Puppy Mill Investigation Reveals Squalor, Neglect, Lack of Oversight at Flea Markets

By on September 16, 2015 with 14 Comments By Wayne Pacelle

Today, The HSUS released a new hidden camera investigation focusing on puppy mill dogs sold through flea markets – one of the least known and most unregulated commercial sales venues for this despicable trade. Our investigator visited 21 different flea markets in 10 states that allow vendors to sell puppies, as well as dozens of dog breeding kennels that sell puppies at the markets. The undercover footage documents numerous animal welfare concerns:

  • Many vendors who sell puppies at flea markets maintain kennels that display all the features of puppy mills. Our investigator found breeding dogs confined in rusty wire cages no bigger than a rabbit hutch, and kept within outdoor chain link pens peppered with feces. Many dogs get little or no human contact or socialization, while some showed showed signs of illness. A vendor at the Curry Trade Grounds, aka “Dog Alley” in Canton, Texas, stated that “there are more dogs that die from here from parvo than anything else.”
  • At a breeding kennel that sells at flea markets, one dog‘s water bowl was filled only with brown slime. At other kennels, the drinking pans had feces floating in the water, or no food or water in sight at all. With no state or federal inspections, the flea market circuit is a nightmare of substandard conditions for the animals. In southern states, the dogs are in the sweltering heat all day long.
  • Some flea markets impose no rules on puppy vendors; they do not even require that the puppies offered for sale be weaned or vaccinated
  • Several flea market vendors admitted on hidden camera that dog dealers abandon dogs they can’t sell at the end of the trading day. Many of the flea markets we visited are in areas already full of stray dogs, with no local shelter to take in the abandoned pets. One vendor said unsold dogs are set loose if they are not sold at the end of the market day.

We’ve made major progress in cracking down on puppy mills over the years, with states setting standards for commercial dog breeding, and municipalities restricting the sale of puppy mill dogs in pet stores and driving the market toward adoption and responsible breeders. With the U.S. Department of Agriculture now barring imports of dogs from foreign puppy mills, and beginning to regulate large-scale breeders that sell puppies sight unseen over the Internet – two rules adopted after a long campaign by The HSUS — flea markets are one of the last unregulated marketplaces for questionable puppy sellers.

Our animal rescue team has saved dogs from at least three different puppy mills that sold puppies at flea markets. These operations were some of the most squalid dog breeding factories that our team had ever witnessed.

Several states, including Louisiana, Nevada, Oklahoma, and Virginia, have laws that restrict the open-air sales of puppies at flea markets, swap meets, and at other roadside venues. And in states without these rules, increasing numbers of public markets are making the sensible decision to stop or phase out the sale of live animals. On August 29, we assisted the Gibraltar Trade Center, a large public market in Mount Clemens, Michigan, in implementing a “puppy friendly” policy. The market’s new policy does not allow any animal sales at all, but welcomes adoptable dogs, cats and birds from Macomb County Animal Control. Trade centers like Gibraltar are paving the way for a new humane economy.

You can help encourage other markets to make the switch, and also advocate that state lawmakers impose bans on the fly-by-night dealers selling dogs at these markets. Please contact The National Flea Market Association and ask its leaders to prohibit the sales of puppies at the flea markets they represent.

Companion Animals, Investigations

Subscribe to the Blog

Enter your email address below to receive updates each time we publish new content.


Trackback URL | Comments RSS Feed

Sites That Link to This Post

  1. Flea Markets in the Spotlight for Supporting Puppy Mill Cruelty | Care2 Causes | September 17, 2015
  1. Jennifer Curlin says:

    The selling of puppy mill dogs at flea markets should not be occurring!!! We all know these animals are NOT well taken care of and conditions are disgusting!!!
    This is NOT ok!!!!!

  2. Rose Gallagher says:

    I think it is discusting how people treat animals they wouldn’t like to be treated that way.

  3. karen says:

    AGAIN. ..identify the puppy mills owners. .flea market locations. Wth is the point of posting rescues if you don’t say who the owner’s are and the locations of puppy mills?

  4. Janie Bifulco says:

    It all starts with the puppy mills that are breed unhealthy pups. They do not care for them properly and then pet stores buy them cheap and flea markets cheaper and still make money on these poor puppies. The mother’s are constantly bred as soon as she has weaned the first litter and again, under deplorable conditions!!

  5. Dawn Mello says:

    I have seen a shelter look just as bad.

  6. Patrick Larkin says:

    The HSUS news article “The Flea Market-Puppy Mill Connection” which links to this blog post mentions “Curry Trade Grounds”. Most people know this more generally as the “World Famous First Monday Trade Days in Canton Texas”, and specifically “dog alley” within.

    FYI, the website domain for the Curry Trade Grounds has been abandoned and is apparently for sale. An enterprising “hacktivist” organization might buy it, and do something useful with it . The website for City of Canton, as well as VisitCantonTX both link to it.

    I won’t post the actual domain name here because I don’t want to risk the price going up, or them deriving revenue from idle traffic.

  7. Candy says:

    Check out the horror of First Monday at Canton, Texas…



  9. Summer Else says:

    Poor babies

  10. kathy schoolfield says:

    Don’t be afraid to speak to the people selling the puppies. if you can embarrass them enough and let them know you will be going to every flea market because they are illegal and take a deputy with you to give the citations to shut them down
    you will have a good chance of seeing some changes. if you don’t have the nerve, go find a deputy sherif and get them to go with you. to
    give out the citations.

Share a Comment

The HSUS encourages open discussion, and we invite you to share your opinion on our issues. By participating on this page, you are agreeing to our commenting policy.
Please enter your name and email address below before commenting. Your email address will not be published.