Major Investigation Into Puppy Mills; How To Avoid Online Traps

Clubs and Organizations

December 11, 2012

A new investigation into online puppy sales highlights the problem of the Internet being used as a tool for exploiting dogs and consumers.

To bring awareness to the magnitude of the issue, the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW- ) today released its latest investigative report, How Much is that Doggie on my Browser? The Truth Behind Online Puppy Sales , marking the first publicly available large-scale examination of the connection between Internet puppy sales and suspected puppy mill operations.

The one-day investigation focused on over 12,000 advertisements representing a total of over half a million puppies for sale on nine major buyer-seller Internet websites on just one day.  Six of these sites are dedicated primarily to the puppy market and three offer puppies amongst a variety of other commodities.

Employing the criteria set forth by a panel of experts, investigators further isolated the nearly 10,000 ads from the six puppy-specific websites and found that 62% of the ads qualified as "likely puppy mills."

"Consumers opting to purchase puppies over the Internet are duped into believing they are buying from reputable breeders," said Ben Stein, Honorary Member, IFAW Board of Directors. "The cute puppy images shown on many seller websites hide the heartbreaking reality of the overcrowded and unsanitary conditions in which the dogs are housed."

Lacking the regulation assigned to some brick-and-mortar establishments, the Internet has become a preferred platform for unscrupulous commercial facilities to sell puppies directly to  innocent consumers who are unwittingly supporting the puppy mill industry.

"Most federal regulations designed to address the puppy trade pre-date the Internet and are insufficient in addressing the specific issues relating to online puppy sales," noted Tracy Coppola, IFAW Campaigns Officer. "We launched our investigation to determine the scope and scale of the trade in an effort to better inform decision-makers as they are currently considering new policies to eliminate loopholes allowing this practice to continue."

The report also recommends that websites strengthen efforts to shut down puppy mill advertisements.

According to a recent survey from the American Pet Products Association, the number of dogs living in U.S. homes is at an all-time high -- more than 78 million and growing.

"As America 's demand for pet dogs grows, so does the number of online puppy sales," added Jeff Flocken, DC Office Director, IFAW.  "This holiday season and beyond, we hope that consumers looking to add a new puppy to their family will not fall victim to the deceptive practices of puppy mill operators over the Internet. Instead, they should proactively take a stand against puppy mills by always adopting from local shelters, responsible local breeders and rescue facilities."

The exploitation of animals over the Internet is not limited to dogs and other domestic animals.  Since 2004, IFAW has performed numerous investigations on Internet wildlife trade; and its investigative report, Killing with Keystrokes , convinced eBay to institute a global ban on the sale of ivory products from its website.

To download a full copy of How Much is that Doggie on My Browser? The Truth Behind Online Puppy Sales , please visit .

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About IFAW (the International Fund for Animal Welfare) 
Founded in 1969, IFAW saves animals in crisis around the world. With projects in more than 40 countries, IFAW rescues individual animals, works to prevent cruelty to animals, and advocates for the protection of wildlife and habitats. For more information, visit . Follow us on Facebook and Twitter .

IFAW Online Investigations, 2004-2012 : 
2004: Elephants on the High Street: an investigation into ivory trade in the UK documented the vast quantities of ivory illegally sold over the Internet with little or no monitoring or law enforcement.

2005: Caught in the Web: Wildlife Trade on the Internet found more than 9,000 wild animals and animal products for sale in just 1 week. Significantly, this only counted English language Internet sites and was only monitoring 5 categories of protected species.

2006: Dutch Animal Trade Survey 2006: Caught in the Web reported on the legal and illegal trade in wild animals on private and commercial Dutch-language web sites. In 1 month alone, more than 150 Dutch-language sites were found selling products from endangered species.

2007: The IFAW global follow-up report, Bidding for Extinction , revealed a rampant trade in elephant ivory across eBay's global network of auction sites. A one-week snapshot survey tracked more than 2,275 ivory items for sale on eight national eBay web sites ( UK , Australia , China , Germany , Netherlands , France , Canada and USA ).

2008: IFAW embarked upon the largest investigation the organization had ever attempted to understand the scale of the Internet wildlife trade. The resulting  report, Killing with Keystrokes , presented some astonishing findings.  In the course of six weeks, IFAW found more than 7,000 wild animals and animal products for sale online and tracked more than US $30 million worth of advertised animal products.

2011:  IFAW followed up on Killing with Keystrokes (2008) with Killing with Keystrokes 2.0: IFAW's investigation into the European online ivory trade .  The investigation took place over a two-week time frame and surveyed websites in the UK , France , Germany , Portugal , Spain and Germany .  The survey found a thriving trade in ivory items including more than 660 items with a total advertising value of almost €650,000.00 across a variety of European websites .