Best Friends Blog

Best Friends volunteers gain ground against puppy mills

When Best Friends began our peaceful protests of the Barkworks chain of puppy stores in Southern California in 2008, I knew that something had to give — and knowing the passion and commitment of our team, I knew it wasn’t going to be our side.

Image at left, puppy mill survivor rescued thanks to the Best Friends’ Pup My Ride program

It was one thing for me to be confident in the inevitability of change, but quite another for the volunteers on the front line who went out week after week for 150 weeks straight with nothing to go on but their profound resolve to help bring an end to the horror of puppy mills.

After three years of patiently handing out literature about puppy mills and hearing and documenting countless stories of sick puppies purchased by unsuspecting shoppers from Barkworks, our amazing volunteers finally have something to cheer about. Last week, the Animal Legal Defense Fund, armed with the reports gathered by Best Friends volunteer teams, filed a class action lawsuit against Barkworks, claiming the stores repeatedly engage in fraud and false advertising in an effort to conceal from customers that they acquire their puppies from abusive puppy mills.

The puppy stores in Los Angeles and elsewhere around the country are the rosebuds on the dung heap that is the world of commercial breeding that begins with marginally regulated puppy mills.

Puppies are cute by definition, but if customers were able to see where over 98 percent of them come from, most would run in the other direction. No one wants to support the cruelty of the mills and no one wants to risk the unknown possible illnesses, congenital defects and behavior problems that are a fact of life when pets are force-bred in factory farm–like operations.

Puppy mills and their pet store accomplices push a stream of animals to market with no regard to their ultimate well-being. About 25 percent of shelter dogs are purebred and many of those began life in a puppy mill.

Additionally, when someone who wants to get a pet goes to a pet store and buys one rather than adopting one from a shelter or rescue organization, he or she is not only supporting a cruel industry, the person is allowing a shelter pet to remain and possibly die in a local shelter.

So, hats off to the tenacious Best Friends volunteers who have given up their weekends for years and will continue to do so as long as animals are dying needlessly in shelters and puppy mills are allowed to operate with impunity.

When it comes to a test of wills, I know which side I’m betting on.

If you want to read more about the class action lawsuit against Barkworks, and other work that’s being done to end the abuses of puppy mills, visit the Best Friends Network News pages on puppy mills.


Julie Castle
Senior Director, Communications

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  • Rninur2

    Forge ahead.  Never look back.  Never give up.  Steady as she goes even if it takes 150 weeks.  If you think you are too small to be effective, you have never been in bed with a mosquito.

  • Dtorrance

    Puppy mills are an “industry” that needs to be done away with-PERIOD!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  • Cambridge Rat Mom

    Fantastic job. I hope you’ve chosen your next target!!

  • CaptainDoc

    You guys are awesome! I hope ALL puppy mills and pet stores,who support this animal cruelty, sit up and take notice that animal abuse is no longer tolerated and when they are found out they will be the targeted for take down. We are coming for you!!

    My wife and I no longer buy anything from pet stores, offline or online, in protest to the support many of them give to puppy mills. We the consumer have the power to shut every single one of these businesses down by simply not patronizing them any longer. Once there
    sales disappear, so will they ALONG WITH the mills because they will
    have no one to sell to.

    Is there any way to make public, here on your web site, any pet store, breeder, etc.  we find who are buying from the mills or involved in any type of animal cruelty for commercial reasons? 

    Keep up the good work and wishing you continued success.

    Jon , Baton Rouge, LA

  • adr

    Great news! Thank you to everyone to made this happen!

  • Roses’s Mom

    Are all puppies in pet stores from puppy mills?  How does one know?  

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Yes, over 98% of the puppies in pet stores come from puppy mills.  Large volume commercial breeding facilities are the only way to supply the thousands of pet stores in the U.S.  For that reason, we recommend that people not purchase puppies from pet stores.  But if you would like to verify the origin on a specific puppy in a pet store, simply ask to see its paperwork.  If the supplier is a breeder (most likely located in the midwest), you can look them up on the USDA website (the USDA licenses breeders who sell to pet stores) and see how many dogs they are licensed to have in their facility, as well as any inspection reports and violation.  If the supplier is a broker, that will also tell you that the puppy came from one of these commercial breeders. 

