Breeders File Lawsuit in Attempt to Stymie Puppy Mill Crackdown

Earlier this year, the United States Department of Agriculture finally announced that it would be implementing a critical new rule to crack down on online puppy mills. Now, breeders are filing suit, attempting to stop the rule from going into effect, and their case shows a disregard not just for animal welfare, but for their own industry. The unfolding legal drama illustrates the deep problems within the commercial animal breeding industry, and it shows what happens when a few large companies can influence the actions of an entire industry.

The USDA implemented the rule in the first place because of a strange and frustrating loophole that denied the agency any authority over online puppy mills. Since breeders were selling directly to consumers over the internet, they weren’t regulated, unlike those who sell to pet stores and similar facilities. Thus, puppies weren’t being provided with even the most basic standards of care by online breeders, who crammed them into cages, didn’t offer them basic veterinary care and were in a prime position to mislead consumers.

That’s bad news for dogs, obviously, who don’t deserve such terrible conditions, but there’s more to it than that. Unscrupulous breeders do the entire industry, including reputable breeders who take care when handling their dogs and making breeding decisions, a great harm. Their puppies are often unhealthy, and they can carry dangerous genes that could spread into the rest of the breed, perpetuating ill health and chronic genetic abnormalities. Furthermore, their misrepresentation to consumers could lead to people receiving dogs that don’t meet breed standards or aren’t what they expected at all, while breeders who face regulation aren’t allowed to engage in these practices and have an active incentive to be responsible about their business practices.

Responsible breeding requires taking impeccable care of both breeding stock and puppies, and carefully evaluating perspective owners to determine if they’re good fits for given puppies. Furthermore, good breeders always offer to take dogs back if they don’t work well in the household, and they maintain a relationship with their clients over the years, rather than abandoning dogs once they’ve been sold.

While breeding remains controversial, there is still a substantial difference between an ethical breeder and a puppy mill. Online breeders, on the other hand, don’t hold themselves to the same standard, and thanks to the lack of regulation, they didn’t need to: even if consumers were receiving very sick dogs, puppies who clearly weren’t of the breed advertised, and animals who had been subject to abuse, they had limited recourse.

Thus, the USDA law was a sound regulation for animal welfare, one reason so many animal welfare organizations advocated for it, but it was also a smart business move for breeders, by requiring all of them to adhere to the same standard. Otherwise, online breeders effectively had an unfair business “advantage” because they could abuse dogs without penalties, unlike their counterparts. The suit from breeders, however, insists that online breeders shouldn’t be subject to the Animal Welfare Act, denying basic welfare and rights to puppies raised in such conditions.

It’s chilling to know that breeders are so concerned about anything that might affect their bottom line that they went to bat against an animal welfare rule intended to benefit the very creatures they claim to care about, with some participants in the suit no doubt pushed to join with claims that allowing the regulation to go into place would result in a loss of business. Large corporations often use an appeal to business interests as a tactic to get smaller companies involved in such suits, making it seem like an industry is deeply invested in a given cause when some smaller businesses may not realize what they’re advocating for.

Enhanced USDA scrutiny of breeding facilities would be better for dogs, better for breeders, and better for consumers, but apparently, many breeders don’t view it that way.

Photo credit: Todd Dailey.


Jim Ven
Jim V3 years ago

thanks for the article.

Carrie-Anne Brown

thanks for sharing

Howard Houston
Howard Houston4 years ago

This lawsuit is not by the large commercial breeders as they are the ones who are already licensed by the USDA. The reputable reliable hobby breeders who breed only to improve their chosen breed are the ones who brought this suit. So that is the first misrepresentation in this article or outright lie. Second the USDA guidelines have some real problems for those who love dogs and bring them into their homes. The USDA guidelines say you cannot raise puppies around any other animals even their mother after they are weaned. The USDA wants these puppies raised on concrete in isolation. Show breeding is a hobby and is not for profit and yet the USDA wants you to be home 24/7 in case they might visit which means you cannot hold down a job. The other problem is the temperature ranges for newborn puppies up to 5 weeks should be over 90 degrees but the USDA mandates that temperatures be kept at 45 to 85 while at the same time giving all animals unfettered access to the outdoors. No one can control temperature with doors being opened all the time or actually having no doors. The USDA is run by animal rights cult members such as Sara L. Conant who is their enforcer and she spends her time making rules that cannot be followed and putting all animal breeders out of business. There were 11 small animal breeders in the US licensed by the USDA for nearly 20 years with very few fines until she came along and put 5 of them out of business. This woman believes her job is to close down all and I

Eva weiss
Eva weiss5 years ago

Puppy Mills Pet Stores = Misery

As one of my personal crusades, I cannot wait until all the puppy mills are gone and then any breeder that can stand the scrutiny, they can continue to operate as normal. If anything, after the puppymills are gone, their business should increase. It will also make it harder for just anyone to get a dog and less likely said dog would end up in a shelter.

I am going to be one of the first to be skeptical of the ASPCA's actions involving local rescues and keeping the money from donations, but in my opinion they are doing a lot right to raise awareness about puppy mills. Not always in a timely manner (the recent Putnum County, KY raid that should have happened a year ago) I think there list of what constitutes a good breeder is spot on .. or almost.


Responsible breeders are individuals who have focused their efforts on one or a select few breeds and through breeding, historical research and ongoing study, mentoring relationships, club memberships, showing, raising and training of these breeds have become experts in their health, heritable defects, temperament and behavior. Responsible breeders are well suited to educate and screen potential buyers/adopters and provide follow-up support after purchase or adoption. Responsible breeders take lifetime responsibility for the animals they have bred.

