Five-Year Study of Nearly 2,500 Puppy Buyer Complaints Released
Study highlights illnesses of puppies bought online, in pet stores, or through direct sales

September 14, 2012

Analysis of nearly 2,500 complaints received between 2007 and 2011 from consumers who contacted The Humane Society of the United States after experiencing problems with puppies they purchased who are believed to be from puppy mills found serious medical issues that should concern anyone considering buying a dog from a pet store or online. An overwhelming 91 percent of the complaints involved illnesses or congenital disorders that required veterinary care or shortened the life of the puppy, including 350 complaints that involved a puppy who died soon after purchase.

“Many people don't realize that when they buy a puppy from a pet store or online they are likely supporting a puppy mill,” said Melanie Kahn, senior director of The HSUS Puppy Mills Campaign. “Some buyers reported spending thousands of dollars trying to save the life of a sick puppy, with a few spending more than $10,000 in veterinary bills.” The 2,479 complaints represent only a sample of problems experienced by puppy buyers across the country. Many buyers do not contact The HSUS and instead report complaints to the seller, to local agencies, or not at all.

“Because infectious diseases in puppies may have an incubation period of up to two weeks, many puppies appear healthy at the time of purchase, only to become sick later,” said Susan B. Krebsbach, DVM, veterinary advisor with the Humane Society Veterinary Medical Association. “Conditions at puppy mills such as extreme overcrowding and lack of veterinary oversight often lead to an environment where diseases spread easily.”

An analysis of all complaints to The HSUS found that:

  • Forty percent of the complaints involved puppies with illnesses such as parasites, respiratory illnesses, and infectious diseases such as parvovirus and canine distemper.
  • Thirty four percent of the complaints involved a puppy suffering from a significant congenital or inherited condition, including seizures, skeletal disorders, hernias, heart murmurs and liver disease.
  • Fifteen percent of the puppies died shortly after purchase, and two percent were returned to the seller due to their illness or disorder.
  • The remaining complaints were about temperament issues, puppies who arrived in filthy condition, and other problems.
  • Florida had the highest number of consumers submitting complaints to The HSUS, followed by Ohio and Illinois.
  • States whose businesses, including breeders, brokers and pet stores, generated the most complaints (from buyers in all states) were Missouri, Florida and Ohio.
  • The highest number of complaints about puppies purchased from pet stores involved stores located in Florida, Ohio, Illinois, Pennsylvania, New York, Michigan, Texas, California, Wisconsin and Indiana.
  • Missouri generated the highest number of complaints about both breeders and brokers. This is consistent with analysis of state and federal records which has shown that Missouri is one of the top puppy-producing states. After Missouri, the top states for breeder complaints were Oklahoma, Texas, Ohio, and Arkansas.

HSVMA and The HSUS urge families who want a dog to consider adoption from a shelter or pet rescue group, or buy only from a responsible breeder whom they have met in person. By taking the time to find a healthy puppy from a reputable source, families can avoid the heartache of purchasing a sick or dying puppy and from contributing to the cycle of abuse at puppy mills.

Read the full summary of puppy buyer complaints»

To learn more about how to get a puppy, go to To learn more about puppy mills, or to report a complaint about a sick puppy, go to

Media Contact: Rebecca Basu: 240-753-4875, [email protected]