New Federal Regulation Is a Win Against Overseas Puppy Mills

Last Updated on July 2, 2021 by

Editor’s note: At least one of the images below is somewhat graphic, so reader discretion is advised.

August saw a win for the fight against puppy mills. On Friday, Aug. 15, ABC news reported that the U.S. Department of Agriculture “approved a regulation that will require all imported puppies to be at least six months old, healthy, and up-to-date on vaccinations.” According to the Humane Society of the United States, this is one of two huge steps forward for animals from the USDA in the past year. In September 2013, the USDA ruled that all breeders who sell puppies and kittens sight unseen (such as through the Internet) must be federally licensed and inspected. These are both major victories for the Humane Society Legislative Fund, the political arm of HSUS, and animal advocates as a whole.

This announcement hits home with me, as I’ve had a experience with an imported puppy. I didn’t come to know the dog until she was more than a year old, but her story still struck a sorrowful note with me. Tom, whose name has been changed to protect his identity, bought a solid white English Bulldog from someone who called himself a breeder overseas. He spent about $2,500 on the puppy. Unbeknownst to Tom, the breeder put the very young puppy in a crate and sent her over in the cargo hold, where the pressure caused her ear drums to burst, leaving her  deaf in both ears.


As she grew older, Tom became frustrated when she continually had accidents in the house and “wouldn’t listen,” resulting in Tom making her live outside. His vet revealed that his dog was deaf. Tom was furious. The breeder offered to send him another puppy, but Tom said his family was already attached to this one. He decided to breed her to “at least get his money back out of her.”

Before the puppies were born, Tom approached me and asked if I could find a home for his Bulldog. He said that he was “tired of her” and “just couldn’t do anything with her.” I immediately contacted Georgia English Bulldog Rescue. Everything was set for the group to take the dog in, but Tom stalled. He wanted to wait for the puppies to be born. The rescue stressed to Tom how important it was that they get the dog as soon as possible, or at least let the vet watch her until her pregnancy was completed, as a C-section would certainly be necessary. Tom refused, and the poor dog went into labor outside while the family was at work. By the time anyone arrived, she had died.

Sad Beagle in cage by Shutterstock.
Sad Beagle in cage by Shutterstock.

While that tragedy involved a terrible owner as well as an overseas puppy mill, I believe that is exactly the kind of thing we’ll see less of with this new rule. Each year, thousands of tiny puppies were being shipped over from China, eastern Europe and Mexico. Packed into “crowded, filthy tubs with little or no food or water,” the puppies often arrive very ill or dead, according to the HSUS. These puppies are also often very young, barely weaned from their mothers, and far too young to handle vaccines. Not only are they adding to the already burdensome population we have in the United States, but they pose a serious health risk to people and pets alike.

This puppy mill Yorkie was photographed by USDA inspectors in 2011. The breeder refused to get treatment for the dog repeatedly. Photo courtesy HSUS.
This puppy mill Yorkie was photographed by USDA inspectors in 2011. The breeder refused to get treatment for the dog repeatedly. Photo courtesy HSUS.

HSUS President and CEO Wayne Pacelle shared the touching story Otis on the organization’s blog. Otis was bred in Russia, then sent to Pennsylvania when he was only six weeks old. He died before he even reached eight months of age, after suffering “numerous infections and genetic problems, including roundworms, coccidia, severe allergies, tremor, an enlarged heart and persistent drug-resistant pneumonia.”

The HSUS and other animal advocacy groups have been pushing the USDA to put a stop to importing puppies from overseas for years, even working to include a provision in the 2008 Farm Bill. The video below shows some of the organization’s efforts against domestic puppy mills. It follows the story of one dog rescued from a puppy mill named Ricky Bobby.

The rule that the USDA finalized last week was first proposed in September 2011. Of note, the USDA did make a significant move forward to crack down on Internet puppy mills in September 2013. Now it has another weapon in its arsenal to stop puppy mills and the havoc they wreak on dogs and cats.

Read more about puppy mills on Dogster:

Learn more about dogs with Dogster:

About Meghan Lodge: Fits the Aquarius definition to a fault, loves animals, and is always pushing for change. Loves ink, whether it’s in tattoos, books, or writing on that pretty sheet of blank paper. Proud parent of Toby (cat) and Axle (dog). I’m a former quiet nerd who’s turned bubbly animal-obsessed advocate.

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