Did you know that man’s best friend calls almost 50 million US households home? Clearly, Americans love their dogs!

However, where you get your dog from matters. Of course, there’s always the option to rescue. But if, for some reason, you prefer a specific breed or are looking for a show dog, you’ll need to go through a puppy breeder.

Sadly, the US has more puppy mills than reputable breeders. And a puppy mill is no place to find your new family member.

Read on to find out how you identify a puppy mill vs. breeder.

What Is a Puppy Mill?

Puppy mills are not somewhere you ever want to visit—unless you’re part of a rescue team saving puppies and their mothers from a terrible fate.

These places are always hidden from the public eye because the owners don’t want anyone to know about the dogs’ living conditions.

But a Puppy Mill Is Illegal, Right?

The sole purpose of a puppy mill is to make money for the owners.

The dogs involved are treated as property rather than valued family members and living creatures. They are deprived of adequate healthcare, socialization, or space—and love.

While it sounds as though these places should be illegal, that’s not always the case. Animal welfare laws vary from state to state, and organizations that deal with animal welfare are often underfunded and under-resourced.

Even in places where puppy mill owners are subject to penalties, they simply operate under the radar.

The Many Downsides to Puppy Mills

As mentioned above, the puppies and adult dogs involved in a puppy mill operation do not receive appropriate care. This means that unhealthy dogs are being bred, increasing the chance of genetic, bacterial, and viral diseases being passed onto the puppies.

And because the puppies get little to no medical care or socialization, they often develop behavioral challenges that are difficult—if not impossible—to remedy as they grow older.

Some signs that you’re dealing with a puppy mill include:

  • Sells dogs on platforms like Craigslist or Facebook marketplace
  • Looking for a quick sale
  • Avoids questions about parentage and socialization
  • No photos of living conditions
  • Lack of comprehensive vet records

What Is a Puppy Breeder?

Whether you’re looking to buy Frenchie puppies or coveting a super cute labradoodle, a reputable breeder (or a rescue organization) is always the right choice.

Reputable breeders are not making a living from selling dogs. Instead, they are passionate about the breed they specialize in. They are almost always passionate dog show participants or breed club members.

A breeder won’t shy away from questions regarding your new puppy’s parentage, living conditions, health, or socialization. They’ll happily let you meet your puppy’s parents, show you videos and photos of your new puppy with their siblings, and provide you with extensive veterinary and genetic screening documentation.

Puppy Mill vs. Breeder: Know the Difference

Now that you’ve learned how to distinguish between a puppy mill vs. breeder, we hope you’ll never even think about typing “puppy mill near me” into the Google search bar again—unless it’s to report unethical practices to your local animal protection services. Buying from a reputable breeder or bringing a rescued dog into your home are far better options for your next pet.

For more advice on animal welfare and families with pets, browse the other articles on our website.