The USDA Takes Far Too Long To Shut Down Problematic Puppy Mills

June 5, 2024

For over two years, dogs lived in squalor and filth in Elisa Brandvik’s federally licensed puppy mill. Although inspectors from the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) saw the horrid conditions, time and again they chose to delay and take no action. Finally, the facility was shut down. But why did it take so long?

The USDA licenses and inspects commercial dog breeding facilities, called puppy mills, to ensure that licensees are adhering to federal law. The USDA has the power and responsibility to revoke a facility’s license if the requirements outlined in the Animal Welfare Act are not met. Unfortunately, even in cases of blatant cruelty, the USDA rarely penalizes violators [PDF]. And even when the USDA does take action, the process is agonizingly slow, and dogs continue to suffer for months and even years.

Brandvik first applied for a USDA license in 2022, but she’s been involved in the commercial breeding of dogs for much longer. The first two times USDA inspectors visited her facility, they saw dogs living in filthy, cramped conditions and dogs with painful dental disease. Yet they still granted her a license.

Unsurprisingly, Brandvik continued to violate the law after licensing. The USDA went to her facility seven times in the last two years and uncovered new problems nearly every time. Some issues found at this facility included:

- Filthy buckets of drinking water or no water at all.

two dogs with buckets of dirty water

- Enclosure drains full of liquid waste and swarming with maggots. 


- Dogs caked in mud with little to no dry land to stand on. 

dog in a dirty kennel

- Dangerously skinny dogs. 

skinny dogs

- Dogs and puppies living in dirty, barren enclosures.

sick dog in a dirty cage

In 2023, Brandvik’s behavior escalated. She became aggressive toward USDA inspectors, yelling expletives, placing hostile signs around her property and refusing inspections. For nearly 10 months, she blocked inspectors from checking on the dogs at her facility at all.

The USDA finally revoked Brandvik’s license in May 2024 and fined her a mere $2,800. Brandvik represented in court that she surrendered most of her dogs to rescues, but the USDA has yet to follow-up to ensure this is true. At this time, the whereabouts of her dogs are unknown.

It took far too long for the USDA to shut down the facility. When a licensed breeder repeatedly breaks the law, it shouldn’t take them two years. So many dogs could have been spared from suffering if the agency had acted sooner.

Goldie’s Act is the change that dogs — and the USDA — need. This federal legislation would require the USDA to impose more meaningful penalties for violations and increase their enforcement of the Animal Welfare Act. Please use our easy online form to send a message urging your members of Congress to support and pass Goldie’s Act!