What are puppy mills?

You’ve heard the term puppy mills, but what are they exactly and why are they bad? Puppy mills are breeding facilities that sell puppies for profit with little to no concern for the welfare of the animals in their care. They breed all types of dogs from Australian Shepherds to Zuchon and everything in between. And they breed the dogs over and over and over again. They are bred at every heat until their bodies are physically incapable of producing another litter. According to the Humane Society of the United States,

“Mother dogs spend their entire lives in cramped cages with little to no personal attention. When the mother and father dogs can no longer breed, they are abandoned or killed. Due to poor sanitation, overbreeding and a lack of preventive veterinary care, the puppies from puppy mills frequently suffer from a variety of health issues, creating heartbreaking challenges for families who should be enjoying the delights of adopting a new family member.”

While this statement is a summary of what puppy mills are, the stories and pictures from puppy mill rescues will leave you disgusted and break your heart. Each year the Humane Society issues their Horrible Hundred report. While not an all inclusive list of all puppy mills it highlights the issues found at 100 puppy mills across the United States and some repeat offenders. The goal of the report is to inform the public of the abuses of puppy mills.

Number of Puppy Mills in the United States
The number of puppies sold through puppy mills each year
The number of dogs euthanized each year
The number of dogs kept solely for breeding purposes in USDA licensed facilities

Family in pet store buying puppy and puppy suppliesWho buys puppies from puppy mills?

Puppy mill puppies are either sold directly to pet stores; or, sold to "pet brokers" who sell to pet stores across the country. To get to the pet stores, dogs are first gathered at a warehouse and then distributed to trucks traveling to different states. The dogs are shipped in small crates and not given food or water for 12 hours at a time. Sometimes the trucks they travel in are not climate controlled and it can be hot in the summer. Can you imagine going for 12 hours without water? And no bathroom or stretch breaks? On top of that, the dogs are in such close quarters that those that are sick transmit their illness to those that aren’t.  Many puppies die before reaching their destination.

Puppy mill puppies are also sold to individuals on the internet. Websites showing pictures of beautiful puppies are everywhere. But let the buyer beware. If you cannot visit the breeder and see the conditions the dogs are being bred in, and if you cannot meet the momma dog chances are you are buying from a puppy mill. 

FACT: Pet stores will often advertise “we only source our puppies from USDA licensed breeders.”

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW: Having a USDA license to operate does not guarantee the dogs are raised humanely. The standards of care for dogs in breeding facilities come from the Animal Welfare Act of 1966 (AWA).  It is the only Federal law in the United States that regulates the treatment of animals by dealers and is considered the minimum acceptable standard. It states dog breeders must be licensed if they have more than four breeding females and sell puppies wholesale or sight unseen to pet stores, brokers or online. Being “USDA-licensed” isn’t something to brag about—as these standards leave a lot of room for dogs to be severely mistreated, and enforcement is abysmal.  A 2010 audit report of the USDA’s Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service (APHIS) detailed the failures of the agency to properly enforce AWA standards. According to the ASPCA, enforcement as of 2018 had only gotten worse. 

old dog in cage at puppy millWhy aren’t puppy mills illegal?

Puppy mills aren’t illegal because the AWA and its subsequent amendments do not make their treatment of animals illegal. Back in 1966 when the AWA was first written, dogs were not regarded as highly or loved as much as they are now. In 50 plus years our understanding of their needs and how to care for them has greatly improved. We've also come to realize their value as working animals and as loving, loyal members of the family.

The bottom line is AWA's animal care guidelines are severely outdated and must be brought up to today's standards of what is considered humane care. Individual states have enacted some degree of legislation, but 26 states have none.

Many different organizations are in the fight to end the cruelty of puppy mills. Educating consumers about puppy mills and responsible breeders is our first defense. When the outcry is great enough, changes will be made.

Where are puppy mills located?

Puppy mills are everywhere throughout the United States with a large majority in the Midwest.  Missouri is considered the "puppy mill capital" of the United States. Puppy mills come in all sizes small to large. Some are licensed by the US Department of Agriculture. Some aren’t licensed at all. But as we said, licensing does not guarantee humane treatment of the animals. And you should know, not all breeding facilities are puppy mills. Some are actually responsible breeders that care for the dogs in their care and never sell their dogs to pet stores. Responsible breeders want to meet the people who purchase them to ensure their puppies get a good home.

What about puppy mills in Colorado?

According to data compiled by Bailing Out Benji, as of January 2020 there were 29 puppy mills in Colorado. Two of which have been on the Humane Society’s Horrible Hundred list. Currently, there are 12 pet stores selling puppy mill puppies along the Front Range. Here is a list of those pet stores.

Pet Stores Selling
Puppy-Mill Puppies

  • Perfect Pets- 6840 S University Blvd, Centennial, Colorado
  • Pet City Chapel Hills- 1710 Briargate Blvd, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Pet City Baja Citadel- 750 Citadel Dr, Colorado Springs, Colorado
  • Aquatic Dog- 7429 East Iliff Ave, Denver Colorado
  • Pet City Fort Collins- 3663 S College Ave, Fort Collins, Colorado
  • Valley Pets -6380 Hwy 85, Fountain Colorado
  • Gone Wild Pet Supply -1373 Forest Park Circle, Lafayette, Colorado 
  • Classy Pets- 7057 W. Pineview Drive Littleton CO  80125
  • Just Pets- 8874 Maximum Dr, Lone Tree, Colorado;
  • FuzzyPups! – 1979 Carlson Road, Parker CO  80138
  • Pet Paradise -115 Pueblo Blvd way, Pueblo Colorado
  • Pet Ranch -3823 E 120th Ave, Thornton, Colorado

What is the State of Colorado doing about puppy mill 

What are individual cities in Colorado doing about puppy mills?

In 2019, the town of Berthoud passed a law banning the sale of puppies bred in puppy mills by pet stores joining the cities of Breckenridge, Fountain*, Frisco, Dillon, Eagle, Fairplay, Alma, and Silverthorne who have similar laws.

In February of 2020, a proposal to ban retail sales of puppies and kittens in Colorado Springs went before city council. The owners of Pet City, with two locations in Colorado Springs, told city council that they do not purchase animals from puppy mills and that a law banning the sale of puppies would put them out of business. We know from data compiled by Bailing Out Benji, that they do in-fact purchase dogs from puppy mills. In the end, city council did not put it to a vote. 

In May 2021 Governor Polis signed into law the Pet Store Consumer Protection Act. The law increases transparency for the consumer, requiring pet stores that sell puppies to the public to  

                                                                                                                                            -Include on all advertisements the purchase price of the dog
                                                                                                                                            -Post on the enclosure of each dog the purchase price and breeder license number and information
                                                                                                                                            -Make certain written disclosures to a prospective consumer prior to sale of the dog

This law is more about consumer protection than animal welfare and does little in the short term to help the dogs suffering in the mills. Hopefully, however, a more educated consumer will make better, more humane decisions about where to obtain the next furry family member. The law is an important small first step however, and the Governors office acknowledges that more work remains to be done.

*Fountain ordinance includes a grandfather clause for current stores


Maya Angelou said, "Do the best you can until you know better. When you know better, do better." We have come a long way since 1966. Now that we know better, won't you help us do better?  We need your help if we are to stop the systemic cruelty in puppy mills. Please help.

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End Puppy Mills