The nonprofit animal welfare organization American Humane is in something they call a “collaboration,” with the massive online puppy selling website Puppy Spot. Puppy Spot boasts a “No Puppy Mill Promise” on their website that seems to ensure new puppy buyers that the breeders they use are not puppy mills. They also boast about their “collaboration” with American Humane one of the nation’s oldest animal protection organizations. This relationship might lead new puppy buyers into thinking their new very expensive puppy is not coming from a puppy mill.
American Humane recently posted an updated puppy mill position statement on their website defining in their words, what a puppy mill is. For new puppy buyers interested in doing their research, the details of the “collaboration” between the two organizations is not clear. There are no real details on how they ensure the breeders are not puppy mills on either American Humane or the Puppy Spot websites. In fact, there seems to be no mention of this “collaboration” on American Humane’s website. It is however, easily found on the Puppy Spot website alongside a donation button for American Humane. Puppy Spot is using paid advertisements about this “collaboration.” The ads can be seen by people who are actively searching to buy puppies online.
As stated on their website, Puppy Spot lists and sells thousands and thousands of puppies each year. They also state they proudly use a network of USDA licensed dog breeders that supply their puppies. We estimate there are likely thousands of dogs and puppies living and breeding in the USDA kennels that supply puppies to Puppy Spot. USDA dog breeders are known for keeping dogs and puppies in cages and out barns similar to livestock settings in factory farms, which is legal.
The Animal Welfare Act sets the standards of care for dogs in USDA kennels. These standards are exceptionally low and are often referred to by us and many other animal welfare organizations as inhumane. Small cage size, overcrowding, stacking of cages and lack of vet care are just some of the daily cruelties inflicted on dogs living in USDA dog breeding facilities. Many USDA dog breeders can operate with little oversight where inspections could take place every one to three years and to add to the problem, as seen on the many years of the Humane Society of the United States, Horrible Hundred lists, there is widespread lack of enforcement of violations found in USDA kennels. Sadly during the pandemic, when puppy sales were skyrocketing, the lack of oversight worsened as the USDA essentially halted onsite kennel inspections or did inspections over the phone.
American Humane’s most recent position statement on puppy mills is as follows (updated Jan 2021):
We define “Puppy Mills” as the breeding of dogs in facilities where profit is clearly given priority over the health and well-being of the dogs, where there is no interest in or effort toward addressing welfare problems.
These substandard facilities do not provide for the dogs’ welfare needs and often manifest in filthy and unsafe kennel conditions. Dogs are frequently dirty, ill or injured, and they may receive little or no behavioral or veterinary care. For the breeding adults and the puppies born in these facilities, neglect of emotional needs due to lack of socialization, isolation and the trauma of transportation at an early age are serious problems which can lead to ongoing health and behavioral problems. Lack of knowledge and care about genetic diseases and proper breeding regimes, to reduce health issues, can result in future suffering for both adults and puppies.
These Puppy Mills (as defined here) are completely unethical. We do not support them and do not believe anyone should support them. American Humane supports working with good and humane breeders who are committed to the health and welfare of dogs and we believe all inhumane puppy mills should be shut down immediately.
Ensuring that puppy mills cannot thrive depends on people being able to recognize and avoid them, law enforcement being able to regulate them, and responsible breeders having the resources they need to help meet public demands for a sustainable supply of healthy, ethically raised dogs and puppies.
Using American Humane’s definition of puppy mills, we ask American Humane to explain how they can ensure the breeders used by Puppy Spot are not puppy mills or breeders that are breeding for profit. Perhaps the last sentence of their puppy mill position statement is their disclaimer; “where there is no interest in or effort toward addressing welfare problems”
Again, using their own words, we argue that it is nearly impossible for American Humane to guarantee that every one of the thousands of dogs and puppies in possibly hundreds of dog breeding facilities all have clean safe kennels, regular vet care, regular exercise, are not ill, injured and all receive proper behavioral care. How can they ensure that not one of the dogs or puppies in those kennels are not suffering emotionally from lack of socialization and isolation? How can they be sure none of the thousands of puppies’ sold experience trauma from being commercially transported at early ages.
To us, if even one of the likely thousands of breeding dogs and puppies being shipped sight unseen to families are experiencing any of these issues, their claims are suspect.
In summary, we feel this “collaboration” is misleading to families purchasing puppies. Puppy buyers buying through Puppy Spot see this endorsement and could feel a false sense of security that they are buying puppies from humane ethical dog breeders, when in fact they could be supporting animal cruelty. The collaboration legitimizes the mass selling of puppies online that may be suffering in puppy mills as defined by American Humane. For the sake of the families and the hundreds of thousands of dogs and puppies, American Humane should withdraw their “collaboration” with Puppy Spot.
Stop Online Puppy Mills consistently receives consumer inquiries asking if websites selling puppies are legitimate. The massive puppy selling broker website Puppy Spot is top on that list. We do not agree with any of the business practices that the Puppy Spot website uses to sell puppies.
There are glaring issues for both consumers and the dogs. We question the welfare of the dogs in these breeding facilities and the puppies shipped throughout the country to unsuspecting consumers.
In an attempt to understand how American Humane can guarantee that the breeders used by Puppy Spot are not puppy mills as defined by American Humane, Stop Online Puppy Mills tried multiple times to reach the Executive Director of American Humane as well as Kerry Rod, American Humane’s National Director, Companion Animals and Government Affairs, but have received no replies from either. We did however notice that Kerry Rod was formerly employed by PuppySpot and is associated with pet industry lobby organizations both of which we feel is a huge conflict. We even directly contacted American Humane officers and Board of Directors and have received no response.
The USDA is known to overlook systemic welfare violations in commercial dog breeding kennels. The ensuing results are easily seen in the Humane Society of the United States yearly Horrible Hundred lists.
How can American Humane guarantee humane treatment of every dog and puppy in the Puppy Spot breeder network? How can they 100% ensure these facilities are all humane?
More information on USDA, see below:
The Washington Post article entitled Lack of USDA oversight and plummeting compliance of the Animal Welfare Act highlights the USDA’s lack of enforcement and the suffering of dogs due to their failure in USDA licensed kennels.
In addition, for the past several years USDA inspectors have been directed to reduce written violations of dog breeders and instead call the violations, “teachable moments.” Where, inspectors ignore minor violations and disregard painful veterinary issues. Using these situations as “teachable moments” so inspection reports are clean and puppy sellers can sell more puppies.
The USDA lack of standards and enforcement goes back many many years. The lack of enforcement, the use of “teachable moments” hiding painful direct violations, and the close to 50% of USDA “regulated” breeders showing up each year on the “Horrible Hundred” lists shows some of the USDA failures to protect the breeding dogs in “regulated” facilities. There is also the scathing 2010 OIG report on problematic dog breeders which explains the long term lack of oversight of licensed facilities. This report is very graphic and may be upsetting to some readers.