The Sad Truth Behind that Doggie in the Window

From behind the glass, he calls to you. He’s a puppy, only eight weeks old. He has cute little ears and oversized paws. His wide, lonely eyes seem to beg, “Take me from this pet shop and love me!”

But if he could talk, what else would he say? And could you bear to hear his story?

He’d start by telling you how he got here. He’d recount his cramped, cross-country trip in a disease-filled truck. Then he’d describe the overcrowded hellhole he came from, where his parents still suffer, living in filthy wire cages. As his heartbreaking story unfolds, he’d plead for you to listen. And he’d implore you to act now—to join with other compassionate animal-lovers and put a permanent end to puppy mills.

What are Puppy Mills?

Puppy mills are commercial breeding facilities that mass-produce puppies. Some mills hold dozens of dogs and others hold thousands. But regardless of the size, most puppy mills have many basic features in common:

  • Barking dogs, crammed together in rows of small crowded cages.
  • Stinking air, full of ammonia, urine, and feces.
  • Nowhere for dogs to play or go for a walk. No toys or soft bedding.
  • No human affection or socialization.
  • Just disease, neglect, and breeding—over and over. Every six months, malnourished female dogs are forced to have yet another litter of puppies.

Puppy mills typically have one priority: profits. To lower costs, dogs are continually caged—exposed to rain, heat, and cold. This causes the dogs to exhibit neurotic behavioral patterns, such as nonstop spinning in place or eating their own feces. Insufficient veterinary care also often leads to rotten teeth, infected eyes, and painful sores. If a puppy mill dog is ever taken from her cage and placed on the grass, it’s not unusual for her to cower in fear since turf under her paws is an alien sensation.

Half a million puppies are born in puppy mills every year.

At around eight weeks of age, the mill puppies that make it—the ones that haven’t succumbed to the stress and unhygienic conditions of their cages—are taken from their mothers. They are either sold online or shipped off to pet shops.

For mother dogs, the breeding cycle restarts—again and again until their reproductive years cease. Then they are typically killed—often by cruel means. For puppies, the heartbreaking story is just starting. If they survive the long journey to pet shops, packed into trucks with other sickly puppies, they are often sold to unsuspecting customers for thousands of dollars.

Pet shops lie about selling puppies from puppy mills.

Every pet shop denies using puppy mills. They will typically say, “No, we don’t get dogs from puppy mills. We only buy from USDA-licensed breeders.” But the truth is, most USDA-licensed breeders are puppy mills.

Many USDA-licensed facilities are massive—some hold over a thousand animals. But even smaller ones still keep animals in unhealthy confinement. USDA rules are lax, and USDA inspectors allow thousands of animal welfare violations to go uncited and unpunished every year. Nearly every video and picture of a breeding facility on the CAPS website is from a USDA-licensed business. All of them are mills.

Pet shops will say whatever it takes to sell an animal.

Pet shops might say, “This breeder raises dogs in his home.” Or, “It’s illegal for us to sell puppy mill animals.” Both are lies. But these lies often assuage a potential customer’s fears and dupe them into purchasing a puppy. Then the final round of tragedy begins. Animals might start to exhibit some or all of the following traits:

  • Illnesses
  • Behavioral issues.
  • Hereditary defects from inbreeding.

These are all direct consequences of puppy mill breeding. Unsuspecting customers, who were just looking for healthy, lifelong friends, find themselves paying staggering vet bills and caring for animals with alarming behavioral problems. This often causes customers to abandon their newly purchased animals at shelters. The odds of survival there are grim. Every year, one and a half million shelter animals are euthanized.

But mills keep flooding the market with more puppies. Customers who surrendered their dogs at shelters will often return to pet shops to buy more—unaware of the hidden root of their animals’ problems. Customers proceed under the well-intentioned but misguided belief that buying that doggie in the window will “save him.” But in reality, they are keeping puppy mills in business and condemning that puppy’s parents to a life in a cage.

How to Avoid Supporting Animal Mills.

Never purchase an animal from a pet shop. Responsible breeders do not sell to pet shops because the process doesn’t allow for the screening of potential buyers.

Adopt your companion animal from a local shelter or rescue. It’s the easiest way to avoid the heartbreak and suffering of mills. You can find all ages and breeds of animals, including purebreds. To find a shelter in your area, visit

Stand with Us to Help Stop the Suffering.

Whether you are an animal lover or just a compassionate person who hates the idea of animals suffering in mills, join with CAPS to change this industry.

We invite you to explore our website for information on the following and more:

  • Undercover investigations of mills.
  • Video investigations of pet shops.
  • Our work creating new laws that protect animals.
  • Donate now to help us continue these efforts and many more.

What About Kitten Mills?

Pet shop kittens can also come from inhumane mills. These facilities tend to be smaller than puppy mills but are no less appalling. CAPS has investigated many USDA-licensed kitten mills that sell animals to pet shops. Learn more.

Stand With Us.

Donate monthly - Become a regular supporter