Here is my opinion, some of you have seen it before --
By definition, a “puppy mill” is a factory in the business of producing puppies for sale for a profit, in order to sustain the business, its employees and its owners.
I disagree with this definition completely. The same logic could be used with equal justification to discredit all operations -- trainers, boarding kennels, veterinarians, people selling dog food or pet supplies, etc. -- where those involved have chosen to make their work with our beloved animals the foundation for their careers.
It is inevitable that a professional will have his or her judgments affected, to at least some extent, by the economics of his or her profession. Some might respond to this profit potential by acting like thieves, but that doesn't make everyone else in the same business a thief.
In the business of breeding puppies, a puppy mill operator is effectively a thief seeking to extract exorbitant profits by investing too little money, talent and time in breeding a litter with negative consequences for both the dogs and the purchasers. The well-meaning but ignorant backyard breeder is not quite as repulsive, but may end up doing similar damage.
That leaves us with a mix of low volume "hobby" breeders for whom economics remains important even if only to avoid losses, and higher volume breeders for whom economics are even more important because the revenues from puppy sales are an important element of the person's business and personal income.
Some of the best names in breeding probably fall into this second category. We should be encouraging these businesses to operate better rather than painting them with the puppy mill brush. We may find that the standards of operation for the best commercial breeders raise the bar for what we expect from hobby breeders as well.