How much is that doggy in the window? If you have recently been in the market for a puppy for your family home, you are most likely used to this question. Hopeful dog owners are turning to the internet for convenience and options to find their new family member. With the puppy online market growing, it is important to adopt from businesses or breeders who are ethical in their practice. In honor of Puppy Day and our beloved pets, BBB wants to warn consumers about dealing with puppy mills and the need to research breeders.

As you commit to your research online, you may notice stock websites including multiple breeds of puppies in your area. The fluffed up, manicured photos include furry, lovable faces you can’t help but click on. What you may not realize is the thriving exposure of puppy mills – breeding facilities with the emphasis on profit rather than the welfare of the dogs. These puppy mill individuals do well at masking themselves within the online community, disguising what you may actually be getting for your money.

In fact, your BBB has noticed a pattern of complaints when it comes to breeders advertising puppies online, with customers receiving dogs with health issues or not as described. BBB of Akron has recently responded to multiple complaints regarding a puppy mill breeder by the name of Daniel Miller, associating himself on multiple puppy websites – such as

On February 8th, 2014, at least 12 dogs were lost in a fire at Miller’s dog kennel. The 911 caller that night reported “over 60 dogs lived there,” but it may have been more. The investigation was never completed. Less than two weeks after the fire, a neighbor of Miller’s reported reconstruction work on the property and the barn was rebuilt and cemented. The dogs were reported to have been kept in wire kennels with no bedding.

Complaints included puppies that were purchased and exhibiting illnesses such as the parvovirus, giardiasis, coccidiosis and upper respiratory infections due to unsanitary living situations.  Another complaint mentioned receiving a dog that was not the specific advertised breed. When customers reached out to Daniel regarding these issues and for medical and proper paperwork, they were left with no response. According to the Ohio Department of Agriculture, Miller’s license expired January 1st, 2017. BBB of Akron has still found results of Miller selling online and is requesting that he address the identified POC and licensing issues. Like so many hopeful puppy owners, BBB was left with no response.

But our local area isn’t the only one hit hard by immoral breeding and selling practices.  The highest concentration of puppy mills is the Midwest – including Missouri, Illinois, Ohio, New York and Pennsylvania – flourishing in the Amish and Mennonite farming community. While these breeders will market themselves as USDA-licensed breeders, this simply means that they are licensed to breed and sell in a restricted manner due to the federal Animal Welfare Act, which does not sufficiently restrict the production number of the puppies. Moreover, since sellers are not required to be appropriately licensed, there is no way to properly track and verify safe living conditions for the puppies.

So, what are the living conditions for many of these puppies? Within these mills, female dogs are overworked to produce multiple types of puppies with no recovery time – supplying the breeder with diverse opportunities for further profit. The puppies may live in houses that are overcrowded and unsanitary, with no proper veterinary care, feedings, grooming and human socialization. Dogs might live in wire flooring cages and exposed to filthy living conditions. These environments leave dogs exposed to malnutrition and untreated medical situations. Puppies are sustaining lifelong fearful behavior due to lack of socialization and being removed from their mothers too early. These problems lead to animals who are fearful, anxious and hostile.

How to spot

How can you steer clear of these disguised online puppy mills? Be aware of the signs of unfair practice before purchasing your new family member:

  • Willingness to ship your puppy to you: Unfortunately, most puppies sold directly online often come from puppy mills. If they are willing to ship your puppy to you – to any state in the country – they may be more concerned about making the sale than the safety of the puppy.
  • Unwillingness to actually show a puppy’s papers: Often, it isn’t enough to accept orally that your puppy has papers. A sure sign of a puppy mill, or mill distributors, is their lack of knowledge of the puppy’s parents.
  • Offering more than two or three breeds: If their website shows multiple breeds, including rare and desirable breeds, you can assume that there are several dogs churning out puppies in these situations. Puppy stores are no exception and are main suppliers of puppy mill puppies. Legit breeders will focus on less than three breeds, taking pride in the care of their beloved breed.
  • Offering inadequate contract agreements: Make sure to check your contract. Breeders that practice fairly will often provide spay/neuter agreements, breed papers, and health contracts. A puppy mill often will not.  A reputable breeder will also ask just as many questions as you would, verifying that they are providing a good home for the new puppies.

How you can adopt safely and securely

In March 2013, The Commercial Dog Breeders Act was initiated to restrict “high-volume” breeders within Ohio, taking up the 9/60 rule where breeders can only “produce at least nine litters of puppies in any given calendar year and [sell] 60 or more adult dogs or puppies per calendar year.” While this is a step in the right direction for Ohio, puppy mill cruelty is still relevant in the dog marketplace online and in puppy stores. So how can you adopt safely and securely?

Adopt from a shelter or rescue!
Adopting or rescuing from a shelter is the safest solution for you and your pup. These shelters most often have the best interest of the animal at heart, and many of them are last chance adoptions. Remember to do your research on breeds and adopt based on compatibility. Also, if you are looking into a specific breed, check out rescue shelters for that breed. Certain sites like and The Shelter Pet Project are safe to turn to if you are looking for online mass searches in the rescue community.

If you are looking for a local rescue shelter, look to BBB for reputable charities. BBB Accredited Charities meet all Standards for Charity Accountability.

Visit a reputable breeder and get all the details.
If you dive into your research, you can tell which breeders are reputable. You can find local breeders on the American Kennel Club site and see what trustworthy breeder practices are. With this site’s resources, you can also track down the right breed that fits you and your family. If the breeder provides a showing of the puppy’s parents – you are on the right track. Reputable breeders will guarantee that they are sending their puppies to the right homes.

Facebook marketplace

The Facebook marketplace can be safe place to turn, considering they have banned puppy mills from advertising. This available space is left to your local neighbors who may no longer be able to care for a dog. However, there is still reason to be cautious, considering puppy scammers are still thriving within such marketplaces. Turn to BBB’s puppy scam tips to ensure a safe transaction.

Pace Yourself

Purchasing a puppy is making a family friend for possibly the next 10 to 15 years. There is no harm in researching your breeder or website dealer to see what you are getting yourself into. As hard as it is to pass on the feeling of saving money by using a puppy mill, purchasing from these dealers simply perpetuates an inhumane business by opening up a new spot for another pup.

Report Puppy Mills

You can report such puppy mills by alerting your police department or animal control authorities.

BBB encourages that, when searching for a new furry friend, look for reputable shelters and breeders that will ensure the safety of their puppies. You want the best fit for you and for your dog, so know where to look and keep mindful of harmful practices.




ABOUT BBB: Your BBB has been dedicated to fostering honest and responsive relationships between businesses and consumers — instilling consumer confidence and advancing a trustworthy marketplace for all. Visit us at

CONSUMERS OR BUSINESSES WITH QUESTIONS: Contact us at, or call 330.253.4590



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