The CAPS Action Plan

Investigating Pet Shops and Puppy Mills Since 1992

Two million puppies and kittens are born in animal mills every year. These animals are often unhealthy, and their parents suffer in overcrowded, unsanitary cages. Typically, the young animals produced at mills are sold to unsuspecting customers at pet shops or in online marketplaces. The goal of CAPS is to end this inhumane practice. We use a coordinated strategy of nationwide programs in this effort.


CAPS conducts hundreds of undercover investigations each year. Our targets include not only pet shops but also the huge network of USDA-licensed breeders and brokers who supply pet shops and the internet with animals. Undercover CAPS investigators have been inside more than 1,000 puppy-and-kitten mills. Videos and reports from our investigations have helped expose the disturbing realities of commercial dog and cat breeding. These investigations also provide important evidence for our ongoing legal, legislative, and outreach efforts.

See samples of CAPS undercover investigations

Legislation and Legal

CAPS regularly assists in the creation of legislation to restrict the retail sale of certain animals. These laws put financial pressure on puppy mills by eliminating their retail markets. More than 500 pet shop ordinances and state laws have been passed in the United States and Canada since the 2010 passage of a CAPS-generated ordinance in West Hollywood, California.

Our longtime work in California was also critical to the passage of the first state law (in 2018) banning the retail sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits. CAPS was behind New York’s 2022 legislation banning  the sale of dogs, cats, and rabbits in pet shops. The law goes into effect in December 2024. Our longtime efforts in Illinois led to 2021 passage of the law banning the retail sale of dogs and cats. Maryland, Maine, Washington and Oregon also have retail ban laws, although Maine and Washington grandfathered in three existing pet shops. Oregon’s legislation originally would have permanently grandfathered in the state’s two pet shops investigated by CAPS. Our opposition to this resulted in a five-year grandfather clause.

Learn more about laws we’ve helped enact.

USDA Oversight

The United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) licenses and inspects our country’s 3,000 commercial dog and cat breeding facilities. The USDA is supposed to protect the animals living there by enforcing the Animal Welfare Act. CAPS has been investigating the USDA since 1995, and our evidence has proven, however, that the federal agency has minimal concern for dogs and cats suffering in mills—or for puppies and kittens transported to pet shops or sold online. CAPS continues to put pressure on the USDA, and we are advocating for congressional oversight hearings into the USDA’s wrongdoings.

Read the OIG Report and USDA-Related Articles.

Shelter Reform

Since February 2022, CAPS has saved hundreds of dogs from Kern County Animal Services (KCAS, a high-kill shelter in Bakersfield through a variety of innovative means; we also created a plan for the shelter.  After witnessing the conditions at KCAS and other municipal shelters in California, CAPS added shelter reform to its mission.

California’s municipal shelters are in crisis. Many of the animals live in overcrowded, inhumane conditions, without sufficient exercise or veterinary care. Euthanasia rates are shockingly high. In some parts of the state, backyard breeding is rampant, and spay/neuter services are woefully insufficient. The Central Valley overflows with abandoned dogs, living in fields and dying on roadsides, including dogs and puppies killed intentionally by cruel means.

It is time for the California Legislature to take action. CAPS is making a critical new short documentary called The Crisis at California’s Municipal Shelters to push for appropriate legislation. We want to see a law that would require the state to license, regulate, and inspect municipal shelters. As with a similar law in New York, the shelters would have three years to come into compliance with the help of state funding and training.

Read about our first day of filming and see the documentary trailer here.

Spay and Neuter Outreach

CAPS has also added spay and neuter outreach to its mission. As part of CAPS’ National Latino Outreach Campaign, we have produced television and radio PSAs in English and Spanish on the importance of spaying and neutering, which are airing on stations across the country, and provide a bilingual resource page on our website, which includes flyers in Spanish and English on spay/neuter and vaccination. CAPS’ pet shop and puppy mill brochure and flyer are also available in Spanish.

Learn more here.


Education and Outreach

A big part of the CAPS mission is to educate the public about pet shops and their connection to animal mills. Our latest outreach effort is the National Latino Outreach Campaign, whose focus is on educating Spanish speakers about pet shops and puppy mills, spay/neuter and vaccinations for dogs and cats. We use many methods of outreach:

  • Social media
  • News stories
  • Television and radio public service announcements
  • Protests and outreach events
  • Blogs, action alerts, and newsletters
  • Complaint forms

Watch our Public service announcements, Videos, Investigation Videos and Reports

Rescue and Rehabilitation

As evidence of abuse and neglect, CAPS periodically rescues animals during our undercover investigations. We provide these animals with veterinary care and partner with shelters, rescue organizations, and animal lovers to place them into foster care or permanent homes.

Since February 2021, CAPS has saved more than 200 dogs from Kern County Animal Services in Bakersfield through a variety of innovative methods.

Read some of our rescue stories.

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