Puppy Mills – Leading Cause of Shelter Overpopulation Crisis

If puppy mills didn’t exist, there would be 75% fewer dogs in shelters and rescues.

Unfortunately, there is a lack of statistical data available surrounding the commercial dog breeding industry since much of it is unregulated, so most figures can only be estimated.

The annual estimated percentage of dogs in shelters/rescues which come from puppy mills, directly and indirectly, is broken down as follows:

  • 6%  – dogs purchased directly from pet stores who obtain their puppies from commercial breeders
  • 11% – dogs purchased directly from online websites operated by commercial breeders
  • 13% – dogs purchased directly from commercial breeders
  • 2% – dogs removed from or relinquished by commercial breeders
  • 17% – dogs which are the result of the irresponsible breeding of dogs purchased from pet stores
  • 26% – dogs which are the result of the irresponsible breeding of dogs purchased from online websites operated by commercial breeders

On the above list, since the initial 24% of dogs originated from puppy mills were unaltered, there is the fair assumption that they contributed even more to the shelter intake statistics with unwanted backyard breeding, litters and strays.

The figure of 75% is derived from a combination of statistical data gathered from reputable and reliable sources, including The Humane Society of the United States, American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals, American Veterinary Medical Association, American Pet Products Association, Dog by Dog, The Puppy Mill Project, International Fund for Animal Welfare, and others.

So, how would removing the puppy mill source affect the overpopulation of dogs and reduce shelter admission statistics?

  • Impulse purchasing of a puppy will be suppressed. It’s proven that impulse purchasing leads to shelter relinquishments.
  • Animal welfare activists who previously fought puppy mills will target irresponsible backyard breeders.
  • As the dog overpopulation is reduced there will be fewer unaltered dogs available for backyard breeding operations.
  • Compassion and concern for abused and neglected dogs will increase substantially as the public learns and understands the suffering that man’s best friend has endured.
  • Currently, more than 1 billion dollars are spent annually collecting, destroying and disposing of unwanted dogs in shelters. Can you imagine if that money could be focused on spay/neuter programs?
  • The public will become more aware and educated than ever before about responsible vs. irresponsible breeding. They will be more thoughtful, using planned decision-making when adding a dog to their family. They will demand and expect quality, healthy, humanely-bred puppies.

It’s not possible to fully substantiate the figure of 75% because of the inability to obtain exact figures, but using reliable statistics and detailed calculations, it’s an indisputable fact that puppy mills are the leading cause of the dog overpopulation crisis in the U.S. today.

Setting all figures aside, the ultimate issue is, truly, the overpopulation of dogs. If every dog was loved and wanted, 75% would actually be a rather conservative figure.


According to the ASPCA, approximately 3.3 million dogs enter U.S. shelters ever year. Of those, approximately 670,000 dogs are euthanized. Is there a pet overpopulation crisis? We believe the numbers speak for themselves and that puppy mills are the leading cause of this crisis.