Home > Backyard Breeders, Daisy, Lady, Pet News, Puppy Mills > Puppy Mills: Do you know what size cage would your dog live in? I do.

Puppy Mills: Do you know what size cage would your dog live in? I do.


I was all set to write about Puppy Mill Awareness Day on Sunday, but I was still mulling over some information I had learned from a link someone sent me. The link,  “According to the USDA, how much room does a puppy mill dog need?”, is to a page on the website for Animal Ark Shelter.

It’s a page that allows you to calculate the minimum amount of cage/kennel space your dog would need to meet the minimum USDA standards for licensed USDA breeders (i.e., puppy millers).  With just one number –  your dog’s measured length in inches, you can see what size cage your dog would live in if it were living in a puppy mill.

Keep in mind that this is the size cage your dog would live in for its whole life, as it bred litter after litter of puppies, puppies that are then sold in pet stores, and over the internet.

Having two former breeder dogs, both from puppy mills, I was more than interested to learn what the USDA deems as adequate housing (in this case, kennel space or cage size) for a dog owned by a USDA licensed puppy mill owner.

I measured Lady first. Using the visual guideline on the Animal Ark page, I measured her from nose to butt  – 32 inches. I then put the number into the calculator on their page and hit the Return key. Immediately, I got back the following information:

Lady = 32 inches

According to USDA regulations, she could live in a cage measuring   3.17 feet by 3.17 feet (or 38 inches by 38 inches), or 10 square feet of cage space. (For those who use the metric system, that is .96 meters by .96 meters.)

Next, I measured Daisy. She is approximately 37 inches in length.

Daisy = 37 inches

According to USDA regulations, Daisy could live in a cage measuring 3.58 feet by 3.58 feet (or 43 inches by 43 inches), or 12.84 square feet of cage space. (For those who use the metric system, that is 1.09 by 1.09 meters.)

What struck me first was the number of extra inches the USDA afforded Lady and Daisy (beyond their own body length in inches). The number was the same for each – 6 inches. That’s it. As puppy mill breeding dogs, Lady and Daisy were only required to have 6 extra inches in length and width, beyond their own actual body length. Wow. Can you imagine your dog living its whole life with 6 inches to spare on either side? I can’t.

In addition to that fact, the page also tells you that dogs in USDA licensed puppy mills are only required to have six inches of head room in their cages. Double wow.  So, dogs get 6 extra inches of head room and 6 extra inches in which to turn around in. How could anyone not think that was cruel? Add in the wire flooring that almost all puppy mill dogs stand on, and live on, for their WHOLE lives and you just have to wonder why anyone would want to support an industry like this. And yet, in the United States we do support it  – every single day.

Puppy Mill Awareness Day was created to educate people about the horrors of puppy mills. This post might seem like such a small piece of that bigger message we are trying to get out, but I hope it does one thing for those who read it. I hope it creates a visual of what life is like for those dogs sitting in puppy mill cages with 6 inches to spare.

Every puppy someone buys in a pet store is a vote to support puppy mills.

Every puppy someone purchases over the internet is a vote to support puppy mills.

Every decision made to buy a puppy from one of these places is supporting a cruel practice of keeping dogs in cages, with wire bottoms, and six inches to spare.

Please note: Many mill owners like to tout their USDA license with unsuspecting buyers to give them an air of legitimacy. Don’t buy it. “USDA licensed” does not equal “responsible breeder”. Having a USDA license only means the puppy miller is required to meet certain minimum care standards. Puppy millers who sell over the internet do not have to be USDA-licensed (as of today). They are not subject to any minimum care standards at all. This is why we are seeing more and more puppy millers moving their business to an internet-based one. As sellers of puppies over the internet, puppy millers are not subject to USDA inspection, nor do they have to follow any minimum care instructions when it comes to their dogs. Don’t buy over the internet.

Lady – Puppy mill survivor (cage space: 38 inches)

Daisy – Puppy mill survivor (cage size: 43 inches)

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  1. October 1, 2012 at 2:16 AM

    I wonder if those who made these rules would be willing to live under such condition. I think they should try.

    • Mel
      October 1, 2012 at 8:18 AM

      Not a bad idea Jana. Seriously. Not a bad idea at all.

  2. October 1, 2012 at 5:47 AM

    Truly excellent post and I found myself smacking my forehead with my palm. What a great way to get across to people the horror of the confinement present in puppy mill. Brilliant!

    • Mel
      October 1, 2012 at 8:17 AM

      Thank you Sue. You and I are motivated to educate people about puppy mills. I have seen many of your great posts too. So glad that you thought this one would resonate with people. I hope it does.

  3. October 1, 2012 at 7:11 AM

    Wow… this is a really powerful post and a smart way to get the message across.

    • Mel
      October 1, 2012 at 8:16 AM

      Thanks AJ. I hope it does. Sometimes seeing your own pet or yourself in those circumstances can make people see things from a different perspective.

    • Mel
      October 2, 2012 at 6:18 AM

      Thanks AJ. I hope it carries more punch than I hoped for.

  4. October 1, 2012 at 10:57 AM

    poor puppies!!!

  5. To Shea
    October 1, 2012 at 1:37 PM

    Puppy mills are so cruel!!! Only giving then 6 inches either way and just a wire floor. Poor puppies and the poor Mother who has to give birth in those conditions.
    When my wife and I bought Penny (yes I said bought), we had NO IDEA what a puppy mill was. This was back in 2004 and since then we have learned SO MUCH that we will NEVER go to pet store. We only go to shelter to adopt our next dog. I still think there are THOUSANDS of people who have no idea about the cruelty of puppy mills. I wish they would do a little bit of research before going to a pet shop.
    Thank You Mel for the interesting information..:-)
    Alex and Penny

    • Mel
      October 2, 2012 at 6:28 AM

      Yes they are Alex. Very cruel.

