Was Your Rescue Dog Really Bought from a Puppy Mill?

“Adopt, don’t shop” is the mantra of animal lovers who don’t want to support cruel puppy mills. But according to a recent disturbing Washington Post story by Kim Kavin, some rescue groups and shelters may be purchasing their dogs frompuppy mills.

At auctions where no cameras are allowed, bidders associated with nearly 90 animal rescue groups and shelters in the United States and Canada have purchased puppies and dogs from commercial breeders. The auctions are held in Missouri, which is home to many puppy mills.

Some of the dogs up for auction are from breeders on the Humane Society of the United States’ Horrible Hundredand ASPCA’s No Pet Store Puppieslists of the worst of these facilities.

Since 2009, these bidders have spent $2.68 million buying 5,761 dogs and puppies, based on documentation Kavin obtained from an industry insider. Kavin is the author of the book, The Dog Merchants: Inside the Big Business of Breeders, Pet Stores, and Rescuers.

On their websites, the majority of these rescues and shelters deceptively advertised the dogs as “rescued,” while 20 referred to them as “puppy mill rescues” or “auction rescues.” Only 10 of the 86 rescues and shelters acknowledged online that the dogs were bought at auction.

The rescue groups and shelters that buy these dogs may believe they’re doing the right thing by sparing them from terrible living conditions and being repeatedly bred.

But what they’re actually doing is encouraging these facilities to produce more dogs, and it’s creating a seller’s market, a spokeswoman for the American Kennel Club told the Washington Post. In fact, some facilities breed dogs specifically for these auctions, according to Will Yoder, a breeder of Cavalier King Charles spaniels.

Its a huge, huge underground market,” Yoder told the Washington Post. “Its happening at an alarming rate.

At one auction, Yoder bought two Cavaliers for $7,500, then sold them an hour later to a rescue group representative for $10,000 each.

This all started rather innocently over a decade ago, when some rescuers would pay a small amount for breeders’ dogs that were old, sick or otherwise unsellable.

“These dogs were going to be disposed of or, at best, dumped in an overburdened rural pound where they faced almost certain death if not for the intervention of organizations like National Mill Dog Rescue that pioneered this channel of compassionate rescue,” writes Julie Castle, CEO of Best Friends Animal Society. “We bought 10 dogs slated to be euthanized at the end of the day for a penny apiece.”

But over the years, as the number of pets in shelters is decreasing thanks to no-kill initiatives (although more than 4,100 dogs and cats are still euthanized every day in the U.S.), some rescuers are now buying the unwanted dogs of commercial breeders.

And as more and more cities ban the sale of commercially bred dogs in pet stores, breeders are now making much of their profits from these rescuers.

How do you know if the dog you adopted was saved from a high-kill shelter or purchased from a breeder? Be sure to ask the rescue organization exactly how they obtained the dog.

Hopefully the Washington Post story won’t discourage anyone from adopting a pet from a rescue organization. There are thousands of pet rescue groups in North America. Most of them offer dogs that were rescued from shelters, owner surrendered or strays.

If you want to be absolutely, positively certain you’re rescuing a shelter dog, go to your local shelter and save a life.

Photo credit: KIMDAEJEUNG


Anette S
Anette S3 days ago

Human greed for money (and supposedly therefore reputation and power) is boundless and would stop at nothing (literally walks over dead bodies).

Amanda M

Thanks for sharing

Amanda M

Thanks for sharing

Lorraine A

Not sure about this. I agree that these dogs need to be rescued from puppy mills, but the puppy mills need to closed down and the dogs removed not paid for at auctions so that the puppy mill can then continue breeding. Shut them down!

Jaime J
Jaime J6 days ago

Thank you!!

Margie F
Margie F7 days ago

Well I dont mind if my rescue dog comes from a puppy mill, just as long as the puppy mill doesnt get paid.

Nicole H

@ Sue H. I do agree. In Belgium, we have to chip our puppies the soonest possible. And when we buy a puppy with a breeder of good reputation, the puppy is chipped, nationally registered and you receive a certificate.
Now, in rural areas, where a lot of dogs run freely in the fields, streets, etc.. it happens often that a female gets pregnant and produces a litter of 8 puppies or more. Generally it are very cute dogs, but it is NOT a breed of course. These dog owners don't follow the legal way, and generally the puppies are given away, free of any charge. Therefore it still can happen that dogs end up in a shelter and have no registration papers. Despite all laws and regulations, this will NEVER change and the future of these non registered dogs remains a big question mark.


Nicole H

Difficult to believe this article. Why should a shelter, being overcrowded already, now buy from puppy mills and pay huge amounts for puppies ?? Wonder whether you have to pay for a dog you adopt from a shelter. And what amount do you pay ? In Belgium this wld be imposs. First, we only pay a very small amount for a shelter dog, representing vet expenses, eventually medication & treatments. On top a small amount for the stay of this dog in the shelter. Even if it is a puppy of a good reputation breed and being highly in demand, we pay max. 15 or 20 % of the normal price we would pay when buying this dog from a breeder or even a pet shop. Nobody will be such a fool to pay $ 10,000 for a Cavalier, without the original documents of the official breeder. So, explain me how they manage to do that in the U.S. ?? ??
Also, I can hardly believe that anyone will buy a puppy /young dog from a shelter, when they have 6 or more of the same breed and age or ??
When I cld see an undercover video of these auctions, then may be I could believe it, but now ? NO !

Ch B
Ch B7 days ago

Let's just eliminate puppy mills now in every state. Let's pass mandatory spay and neuter laws with very limited exceptions where the people asking for an exception must pay for the privilege and have regular inspections conducted.

Ruth S
Ruth S7 days ago