What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills

What ACO's Need to Know about Puppy Mills
Duration: 60 Minutes
Module 1 Module 1
Recorded on: 2021-02-23
Unit 1 Slide Deck: What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills
Unit 2 Transcript: What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills
Unit 3 Workbook: What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills
Unit 4 Recording: What ACO’s Need to Know about Puppy Mills

Between the lack of legal familiarity within the court, society’s oblivion to the suffering of animals, and the animals’ inability to testify on their experience and plight, proving animal neglect or abuse can be difficult. In such cases, the animals are depending on humans to advocate for them and this includes the animal control officer who’ll be on the scene. Attention to detail and documentation are just so critical in capturing the animals’ living conditions to get a point across. But when it comes to puppy mills the challenge is multiplied by the number of animals that are part of the large-scale seizure.

This session’s instructor is Michelle Welch, the Senior Assistant Attorney General and Director of the Animal Law Unit in the Virginia Attorney General’s Office. She also serves as a Special Assistant U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Virginia, in-charge of taking all animal law questions in the State of Virginia and acts as a special prosecutor in animal cruelty and animal fighting cases.

Specifics of this webinar include:

  • What a puppy mill is in terms of the number of animals and the living conditions.
  • The definition of neglect and looking into its severity to understand what constitutes systemic neglect and cruelty.
  • Red flags when purchasing puppies, particularly online.
  • Building your case by looking at your local law, what you can charge based on these, probable cause, and charging and proving neglect for every animal.
  • The importance of a seizure petition to get custody of all animals.
  • The key role of the vet in the scene and the need for a number of them to provide all the vet needs in large-scale seizures.
  • The animal control officer’s role before, during, and after the seizure that puts a premium to attention to detail in the prep, the scene, the report, and the court proceedings.
  • Photos, videos, and other pieces of evidence that must be used to present a really robust case to the court.
  • Specific conditions to pay particular attention to that suggests neglect and cruelty, and how these adversely impact animals and cause them suffering.
  • Conducting a thorough investigation that considers whistleblowers, consumers, testimonials, undercover information, and where the puppies are being sold.
  • Understanding the pet store pipeline and specific elements to look for when conducting searches in the pet stores.
  • The types, range, and duration of suffering animals undergo as they’re made to breed in puppy mills.
  • A glimpse into Virginia’s neglect laws and its provisions on the standard of care, as well as other legislative fixes that may be maximized to prove neglect and cruelty to the courts.
  • Leveraging other potential violations that the puppy mill may be committing in accordance with noise, zoning, and health ordinances and even tax evasion.
  • Familiarizing with the paraphernalia, items, and conditions suggestive of a puppy mill operation.
  • Other compelling evidence to take into account to really drive the case home.

Questions from the audience were about:

  • Differentiating a backyard breeder and commercial breeder from a puppy mill.
  • The prevalence of puppy scams and how these happen.
  • Trends related to selling of puppies.
  • Inter-state commerce and federal regulations that impact puppy mills’ distribution.
  • Dealing with puppy mills in Amish communities.

The specific needs, special care required, and potential behavioral issues for dogs that came from puppy mills.


Other Upcoming Webinars with this Speaker include:



Audience Comments

  • “Lots of good information on how to best document cases and bring evidence.” — Amber
  • “The definitions, things to look for, and extremely helpful photos. All in all, great and very informative webinar.” — Alanna
  • “I learned a lot about pet shops in particular and all the ways they can be sneaky and hide evidence of animal cruelty. I also learned what exactly to look for and what to do when/if I find evidence against pet shops or puppy mills. Overall the webinar was very informational and I look forward to the next one.” — Amanda
  • “I loved it when Michelle defined probable cause and definite evidence. I never thought to use my smelly clothing as evidence. I also would like to invest in an ammonia monitor now.” — Julie
  • “Insight into the laws of other jurisdictions which appear to provide stronger protections for animals than what currently in place in my jurisdiction.” — Sabrina
  • “The importance of photos and videos for documentation.” — Lee



View our Animal Welfare Webinar  Schedule and Recordings



This webinar has been certified by the National Animal Care & Control Association and is approved for 1 Continuing Education Unit. Please refer to your NACA membership portal for current CEU submission process. Current NACA Members who attend the live presentation or watch the recording will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Animal Care & Control Association logo. Visit the NACA training page for a complete list of future trainings.




This webinar has been pre-approved by the Maine Animal Welfare Program for 1 Continuing Education Unit for the State of Maine’s ACO annual training. You can find more information about Certification, required annual training or submitting materials for credit at Maine’s Animal Control Officer Resource Page.





** This webinar has been certified by the National Sheriffs' Association and may be eligible for Continuing Education Units through your POST. Please consult your local certification processes for additional details. Paid subscribers that attend will be able to download a jointly issued attendance certificate that includes the National Sheriffs' Association logo.
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