Looking for a New Pup? Beware of Puppy Mills & Backyard Breeders!


September 17, 2011 – 527 dogs were seized from a Quebec puppy mill making it one of the largest seizures of puppy mill dogs in Canadian history. Over ninety of those were puppies. The rest would have been the breeding dogs as well as many pregnant ones.

Quebec is home to the largest number of puppy mills in Canada, numbering around 2,000 mills.

This particular mill, Paws’R’Us Kennels, in Shawville, had been a family run business for over 16 years and long suspected of being a mill. It was one of the worst that the very experienced Quebec Humane Society members had ever dealt with. Living conditions for these dogs were filthy and inhumane. The dogs were lacking in basic medical care and suffering from many types of diseases, malnourishment and untreated medical conditions. They also had not received adequate socialization. Ontario is another province where the sale of dogs from mills is a major problem.


Ironically the seizure took place before Quebec’s outdated animal cruelty laws were being

revised. The owners only received a $10,000 fine, and a two year ban on having a commercial breeding facility. Quebec Humane Society officials were outraged. Had the seizure taken place later with the new laws in effect, they could have received a lifetime ban on owning any animals and up to a $75,000 fine. The family could now be back in business of selling puppies again in as little as two years.


Many Canadian provinces have older laws that don’t have much use in today’s society. They don’t give enough protection to the animals in these predicaments. Humane societies and provincial SPCA’s have their hands tied in that they can only do so much when it comes to getting onto a  business property (or home owners for that matter) and seizing animals that need better living conditions and care. A lot of people mistakenly believe that these organizations actually make the laws, the reality is that they can only enforce existing laws which are terribly archaic.

Pets or pet ‘livestock’ are viewed as personal property and treated as such.

This article won’t delve into the laws and lack thereof for companion animals and the possibility of future laws coming into effect that may someday treat animals like sentient beings, but will hopefully be of some help when looking to add a pup or dog to your family.

You need to avoid being scammed by unethical breeders – be it a backyard breeder, a broker or middleman or buying online and finding out that it wasn’t a nice family home that your new pup came from, but the dreaded commercial breeder also known as the puppy mill.


The problem with getting a puppy from one of these places is that it not only perpetuates the vicious cycle of keeping these terrible folks in business, it keeps the breeding dogs and their puppies living in horrible conditions, without proper care and ultimately suffering. On top of that, the new owner may end up with a dog that has nothing but health problems and could end up spending thousands of dollars at the veterinary clinic with ongoing health issues. A lot of these dogs may also have behavioral problems such as being fearful, aggressive or neurotic.

Never, ever buy a puppy from a pet store – it is fairly certain that it is from a puppy mill. No ethical breeder would ever sell their puppies through a pet store! Pet store owners and staff will deny they are from mills. Richmond, BC became the first city in Canada to ban the sale of puppies in pet stores. Hopefully many other cities will take the same initiative.

British Columbia has its share of backyard breeders and mills. A backyard breeder is someone who may just breed one, two, three dogs twice a year, every year. It is all for the money and not to better the breed or have healthy puppies. The dogs are typically not well cared for as the backyard breeder’s goal is ultimately to make quick money, of course at the expense of the dog’s well being. You will find these pups usually on places like Craigslist, Kijiji etc. They may claim the dogs are purebred, but have no papers.

kijiji_puppy for sale

Many unethical breeders will also not vaccinate puppies or will offer up phony veterinarian vaccine records. These puppies are at major risk for contracting highly contagious diseases like parvovirus and distemper. Both are fatal unless treated. They will continue breeding the adults for as long as they can, well past when they should have stopped. I have met people who adopted pups from dogs who were still being forced to have puppies at 11 years of age! Puppy millers do the same thing. There are a lot of senior dogs locked up, breeding until the day they die or when they can no longer produce, are taken out back, killed or simply left to die.

There are also the middlemen or brokers as they are called. They will deal with the backyard breeders who are on a larger scale or perhaps some outlying small puppy mill. Their job is to ‘flip’ or sell as many puppies as they can. If you went to someone’s home to see one of these pups you would possibly see several breeds of young dogs for sale and no adults anywhere. These pups have been transported to a more convenient area to be able to list them online and have people buy them right away. They have likely traveled a few hours from small towns where having an over the limit number of dogs on the property is not strictly regulated and difficult to monitor.


Beware the puppy websites! These typically may look like the pups are from a home, they have pictures of the parents and a number of puppies for sale. It looks small, homey and just right. They’ll probably respond to any email queries fairly quickly. However behind the scenes it is just a slick website with a large puppy mill supplying these animals. They will be more than happy to ship a tiny young puppy, across Canada from Ontario all the way to the west coast. Sadly, the numbers of puppies (called the puppy trade) from these horrid places has gone up by almost 300% over the last few years, in part mostly due to online sales.

So – just how does one find a reputable breeder and not a pup from the above mentioned scenarios? First, you’ve done your research and have narrowed down what type of breed of dog you want. Then, it’s on to find a reputable breeder or source, which could even be your local SPCA, pound or a dog rescue. Mixed breed dogs make great pets too so don’t overlook those. There are so many wonderful puppies and dogs of all ages out there looking for lifelong homes.

Good luck in your search for your new family member!

About the author

author avatar

, has worked in the veterinary industry for over seventeen years. Working in various vet clinics as an in-house technician, assistant and receptionist, Vicki realized she preferred working in the front of the clinic. She really enjoyed helping the clients, instead of working in the back of the clinic wrestling large naughty dogs, negotiating with strong willed cats, and pacifying grumpy veterinarians. Animals have always been a passion of hers since she was young and there is always something new to learn about them! Taking a break from veterinary medicine, Vicki has also worked two years as an assistant in a human naturopathic clinic, working with people as patients and getting to know more about human health. And the benefits of eating more vegetables and a lot less chocolate bars. Vicki now works in the retail pet industry where she gets to help pet owners select good diets and products for their pets. She resides with the very handsome and senior SPCA cat Milton, and two fascinating Siamese Fighting Fish, Finnigan and Mick.

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