Puppy Mills

Animals in Need

Puppies are irresistible. With their cute, round bellies, floppy ears and tiny paws, it’s easy to understand why so many Kiwis have canine family members.


Look online and you’ll find oodles of spoodles, cavoodles and labradoodles, all fighting for your attention. Hypoallergenic, non-shedding breeds, miniature breeds, teacup breeds and designer crossbreeds – all are available at the click of a button.  But behind the cuteness lies a big problem.

Take Action

  • Don’t buy animals. Save a life — adopt from an animal shelter or rescue organisation.
  • Write or call your local pet shops:
    • Ask them where they source their animals.
    • Request they do not source their animals from puppy mills and instead help shelter animals.
    • Ask that they desex and vaccinate all animals before adopting and screen potential adopters.
  • Write a letter to the editor of your local paper asking members of the public to adopt a rescued dog from their local animal shelter rather than buying from a pet shop or breeder.

Backyard breeders

Backyard breeding is rife in New Zealand, and while it’s a big moneymaker for some, it’s the animals who pay the real price. Investigations have uncovered squalid backyard operations with multiple dogs living in shocking conditions.

Log on to Trade Me, type in ‘puppies,’ and you’re a few clicks away from being able to purchase a dog. Any dog. From miniature toy breeds to St Bernards. Puppies range in price from $100 to $4,000, and there are few regulations with which breeders need to comply. Some sellers have multiple litters of a range of different breeds listed, clearly indicating that they are a big operation.

Mother dogs used for breeding are often subjected to multiple, consecutive pregnancies until they are ‘spent’ meaning their bodies are exhausted and drained. Puppies are sold without being de-sexed, to anyone who can pay, sometimes with no checks into the potential new owner’s home or history.

Irresponsible breeding

Inbreeding can result in a multitude of health problems, passed on through generations. Many genetic deformities do not become apparent until the dog is older, resulting in unsuspecting buyers facing substantial vet bills and heartbreaking decisions.

Puppies bought online may be unsocialised, some having been removed from their mothers too early, resulting in puppies missing out on vital early learning. As few puppies sold online are desexed when sold, there is nothing to stop the puppy’s new owner from eventually breeding from their new dog, adding to the population problem.

Short-nosed (Brachycephalic) breeds

Brachycephalic dogs, such as pugs and French and English bulldogs, suffer daily from breathing problems due to their shortened noses and restricted airways. The New Zealand Veterinary Association has described the life of these breeds as like “spending your whole day trying to breathe through a pillow.”

In March 2018, Trade Me banned the sale of pugs, British bulldogs and French bulldogs, including crossbreeds. This was an important step in helping to educate people about the suffering of these breeds, but there is still a lot of work to do to get this information out into the mainstream.

Shelters overflowing

Thousands of dogs find their way to shelters every year in New Zealand. Unwanted litters, dogs unclaimed from the pound and surrendered ‘pets’ make up the majority of shelter dogs looking for new homes. But not all dogs can easily be rehomed, particularly dogs who have never been socialised, are old or have suffered abuse. Some dogs, such as bull breeds are often rejected simply because of the misleading way the media portrays them.

Many shelter workers must make heartbreaking decisions as they decide which dogs have a reasonable chance of finding a home and are therefore worthy of a space in the shelter.
Sadly, large numbers of dogs will never find loving homes and meet their fate with a lethal injection. Meanwhile, puppy mills continue to recklessly breed thousands of new dogs for profit.

New Zealand law

Sadly, there are very few regulations that apply to the breeding and sale of companion animals. Almost anybody can breed and sell dogs with no experience whatsoever.
However, some things are slowly changing for the better. Pet shops are increasingly moving away from selling pets sourced from breeders and are instead working with shelters such as the SPCA to rehome more animals. This ensures that animals are desexed, fully vaccinated, wormed and microchipped before going to their new homes.

Good breeders?

Not all breeders are irresponsible, however the existence of dog breeders, even of the reputable kind, sadly feeds the problem of supply exceeding demand.
Thousands of unwanted dogs are killed annually in New Zealand because of overpopulation. Dog-rescue centres and council-run pounds are overflowing with adoptable dogs. After seven days of holding an animal, pounds are legally allowed to rehome or kill the animal.
The only way to prevent the deaths of tens of thousands of companion animals is not to support animal breeders. Instead, adopt a rescued animal from a shelter and make a lifelong commitment to your new best friend.

Adopt, don’t shop

Whether it’s a puppy or an older dog stealing your heart, you’ll be sure to find your forever friend by adopting from a shelter.

Finding the right fit is important, as some dogs require a lot more exercise than others. High energy dogs like border collies are ideal running buddies, while greyhounds love a good nap.
Due to public misconceptions around bull breeds, shelters are often full of these chunky, misunderstood cuddle sponges. Elderly dogs often find themselves at shelters due to their human companions moving into a care facility where animals are not allowed.

When you adopt a dog from a shelter, whether a puppy or an older dog, something wonderful happens – you give someone a second chance at life and make a public stand against the unnecessary breeding of dogs.

Donate today

Help us continue helping animals in need

As a charity, SAFE is reliant on the support of caring people like you to carry out our valuable work. Every gift goes towards providing education, undertaking research and campaigning for the benefit of all animals. SAFE is a registered charity in New Zealand (CC 40428). Contributions of $5 or more are tax-deductible.