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The Flea Market-Puppy Mill Connection

Flea markets nationwide are selling sick dogs and puppies from puppy mills

  • Hidden conditions at a puppy mill that sold regularly at a Tupelo, Miss. flea market. Photo by Hollis Bennett/AP Images for The HSUS

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“There’s no requirements, just bring 'em and sell 'em.”

Flea markets around the country offer a haven for puppy mills to shill their “wares.” Over a year, an undercover HSUS investigator visited 21 flea markets in 10 states; she found 125 individual puppy sellers linked to flea markets.

Sellers often represented themselves as small, local hobby breeders, but our investigator visited sellers’ kennel properties and gathered photographic proof that many were, in fact, puppy mills. Thanks to a loophole in the Animal Welfare Act exempting face-to-face sales, most of the breeders who peddle puppies at flea markets are not subject to even the most minimal regulations and inspections by the USDA.

Ask The National Flea Market Association to ban the sale of puppies at all flea markets »

Unsurprisingly, few flea market sellers were licensed in any way, but even many of those with USDA or state kennel licenses housed dogs in unsanitary and inhumane conditions. Our investigator photographed dozens of dogs confined to small, rabbit-hutch-like cages. She found dogs living in concrete runs with filthy water and little to no human interaction. At many properties, she found conditions shocking enough to report to law enforcement.

“There are more dogs out here that die from parvo than anything else.”

Adult breeding dogs may endure these conditions for their entire lives, while their puppies are often shipped over state lines—to be displayed in dirt, wood shavings or rusty cages while flea market customers browse in the summer heat. Puppies aren’t just sold to flea market regulars or tourists: Pet store owners frequent flea markets, looking for “product” to resell.

Little do customers know: The HSUS regularly receives complaints from those who have purchased sick puppies from flea markets. Puppy mill and flea market conditions leave puppies vulnerable to worms, fleas and deadly infectious diseases. Sellers who are banned from one flea market for selling sick puppies can simply move on to another—after all, a flea market motto is “Anyone can sell!”

“After the trade days, the ranchers go out in their fields and the [unsold puppies] that are thrown out, they’re out there shooting them.”

As for unsold puppies? They face uncertain fates. Several flea market vendors admitted on camera that unsold dogs and puppies were simply abandoned. At Curry Trade Grounds in Texas, vendors told our investigator that after the monthly market, dogs were dumped in nearby fields, sometimes to be shot by ranchers.

For the love of dogs, we must stamp out every haven for puppy mills. Ask The National Flea Market Association to follow the lead of other huge flea market companies—including Barnyard Flea Markets, Traders Village Flea Markets, The Nashville Flea Market, Gibraltar Trade Center and The Big One—by banning the sale of puppies at all flea markets.

Statements were shared with our undercover HSUS investigator by flea market managers and vendors.

Click to learn more: Watch the undercover footage gathered at flea markets and puppy mills in 2014.

Read more on Wayne's blog >>

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