The Horrors of Puppy Mills

by | Oct 8, 2020

Dogs are man’s best friend, and for great reason. They provide companionship, loyalty, protection, and unconditional love all their lives. However, man has faltered when it comes to fostering that relationship built on trust, instead commodifying them as a means to earn a living. I’m writing, of course, about the puppy mill industry.


“Any commercial dog breeding facility can be considered a puppy mill. A puppy mill’s sole purpose is to produce puppies as inexpensively as possible for maximum retail profit, often disregarding living standards and basic medical care” – United Against Puppy Mills (UAPM), a non-profit advocacy group

Pennsylvania is ranked 3rd in the country when it comes to the number of puppy mills operating within the Commonwealth. This is up from the previous ranking of 4th. Every year, the Humane Society releases its “Horrible Hundred” list of the worst puppy mills in the United States. This year’s report, released in May, listed 6 horrible puppy mills in Pennsylvania and detailed the violations at each. It’s important to note that while one may not go directly to a puppy mill, the possibility of a dog in a pet store coming from a puppy mill is high.

Outside of the treatment of the dogs within the mills, where females are bred to exhaustion and then discarded or destroyed when no longer useful, the selling of dogs from these mills in pet stores is especially heartbreaking, as numerous individuals, unaware of the dog’s origin, end up purchasing puppies that are in many cases afflicted with conditions that can lead to numerous medical bills, and in extreme cases, even death. That is why in December 2015, members of HAP worked with City Council to successfully pass the Puppy Mill Ban Ordinance, which made it illegal to sell commercially bred dogs, as well as cats and rabbits, within city limits at retail establishments. Our legislative partners are now working to pass a bill that would make it illegal within all of Pennsylvania. HAP will provide action items for you to take to support this legislation.

What Can You Do?

Puppy mills rely on supply and demand to continue to operate. If the demand is removed, they will have to adjust their supply. Seek out reputable breeders or shelters instead of puppy mills to find your new friend. Determining if you are communicating with a puppy mill or if a dog in a pet store came from a puppy mill requires a bit of legwork.  Just because a website says they do not get their dogs from puppy mills, that is not always the truth. Here are some red flags that indicate a puppy mill in action, as provided by

  • The seller has many different types of purebred dogs, or “designer” hybrid breeds
  • Puppies are being sold at less than six weeks old
  • The seller/breeder is located “in another state” and will ship a puppy without an in-person meeting first
  • If local, the seller/breeder refuses to show potential customers the place where animals are being bred and kept
  • The seller/breeder doesn’t ask lots of questions. If you can click and pay for a puppy without screening, it’s probably a puppy mill.
  • The seller/breeder makes no commitment to you or the puppy. Most responsible breeders want to know where their puppies are going, and commit to taking the pet back at any time if something happens. Puppy mills want to move puppies through as quickly as possible and then move on with no additional contact.

No responsible breeder would sell a puppy through a pet store or directly online without careful vetting. In fact, most reputable breeders don’t need to advertise on the Internet to place their dogs.

As an alternative, there are many fun-loving, special dogs in rescues across Pittsburgh, such as Humane Animal RescueAnimal Friends, among others – check out their websites to find a new friend! Petfinder is also a great resource if you are looking for a particular size, age, or type of dog as it pulls listings from rescues across the U.S.


Aimee Douglass is the Director of Compassionate Living. Aimee works in the healthcare industry and has a bachelors degree in Creative Writing from the University of Pittsburgh at Johnstown and a masters degree in Communications with a health care focus from Southern New Hampshire University.

Abhi Nadendla is a blogger at HAP and has been volunteering at the organization since late 2022. She is a student at the University of Pittsburgh and loves spending her free time helping out at animal shelters.

Hannah Lewis is a grant writer and blogger from Pittsburgh’s North Side who has been with HAP since 2020. In addition to writing and advocating for animals, she enjoys hiking, cooking plant-based meals, bouldering at her local climbing gym, and curling up with a good book and her long-haired cat, Freyja.

Kelly Frantz has recently joined the HAP family as a blog writer. She is passionate about animal protection and is excited to educate the community about animal welfare.