      I don’t think I really understood what a puppy mill was until I got older. I had heard of them and had an image in my mind of what they were, but I didn’t really know the conditions under which dogs were kept. Daisy changed all that for me.

      So many people don’t know about where pet store puppies come from or even what a puppy mill is – that’s why I continue to share information when I can. Thanks for being such loving parents to Penny, Alex. At least she is one puppy who has a forever home. Many pet store puppies are spur of the moment purchases and many end up in shelters in the end. There are some really great dogs in shelters and in rescues (rescues are great because they get a good sense of a dog’s temperament while they are in their foster home.

      My first dog was from a neighbor’s litter, but since then I have only adopted. I don’t regret it. Although each dog has been different, each has given me so much. I never thought I would ever adopt a Lab and yet, I have Daisy. Who would have ever guessed I would fall so in love with her? 🙂

  6. October 1, 2012 at 2:25 PM

    Thanks for this incredibly mind boggling post. Seeing the measurements really forces you to realize just how these dogs are living. Not just one day or one month, but their entire lives. I can’t even imagine what that would be like. It’s amazing any of these dogs have retained their sanities. Humans wouldn’t be nearly so resilient.

    Powerful indeed.

  7. October 1, 2012 at 8:09 PM

    That is so sad. Those kind of regulations need to be readdressed!

    • Mel
      October 1, 2012 at 10:24 PM

      I agree Gracie. It’s why I continue to share information on puppy mills and their connection to pet sores and online internet sites selling dogs. This is just plain cruel.

  8. October 2, 2012 at 9:30 AM

    Wow – That’s astonishing!! Even if I just think about how I sleep on my side with my paws stretched out I wouldn’t be able to do that in a cage – I also couldn’t even properly do my Yoga stretch that I do many times each day…..

    Thanks for your post, I have my paws crossed that all humans will start treating animals they way they would like to be treated if they were animals

    Wags to all,

    Your pal Snoopy 🙂

    • Mel
      October 2, 2012 at 9:55 PM

      Thanks Snoopy. I would hate to think o a cute pup like you not being able to stretch out. I would hate to see you in a cage too. Let’s hope and pray that day happens soon. 🙂

  9. Lis
    October 2, 2012 at 11:27 AM

    awwwww so cute they could be on uk’s next top dog lolxx :p

  10. Lynn
    October 2, 2012 at 5:56 PM

    When I think of Lady and Daisy in cages as you described, I just shudder. They are so lucky to have you for a mom, Mel!

    • Mel
      October 2, 2012 at 9:42 PM

      Thank you Lynn, but I feel like the lucky one. They have taught me so much.

  11. October 2, 2012 at 8:00 PM

    Mel, the cycle is so confusing. If we adopt from rescues, and if the dog was rescued from puppy mills, isn’t it the same thing? Or, for example, the Peke rescue folks drove down to an auction, and purchased “breeders,” and brought them back here for spay/adoption… how is that any different, if the auctioneers got their money? I know of course, that those 8 dogs are now spayed, but the auctioneers got their money….Also, these dopes who don’t spay and their dog “gets loose” and oops, pregnant, what should happen to the puppies? Of course someone should adopt them. How can we stop this really? What should happen to these poor doggies? For example, pet store doggies – if no one buys them, should they die? Or keep breeding?

    • Mel
      October 2, 2012 at 9:39 PM

      All great questions Natasha. I struggle with these questions too. It’s a double-edged sword. Do you save the ones you know are going to be auctioned off so they can live in another cage in another location for the rest of their lives all the while knowing that money goes to those who perpetuate puppy mills? Or, do you leave them to live a life of misery because you know giving these people money perpetuates the problem? It’s a conundrum.

      In regards to pet store puppies, I recommend reading my recent post on just this topic: The biggest lie pet stores tell you Despite what people think (and what pet stores want you to think), puppy mill puppies are not killed if they don’t sell right away.

      As you so astutely pointed out, the puppy mill puppies sold in pet stores are not as big a problem (from a population standpoint) as the “Oops!” issue is in relation to the millions of cats and dogs killed in our shelters today. More dogs are obtained from people who didn’t spay or neuter their pet or from someone who wanted to breed their dog so their kids “could see the miracle of birth” than from pet stores. But, the cruelty dogs suffer in puppy mills is something I am very passionate about. I have two former mill dogs of my own – Daisy and Lady. I have seen the debilitating fear in a puppy mill dog’s eyes. It is something that one cannot describe. Some day, maybe I can spend as much time on the other issues as I do puppy mills, but, until puppy mills go away it will be my one major focus.

      Thank you for asking such great questions. I don’t have all the answers, but I love it when you or someone else engages in the discussion. Thank you.

  12. October 3, 2012 at 8:30 AM

    Amazing post. The worst of it is many don’t even bother to meet these minimum standards. I know most people are just ignorant of the implications of buying a pet store puppy, but that’s why your post is so important. Maybe one less person will buy into this industry and choose to adopt. And they say a person is 3 times as likely to adopt if one of their friends or family does. Little by little we all will turn the tide away from these factories of abuse. With no revenue the whole business of selling dogs will end.

  13. September 3, 2015 at 8:04 AM

    My neighbor is a backyard breeder and sell puppies on internet It keeps the puppies in a trailer for long time with no natural light or this puppies never see the outside world
    The animal control officer tried to enter the property but they where refused
    THE BREEDERS ARE UNDER INVESTIGATION AND THEY ARE APPLYING FOR A LICENSE FROM USDA
    I am sure they will get the license because USDA DON’T CARE

  1. October 4, 2012 at 1:06 AM
  2. October 7, 2012 at 11:34 PM
  3. February 25, 2013 at 10:32 PM

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