What is the Difference Between a Puppy Mill and a Breeder? (Explained!)

Adopting a new puppy is a momentous occasion for any family, but it is important to know whether you are purchasing your new companion from a reputable breeder or a puppy mill. While licensed, reputable breeders work to care for the puppies they produce, ensuring their safety and well-being, puppy mills treat their puppies poorly and breed only for profit.

The rest of the article will detail how to distinguish between a reputable breeder and a puppy mill, and what to do if you discover a puppy mill which is not treating their puppies safely.

What is a puppy mill?

A puppy mill is a term for breeders who only breed dogs for profit. The ASPCA calls these puppies “victims of high-volume puppy industry, bred for profit and kept in tiny, filthy cages.”

The dogs involved in puppy mills do not receive proper care, and are bred as often as possible in order to maximize the number of puppies that these breeders are able to sell for profit. Usually, they have no prior experience in dog breeding.

Are puppy mills illegal?

No, puppy mills are not illegal. Even though there are laws to protect animals, there are loopholes in the system which puppy mills take advantage of.

As long as the puppies are provided with basic food, water, and shelter, they are technically not considered unlawful, even if they are keeping hundreds of dogs in tiny cages at any one time.

What is a reputable dog breeder?

A reputable dog breeder breeds dogs not for profit, but for the betterment of the breed. They generally only cover their costs and still earn a fair wage.

They will be licensed by the American Kennel Club, and they will always screen their dogs to ensure that they are healthy and suitable for breeding. These breeders will usually be breed-specific.

We will discuss other ways to identify a reputable breeder later in this guide.

What if a puppy mill is breed-specific?

Even if a breeder only sells one breed of dog, it could still be a puppy mill. Disreputable breeders will often choose to sell whichever breed is currently popular at the moment.

Look into whether the breeder has ever sold other breeds in the past. If you find that they have often switched from breed to breed, that could be a red flag.

How do I identify a puppy mill?

The truth is that one of the easiest ways to identify a puppy mill is by examining what you are not seeing. Puppy mills will not usually allow visitors into their facilities, because they do not want you seeing the poor conditions they keep their dogs in.

If the breeder cannot answer basic questions about breed standards and how they focus on them, if they won’t let you meet the parents of the puppy, and if they won’t let you tour their facility, these are all red flags.

What are some other red flags of puppy mills?

If you are purchasing your puppy from a pet store, they are most likely from a puppy mill. Nearly all pet stores source their puppies from puppy mills.

If the breeder does not have a legitimate website and only advertises on Craigslist or other online forums, if they refuse to send you pictures of where the puppies are raised, and if the puppies do not have full vaccination records, these are all red flags.

How do I identify a reputable breeder?

Reputable breeders will usually be licensed by the American Kennel Club or other government organizations. You can find lists of these breeders on the AKC website.

Reputable breeders will also have knowledge of the puppy’s lineage going back several generations. They will have full vet and vaccination records, and will offer full access for you to visit their facility and meet the parents of the puppy.

These breeders will also limit the number of litters that they produce to only 2-3 per year, rather than puppy mills who produce as many litters as possible per year.

How much does it cost to get a puppy from a reputable breeder?

It is a fact that reputable breeders are much more expensive than puppy mills. On average, a puppy will cost $1,300 in the USA. Depending on the breed, the pedigree, and the puppy, however, these costs can easily skyrocket.

The truth is, however, that you get what you pay for. Although reputable breeders are costly, you are paying to ensure that your puppy is raised with love and care in a safe environment, and that they will be strong and healthy.

It is important to remember that a reputable breeder is not trying to maximize profits—they are not trying to scam you. They are simply charging what it costs to breed healthy, high quality puppies.

What if I can’t afford a puppy from a reputable breeder?

If you can’t afford a puppy from a reputable breeder, it is always better to consider rescuing a dog from the pound or your local humane society than to support a puppy mill. These rescues usually have much lower adoption fees, and oftentimes will even run specials where the adoption fees will be waived or severely reduced.

How can I rescue a puppy if I want a specific breed?

If you want a specific breed of puppy, the good news is that there are many breed-specific rescues out there! For example, if you would like to adopt a Siberian Husky, try searching for “Siberian Husky Rescue Near Me.”

This way, you can still adopt the specific breed you are searching for while still paying a reduced adoption fee instead of the premium prices of a reputable breeder.

Shouldn’t I try to save a puppy from a puppy mill?

Although it may be tempting to tell yourself that you would be “saving” the puppy that you purchase from a puppy mill, the sad truth is that any dollar spent toward a puppy mill is spent toward supporting them.

If you want to do your part to prevent puppy mills from operating, do not give them your money! Instead, work to raise awareness about puppy mills and spend your hard-earned money to support reputable breeders.