Research your Breeder

Bailey - MITM

Bailey, a puppy mill rescue. You must research your breeder carefully to see what conditions the mom is really living in. It’s not about the puppies; it’s about the parents.

Do you have a puppy and need to research your breeder? We hear this all of the time. Some of our strongest supporters learned the hard way and purchased a puppy at a pet store. Here is a step-by-step guide to researching where your puppy came from.

If you bought your dog in Illinois, the pet store is required to disclose the name and United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) license number of its breeder.

  • When you purchased your puppy, the pet store was required to provide the name and USDA license number of its breeder. If you do not have this information, return to the pet store and tell them that they are required by law to provide this information to you.
  • Many other states have pet store disclosure laws. Return to the pet store and ask for this information.

Previously, we directed people to the USDA database where they could research breeders they were considering buying from. Unfortunately, the USDA removed access to its database as of early 2017, with no warning.  

You can read more about this action at the articles listed below. There are additional articles easily found by doing an Internet search.

You can voice your opinion on this move directly to the USDA via their Contact Us information.

We know of no other resource to do a full breeder search. You can reference the Humane Society’s annual list of the “Horrible Hundred” to see if the breeder you are consider is on that list but it only lists the worst of the worst.

We will update this page if/when the USDA reinstates access to their database.

Once you have the name of the breeder, go to the USDA website.

  • Visit the search page
  • Select the ‘Inspection Reports’ tab at the top of the page.
  • In the ‘License/Registration Type’ field, select ‘BREEDER’ from the dropdown menu.
  • In the ‘Customer/Organization Name’ field, enter the breeder’s name.
  • Enter the City and/or State of the breeder in the appropriate fields.
  • In the ‘Certificate Number’ field, enter the USDA license number of the breeder given to you. The USDA number will be in a format of: ##-A-####
  • Click “Search”. The licensees/registrants information will be displayed. To view inspection reports for all the listings, click on the “View Inspection Reports” button.There may be multiple results if you search by last name (many times there will be multiple licenses for the same family).
  • Once you have identified the specific breeder, click on the double page icon at the far left of the listing to view the Inspection Report(s). These reports should detail how many adult dogs and puppies are on the premises, the date of the inspection, and any violations.
  • Pay particular attention to whether the breeder has any Direct, Non-Critical or Critical violations (referred to as Non-Compliance Inspection (NCI) violations). You should see this information and detail in the report(s).
  • If you are having trouble locating listings for the breeder information provided to you, contact us at Please include as much information as you can in your email.