Holiday Puppies and Pet Stores’ False Promises

November 17, 2023

Two black and white bulldogs

Photo from a USDA-licensed facility in Virginia provided via FOIA response.

Holiday lights, family time and lounging by the fireplace—who doesn’t love December? Pet stores certainly do! They take advantage of the holiday season to trick unsuspecting families into purchasing one of their puppies, promising that the puppy did not come from a puppy mill. Often, they will say they source their puppies from USDA-licensed breeders as proof.

While pet stores do source from USDA-licensed breeders, that is not an endorsement or guarantee that the puppies come from reputable breeders. The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is responsible for ensuring animals in licensed facilities are kept in accordance with the Animal Welfare Act, the only federal law protecting these animals. However, the Animal Welfare Act is extremely minimal in its requirements, and the USDA rarely takes any action against licensees who violate the law.

USDA-licensed commercial dog breeders and dealers maximize profit by producing the highest number of puppies at the lowest possible cost:

  • Female dogs are bred at every opportunity, even if they are sick, injured, exhausted, or have genetic traits that could harm their puppies.
  • Dogs are kept in small, stacked cages or in outdoor enclosures exposed to extreme temperatures and the elements.
  • They spend their days and nights in confinement, often in filthy conditions.
  • They rarely receive adequate veterinary care or access to clean food and water.

When pet stores say they only source from USDA-licensed breeders, that does not mean much.

Pet stores love to trick their customers into believing that USDA-licensed breeders are held to a higher standard, especially during the holiday season. Instead of buying a puppy from a pet store, adopt from your local rescue or shelter or do your research to find responsible breeders.

For more information on avoiding puppy mill cruelty, visit