CLARKSBURG, W.Va. – Sept. 17 is National Puppy Mill Awareness Day, but what are puppy mills, and why are they a reason to adopt your next companion from a shelter?

Puppy mills are commercial dog breeding facilities that subject the animals involved to dismal environments, breeding as frequently as possible and often lacking medical care and socialization.

Breeders who sell puppies to distributors are supposed to be licensed and inspected by the U.S. Department of Agriculture, but the minimal required standards of care imposed on breeders can be lacking.

Buyers are not always informed of the backgrounds of these animals, made worse because of how puppy mills can have a detrimental effect on their long-term health, such as congenital or communicable diseases.

Most puppies sold by pet stores and by online puppy retailers come from puppy mills, despite marketing the animals as well-bred and lovingly raised.  There are currently five states (California, Maryland, Maine, Illinois and Washington), and more than 440 municipalities across North America, that have enacted laws that prohibit the retail sale of animals from breeding mills.

In 2021, 355,000 dogs and cats were killed in U.S. shelters, bolstered by puppy mills that create and sell new pets, many of which also end up in the shelter system.

“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,” said Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “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, especially as shelters across the country are currently at or beyond capacity.” 

In honor of Puppy Mill Awareness Day, maybe take home a pet from a shelter or rescue, rather than risk supporting puppy mills.