Unveiling the Truth Behind Puppy Mills and Pet Shops in Korea

Uncovering the hidden truths behind puppy mills and pet shops in Korea, the realities of dog breeding and the pet industry's darker sides. Statistics, the growing demand for pets, the questionable origins of pet shop animals, and the cycle that perpetuates this system.

The Surprising Reality of Dog Nurseries

Puppy mills, often seen as mere farms for raising dogs, play a controversial role in the pet industry, not just in Korea but globally. While the idea of nurturing dogs might evoke images of care and compassion, the reality can be starkly different. In Korea, like in many countries, dogs are primarily sold as pets. Yet, despite a slight decline in the number of registered animal sales businesses—from 4,159 in 2020 to 3,944 in 2022—the industry remains vast, with countless online sellers and individual traders flying under the radar of official statistics.

The Growing Pet Market and Its Consequences

There's no denying the pet market's growth, driven by the increasing number of people seeking animal companionship, especially among those living alone. Despite various adoption options, many prospective pet owners gravitate towards pet shops, driven by desires for specific breeds or the appeal of raising an animal from its puppy or kitten stages. However, one must ponder whether these reasons justify the purchase of pets from pet shops, considering the underlying issues.

A diagram of a flow of where people get their pets from
A diagram of a common flow of where people get their pets from

The Dubious Origins of Pet Shop Puppies

Most pets in pet shops trace their origins back to puppy mills, where the focus is more on quantity than the well-being of the animals. While some shops claim their animals come from qualified breeders, the lack of transparency and public information makes it impossible to verify such claims. This lack of transparency is troubling, especially when considering the conditions under which these puppies are bred and sold.

In Korea, the law forbids the sale of dogs younger than two months. However, to maintain the pups' appeal, many are sent to auctions and sold to pet shops when they are barely a month old, skirting the edge of legality for the sake of cuteness and profit.

The Cycle of Breed and Sell

The cycle doesn't end with the sale. Animals not sold or adopted return to the breeding facilities, often to become breeders themselves. Breeds in high demand, like poodles and Pomeranians, are sent back to endure subpar conditions, confined to cages with little regard for their health or well-being. Reports from animal protection groups highlight the grim practices within these mills, including hormone manipulation to time births for peak sales periods, such as Christmas.

A Call for Change

The global pushback against the pet shop industry and puppy mills is growing. In Britain, for example, the government has banned third-party puppy and kitten sales to protect young animals from exploitation and to clamp down on puppy farms. Similar measures are being considered and implemented elsewhere, aiming to challenge and change a system that puts profit over animal welfare.


The issue of puppy mills and pet shops in Korea is a microcosm of a global challenge. It's a complex web of legal, ethical, and emotional threads that requires careful untangling. By choosing adoption over purchase, advocating for stricter regulations, and supporting transparency in the pet industry, we can make strides towards a future where the welfare of pets is placed above profit. As we continue to explore and understand these issues, it's crucial that we take action, both as individuals and collectively, to protect the animals at the heart of this debate.

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