      • What about other animal mills? Breeders of pet rats, cats, birds, reptiles, etc.?  From what I read, conditions there can also be quite horrible (as far as I remember from online groups, culling’ of unwanted offspring is a widespread byproduct to breed for desired markings in pet rats).  Many of pets are sold by un/der-trained staff which causes many pets being neglected or abandoned by their unprepared owner.  I know that dogs and cats are the most popular pets in the US, but I think that we shouldn’t forget the ones with smaller voices. 

        I may be wrong, but some pet stores seem to sell rats (and maybe other species) from private breeders (which can be a big problem); at least that’s what we gathered from one small store when we asked about where they got the rats from. How does the public that still buys animals in pet stores know about these details (I don’t think a retail store would tell customers if they’d buy and sell animals from unapproved sources – Are there actually universal regulations for pet retailers?). 

        In general, I think that there should be much more public talk and education about the breeding of any kind of pet.  Can organizations such as Best Friends or the HSUS find more free reporting spots on News (TV or Radio) channels which are also accessible to people who can’t afford cable or internet?  There must be some channels which could see a potential advantage in reporting on such topics, as this may increase their numbers of watchers and listeners. I think as in any other time, the time is now to educate people about the problem of buying instead of adopting.

        • Elizabeth Oreck

          Thank you, Hedi.  Yes, there are certainly kitten mills and parrot mills (and perhaps others), and we are concerned about those, as we are any industry that exploits and compromises the welfare of animals for profit.  However, we have chosen to focus on puppy mills because they are the most prevalent (approximately 15,000 in the U.S. alone) and are the most significant contributor to the pet overpopulation crisis.  We are using public education, legislation, media exposure and adoption programs to spotlight the issue, encourage adoption over pet store and internet purchases, and make it more difficult for puppy mills to thrive.  We know this strategy is working, as there are fewer mills every year and greater public awareness, so we will continue until puppy mills become a thing of the past and we can focus on other issues.

    • Rninur2

      Reputable breeders check out buyers & would never sell to just any Joe Blow who comes along.  You need to fill out an application & be approved & they would never hand their puppies over to a pet store.
      Most likely if you splashed liquor on yourself & staggered in pretending to be drunk, pet stores would still sell you a puppy.  Why?  Because they only pretend to love puppies to put on a good show.  What they really love is MONEY.  Think about it, if your dog had a litter, would you release those puppies to just anyone at a pet store?

  • KTUtah

    Thank you to all the volunteers who spent their time protesting Barkworks.  Let’s hope this sends a message to all pet stores and puppy mills.  Your cruelty will be exposed.

  • GF

    If 25% of the purebred dogs in shelters come from puppy mills, and they have all kinds of defects, why would I want to buy one from the shelter? I am against how puppy mills operate, and just want to find myself a nice Poodle, but I do not want one with a slew of health problems or bad habits, which may be why the poor dog is in the shelter. 

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Although approximately 25% of the dogs in shelters are purebreds and many of them originally came from puppy mills, that is not the only source.  Many came from other breeders, from families who were forced to relinquish the pets, or from dogs who had accidental litters.  Because there is no guarantee that any dog will be 100% healthy, whether it is rescued or purchased, we enourage people to choose adoption first as the most humane and direct way to help solve the pet overpopulation crisis. Most rescue groups check the dogs in their care to make sure they are healthy before placing them in a new home, and you can find many wonderful poodles available for adoption on

      • Anonymous


    • Rninur2

      Dear GF,  Yes puppy mill dogs do end up in shelters because the impulse buyer could not afford the vet bills.  But the shelter will give the dog medicine & get it well before releasing it to a buyer.  Yes some shelter dogs may have imbred defects & so do most pet store puppies.  If you want a perfect dog you will have to find a reputable breeder.  Don’t be gullible as many brokers & puppy mills lie & pretend to be.  BOTTOM LINE:  If you cannot drop in unannounced & tour the entire kennel & meet the parents, they’re hiding something.  Puppy pushers are liars, don’t be fooled.  AKC papers mean nothing.  Many puppy mill’s give out AKC certificates because the org only deals with paper work, they never go out to visit the facility.  All it means is that the father & mother were purebreds even though they may be inbred & defective they still qualify for AKC Certification.

  • Lovefelines2003

    I could not be more thrilled by this news!  And I could not be more proud of my fellow Los Angeles volunteers who spent three YEARS fighting for the puppy mill dogs.  Amazing!!

