In August 2011 I adopted a dog, little knowing the impact this would have on me.
She’d been repeatedly bred from, producing a couple of litters a year, her puppies being taken away and sold into the puppy market.
My husband and I adopted her knowing that her problems would go beyond the average issues rehoming a dog might entail.
Here was a dog who’d never lived in a home, had little experience of humans, and certainly no kind ones had ever been in Susie-Belle’s life.
Seeing first hand the damage that’s done to dogs in the puppy farming industry has led to me having two books on the subject published and I now devote my life to doing what I can to end the cruel industry.
What is puppy farming?
A puppy farm can be described as a facility that breeds puppies on an intensive basis, with little or no regard for the health of the dogs, and in conditions many would regard as inadequate at best, inhumane at worst.
They’re located all over the UK. Wales has a disproportionately high number due to the rural locations that large-scale operations favour.
Disused agricultural buildings provide the space to contain large numbers of dogs, where the noise and stench can be hidden from scrutiny.
Dogs are given minimal levels of care, little attention and certainly no love. Conditions in puppy farms are often shockingly awful and yet local authority licences are still issued for them.
Large sums of money can be made by puppy farmers, and to provide more than the basics which keep dogs alive eats into the profits and won’t be done.
The cruel results
Susie-Belle came out in a terrible state. She was emaciated, almost bald, both eyes nearly blinded by cataracts, she had multiple infections, a prolapsed womb, and a terrified, traumatised mind.
It’s a business that has nothing to do with a love of dogs but everything to do with the easy money that can be made from them.
As the puppy business booms, it’s not just the high-volume, rurally located puppy farmer cashing in. Greedy, unscrupulous breeders are thriving in a poorly regulated industry with woefully enforced welfare standards, with some keeping dogs in suburban houses in cages and sheds.
Join this with the growing trade in imported puppies from European puppy farms and the criminal gangs that are posing as puppy breeders and the problem becomes distressingly clear. It’s a terrible trade worth millions of pounds to those involved and utter misery for the dogs.
During her years in the puppy farm, Susie-Belle’s many puppies would have been transported over hundreds of miles, most likely ending up in pet shops or garden centres, or being sold via online advertisements.
Puppy dealers buy in from large-scale facilities and sell to the public, often from residential homes, pretending that they have bred the puppies themselves.
The harm that the breeding industry inflicts on dogs is a great disgrace in our society, one that’s only possible because puppy buyers are continuing to provide a ready market.
If you’re thinking of buying a puppy, here’s how to avoid supporting the puppy farming trade:
- Never buy from a pet shop or garden centre. Puppies need to stay with their mothers until they go to their new homes. No good breeder will sell their puppies like this.
- Do not collect a puppy from anywhere other than the breeder’s home or have one delivered to you. You need to see where they have been bred.
- When visiting the breeder, make sure you see the puppies interacting naturally with their mother. Dealers are using adult dogs to fool buyers into believing they’re the mum. Interaction between puppies and their mum should be happy, natural and healthy looking. The mum should be interested in her puppies.
- If you’re given excuses for why the mum is not present, don’t accept them and simply walk away. It’s common for dealers to say she’s at the vet, or out for the day, lies designed to dupe you.
- Look to see that the puppies live in the home. They should not be brought to you outside.
- Ask to see health certificates for any screening that your chosen breed ought to have.
- The breeder should be happy to supply you with vaccination and microchipping records and have treated the puppy for worms and parasites.
- Before visiting ask what the breeder is doing about the first vaccinations.
- Puppy dealers and poor breeders do sell puppies with both fake and genuine pedigree papers, Kennel Club registration papers and free puppy insurance. None of this guarantees the puppy has not come from a puppy farm.
- Don’t feel hurried into buying your puppy. Do not expect to make contact with a breeder and within a day or so take your puppy home. It’s a commitment for many years and good breeders will want to make sure you’re the right person for one of their puppies, as much you need to be sure the breeder is a good one. Expect to ask, and be asked, plenty of questions.
- Puppies should be lively and playful. If any are lethargic, have signs of illness or do not look healthy in any way do not buy thinking you’re saving it. All you’re doing is making a sale, creating a space for another puppy and keeping the puppy farming and dealing trade going. Instead, report the person selling the puppies to the local council and the RSPCA. Follow up your reports with each agency to see what action is taken.
The only guaranteed way to avoid contributing to the puppy business is to rehome from a reputable rescue centre.
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Updated September 2016