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Animal welfare: Getting beyond 'puppy mills'

Puppy Mills

Few people set out to buy a fetching puppy, often of a fashionable breed, that was born in a "puppy mill." But animal welfare advocates, including the Humane Society of the U.S. and Best Friends Animal Society, say that's what happens when people buy from most pet stores in the U.S. 

Puppy mills are usually large commercial operations that are breeding their females too frequently, which wears them down physically,  and cramming dogs and puppies into filthy cages. It is these big operations that supply pet stores, often through a broker, animal advocates say. 

The Midwest is home to some of the more egregious examples of puppy mills. But in the last few years, L.A. County has had some problems with overcrowded breeding operations, particularly with one facility in the Antelope Valley.  According to Marcia Mayeda, head of the county's Department of Animal Care and Control, that facility has worked to clean up its breeding operation. The problems aren't confined to rural areas. "About five or six years ago, we busted a puppy mill in Hawaiian Gardens," said Mayeda. "In that situation there was a lot of neglect. The owner surrendered the dogs. It was about 300."

These large-scale operations can't be outright banished. But regulations can be stiffened, and that's what Los Angeles County is doing, as we explain in an editorial Friday: L.A. County ordinance cracks down on 'puppy mill' abuses.

Those regulations won't solve all problems. Advocates are also working to get pet stores to stop buying from puppy mills and brokers.  They have converted about 10 to 12 pet stores in the L.A. area to a more humane model, in which stores sell puppies, kittens and young animals that have been scouted from shelters, then medically checked out and groomed. "It's the beginning of a cultural shift," says Elizabeth Oreck, who runs the puppy mill initiative for Best Friends Animal Society. But it's an uphill struggle for welfare groups to figure out which of the several hundred pet stores in the L.A. area are buying from puppy mills and persuade them to stop.

Anti-puppy mill activist Jana Kohl (pictured above) adopted a breeding survivor of a California puppy mill, a poodle named Baby, who lost a leg after a fall shattered it -- possibly because the dog's bones had been weakened by overbreeding. Kohl  wrote a book about Baby, taking the poodle with her on trips to publicize the ills of puppy mills and having her photographed with sympathizers. (Best score -- Baby with then-Senate candidate Barack Obama.)

Animal welfare advocates differ on whether people should ever get pets from any pet store or breeder -- even small facilities responsibly breeding females and taking good care of all their dogs. Some believe you should only get pets from private rescue groups or municipal shelters. And most urge prospective owners to at least start the search for a new pet by combing shelters, rescue facilities and the adoption websites linked to them. Here are a few websites where you can start:

Department of Animal Care & Control

L.A. Animal Services


--Carla Hall

Photo: Jana Kohl signs her new book about puppy mills while her poodle Baby, a puppy mill survivor, frolics.  Credit: Lawrence K. Ho  / Los Angeles Times


Comments () | Archives (14)

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'These large-scale operations can't be outright banished.'

Why not???


Good article. We all have to look at the big picture these days. People might think breeding a dog or cat is fun or a great way to make money but we have to realize that a staggering number of animals are euthanized each year due to overpopulation and many go through hell before they die in puppy mills, in dog fighting rings, hoarding situations, etc. Animals give unconditional love. They deserve better from us. We are supposed to become better as a species as time goes on. The time to be more responsible and humane to all animals has come.


my friend sent this video to me from japan of a dog he found there


Anaj Lhok

What's to say Jana Kohl wasn't the cause of the poodles broken leg? Here she is profiting off her book. Nice implication that overbreeding possibly led to the broken leg. Does this article indicate how Baby's leg got broken? Nice reporting. Why don't people focus their time and energy towards the BIGGER problems in society? Why doesn't Jana Kohl write a book about how americans are being forced into poverty by our corrupt politicians and their bank buddies? What about the climate? Our lack of an Energy policy? Where our food comes from? Think of all the cows that are being mass produced for our consumption. Oh, that's okay, right, but buying a puppy from an ethical breeder shouldn't be legal? Please.

Every time I read an article like this I scoff. We have bigger problems in our society. If you want to get rid of puppy mills, deal with the source of the problems. Not the ancillary business that provide dog lovers with wonderful loving puppies. This article makes no note of how many hundreds of thousands of puppies, if not millions, live long healthy lives with their loving families. It chooses instead to stereotype the entire industry based on the few nasty people that bring a bad name to an industry that provides tens of thousands of jobs to communities around the country not to mention much needed tax revenue. What about all of the businesses that exist because of this industry? Pet food companies, stores, grooming and boarding salons, vet offices so on and so forth.

