How to Avoid Puppy Mills When Adopting a New Puppy

National Adopt a Shelter Pet Day falls on April 30th. However, any time of year is a great time to adopt a pet! 

A local shelter is a wonderful place to find a furry friend. So why should you choose to adopt from one, rather than a pet store? The short answer is, many pet store animals come from puppy mills. Many of us hear the term thrown around but don’t fully understand what a puppy mill is and how to avoid supporting one. Today, we’ll be discussing the many benefits of adopting from a shelter and why it’s best to avoid puppy mills for the sake of the animals’ health, wellbeing, and the quality of a dog’s breed over time. 

In this article on how to adopt a new puppy, some important lessons about puppy mills: 



Why Adopt from a No-Kill Animal Shelter?

So, what is a no-kill animal shelter, and why is it important to adopt shelter pets?

While adopting pets from any shelter is terrific, we especially like to look for a no-kill animal shelter to adopt shelter dogs from. No-kill shelters began as part of a movement in the 1980s and 1990s that encouraged more people to adopt animals from shelters, rather than going to a local breeder or puppy mill. According to the Animal Humane Society, this movement was very successful and allowed shelters to receive more funding and care for more animals. 

For an animal shelter or rescue to be considered a no-kill organization, it must place at least 90% of its animals with new homes. 

However, it’s important to note that the term “no-kill” isn’t regulated by any organization or governing body, so it’s up to the organization to report its numbers honestly. If you’re interested in specifically supporting a no-kill rescue, we recommend speaking with the shelter and asking about their exact rescue numbers. 

No Kill vs. Rescue vs. Shelter

The terms rescue and shelter get thrown around interchangeably. Both are organizations that take in homeless animals. However, rescues are typically run out of volunteers’ homes rather than a physical location like a shelter. Animal shelters are also funded by the government, donations, and volunteers, while animal rescues depend on donations and volunteers alone. Many animal rescues will also use foster parents to care for the homeless animal until a permanent home is found. 

Why Should You “Adopt Not Shop”?

Here are some of the best reasons to adopt from a shelter:

  • Save a life. By adopting, you give an animal a second chance and a loving home. 
  • Skip the trying parts of puppyhood. When you adopt, you’ll often be adopting an animal that’s an adult and likely already housetrained. You can skip the frustrating phase where your pet scratches, claws, and bites things while teething too. That said, you can absolutely adopt a puppy from a shelter if that’s what you’re looking for!
  • Mixed breeds may have better long-term health. Most shelter dogs are mixed breeds, which can decrease the risks of genetic health problems. 
  • Not supporting puppy mills. When more people adopt, there’s less demand for puppy mills.
  • Find a pet perfect for you. Animal shelters often have pets with a wide range of breeds, ages, sizes, and personalities. 
  • Know that your pet was well cared for. When you adopt from a breeder or pet shop, it’s hard to say precisely what care your pet received. However, animal shelters typically ensure that their animals are spayed or neutered, vaccinated, and in good health before adopting them out. 
  • Save money. Purchasing a pet from a pet shop or breeder can be hundreds or even thousands of dollars. Most shelters have a small fee to help them cover the cost of caring for the animals, so you’ll save money by adopting, not shopping. 

No matter how you choose to bring a pet into your life, know that it’s an important and personal decision with many considerations. As long as you know that you’ve made an ethical choice, it’s entirely up to you where you find your fur-ever friend.  

How to Adopt a Dog from a Shelter 

  1. Start by researching breeds. Ask, “What kind of pet would be a good fit for my household and family?” Consider how much time you can give your new pet, as well as their daily needs, and how much you’ll need to budget for their medical and care expenses. 
  2. Be picky with the pet you choose. Don’t feel discouraged if you don’t find the perfect pet for your family immediately. Take your time to browse and find the best fit. 
  3. Look for local adoption shelters. Research local adoption shelters in your area and look into their practices, specialties, and no-kill status if this is important to you. 

How to Find a Pet Adoption Shelter Near Me

There are many ways you can find pet adoption shelters near you. Start by asking local friends and family for any recommendations if they’ve adopted in your area. 

  • Start by Googling “pet shelters near me.” 
  • The Shelter Pet Project is an excellent resource for finding adoption shelters near you. 
  • Pet and animal rescue directories are also available online with a simple Google Maps search. 



A puppy mill is an inhumane dog breeding facility that breeds dogs in an unsafe way that doesn’t support their physical and emotional health. Many puppy mills sell their puppies to pet stores, online, or to individuals directly. Currently, there are estimated to be 10,000 puppy mills, and 500,000 dogs kept for breeding in puppy mills in the United States. 

