A sad looking dog in puppy factory looking at the camera through a gap in the concrete and wire enclosure.

Puppy mills or ‘puppy farms’ in Australia: Do they still exist?

Investigations continue to reveal widespread puppy farm cruelty. See the truth behind the glossy ads, and how you can help.

Animals Australia

Animals Australia team

Last updated April 19, 2024

At  ‘best’,  puppy farms (also called puppy mills or puppy factories) use dogs as breeding machines – and deprive them of the love and companionship every one of them needs. At worst, they can be a living hell for the animals confined within them.

Dogs in puppy factories – also known as puppy mills – will never chase a ball at the park, never run on the beach and never have the opportunity to curl up on the couch at night with their human family.  In puppy mills, these animals are deprived of even their most basic needs – frequent food, water, medical care, and the very thing they have evolved to crave from us: care and companionship.

Investigations in 2015 revealed dogs being kept in what can only be described as ‘upright tombs’, denied sunlight, and forced to eat, sleep and ‘live’ in faeces-littered cages.  Sadly, almost 10 years later, investigations show puppy factories (which are sometimes also called puppy ‘farms’) are still strongly in operation throughout Australia.

Are puppy mills illegal in Australia?

The Australia Veterinary Association defines puppy mills, or farms, as ‘the intensive breeding of dogs, who live in inappropriate conditions which fail to meet the behavioural, social and physiological needs of the animal.’ [1]

But whilst that may sound like it should be illegal,  many people are rightly shocked to learn that the cruelty inherent in puppy mills – intensive breeding, lack of exercise and medical care, minimal human interaction and zero social enrichment – can all be entirely legal.

Victoria was the first state in Australia to pass meaningful legislation that mitigates some of the problems associated with puppy farming, including a cap on the number of dogs who can be bred, and how many ‘staff’ are required per dog. Western Australia was the second state to pass legislation banning the sale of puppies in pet shops and cracking down on puppy factories.

But the legislation still contains loopholes and doesn’t prevent dogs from puppy mills being sold online and shipped interstate.

While some Australian puppy factories do breach cruelty laws, many others operate completely within regulations – but that doesn’t mean they are nice places for dogs. For example, in South Australia, it can be legal to keep a mother dog confined to a barren concrete cell in a shed for 23 hours a day, forcing her to give birth to litter after litter of puppies, and denying her everything that makes her life worth living.

Legislation was introduced in Victoria to help stamp out puppy farming, but puppy farmers who wanted to keep profiting off puppies simply moved across the border to NSW where the laws are weaker. Despite the 2021 NSW puppy farming inquiry and updates to the legislation to try to address intensive puppy farming in some states, other states have done very little to protect the welfare of dogs and unsuspecting buyers from buying into cruelty:

  • In Tasmania, Queensland and South Australia, there is still no cap on how many dogs a puppy farmer can have as ‘breeders’ and how many litters they are allowed.
  • Some states even allow back-to-back breeding, meaning the mother dog is constantly pregnant (although a dog should never be forced to give birth only to have her puppies taken away, the RSPCA advises a female dog should only ever have a maximum of five litters over her entire lifetime – a figure that’s regularly exploited by puppy farmers).

How many puppies in Australia come from puppy farms?

It may come as a shock to caring dog lovers to discover that many of Australia’s puppies sold online or in pet shops were born in inhumane puppy factories like those pictured above.

  • According  to the Pet Industry Association of Australia (PIAA), around 450,000 puppies are sold in Australia each year.
  • Only approximately 15% of puppies are purchased through pet shops, with the vast majority of purchases happening online.
  • 43% of puppies purchased are from people who are registered as a breeder in their state or territory. But, only around 15% of those puppies purchased are bought from breeders registered with Australia’s peak companion animal breeding associations.

Online sales are totally unregulated. Each day, sites like The Trading Post and Gumtree offer thousands of puppies for sale, with concerns that many of these puppies come from puppy factories.  

Puppy farmers know that caring people would be horrified to see the true conditions their dogs are kept and living in. Selling through pet shops or online allows unscrupulous breeders to hide from unsuspecting customers where these puppy mill puppies are born, and how their parents and siblings are treated. They may employ fancy websites and glossy ads of happy, healthy dogs, and even offer to ‘deliver the pup to you’ or meet you at your local park. These can all be considered ‘red flags’, potentially indicating a seller is not willing to have you see where the puppy is born, or the conditions in which they live.

Can I avoid supporting a puppy farm by purchasing from a ‘registered’ breeder?

Many people look for ‘registered’ breeders to avoid buying from puppy factories, but the term in itself, sadly, is no guarantee. Current laws are inadequate and oversight to ensure compliance of breeders with these laws is minimal. Inhumane puppy mills may simply be ‘registered’ as a business or registered as a commercial dog breeding facility (a breeder). Even registration with official dog breeding associations does not always ensure appropriate treatment.

