These Dogs Live a Quiet Life of Torture, Don't Perpetuate This Evil Practice

Analysis by Dr. Karen Shaw Becker

puppy mills

Story at-a-glance -

  • California has passed the first state-wide law in the U.S. that forces pet stores to sell only shelter animals (dogs, cats and rabbits), or incur penalties
  • As of January 1, 2019, pet stores in the state must maintain records of each animal’s origin, and post plainly visible signs stating where the pet came from
  • A similar law in the U.K. makes it illegal for pet stores to sell animals at all; people looking to purchase or adopt a pet must deal directly with a breeder or shelter
  • The intent behind these laws is to further limit the ability of puppy mill operators to stay in business; the inspiration for the U.K. ban was a horribly mistreated dog named Lucy who was rescued at age 5 from a Welsh puppy farm
  • There are steps all pet parents and animal welfare advocates can take to help put puppy mills out of business once and for all
  • Many dogs develop arthritis as they get older, and it’s important for pet parents to recognize both the overt signs of this progressive condition, as well as more subtle signs
  • Lifestyle adaptations for arthritic dogs can include making their home environment more accessible and comfortable, physical therapy sessions and other types of body work, and appropriate daily exercise
  • Supplements that can help keep dogs with arthritis mobile and comfortable include chondroprotective agents, natural anti-inflammatories, CBD oil and more
  • It’s important to partner with the right veterinarian and routinely monitor your dog’s condition and changing needs as he ages

On January 1, 2019, California became the first state in the U.S. to force pet stores to source the dogs, cats and rabbits they sell exclusively from animal shelters. Specifically, California Assembly Bill No. 485 (AB-485) prohibits pet store operators:

"… [F]rom selling a live dog, cat, or rabbit in a pet store unless the dog, cat, or rabbit was obtained from a public animal control agency or shelter, society for the prevention of cruelty to animals shelter, humane society shelter, or rescue group, as defined, that is in a cooperative agreement with at least one private or public shelter, as specified."1

Taking Another Bite Out of Puppy Mill Profiteers

The purpose of the bill is to put another dent in the number of puppy mill operations that exist to breed pets for profit. The vast majority of puppy mill operators view the animals they breed as unthinking, unfeeling products to be sold, which is why the typical puppy mill is a filthy, inhumane operation and the animals bred there often arrive at pet stores or new homes with significant health and/or behavioral problems.

Per AB-485, pet stores in California must now maintain records of each animal's origin or face a $500 fine. In addition, they must post a sign stating where the pets came from on each cage or enclosure. People in California who want to purchase a dog, cat or rabbit not sourced from a shelter or rescue will need to find a private breeder.

Originally called the Pet Rescue and Adoption Act, the bill was introduced by a California assembly member and signed into law by the governor in October 2017. The bill's author considers its passage a big win for animal companions as well as California taxpayers, who foot the $250 million bill to house and euthanize shelter animals each year.2

While it's truly shameful that some people must be forced, by law, to take actions that prevent the inhumane treatment of animals, AB-485 is certainly a step in the right direction for California. Hopefully, our remaining 49 states will also enact state-wide laws.

Britain Recently Enacted a Similar Ban

In similar news from across the pond, in a measure called "Lucy's Law," the U.K. has declared a ban on the sale of puppies and kittens by pet shops, online dealers and other third-party sellers.3 The intent of the law is to protect animals from exploitation, help crack down on puppy farms and generally make doing business more difficult for those who breed and sell pets for profit with little or no concern for their welfare. From The Independent:

"Animals sold through these outlets often come from mass-breeding mills, where females are forced to spend their lives in filthy cages, churning out litter after litter, until their bodies wear out. Of course, all breeding contributes to the animal-overpopulation crisis, so adopting animals from shelters (instead of buying them from breeders) is still the best choice."4

Under Lucy's Law, people looking for a puppy or kitten must deal directly with a breeder or a "re-homing center."


The inspiration for the ban, Lucy the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, was rescued from a Welsh puppy farm in 2013. From the BBC:

"The Cavalier King Charles Spaniel's hips had fused together, she had a curved spine, bald patches and epilepsy after years of mistreatment. She'd been kept in a cage much of her life and was no longer able to have puppies."5

After her rescue, at age 5 Lucy was adopted by Lisa Garner.

"It was clear from her physical condition that she had been subjected to appalling conditions," Garner said in an interview with The Daily Mirror. "However, with lots of patience, Lucy went on to enjoy a full, albeit far too short life, filled with happiness."6

Lucy died in 2016.

"Her body was broken when she was rescued at five years old," explained veterinarian Marc Abraham, who helped launch the Lucy's Law campaign. "She had three years in freedom, being pampered and having a normal life as a pet. We launched Lucy's Law a year after her passing as a tribute to her and all the breeding dogs that are hidden from the public."7

5 Ways You Can Help Put Puppy Mills Out of Business

1. Don't buy a puppy from a pet store, since most receive their "inventory" from puppy mills, and don't purchase a puppy online from an Internet seller. Remember, you don't "rescue" a puppy from a pet store; you perpetuate the breeding cycle. When people stop doing business with puppy retailers, puppy mills will go out of business.

Also avoid buying your pet supplies from businesses that sell puppies. As the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (ASPCA) makes clear:

"Consumer action is a critical element in the fight against puppy mills. Convincing consumers not to shop for anything — including puppies and supplies — at stores that sell puppies is the most effective way to stop the demand for puppy mill dogs."8

puppy mill pet shop life cycle

2. Don't ever make an impulse purchase of a pet. Taking on the responsibility of caring for a dependent creature isn't something you should do on a whim. It's a decision that requires careful thought, research, planning and preparation.

When it comes to those adorable puppies being sold at your local mall, or on Craigslist, or out of the back of a truck in the grocery store parking lot, as cute as they are, and as much as you may think they need you, just say no. Don't help puppy mill and unethical backyard breeders stay in business.

3. If you have your heart set on purchasing a purebred pup, try to buy from a local, reputable breeder. Make sure to check his or her background and references. Review the sales contract closely. A reputable breeder will want to meet and interview anyone interested in buying a puppy, as well as be proud to show you the parents, their living environment and their medical records. That's why you won't find responsible breeders selling to pet stores.

I met a breeder last year at Superzoo who intentionally creates "designer dogs" for people with allergies. She meticulously screens both parents for all potential breed flaws, then creates "fashion mutts" she sells to a long list of buyers who are looking for "healthy hybrids," as she calls them.

Although the topic of designer dogs is very controversial, I applaud this woman for testing for genetic flaws, something many breeders still refuse to do. She also welcomes visits to her home, and insists all dogs are returned to her if, for some reason the owners cannot keep her puppies.

Always visit a breeder's facility in person. You want to see for yourself the conditions in which your puppy was born and raised. I would also insist on meeting the parents (the mother dog, at a minimum). If the breeder won't show you the living conditions in a separate barn, building or part of the house, be suspicious. Additional resources:

4. Take action against puppy mills by supporting and recommending legislation that regulates the breeding and selling of animals in your city, county or state. Volunteer your time or talents, or donate to organizations that act as watchdogs over breeders, including the Animal Welfare Institute, and the Animal Defense Fund.

Write to your state and federal legislators to share your concerns about the reality of puppy mills. Ask them to enact legislation that ensures dogs are bred and raised in healthy environments. Report unethical or abusive breeders or puppy mill operators in your area to your local animal law enforcement agency and follow up to see what action has been taken.

5. Adopt your next puppy or dog from a local animal shelter or rescue organization. There are millions of wonderful, deserving pets waiting for homes in the U.S. You'll feel good about your decision, and you may very well save a life.