Puppy mill puppies sent to pet stores are exposed to greater risks of stress and disease. When transported, these tiny puppies are in cramped cages and exposed to many puppies, which can result in illness because they’re too young to have a fully developed immune system. There have also been reports of these puppies dying from overheating in the vehicle after they are left unattended. 

You’ll often see vague disclosures of where pet stores get their pets from. Terms like “professional breeders” are frequently used, but these terms have very little regulation and are essentially deceptive marketing to cover up animals purchased from unsafe puppy mills. 

In short, when considering “what’s so bad about puppy mills or purchasing from a pet store?” consider the conditions that the puppy was put through. Not only are their parents likely still cramped in a cage and bred excessively, but the puppy itself was exposed to many puppies before their immune system was fully developed. Many puppy mills continue to be reported for unsafe breeding practices and neglecting their puppies. 



Puppy mills and breeders are often confused or used interchangeably. However, there are many responsible breeders who do not run puppy mills or sell to pet stores. Often, responsible breeders are part of national breed clubs and have extensive preventative health measures for their dogs, including genetic screenings, to ensure they are not breeding dogs with genetic health problems. 

Puppy mills exist to make quick money and will often want to get rid of their dogs immediately. In contrast, breeders are more likely to require a thorough application, references, and multiple meet and greets. They’re happy to take their time with you as you consider the enormous responsibility of bringing a puppy home.

Breeders can be an excellent option for a pet parent looking for a purebred dog or a specific dog for training purposes. However, shelter dogs may still be the best option because you’re saving a life and keeping a dog from being homeless. And incidentally, you’ll find lots of purebred shelters, as well as pups that can be trained to be service dogs, therapy dogs or more!



Extensively research where you’re purchasing your puppy from. Breeders will usually offer specific information and photos of how they’ve raised their puppies. They’ll also provide information about dog breed clubs and organizations that they’re in, as well as any titles their dogs have won in dog sports. You can search for puppy mill breeder lists and USDA puppy mill lists online to avoid purchasing from one of these places. 

Ask to meet the parents of your puppy. Breeders are usually happy to let you meet your puppy’s parents and possibly tour where your puppy has been living. Puppy mills will go out of their way to prevent you from seeing other puppies, their parents, or where the dogs are kept because of the poor conditions the animals are kept in. 

Another way to spot a puppy mill is the speed of the sale. If your “breeder” is trying to make the fastest sale possible, they’re likely a puppy mill. Reputable breeders usually require several meetings, an application, references, and more before you can purchase your pup. 

Stop puppy mills by not purchasing from pet stores. Almost all pet stores buy their pets from puppy mills. 



So, what are the best steps for how to spot a puppy mill? Puppy mills often share many of the same red flags. Here are some of the biggest red flags to be aware of.

How to spot a puppy mill: 

  • Puppy mills often sell many dog breeds, while breeders usually have one or two dog breeds they specialize in. 
  • Breeders usually only have one or two litters at a time, while puppy mills may have many.
  • Breeders usually have extensive preventative care and screenings for their dogs. Puppy mills won’t offer authentic certificates of the parents’ health or screenings of your puppy’s health.
  • Breeders will usually have their puppies screened, vaccinated, and dewormed at a minimum. Puppy mills will only meet the minimum legal requirements. 
  • Breeders have extensive application processes, while puppy mills are happy to sell to you immediately.
  • Puppy mills won’t speak to a puppy’s socialization. Breeders are happy to share what they’ve done to socialize their puppies.
  • Breeders will happily share photos of how they raise their puppies, while puppy mills will not offer tours or photos of their facility. 
  • Puppy mills won’t have waitlists. Breeders almost always have a waitlist for their litters. 

If you suspect you’re speaking with someone running a puppy mill, consider reporting it to the proper authorities to have the animals checked out. 



If you believe you’ve come across a puppy mill, do your part by reporting it to the proper authorities. 

Depending on the laws in your area, it may not be illegal to have a commercial breeding kennel. Still, if there are signs of neglect or cruelty, you’ll want to reach out to your local humane society, police department, or animal control agency. 



Help Your Shelter Dog Feel Right at Home with PetPlate 

When looking for your new puppy, you’ll want to consider where you’re purchasing your dog from and what you’re supporting. Puppy mills are not places that support the health and well-being of puppies. On the other hand, animal shelters allow you to save an animal’s life and give them a second chance. By supporting animal shelters, you are encouraging greater kindness and care for animals’ health and wellbeing and helping more animals get off the streets.

Welcome your shelter pup home with delicious PetPlate meals and treats! All of our nutritious entrees are delivered right to your door after being flash-frozen in a USDA-approved kitchen. All dogs deserve the best – and the human-grade ingredients chosen by our veterinary nutritionist assure that your dog will enjoy a  healthy and delicious diet!