How to Spot a Puppy Mill: Telltale Signs

Puppy mills are any facilities that breed dogs purely for-profit rather than for the wellbeing of the dogs. By being able to spot a puppy mill, you will help stop a harmful industry. Whenever you are looking to buy a dog, make sure to look out for these puppy mill signs and do your research to ensure that you’re not supporting puppy mills.

How to spot a puppy mill

Rough Living Conditions

One of the telltale puppy mill signs is the terrible conditions.  It’s essential to see the living environment. If you spot small crates or living spaces, unsanitary conditions, or little access to food and water, it’s a good chance that you’re dealing with a puppy mill. On the other hand, if the breeder you’re working with refuses to show you the living conditions, it’s also likely that they either source their dogs from puppy mills or are themselves running a puppy mill. 

Overbreeding and Early Separation

Each breeder should not release the pups until they are at least 8 to 12 weeks old. Waiting to send the puppies home with their new owner is essential for the pup’s health. If the breeder is willing to release the dog early, there’s a good chance they don’t care and want money. Overbreeding is another sign of puppy mills. Ask the breeder how many litters the mother has had and how often. Additionally, ask how many different dogs they are breeding simultaneously. 

No Health Screenings

Health screenings are vital for both the doggy parents and their pups. Puppy mills don’t care about health, and paying for health screenings is just a pointless expense in their eyes. If the “breeder” will not provide health history for the parents and doesn’t offer any evidence of vet checks for the pups, go find another responsible breeder as this is a critical puppy mill sign. 

Lack of Parent History

Most breeders specialize in one breed and are proud of the pedigree of their dogs. Puppy mills don’t provide parent history, including health history, registration details, and pedigree. In some cases, it isn’t easy to arrange meetings with both the sire and the dam. However, each breeder should at least be able to provide pictures and good history on both. Since puppy mills are for-profit operations, there is little sense for them to care about the genetic quality and health of the pups they’re producing. 

No Paperwork

Responsible breeders will have a sales contract and health guarantee. If you’re able to walk away with the pup without signing anything, you’re likely dealing with a puppy mill-sourced pup. Sales contracts will detail the conditions of release of the dog to the new owner and request the pup’s return if the new owner is no longer able to care for the dog. Paperwork isn’t necessary for puppy mills because they want to push “inventory” and increase sales. What happens to the pups afterward is of little concern to them. Additionally, puppy mills can’t offer a health guarantee because they have little health history on the parents. 

Lack of Interest in Prospective Owners

Responsible breeders will be interested in prospective owners. Many breeders have some interview process to see if the new owners are accountable and capable of taking care of the pup. Puppy mills are willing to release the dogs to just about anyone. Puppy mills will hand off the pups in a different location than the breeder’s home, such as a parking lot, or be willing to fly the dog out without asking questions. If it’s a quick sale, it’s likely a puppy mill, or at the very least an irresponsible breeder. 

“Breeder” Can’t Answer Your Questions

The odds are that when you’re looking for that perfect pup, you’ll have questions, especially the case if you’re spending money on a purebred dog. All breeders should be willing to answer any questions regarding their dogs (this includes both the parents and the pups). They should also be ready to talk about their experience as a breeder. Spot a puppy mill by looking for “breeders” who refuse to be transparent. Responsible breeders take pride in their commitment and work on breeding beautiful, healthy dogs. Puppy mills or puppy-mill-sourced pups won’t have much history available. In the end, your potential “breeder” will refuse to answer your questions or won’t know the answer.


By looking out for these puppy mill signs, you can avoid supporting the cruel puppy mill industry. If you’re having trouble finding a responsible breeder, turn to the Barkd app (Apple, Android) to be matched with trusted breeders and your perfect pup. 



Love to Know, “11 Signs a Puppy Is From a Puppy Mill.”

The Dog People, “How Do You Spot a Puppy Mill or Puppy Mill Ad?

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