puppy mills the Nitty Gritty of a Grissly Business

Taken From Mom: Now What?
There are four usual ways puppy mill proprietors divest themselves of puppies they have bred. They are: selling directly to pet stores, advertising on the internet, selling to a dog broker, and selling at auctions.

Pet Stores
The first way a mill breeder can unload puppies is to sell directly to their regular clients of pet stores. These storefronts are usually fairly local–within the same state and/or in drivable distances for the mill owner. Crates of puppies are loaded into vehicles such as SUVs, vans, open bed trucks, closed trucks (sometimes rented U-Hauls), or for large facilities–bigger shipping trucks.

The journey for these hapless babies is rough, hot, cold, bumpy, crowded, and often without food, water, or decent sanitation or ventilation. Many die en route. When they arrive at the pet store they are contracted to, puppies are placed in cages again in the store. Although small, these cages are usually cleaner (for public viewing) than the ones the puppies have come from at the mill breeder (in secret, unviewed locations). Usually the dogs are cleaned up for better salability. Sometimes they are vetted through a veterinarian who is paid by the store to provide health certificates.

The lucky pups are bought soon and taken home by owners who provide more room, better nutrition, and love. The lucky ones may have only minor or no illnesses or physical impairments. If they do have problems, their new devoted owners provide appropriate veterinary care.

The unlucky ones languish in the pet store cages past their crucial socialization periods of optimal puppy brain development (12 weeks). They may eventually be bought at discounted prices or may become sicker or more physically disabled due to long-term confinement. The unlucky may die–in the pet store or in a new home. Many are returned to the pet store for refunds due to any of the typical illnesses and impairments puppy mill youngsters suffer from. When the puppies are returned they are usually killed.

Some are sold again by the pet store owner to unscrupulous buyers who use them for nefarious reasons (“bait” for fighting dog training, research laboratories, or into amateur breeding by backyard breeders) to recoup some of their financial investment. It is rare that a breeder will take back puppies once they are sold to pet stores.

Internet Sales
The advent of easy access to online sales markets has provided enormous advantages to breeders, both reputable and disreputable. Puppies are fluffed, wrapped in ribbons, and photographed for posting in all kinds of online sales outlets such as Craigslist, EBay, and PupListings.com. Some sites specialize in puppy sales, some sell everything from cars to golf clubs. There is no regulatory agency that provides quality or guarantees–of the puppy or for your money. Scams abound.

If they are truly placed via internet sales, puppies remain the helpless victims of the variable wheel of fortune–for good or for bad. Breeders rarely investigate or screen internet buyers and once they receive their money, wash their hands of further responsibility.

Dog Brokers
In the continuous search for larger markets, more money, and less accountability, many commercial breeders hire brokers to ferry their “product” to national and international sales.

Brokers are the middlemen or women who purchase dogs from commercial mill breeders. Puppies are sold by breeders to brokers at extremely young ages; usually 4-5 weeks old–immediately before or after weaning so they are still “cute” when they hit the market. Brokers buy at one price from the breeder and sell to the “end” buyer (via the internet or directly to a wide distribution of pet storefronts) for huge profits. Often, brokers take large numbers of puppies from the breeder, cram them into tiny cages and ship them via land or air to a central warehouse for later distribution. The puppies who survive are examined by paid-off veterinarians who certify their health and qualify them for sale, sight unseen to internet retail buyers.

Wholesale dog breeders are termed, “Class A” dealers with the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). However, with low federal government funding, most of which is geared towards inspection and regulation of animals produced for food consumption, multitudes of secret commercial dog breeders abound. In fact, the largest producer of puppy mill dogs is the Amish community who are exempt from USDA oversight. They are considered a “closed society” and claim religious freedom from federal government jurisdiction. The conditions found by undercover investigators have found deplorable conditions in their kennels and people whose main concern is money, not moral or compassionate care for the living beings they indiscriminately produce.

Brokers must also be licensed by the USDA, which supposedly enforces the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 and dictates minimum standards of animal treatment–again mostly geared to farm animals, not dogs. Because the end buyer purchases from the USDA certified broker, puppies from non-USDA regulated mills are funneled through easily.

