With the recent surge in puppy sales, I wanted to take a few minutes to speak about something that’s very close to my heart – puppy farming!
Most of us imagine we would easily be able to spot a puppy farm when we saw one. We’ve all heard the horror stories of dogs piled up in dark barns in appalling conditions and few of us would ever consider buying a puppy from somewhere like this yet puppy farming continues to be a multi-million pound industry (estimated to be worth £13m in Scotland alone!) that shows little sign of slowing down, so what’s going on out there and where are these puppies ending up?
The truth is, they’re all around us - in our homes, listed on local selling sites and online marketplaces and even in the friendly breeder down the road’s back yard. The RSPCA report that 87% of puppy trade calls they receive concern puppies bought over the internet. As awareness of puppy farming grows, so too do the lengths unscrupulous breeders and dealers will go to to disguise their cruel operations.
In an alarming new twist, puppy farmers are increasingly using normal looking family homes as shop fronts to sell unethically bred puppies from. Adverts online will be written in a way to convince you that the puppy you’re looking at has been bred by responsible breeders who offer a loving home. The pictures will show cute puppies on fluffy blankets and when you arrive to meet your pup, you’ll be met by a friendly, knowledgeable sounding ‘breeder’ in a nice house who may even show you some paperwork from the Kennel Club or a veterinary practice but will give away no clues that the puppies you see have actually come from those dank barns we all know to avoid.
They won’t tell you how your pup has been transported hundreds of miles or even imported from overseas and they’ll certainly not let on that there’s a high chance your bundle of fluff will come with a plethora of health and behavioral problems that will cost you an arm and a leg (potentially literally!) and maybe even your pup their life. Pups will often be placed with a female dog who you’ll be introduced to you as ‘mum’ whilst their real mum remains locked in her cage, far away from your prying eyes, ready to turn out the next batch of money making pups.
Here in Scotland, the SSPCA (Scottish Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals) rescued 162 puppies from farms or dealers in 2019. 60 of those were seized at Cairnryan ferry port, 17 were saved from stoppages or targeted purchases and 85 were rescued from just one puppy farm in the Moray area. This is just the tip of the iceberg.
With all the will in the world, our welfare organizations can not tackle this problem alone because the key to change is us, the puppy buyers who have unparalleled access to the puppy farmers themselves. Until we stop buying from these people, puppies and their mothers will continue to suffer horrific conditions, malnutrition and indescribable abuse.
In partnership with a host of organizations such as the British Veterinary Council, Dog’s Trust, PDSA and Trading Standards, the SSPCA who spearhead the UK wide puppy farming task force ‘Operation Delphin’, launched their Say No To Puppy Dealers campaign and the website is packed with helpful advice on how to spot and avoid dishonest and immoral puppy breeders and dealers. Rather than re-hash that advice here, I’m simply going to signpost because it really is essential reading for potential puppy parents that are about to embark on their mission to find their new family member.
You’ll find the website here.
If you have already bought your puppy home and you have suspicions that they may have been bred on a puppy farm, or if you’ve bought a puppy who’s become sick or even died, please please please report your concerns!
In England and Wales, you can call the RSPCA national cruelty line on 0300 1234 999 or contact the local authority licensing team.
In Scotland, it’s over to the SSPCA on 03000 999 999 or report online on their Say No To Puppy Dealers website.
In Northern Ireland, the USPCA take the lead and you can reach them on 028 3025 1000 ext. 238 or by emailing them at email@example.com
And finally in Ireland, it’s the ISPCA, who’s National Animal Cruelty Helpline can be reached on +353 43 33 25035 or a report made online here