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Seeking Truth in Advertising

San Francisco SPCA confronts puppy mills’ deceptive websites

  • Deceptive websites hide the truth about puppy mills

    A San Francisco SPCA video aims to alert viewers that online dog retailers’ websites showing bucolic scenes are often a front for puppy mills where dogs live in miserable conditions.

At first, it looks like you’ve found the website for "Bluespring Valley Breeders." Against a backdrop of green, rolling hills, you see a rectangular screen featuring video of an adorable golden retriever puppy.

But then the screen falls back like a piece of stage scenery tipping over. It's replaced by a startling picture: a dilapidated barn wall of small cages stacked on top of each other, each containing several barking dogs. The second scene represents the true conditions at puppy mills, the mass-breeding operations that, like the fictional Bluespring Valley Breeders, often market their animals online with false imagery of happy puppies in bucolic scenes.

The video, available at, is the brainchild of the San Francisco SPCA (SFSPCA), which in April launched an anti-puppy mill campaign after discovering that an alarming number of Bay Area residents might be unwittingly supporting puppy mills by buying dogs online. "We decided to play just as dirty as the puppy mill websites," says Dr. Jennifer Scarlett, the SFSPCA's co-president. The video aims to pull the veil off puppy mills, where dogs live in filthy, cramped conditions that frequently cause medical and behavioral problems.

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