Close down all the dog breeders in this country because of a few bad seeds and you won't even have animal shelters. But, I guess that is the point. Where then will dog lovers find a puppy to grow with their family? Oh wait, just like everything else we buy in this country, we'll get our dogs from China.


To Anaj Lhok: Of course there are responsible breeders out there but they should not be bothered by laws to reign in the irresponsible breeders. If they are doing everything right then they should not worry. But we cannot escape the truth that there is overbreeding of dogs, cats, horses, cows, etc. We have to look at the big picture. How is what you are doing affecting the whole picture. If we only look to our own needs without thinking about the ramifications of having another litter then we will still have the same problem of so many unwanted animals. Of course there will always be other problems in the world but that should not stop an individual for fighting for and speaking up for a cause. IT ALL MATTERS. People need jobs but there are other ways to make money than exploiting animals to the point that there are too many and they are suffering because of our greed and stupidity. We have a responsibility to do right by animals and people and there can be a compromise that we can come to to please people and help animals. Nothing is impossible but the status quo of breeding animals and not caring about what happens to them is cruelty and greed. We should be better than that by now.

George Baumann

The facility in Antelope Valley that Mayeda states has “cleaned up”…their ONLY violation was having an unlicensed trailer on the property. The dogs…yes, hundreds of them…..were all being cared for in a humane manner. No issue with that at all! Nothing to “clean up”. Since when is it considered “cruel” or “inhumane” to have a well-cared for kennel?

How would you know what wears a dog down physically? The top expert theriogenologist in the country, Dr. Robert Van Hutchison, recommends breeding females on subsequent heats. The problem is that the uterus of the bitch is pounded by progesterone regardless of whether or not she is bred. (hence the reason for the high occurrence of “false pregnancies” that we see with dogs). High progesterone levels cause the same stress on the uterus as if she was actually bred, and can result in pyometra and other reproductive disorders. The fact is that nature provides a built-in a rest period for the bitch. When her body is physically ready to reproduce, she will again come into season. If she is in poor physical condition, she cannot whelp and rear a litter.

And Ms. Hall, along with her buddies at “Best Friends”, certainly continues to spout her biased viewpoint. Fact is, puppies are a genuine rarity in animals shelters and rescues. Most intakes are adults. Why not do some honest public relations and education and inform people of some of the excellent reasons to take home an older dog?

“Possibly” Jana Kohl’s dog’s leg was broken due to “overbreeding”? Where is the evidence of that? Possibly it was broken because of a fall. A very common occurrence in small dogs….and guess what, it happens to young puppies, and even those who are spayed and neutered and never reproduced..

Jana Kohl….a tool of PETA and other sick animal rights extremist groups. PETA kills over 90% of the animals they take in every year in their Virginia shelter.

Dogs are smuggled into California from Mexico every day to meet the demand for pets. And, maybe we should prohibit shelters and rescues from importing dogs here in California? Happens on a regular basis. “Save a Mexican Mutt” “Compassion Without Borders” and others. The Helen Woodward Humane Society in San Diego imports dogs from as far away as Romania!


Why should breeding be over-regulated, and people be guilted into buying from shelters and rescues? We don’t have a dog problem, we have a people problem. People need to be educated on selection, care and training of their dog. THAT will solve the problem of dogs being relinquished to shelters.

George Baumann

Oops, forgot to mention, Jana is why I will NEVER shop at Kohl's department stores.


Large scale operations is not the same as a puppy mill (for which there IS no legal definition). True “puppy mills,” breeding operations with overcrowded conditions, neglect and abuse (which, by the way, are already illegal) are rare and there are none in California. Most pet stores do NOT get their dogs from these places. Think about it. How long would they stay in business selling unhealthy, unsocialized puppies? Pet stores should not be prevented from doing business - that IS illegal.
Possibly? And what exactly is “overbreeding“? Unproven statements such as these are the reason pet stores are unfairly coming under fire. I have no doubt that my comments will be blasted by the bleeding hearts who let their emotions make decisions for them and have no disregard for the facts. Personally, I don’t pay attention to unreasonable people who listen to sound bites and never bother digging any deeper for the truth.


Part of my previous comment somehow got deleted.
. Possibly? Based on what? Where’s the proof? How dare she make statements like that without knowing the truth. And what is “overbreeding” anyway? “Overbreeding“ and “puppy mills“ aren’t the same thing - that’s the trouble you get into when you start making up terms and giving them your own definition.

