pet shops and "puppy mills"

Puppy Mills, Pet Stores and Massachusetts

What are "Puppy Mills"?
"Puppy mill" is a term that is frequently used to describe a large scale commercial breeding facility where dogs are kept in conditions that the public would not consider humane and where dogs are repeatedly bred to generate as many puppies as possible for the retail and online pet market.

What is Wrong with Puppy Mills?
Generally, dogs are crowded together and receive minimal veterinary care. Adult dogs who come from puppy mills often must learn the simplest things, as they have never experienced life outside of a cage. Puppies are also more likely to have genetic disorders due to the inbreeding that often occurs in puppy mills. These genetic deficiencies often lead to health issues and poor temperament, which can be difficult to treat and heartbreaking for dogs and their families. In May 2010, the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Office of Inspector General conducted an audit of the Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service’s (APHIS) Animal Care (AC) unit and focused on problematic dealers. The report can be found at  

Click here to view footage taken from a puppy mill which shows you first hand the conditions dogs exist in at these commercial breeding facilities. A Channel 5 segment also exposed cruelty at a puppy mill that supplied Massachusetts pet stores, resulting in the USDA shutting down the puppy mill. 

What is the Relationship between Pet Stores and Puppy Mills?
These large scale breeders may supply pet stores with puppies. If you purchase a pet over the internet, from a puppy broker, or at a pet store, the dog likely came from a puppy mill. No responsible breeder would sell a dog or cat to a pet store, a broker, or over the internet. Responsible breeders care about the well-being of their animals and want to place them in loving and carefully selected homes. Responsible breeders also keep track of the health of animals they sell in order to catch any possible genetic conditions they need to know about when making breeding decisions in the future. Consumers also need to be careful about large scale breeders posing as “rescues.”  More information about making informed choices when choosing a new animal can be found at

Are Puppy Mills Legal?
Commercial breeding facilities are legal and are regulated at the federal level by the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). The Animal Welfare Act (AWA) requires all wholesale breeders and brokers (whose who sell to pet shops and brokers) to be licensed and inspected by the USDA. The AWA also sets minimum standards of care for these facilities (visit the USDA's website for more information on the AWA). Unfortunately, USDA inspectors cannot inspect frequently or thoroughly, allowing some facilities to fall through the cracks and get away with conditions that should be violations. This ineffective enforcement was detailed in the 2010 Audit (mentioned above).

For an overview of this law, click here. Many states also have laws that regulate commercial dog breeding. Click here to find out what laws are in place in Massachusetts and in other states.

Are Pet Stores Regulated?
Yes, pet shops are regulated by the state. Massachusetts Pet Shop Regulations can be found on the Department of Agricultural Resources' website.   

smpaw_blue Read Massachusetts pet shop regulations (330 CMR 12.00). 
smpaw_red Read the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources' Pet Shop Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ).  
smpaw_purple Read the joint policy statement from the Board of Registration of Veterinary Medicine and the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources on pet shops.

Who can I call if I want to make a complaint about a pet shop?
If the pet shop regulations have been violated, you can contact the MSPCA's law enforcement department at 1-800-628-5808, the Animal Rescue League of Boston at (617) 426-9170, or the Division of Animal Health within the Department of Agricultural Resources at (617) 626-1795. You can also ask about past citations and inspections of a pet shop.

How can I find out about past complaints on a particular pet shop?
Typically government records like citation and inspections are public records. To request information, call the Department at (617) 626-1795. Below we have also listed recent articles appearing in local newspapers that list citations and past complaints from the public about Massachusetts and nearby area pet stores.

What can I do if I purchase a sick dog or cat?
Massachusetts has a pet "lemon law". The pet shop that sells you the dog or cat must give you a 14-day warranty, which entitles you to a full refund or replacement if a veterinarian determines that the animal is diseased or has a congenital disorder.  You may also file a complaint with the Massachusetts Department of Agricultural Resources by calling (617) 626-1795. See 330 CMR 12.05(3). 

Local Pet Stores - Media Coverage:

smpaw_purple Webster puppy store suject of many complaints - Telegram & Gazette (2014)
smpaw_blue Pet Shop Horror: Outrage as pooch peddlers foist sick animals on the public - Boston Herald
smpaw_purple Hunt on for Randolph pet shop owner - Patriot Ledger
smpaw_red Stoughton pet shop owner faces animal cruelty charges - Enterprise News
smpaw_blue Puppy in window may be sick as a dog - Enterprise News
smpaw_blue Sick puppy argument gets ugly - Worcester Telegram & Gazette
smpaw_purple North Attleboro pet store hit with penalty - The Sun Chronicle

More Links of Interest

smpaw_green MSPCA's Belief Statement on the Retail Sale of Pets
smpaw_purple Tips on Buying a Puppy Responsibly
smpaw_blue Pupquest - learn to be puppy-source savvy
smpaw_purple Watch Oprah Winfrey's program on puppy mills 
smpaw_red Act - Find out what you can do to stop puppy mill cruelty
smpaw_green Learn about the grassroote group, the Mass. Coalition Against Puppy Mills