The ASPCA advocates the following best practices for the responsible breeder:

Screens breeding stock for heritable dise

Kat K.
Kat K5 years ago

So what are the breeders so afraid of?? If they are "good/qualified breeders", seems to me they wouldn't have any worries with re: to enhanced USDA scrutiny of their facilities, but it surely would help save a lot of animals from the "bad/unqualified breeders". Worth a try, I would say, to find out if it works well. Guess it depends on whether or not they are thinking of the animals' welfare or the bottom line. ??? In my opinion, there are too many animals that are neglected, abused, over-bred, living in horrid conditions, going to "homes" that are just as bad, etc. That should be the concern, I believe.

Marry Allen
Marry Allen5 years ago

I'm 100% for animal welfare, not Animal Rights, and yes there is a difference. I have had, cared for, rescued my entire life all types of animals including livestock. I'm 100% for moving USA sheltered and rescue dogs to areas where they have a better chance of finding a home. These animals overseas can be helped and assisted in their own countries by these Animal Rights groups that take in all those Millions in donations they told the public they wanted to to have to "Help the animals". If our "Overpopulation" problem has been curtailed , and it looks like it has, then these groups are risking our own health, domestic pets and agriculture. They are using a, interesting enough, a "Loophole" to bring in all of these hundred of thousands of dogs and puppies with no health checks or restrictions nor taxation given to rescues and shelters. Add this to the restrictions, fines and laws they helped pass to undermined breeders, pet shops under the disguise that we still have a "Overpopulation problem" and they created a fine little money making operation and job security scam at the publics expense. On top of that they keep poor records of how many and what type came through their shelters, counted several times the same animal that had been moved to different shelters and rescues, and counted the hundreds of thousands imported to get those "Overpopulation" numbers up and keep them up.

Now there are shelters and rescues who do not practice this scam, and koodos to them, a

Marry Allen
Marry Allen5 years ago

Laurie, there will be good and bad in any and every group, activity and side of any issue or activity anyone does. To paint an entire group as bad or good, making accusations of a person or group when you don't even know them basically shows lack of credentials on the issue. It also makes the person unapproachable and negative. Many breeders, shelters and rescues have come up with clever way's to keep in touch, find homes and to educate without turning off those they are trying to reach. If you accuse, point fingers, blame and give off the impression of being elitist or closed to suggestions and ideas, you lost them. Mind set will make you either successful or dome to failure.

Laurie Armer
Laurie Armer5 years ago

@Marry A. - save your justification for court! My position is that I agree with the poster that aid there is no need to breed...period!!! And your comments that there are not that many purebreds in shelters is BULL. The rescue group I am with, Sharpeis, we do NOT have enough foster homes to manage all of these poor souls that have been neglected, abused and abandoned! Someone paid a pretty penny for that poor dog and then became disinterested. You CANNOT make the claim that legitimate breeders follow their adoptees! That is so ridiculous it made me laugh!!! People that give up on this "decorative" animal, will NOT lose face by going back to that same breeder!! What are you going to do with it? As I said, it is a damaged product from breeders' standpoint! ALL breeding must be stopped in order to give life to those that already exist! People that say there is no overpopulation are of the same mindset that think there is no global warming. There is a difference here between the pros (breeders) and the cons (advocates) in that your position is from a purely monetary point of view, whereas the advocates are from a moral, ethical, and humane stance!

Marry Allen
Marry Allen5 years ago

Shannon M, (and all others) did you know that many of these breeders have websites? That they sell some of their puppies off the websites and thus "Ship sight unseen" That this is "ONLINE SELLING and BREEDER" according to the new UDSA/APHIS. Did you also know that anyone who has more then 4 females of any combination, dog, cat, mouse, ferret, rat, gerbil, rabbit, hamster, ect and/or sells one "Sight Unseen" is considered a "Retail Pet Store" and must now be under the USDA/APHIS rule and licenced. That they must retrofit, at their expense, their private homes into a "Commercial" business. They don't even have to have or sell a dog online, just any combination of any of the pet species listed qualify. Do you have any idea what is required to be a "Commercial" business under USDA regulations?
Do you know that those who filed this injunction ARE the very breeders quoted below? The ones being called "PUPPY MILLS"

"Responsible breeding requires taking impeccable care of both breeding stock and puppies, and carefully evaluating perspective owners to determine if they’re good fits for given puppies. Furthermore, good breeders always offer to take dogs back if they don’t work well in the household, and they maintain a relationship with their clients over the years, rather than abandoning dogs once they’ve been sold.
Online breeders, on the other hand, don’t hold themselves to the same standard, and thanks to the lack of regulation, they didn’t need

Whisper G.
Whisper G.5 years ago

Spay and Neutering is so effective that it's untrue that there is an over population of animals. NYC shelters bring in out of state animals from other shelters because there isn't enough companion animals available. HSUS would have you keep thinking that there is a problem so that they can continue to rape you of your hard earned money to pay their lawyers, and line their pockets.
Why is it illegal in the United states of America to actually make a living ? Such twisted thinking that in America you can be arrested for making a living, but let go for killing someone. That its wrong to create lives that make people happy, but its right to adopt ( pay money for) an animal that might not be a good match for your family- just out of guilt- and have that animal sent back to the shelter time and time again. Get the FACTS PM/Store bought dogs are not in the shelters.. Most of them are ones people got FROM the shelter ! The Cheaper the dog, the more likely it will end up in a Shelter in the first place.. Now how does that add up to PM dog ? It doesn't. Its the right thing to do to shut down sub standard facilities.. YES.. but don't throw the baby out with the bathwater by making compliant, good breeders go out of business.