The Puppy Pipeline

Cruel puppy breeders rely on pet shops and online retailers to present a spotless, happy image so customers won’t think about where puppies are born and how their parents are treated. But there are also other industries that make the puppy pipeline possible, including dog brokers, auctions, and transporters.

Dog Brokers

Do you ever wonder how a pet store can have such a variety of different puppy breeds available at the same time? It would seemingly be difficult for a local pet store to keep track of many breeders and when they have puppies available in order to fill their shop with the right assortment to match customers’ desires at any given time. Dog brokers help solve this problem.

A dog broker or puppy dealer is a middleman, a distributor who obtains puppies en masse from commercial breeders and re-sells them to retailers. They offer one-stop shopping for pet stores, and make it easy for them to offer the array of puppies customers want. There are currently about 300 USDA-licensed puppy brokers in the United States. There is no knowing how many people are doing this work unlicensed.

Breeders are happy to work with brokers because many brokers will buy in bulk. Brokers might take all the puppies a breeder has available—even ones a breeder would have a hard time selling on their own—and are willing to truck puppies over long distances to their final retail destinations.

Since cruel breeders have increasingly turned to the Internet to sell puppies, some brokers now sell directly to the public. They might call themselves “puppy finders” or “puppy concierges.” Instead of physically buying and then re-selling puppies, these brokers create fancy websites and customer service platforms, making “matches” between their database of breeders and the unwitting online customer.


Commercial breeders and brokers can be found anywhere, but tend to be most concentrated in certain parts of the U.S. (Ohio, Missouri, Indiana have some of the highest numbers of USDA-licensed breeders). To get their puppies to stores around the country, breeders rely not only on brokers; they sometimes use other transporters. These could be transporters whose main business is moving puppies, or carriers who are willing to transport puppies in addition to other products.

Although there are some standards in place for the commercial transport of puppies, they, like the requirements for commercial breeders, are minimal and poorly enforced. There is no limit to the number of continuous hours puppies may be trucked, or how many animals may be packed into one vehicle. The transporters need to offer food or water to a young puppy only once every 12 hours. There is no requirement that the driver have any animal care experience. Crowded conditions on a truck for hours or days can significantly stress a very young puppy, result in disease transmission, or worse: In 2016, more than 50 puppies died in Missouri when a driver allowed the inside of a transport vehicle to overheat. Sadly, the tragic stories don’t stop there.


Commercial breeders often buy and sell dogs with other breeders if they want to add new breeds to their business or get rid of dogs they no longer want. Auction services allow many dog breeders to meet under one roof, where hundreds of dogs are displayed and sold to the highest bidder. The auction house gets a cut of the profit.

For some breeding dogs, the trip to the dog auction is the only time they ever get to leave the cages in which they’ve spent their entire lives. But if they get sold, it just means a trip to a different cage. Dogs who fail to attract bidders could be discarded or abandoned by their owners, since they no longer have any perceived value.

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