The 1966 federal Animal Welfare Act establishes standards for ethical care for animals, including dogs raised for adoption or sale. Large wholesale puppy breeding facilities are licensed and inspected under the U.S. Department of Agriculture. All 50 states have laws preventing animal neglect and abuse, and many have laws regulating dog breeding operations.

The Office of Animal Care and Use, a division of the National Institutes of Health, publishes "Guidelines for Standards of Care in Animal Shelters," written by the Association of Shelter Veterinarians. Regulations cover ethical rescue adoption procedures in areas such as population management, animal handling and transport, mental and physical well being and facility environment.

The Animal Humane Society facilitates adoption of millions of pets every year. The shelters interview potential dog owners prior to the adoption to ensure the dog is well cared for in the new home. The Animal Humane Society has the right to refuse an adoption if it suspects poor treatment and can place contingencies on adoption, such as limiting the number of pets adopted, insist on pets being adopted together or assessing potential conflict with children or other pets. If unethical treatment is suspected, the group investigates the concern.

While standards apply to all animals in a shelter, the Animal Humane Society specifically addresses puppy adoption to discourage patronizing puppy mills, commercial dog breeding facilities considered inhumane. The group publishes a list of each state's laws that pertain to dog breeders. It conducts workshops in the community to educate people about humane treatment of animals.