Saturday is National Puppy Mill Awareness Day; Adopting Saves Lives

Although it seems like forever ago, this week represents six months since the world as we knew it changed in ways we could never have imagined.

With routines upended, schools closed, friends and families distanced, jobs lost and activities and vacations cancelled…Everywhere we look, life has been drastically disrupted. 

To cope with all this change, many people have understandably turned to their pets for comfort, and many who didn’t have a pet have reached out to foster or adopt, which, according to Best Friends Animal Society saved the lives of an estimated 450,000 shelter pets since March.

At the same time though, there has been a reported increase in puppies purchased from pet stores, breeders and online retailers. 

As an organization whose mission it is to end the killing of pets in shelters, Best Friends encourages people looking for a pet to adopt from a shelter or rescue group, rather than buying from a pet store, breeder or online retailer.

Adopting saves lives, while buying nearly always supports the puppy mill industry.

Most puppies sold by pet stores and by online puppy retailers come from puppy mills. Although websites that sell dogs convincingly market the puppies as well-bred and lovingly raised, they too are most likely selling mill-bred pets. 

“It’s not surprising that so many people are looking to acquire a pet amid the Covid crisis,” said Julie Castle, chief executive officer for Best Friends Animal Society in a release. “During this difficult time, our pets serve as companions, provide emotional support, help us cope with social isolation and—in the case of dogs—get us outside for exercise and fresh air.”  

Puppy mills are high-volume commercial dog breeding facilities, where profit and maximum production take priority over the health and welfare of the animals.

Parent dogs spend their lives in small, dirty, stacked, wire-bottomed cages, often in the minimum legal size allowed (only six inches larger than the dog on all sides) and female dogs are bred as frequently as possible. Most puppy mill dogs have inadequate medical care and human socialization.  

They live for years with few, if any, opportunities to play, be walked, or stand on solid ground. When they are no longer able to produce, they are often discarded or destroyed. These operations churn out an estimated two million puppies annually. There are an estimated 10,000 licensed and unlicensed high-volume breeding facilities in the United States, mostly concentrated in the Midwest. 

Although breeders who sell puppies wholesale to pet stores and distributors are licensed and regulated by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the minimal required standards of care imposed on breeders do little to protect dogs and do nothing to promote responsible breeding or ensure healthy puppies. Some licensed breeders own 1,000 or more dogs. Studies have shown that the poor conditions and high-stress environment into which the puppies are born can have a lifelong impact on their physical and emotional health and behavior.  

Unsuspecting buyers are not informed of the backgrounds of these animals, nor the conditions under which they were bred. There are frequent reports of these puppies having congenital or communicable diseases, which cause heartache and expense for those who purchased them with the mistaken belief that they were buying a healthy pet from the best source possible, making this a consumer protection issue as well. 

“Best Friends encourages anyone considering a new pet to adopt from a shelter or rescue group to avoid inadvertently creating demand for commercially-bred pets by buying from pet stores and online retailers,” Castle said in the release. “If you buy a puppy online or from a pet store, you are most likely supporting the puppy mill industry because these are the two ways that puppy millers sell millions of dogs each year. And simply put, choosing to adopt saves lives.” 

Around 625,000 dogs and cats are killed in US shelters annually, simply because they don’t have homes. When you adopt, you’re not only refusing to support puppy mills, you’re not only saving a life, but giving an animal in need the second chance he or she deserves. 

Best Friends Animal Society is a leading national animal welfare organization dedicated to ending the killing of dogs and cats in America’s shelters. In addition to running lifesaving programs in partnership with more than 3,100 animal welfare groups across the country, Best Friends has lifesaving centers in New York City, Los Angeles, Atlanta and Salt Lake City, and operates the nation’s largest no-kill sanctuary for companion animals. Founded in 1984, Best Friends is a pioneer in the no-kill movement and has helped reduce the number of animals killed in shelters nationwide from an estimated 17 million per year to around 625,000. That means there are still about 1,700 dogs and cats killed every day in shelters, just because they don’t have safe places to call home. We are determined to bring the country to no-kill by the year 2025. Working collaboratively with shelters, rescue groups, other organizations and you, we will end the killing and Save Them All. To check out our community lifesaving dashboard and for more information, visit