Why Are Some States Havens for Puppy Mills?

March 12, 2015

As our recent puppy mill raid in Alabama illustrates, there is a real need for states to step up and regulate commercial dog breeding facilities. These laws not only benefit dogs, but also potential pet owners, taxpayers, animal shelters and the rescue community: states with no laws to oversee these businesses pay a high price when these facilities spiral out of control.

Puppy mills usually house dogs in overcrowded and unsanitary conditions, without adequate veterinary care, food, water and socialization. Puppy mill dogs do not get to experience treats, toys, exercise or basic grooming. Breeding dogs at mills often spend their entire lives outdoors, exposed to the elements—or crammed inside filthy, wire-floored structures, stacked on top of one another, where they never get the chance to feel sunlight or breathe fresh air. To maximize profits, female dogs are bred at every opportunity with little to no recovery time between litters.

Many people think that what we’ve just described is already illegal—but that’s not the case. The federal Animal Welfare Act regulates some breeding facilities, but not all of them. Further, the federal standards are far from what most people consider to be humane and amount to nothing more than mere survival standards for dogs. Most importantly, poor enforcement by the U.S. Department of Agriculture means thousands of dogs are left to suffer in inadequate and inhumane conditions year after year, even in federally licensed facilities.

States have the authority to enact and enforce higher standards of humane care for commercially bred animals, yet 21 states still do not have any laws regulating large-scale dog breeders, making them magnets for puppy mills. Alabama is one of these states. Kentucky is another, and so is Michigan (are you seeing a pattern yet?). Please see the chart below to learn how your state stacks up. You’ll see that we have a lot of work left to do.

The ASPCA has a long history of working to pass laws that protect dogs in commercial breeding facilities. You can help us by joining ASPCA Advocacy Brigade. If you live in North Carolina or Montana, you can take action right now by supporting puppy mill legislation that’s pending in those states. And to learn more about puppy mills, please visit nopetstorepuppies.com

Update, 3/14: Thanks to those of you who pointed out that we had mistakenly identified Wisconsin as a state with no substantive standards of care when in fact, there are some strong standards in place for commercially bred dogs there—our apologies for the mistake! Wisconsin's status has been updated in the version below. We do our best to keep these charts up to date, but sometimes we miss things and we want you to let us know if you see anything inaccurate.

For help interpreting this map, see our detailed guide on state laws concerning breeders, kennels and puppy mills.[PDF]