This image contains content which some may find confronting

A dog is peering out from behind a wood and wire cage. The only light is coming from the camera taking the photo.
Just because a breeder is a 'registered', or breeds 'show' dogs, doesn't necessarily mean they aren't playing host to a puppy factory. This beautiful girl was discovered inside a puppy factory operated by a well known pedigree show dog breeder in Victoria.

What about ‘pedigree’ breeders?

Pedigree is another word for ‘pure-bred’ – specific breeds may be desired for appearance and traits, but the lack of genetic diversity within breeds can increase their risk of inherited diseases.

Pedigree dog breeders are members of canine associations and their peak body, the Australian National Kennel Council (ANKC). The ANKC’s Code of Ethics states members should not breed or sell dogs specifically for the commercial pet market. However, membership with a canine association is not a guarantee in itself that the conditions in which the dogs are raised and housed are appropriate. A responsible pedigree or registered dog breeder will vet you as stringently as you vet them. They will be open to questions, to property visits, and to meeting parent dogs.

Is the puppy farming problem specific to one breed?

No. This is about the breeder, not the breed.

Investigations into puppy factories reveal that both ‘pure-bred’ and mixed-breed dogs are victims of puppy farming. 

Popular cross-breeds such as spoodles, cavoodles, labradoodles and Shih Tzu-Maltese crosses are routinely produced in puppy factories. However, as shown in our TV ad, and as investigations have revealed, pure breeds such as labradors, golden retrievers, boxers, spaniels, cavaliers, pugs, beagles and even border collies have been found in puppy factories. No breed or cross-breed is safe from unscrupulous breeders, which is why dogs need the community to be vigilant if inhumane puppy factories are to be stamped out.

There are lots of ways you can help end this puppy farming cruelty. Watch this video, then read on to find out how you can help.

How do puppy farms fuel another animal welfare crisis in Australia?

In 2020, the COVID pandemic created a record boom in the pet industry. Studies are still being conducted to confirm if this led to a surge in puppy farms operating in Australia (as was the case in Europe). Of Australia’s estimated 4.6 million pet dogs, an astounding one in five have been acquired since the pandemic began.

With travel restrictions and lockdowns preventing people from buying their new puppy in person, many of Australia’s ‘pandemic’ puppies were purchased online. Sadly, the excitement of people buying their new puppy from online ads was quickly followed by a surge in reports of sick animals, high veterinary fees, as well as ongoing medical and emotional costs.

The surge in dogs purchased during the pandemic created a very real problem for dogs and puppies today. In 2022 alone, 19,221 dogs were surrendered to the RSPCA.

But it’s not just the pandemic alone that caused this problem. Puppy mills often produce more puppies than there is demand for. Many dogs often fetch prices of over $3,000 dollars or more, so the more puppy ‘farmed’ puppies a breeder can sell, the more profit they rake in.  For years before the pandemic hit, puppy farmers were the cause of a mass overbreeding of dogs, which saw many animals find their way from breeder to shelter.

Along with cost-of-living pressures causing another surge in surrenders of people’s beloved pets, shelters across the country are now so overwhelmed with cats and dogs they do not have room to take on any more animals, and tragically many resort to euthanasia.

How can I help end puppy mill cruelty?

Puppy farming is another classic case that shows the detrimental consequences of what happens when profits are prioritised over animals and their welfare. All animals deserve to be treated with kindness and compassion.  And dogs, who know us so well, and who we’ve shared a friendship and a bond with for over 15,000 years, deserve much better than this.

While the problem may seem big – changing it – starts with simple but powerful action from us. Here is what you can do to help end puppy factory cruelty now, and pave a path to a kinder world for dogs everywhere:

  • Take simple and direct action. One of the simplest and most direct actions you can take to end puppy factory cruelty is to adopt from a rescue group or shelter.
  • Our humanity and natural compassion means we will always want to help animals in need. But buying a puppy from a puppy farm is not rescuing the dog (as much as it might feel like it is). If you come across a questionable breeder, or something just doesn’t feel right, report them to the RSPCA immediately. You can also lodge an anonymous tip-off to Oscar’s Law.
  • Knowledge is power. So many unsuspecting people don’t know or have the tools to identify a puppy farm. And laws have left dogs and puppies exposed to cruelty. It’s up to compassionate Australians just like you to change the future for dogs everywhere. And by reading this article, you’ve already begun.
  • Share this article with family and friends to help spread the word about puppy farm cruelty and how they can help stop it! 
  • Call it out and speak up for them. If you’ve read this article and feel concerned that you live in a state that exposes dogs to cruelty through lacklustre laws, write to your state MP. Let your state MP know your thoughts and expectations for how dogs in your state should be protected from breeding cruelty.

Pledge to rescue and adopt.

By adopting your next four-legged best friend, you will not only ensure you avoid supporting a cruel puppy factory – you will also save a life. Rescued companions come in all shapes, sizes, breeds, ages, and are suitable for every lifestyle and home. All they are missing is someone to love.

I pledge to never support puppy factories and when I’m looking for a new furry family member I will adopt, not shop!

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  1. Australian Veterinary Association – Policy on puppy farming (ratification date 29 July 2016).