Ending Retail Puppy Sales: Standing Against Puppy Mill Cruelty


In response to growing awareness about the cruel puppy mill industry and lack of protections for the adult dogs who spend their entire lives in commercial breeding facilities, cities and towns across the country are passing laws that prevent puppy mill-bred puppies from being sold in community pet stores.

These local-level laws are critical to reducing the demand for cruelly sourced puppies. By limiting where puppy mills can sell their dogs, we can limit their ability to profit from cruelty and improve the lives of thousands of dogs.

Puppy Mills at a Glance

All dogs deserve the good life, with plenty of food, shelter, socialization and veterinary care. But dogs in puppy mills will never know this kind of life. These dogs are often kept in small, filthy wire cages in crowded, unsanitary conditions. They typically are denied access to adequate vet care, sunlight, fresh air, protection from the heat or cold, regular baths or even a separate place to relieve themselves. While the conditions found in commercial breeding facilities are cruel, they are commonplace—and many are even perfectly legal.

Puppy mills turn a profit by breeding and selling puppies to pet stores and online retailers, but puppies bred in these harsh environments are frequently physically and emotionally damaged. Consumers are left bearing the financial loss and heartbreak that can occur when they unknowingly buy a sick pup from a seemingly sanitary pet store.

From Cage to Cage

How do these dogs and other animals go from cage to cage? Cruel breeders rely on a pipeline of dog brokers, auctions and transporters to ship their “merchandise” from puppy mills to the cages at pet shops. Puppies may be trucked for days across state lines and delivered to pet stores that present a spotless, wholesome image so customers won’t think about where their puppies came from.

Shutting Down the Pipeline

Close to 300 U.S. cities and counties have passed retail pet sales ban legislation. California and Maryland made history in 2017 and 2018, respectively, as the first states to do so. (In addition to puppies, some of these bans also prevent the sales of kittens and rabbits at retail pet stores.) And in 2022, New York–one of the puppy mill industry’s largest markets–passed the Puppy Mill Pipeline Bill, ending the sale of dogs, cats and rabbits in pet stores. This trend is growing, with bills to bar the retail sale of pets pending in many additional jurisdictions across the U.S.  

Retail pet sales bans often include language promoting partnerships between animal shelters/rescues and pet stores, so that stores can encourage the adoption of homeless pets instead of stocking commercially bred puppies. Of course, families can also seek out responsible breeders who give puppies the right start.

Join the ASPCA Advocacy Brigade today to get updates on animal-protection legislation and find out how you can help make a difference for animals in your state.