Laura Johnson

Unfortunately, the public is being routinely misled about animal breeding, animal husbandry and appropriate animal care. Every kennel is a puppy mill to the animal rights activists who want to ELIMINATE all animals, including pets. It doesn't matter how well the animals are cared for IF the kennel has over xx number of breeding females...somehow people get stuck on the idea that a person breeding animals can ONLY properly care for xx number of animals. I guess they have not understood that a responsible animal breeder is going to HIRE HELP when they need it. Meanwhile, because this cult belief in stopping dog breeding has taken such a hold on parts of the US, there are locations in the Northeast where the shelters are empty. So, HUNDREDS of street dogs are being imported from other countries, including Puerto Rico. And, the unfortunate consequence of these imports is DISEASE is also being imported. Rabies, screwworm and other terrible diseases are coming in with these dogs because the "rescuers" don't care about their health, just about bringing them into the US and...gasp...MAKING MONEY in the process. So, we don't believe that people breeding dogs should make money, but, it is just fine that rescuers make money as they bring diseased dogs into the US, putting our domestic animals, our people and our wildlife at risk.


Funny - it's called doublespeak. Check out 1984 - define things your way as you go. Oh - and don't forget to look for the pets in 1984 - look hard!!! Carla and Jana and such will make sure they're NOT there!
Where do they think the dogs in the shelters come from - miraculous conceptions? They want NO breeding. They want NO puppies. They want NO PETS!!!

Reminder to self - NEVER SHOT AT KOHL's!


California imports thousands of homeless and diseased dogs from Mexico and elsewhere to keep numbers up in shelters so they can blame Puppy Mills.
There are NO "puppy mills" in California! (seriously, can anyone name a SINGLE location in CA where there's a bonafide "puppy mill"??) There are, however, giant "rescue" operations taking in hundreds of dogs and rather than vetting, altering, and placing them as one would expect of a "rescue", they are BREEDING and SELLING these "rescues" for MORE money than responsible breeders, and because it's under the "legal" auspices of "rescue" they DON'T PAY TAXES! Just call yourself a dog rescue and all of the sudden, the animal control and cruelty laws do not apply to you.


Exploitation of animals, just what does that poor dog in the picture look like? If given a choice it doesn't look like it would stay on that table. "- possibly because the dog's bones had been weakened by overbreeding" What kind of journalism is this? NOT a fact "possibly, possibly, possibly;" insert fiction hoping to make some people grasp that as a fact because it was in the newspaper! Certainly this woman putting her dog on a TABLE top is just how bones do get broken. Yet, again another example of someone EXPLOITING a dog and putting it at risk. Is this anthropomorphic behavior at its highest profit making level?

If you've ever been to a shelter THINK how many puppies did you see? Few to none, mostly adult rejects. It seems to me "Welfare Rescue People" should put their money and themselves into attacking the problem of where adult shelter dogs come from and helping educate people so these adults quit coming into the shelter system.

Cats on the other had are a whole different topic BECAUSE they are a different species with different needs. Owned CATS are not a problem FERAL cats are and people need to learn the difference. AGAIN education and why are the rescuers not doing more of this instead of finger pointing and yelling more laws? NICE Helpful education goes a lot further than all the finger pointing and exploitation by "do-gooders for their own profit and attention getting." Now go down to YOUR local shelter and walk a dog or help your neighbor train their new puppy so it won't end up at the shelter.

Chuck Bridges


Maddie's fund and the Ad Council provided some statistics that should help clarify some of the arguments put forward by animal rights extremists. This link was featured in a blog posting by Nathan Winograd:

"Maddie's Fund Getting to No-Kill by 2015 Presentation"
( http://www.maddiesfund.org/Documents/No%20Kill%20Progress/Getting%20to%20No%20Kill%20by%202015.pdf )

The Maddie's Fund presentation states that across the country there are 17 million households that (1) will get a pet within the next year and (2) haven't decided where to get their pet (shelter or breeder). The presentation also states that there about 3 million pets euthanized each year. The conclusion that I reach is that if every shelter animal were adopted, 14 million households would have get their pets from breeder-sourced outlets.

Let's apply the concept to California. The state represents about 12 percent of the U.S. population. So, 12 percent of 17 million is about 2.0 million households (remember the description, that (1) will get a pet within the next year and (2) haven't decided where to get their pet (shelter- or breeder-sourced)). The most recent state shelter statistics (2009) indicate that about 413,000 dogs and cats were killed in shelters. This suggests that if every shelter animal in California were adopted, citizens in the state would still demand 1.6 million pets next year from non-shelter sources. Tell me again about overpopulation -- we've actually got excess demand for pets, at least from the perspective of the sheltering industry.

Jana, focus your energies on the sheltering industry . . . you know, the ones actually responsible for placing rather than killing the animals under their care.

Kohl's is on my "do not shop" list, too.



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