When shopping for unique, vintages items, flea markets provide plenty of treasures. But they aren’t the place to go when you’re shopping for dogs.
This year, the Humane Society of the United States investigated the connection between flea markets and puppy mills. Their investigator visited 21 flea markets in 10 states and found 125 individual puppy sellers linked to flea markets.
While breeders call themselves small, local hobby breeders, the investigator found these claims to be false after visiting the sellers’ kennel properties.
Selling at flea markets entices puppy mill peddlers because they aren’t subject to any oversight, including inspections from the USDA. The Animal Welfare Act has a loophole that exempts face-to-face sales. Few flea market sellers held any sort of license, and some with USDA or state kennel licenses still housed dogs in unsanitary conditions. These puppies are often unvaccinated, too young to be weaned and, consequently, suffering from health issues.
The investigator photographed dozens of dogs who were confined to small, rabbit-hutch-like cages. There were also dogs living in concrete runs with filthy water. At many properties, she found conditions shocking enough to report to law enforcement, including feces in the drinking water or no food and water to be found at all.
The puppies left sitting in crates on hot summer days aren’t only sold to regular shoppers. Pet stores often buy from flea markets.
According to the HSUS, they regularly receive complaints from people who have purchased sick puppies from flea markets, since puppy mill and flea market conditions leave pups vulnerable to worms, fleas and other infectious diseases.
The unsold puppies are often abandoned. Some vendors even admitted to dumping dogs in nearby fields, sometimes to be shot by ranchers.
The Humane Society has a petition to encourage the National Flea Market Association to ban the sale of puppies at their events.
Watch the undercover footage from the Humane Society’s investigation.