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Puppy Mills and the Puppy Trade

The dirty business of treating dogs like a "commodity“

Born at massive commercial breeding facilities and robbed of the opportunity to enjoy a life free of suffering – this is the fate that awaits puppies born at puppy mills. Dogs languish under the worst conditions confined in basements, sheds, and garages. They are kept in small, dark, and dirty accommodations with no ventilation or heat, are not given any exercise, and are often malnourished and dehydrated. Nor are the mothers or puppies provided with the medical care they require.  


For the puppies, these social animals are frequently removed from the mother at a far too young age. The puppies are therefore deprived of the social contact and care from humans or their mother. The mother, reduced to a breeding machine, is often too weak to care for her children, as she is bred over and over again with next to no recovery time allowed in between litters.



Pushed for profit

A few weeks after their birth the puppies may be sold to pet stores or be advertised online.

The customers are immediately entranced by the cute animal at the store (or by the misleading pictures presented of the animal online) and frequently rush to the decision to buy the puppy. However, they are unaware that the dogs are usually not sufficiently vaccinated, and haven’t been de-wormed or chipped. The papers are frequently forged and the true housing conditions and upbringing of the dogs is not presented truthfully.

© Polizei Unterfranken

Sick and unsocialized dogs

Problems can appear very soon after the purchase. Many of the animals become ill, show serious physical and behavioral problems, and can even become aggressive. This is not surprising, as the puppies suffered so much through the first few weeks of their lives, a period which is central to the development of dogs.


Pet Deception Online

It’s becoming more and more common to buy companion animals online via classified ads sites, no matter if you are seeking a puppy, a kitten, a rabbit or even a horse. The global online trade of animals is booming. However, poor regulations have allowed many classified ads sites to become a haven for deception and animal suffering. This is a major problem, as many sites fail to meet the required standards for protecting animals sold online, as well as the buyers. It’s in the hands of global companies, like Ebay and Craigslist, that own these websites to change that and lead the way.

It is always best to adopt a homeless animal versus purchasing one. However, if you are looking for a reputable breeder online, FOUR PAWS has developed a set of measures to help secure the well-being of animals who are sold via online international platforms. The FOUR PAWS' Pet Deception campaign is working to tackle the problem of poorly regulated selling of animals on classified ads sites, with a particular emphasis on eBay, who owns 11 classified ads sites around the world. FOUR PAWS has been researching and investigating activities related to the pet trade on eBay classified ad sites over the last three years and has found evidence of illegal, irresponsible, and suspicious selling of animals.


In the U.S., eBay has closed their U.S.-based classified ads website. However, eBay's headquarters is based in the U.S. and while online animal sales don't happen on eBay here, there are several classified ad websites owned by eBay in Europe that are providing a perfect platform for sick puppies to be sold anonymously online. Find out more about our international campaign calling on eBay to change its global regulations to stop the cruel puppy trade at


In the U.S., two other popular online puppy marketplaces, and, were also contacted about introducing our security measures but never responded. Many consumer complaints have been lodged against both companies for the selling of sick puppies online. In fact, was sued for allowing the sale of sick puppy mill puppies by a number of former customers who unwittingly purchased sick puppies from breeders advertising on the website. Sadly, this lawsuit illustrates the dangers involved when purchasing pets online and the need for customers to protect themselves by always meeting the animal in person and paying careful attention to the environment the animal is living in.

What You Can Do

  • Sign our petition asking eBay to end anonymous pet sales overseas!
  • Never buy a dog on the street, at a flea market or fair, or over the internet.
  • If you suspect you have come into contact with a questionable breeder, inform animal control, your veterinarian, or the local authorities.
  • Talk to your friends and family about puppy mills and warn them against supporting this cruel business.
  • If you are sure you want a dog, visit an animal shelter! These shelters contain many dogs, including purebred dogs, who desperately need a new home.
  • If you are interested in getting a puppy, please read out Puppy Checklist to make sure the sellers are reliable and that you are receiving a healthy and happy new member of your family.