Ironically, the USDA provides business loans to the very businesses they should be regulating. For example, according to the investigators at www.prisonersofgreed.org, the USDA has provided millions of dollars in loans to the Hunte Corporation, the largest dog broker in the country. The loans were secured by “accounts receivable and inventory”–dogs. The USDA gave taxpayer monies to the very business it is charged with overseeing. How can this conflict of interest be legal? Or in the best interest of the dogs buried within the system?

When puppy mills go out of business, by breeder choice or otherwise, all property is auctioned, including the “stock.” Hundreds of dogs are shipped to large dog auctions where they are presented to other commercial breeders who are in the market for more dogs to breed.

Some dogs are consignment sales, providing the breeder with another option to the pet store and broker. Dogs given by commercial breeders to auctions are the “used up” or severely afflicted dogs they no longer want to use to produce puppies. They do not expect high prices but in lieu of killing them, are willing to settle for smaller compensation. Whatever monies they can get, they use to buy younger breeding stock.

Auctioneers do usually inform potential buyers of a dog’s infirmities in a perfunctory way. One investigator from prisonersofgreed.org found a male puppy whose “umbilical cord had wrapped around one foot and shut off circulation and the foot came off.” The breeder “said you could still use him to breed.” Another female had a dislocated jaw. The auctioneer cheerfully announced she too, could be bred because, “that’s not where puppies come from.”

Veterinarians are on site at auctions to sign health certificates as well. They are paid to certify broken, depressed, handicapped, elderly, and horribly disfigured dogs for sale as breeding stock.

People seeking pets do not attend auctions. Few know these nightmares exist.


There are also the “bottom feeders” of dog sales called bunchers. These wholesalers collect dogs any way they can: auctions, breeder liquidations, internet free to good home ads, unadoptable dogs shelters provide, and stolen pet dogs–provided by mafia-like conglomerates that raid unsecured residential areas for docile pet dogs.

Bunchers warehouse their victims in crates and cages then sell them when orders for bulk numbers of dogs come in. Bulk buyers include: research laboratories and underground illegal dog fighting/gambling syndicates.

Research labs use dogs for myriad types of product/medical experimentation. The experiments are often painful and inhumane but exempt from regulation if the hoped for results improve treatment for humans. At the end of their service, research dogs are euthanized or turned over to bunchers. On rare occasions, healthy dogs are placed for adoption through rescues.

“Bait dogs” are used to teach other dogs, bred to fight for human entertainment and gambling, how to kill. Killing docile pets, or dogs too ill or handicapped too protect themselves provides “positive reinforcement” for neophyte fighters, before they have to face more experienced and aggressive competitors.

Most clients that bunchers sell in bulk to are hard to track down, especially the fighting rings. They are clandestine and underground–housed in extreme rural areas and run by mafia-type organizations. Investigations into, and regulations of, these entities are largely ignored by law enforcement, unless activists raise awareness, often at their own peril.

Join The Movement To Save Innocent Lives

Regardless of where you reside, these despicable activities occur. Yet there are activists groups growing everywhere that are enlarging the war against cruelty. Use the internet for good and find an organization you can contribute your energy to. Contact your law enforcement officials and insist they take action when abuses are uncovered. Hound (pardon the pun) your legislators to craft laws with teeth (sorry) that will take a bite (sorry again) out of abuse, neglect, cruelty, and abandonment of all animals. Remind all in positions of power that mistreatment of animals has always been documented as the first steps towards criminal activity towards and involving people. Innocent animals lead to helpless children which lead to powerless women. Become a solution, or at least an advocate. You won’t be alone.


“The greatness of a nation and its moral progress can be judged by the way its animals are treated.”
– Mahatma Gandhi

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Sunny Weber

Sunny Weber

Sunny has over 25 years’ experience in pet rescue, humane education, shelter & sanctuary work, service dog training, obedience competition, dog & cat fostering, pet medical care, horse ground training and has authored articles and books in several fields.

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