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 from puppy 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 Hundred and ASPCA’s No Pet Store Puppies lists 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.

“It’s a huge, huge underground market,” Yoder told the Washington Post. “It’s 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


JoAnn Paris
JoAnn Paris9 hours ago

Thank you for this very interesting article.

Glennis W
Glennis W5 days ago

Adopt dont shop Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W5 days ago

Great infomation and advice Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W5 days ago

Petition signed and shared Thank you for caring and sharing

Glennis W
Glennis W5 days ago

Very interesting Thank you for caring and sharing

Jeramie D
Jeramie D5 days ago


hELEN h5 days ago


michela c
michela c6 days ago

Not all shelters are GOOD (honest) shelters.

Renata B
Renata B6 days ago

Jana Di Carlo: I totally agree with you. Unfortunately animals shelters attract the wrong type of human more often than one can think. People with frustrations and damaged egos: animals are powerless, especially stray animals and abandoned ones. Controlling people control freaks who wants to feel powerful at the expenses of these poor creatures, and maybe also make money.

Jana DiCarlo
Jana DiCarlo4 months ago

I learned for myself, when i was looking for a second dog through rescue groups, how badly corrupt many of them are.
Without a doubt , many provide a badly needed job. But hiding among them are unscrupulous ones, who abuse their charity status,and moniker or rescue group, to get away with all manner of rubbish.
Do your homework.