they aren’t selling quickly, the store will order less for next month and *hopefully* the breeder will see that the demand is dropping and there isn’t a need for as many dogs on their property. But this all starts with YOU. YOU shouldn’t buy that puppy. 


How can I help?

There are many ways you can help the dogs trapped in puppy mills. They vary from being active, to just being an advocate. 

1. If you SEE something, SAY something. If you were someone that unknowingly stumbled upon a bad breeding facility to purchase a puppy, you need to report it! You can either report it to the USDA, your state agency, your local rescue or shelter, or you can contact us and we can point you in the right direction! 

2. Be an educator. One of the best ways you can help is by educating your friends, family and coworkers. By sharing this article and making a status about where you shouldn’t buy a dog could deter someone you know! Our organization firmly believes that educating the general public will be the end to puppy mills. 

3. Be an advocate. Look in your area for pet stores that sell puppies and educate about your local problem. Hang up flyers (we can help!) or even start a local protest (we can help with that too!) Getting the word out locally, will break the lies of the pet store and will bring more awareness about puppy mills to your community. Check this link to see if there are protests going on in your area! 

4. Contact your legislators. By letting your legislators know what you care about, it tells them how to vote. You can send a quick email to your legislator and just ask them where they stand on common sense animal issues, especially puppy mills. You may be shocked to find out that not everyone is an advocate for the animals. 

5. Don’t give pet stores that sell puppies your money. By boycotting a pet store that sells puppies, you are showing them that you can’t support their business. You can even tell the owner why you are choosing not to shop at their store anymore. 

6. Look for a reputable breeder in your area. If you are set on buying a puppy and you haven’t checked your local rescues or shelters, then ask your local canine club about reputable breeders. Just remember to always check out their facilities! 

7. USE SOCIAL MEDIA….. Spread the Word. Use the hashtag #ShowMeTheMommy on social media to stress the importance of asking to see the parent dogs before purchasing a puppy. 

8. Stay updated. Like our facebook page , twitter and instagram. Stay updated on how you can help in your area. Don’t forget to SHARE!