  • Smitty66

    NICE JOB, and my humblest thanks to all the people giving of their time…

  • Thank you, Best Friends & ALDF!  These things simply don’t change by themselves.  Industry simply doesn’t self-regulate that well and most consumers aren’t and often can’t be that informed to make the best decision (I am surely one of them in some respects).  What I will never understand is that even otherwise smart, nice people choose to not adopt one of the millions of animals. Maybe these people aren’t that well informed either (I am not talking about ignorant people who want to make a fashion or other statement with their choice of animal).  Anyway, all my thanks to all organizations which work to improve our world!

  • Alwycr

    Amazing work done by everyone involved! Thankfully the city of Toronto, Ontario just passed a bylaw stating that pet shops are not allowed to sell animals from breeders, they must be from shelters or rescue groups. I am extremely grateful for this bylaw knowing that pet store animals are only from shelters now and not mills.

    • Thankfully the city of Toronto, Ontario just passed a bylaw stating that
      pet shops are not allowed to sell animals from breeders, they must be
      from shelters or rescue groups.- I think this is what all animal lovers and animal groups wish for! Viva Toronto and everybody who made this possible there!

      • Captaindoc

        Way to go Toronto, I stand and applaud you for setting the standards all countries need to follow. I hope here in the US someone will be able to break through our political corruption and get such a law established for all the US.

        From all the abused animals in the world, Thank you!!.

        Jon, Baton Rouge LA

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Glendale (CA), Fountain (CO) and Lake Worth (FL) also passed similar ordinances this year, and Irvine (CA) will be voting on theirs this week, followed by Los Angeles.  One by one, cities are recognizing the importance of shutting off the supply of mill dogs coming into their communities.  It’s a major step in the fight against puppy mills.

  • Ionabardonnex

    i have a cat named patches and she had massive scabs when me and my mom went out to get cat food she scratched them off they got infected but we took her to the vets and stoped the infection but she cut open the skin that grew back and scince my mom is always working what do i do? ~ jade age 12

    • Dee

      Jade, call your vet back and explain what happened.  Its free to call them, and they can tell you the best course to take. 

  • Vanshell

    Wonderful news!  Cheers for the great voluteers!

  • Vanshell

    Wonderful news!  Cheers for the great voluteers!

  • Rivergull

    This is great news!   Let’s focus also on the shutting down of ONLINE pet shops, for surely we know where those cats and dogs are coming from.  Why it is even legal, I have no idea. 

  • Laurie

    BIG HUGE ‘THANK YOU’ to all you volunteers literally standing up for the ones with no voice! 

  • Joclaudia

    Hooray!  Also let’s commend Animal Legal Defense Fund.  Please consider contributing to that organization as well as ( but not in stead of) Best Friends.  They really get results that reach thousands.  

  • Vicki

    What a dedicated group of volunteers!!! Thank you sooo much for you do!!!!

  • Cj Madden

    While I am supportive of legal action against puppy mills, what about the puppies one finds in the pet store?  It is one thing to advocate adoption, but those helpless little animals in the pet store also deserve a chance.  What do you say about that?

    • Elizabeth Oreck

      Puppy mills are in business to supply pet stores. As long as consumers support this inhumane industry by purchasing puppies from those stores, hundreds of thousands of dogs will continue to suffer in mills. The puppies in pet shops are the lucky ones, as they have made it out of those facilities. It’s the countless breeding dogs left behind who pay the ultimate price, which is why we encourage people to consider adoption first when looking to bring a pet into the family.

    • Rninur2

      Dear Cj,  As soon as you save a pet store puppy they will refill the cage with another.  Someone has to stop this & not buying is the only way.  Eventually the puppy will get so old they will give it to a shelter, THEN YOU CAN BUY IT. 
       Don’t you realize part of your purchase money is going back to the puppy miller to keep that poor puppie’s mom locked up & abused.  What about her.  Who will save her if you keep giving those scum bags your money? 
       8 milliion pets euthanized each year.  Yet these irresponsible creeps keep pouring thousands upon thousands more into a society that does not have enough homes now.  You cannot put out a fire by pouring fuel on it.

  • Anonymous

    Great news.  Wonderful volunteers.  A reminder that it anything one can do to help animals, it all counts.  Just keep at it and good things will happen for these animals.  They are worth all our efforts.