Scam Alert! What Is Puppy Laundering?

November 12, 2019


Commercial dog breeders rarely sell puppies to families directly from their facilities. Instead, they rely on a pipeline of middlemen, transporters, pet stores and online storefronts to sell the puppies they breed. The industry is set up this way because it keeps the public from seeing or thinking about the adult dogs who spend their entire lives caged and subjected to filthy conditions and nonstop breeding.

But it isn’t as easy as it once was for puppy mill operators and pet stores to deceive customers. Growing public awareness and anger about the cruelty inherent in the puppy industry has led to local and state laws that restrict the retail sale of dogs. And a lot of people who are committed to the notion of adopting their next pet know about the puppy mill/pet store connection and would never intentionally buy a commercially bred puppy.

Whether to skirt retail sales ban laws, or simply to take advantage of people’s good intentions to adopt, some in the industry are trying a new tactic called “puppy laundering”: funneling puppy mill-bred puppies through phony nonprofit organizations so they can be falsely marketed to the public as “adoptable” or “rescues.” These puppies may wind up “for adoption” at pet stores, on websites or directly through these fake nonprofits. Fraudulent puppy sellers charge exorbitant “adoption fees”—sometimes thousands of dollars—and pocket the profits.

Here’s just one example: In March 2019, the Attorney General of Iowa brought a case against several puppy-dealers who were accused of promoting puppy mill-bred puppies as rescue animals. Two of the groups involved—one claiming to be a nonprofit rescue, and the other one of the largest commercial dog broker services in the country—were being run by the same person. A review of puppy export documents provided through a records request showed that this laundering ring made nearly 250 shipments, some containing more than 60 puppies, to stores in several states over an 18-month period. Despite the ongoing lawsuit, records showed these businesses were still shipping dogs as recently as September.

We are happy to report that in March 2020, the puppy laundering ring was ordered to permanently stop operating in a settlement agreement and to pay $60,000 to the state. We applaud the Iowa Attorney General for shining a light on the cruel puppy mill industry.

We know you don’t want to support cruel breeders—don’t let fake nonprofits take advantage of your good intentions. Read more about the puppy mill pipeline here.