Article by Debbie Connolly
‘I have been involved with dogs and cats in rescue and training and lots more for over 20 years. In that time the phenomenon of puppy farms has grown to epidemic proportions. It is an industry that must be worth hundreds of thousands of pounds a year at least which is why is has grown.
We’ve all read endless reports about the misery of the parents. Kept in dirty sheds, interbred, no food, shot, dumped or sold when no longer any use. We’ve been hearing these things for years and yet there are more farms and outlets than ever before, why? All these things are true, there are pressure groups and organisations trying to educate the public, revolting photographs of the conditions and still more outlets opening. So who exactly buys these pups? Maybe not who you think.
We all remember the horror of several years ago when the farming crisis made the Welsh Government offer subsidies to Farmers to breed puppies instead. Quite rightly the groundswell of opposition seemed to curtail this idea, but it is still an area of significant puppy farming.
The costs of this farming are not felt by the farmers, nor do they care. The costs, physically, emotionally and financially are borne by the dog and its new family. Health and temperament issues, often serious, mean young dogs being put down and distraught owners with huge bills and no dog. How much more education will actually stop this trade? I think some campaigns are missing the point. Maybe the reasons some people buy from these places is deliberate, not ignorant.
A few years ago I took a call from someone wanting to know where to buy a Siberian Husky. I love the breed but they are not the easiest of pets and certainly don’t suit a single man, first time dog owner who worked long hours and had no interest in training. I told him this and he was angry as he had spoken to three breeders who wouldn’t sell to him because of exactly these things. Good breeders I told him. His only reason for wanting one was that he “liked the look of them” and despite my warnings that the dog would likely become bored, noisy and destructive and may run off, he didn’t care. Off he went and I fully expected him to buy one as somebody somewhere would just want his money. About 8 months later the same man wanted my help to rescue his Sibe who had trashed his house, caused many neighbour complaints about the noise had no training or manners and yet he blamed the dog. Of course he had gone to the nearest puppy farm kennels and bought one there. Think that is rare? Think again.
For several years I lived in an area with three puppy farm outlets within 30 miles of me. There were two more by the time I moved away. This meant I got a lot of calls from people who had bought from these places. Ill dogs, dogs with aggression or fear issues, hereditary disease, all common themes. I push every person who calls for advice about these dogs as I don’t believe they really don’t know what they are buying.
At first I was a bit naive, this was a long time ago. I still thought that people were just ignorant and taken in by the sales patter and that maybe they believed it. The truth is very different. Pushed hard on why they bought, you find out a lot of these owners did it on purpose. They really knew the puppies were likely puppy farmed but bought anyway. They deliberately chose to try and believe the rubbish about “good breeders” asking them to sell their puppies and “after sales service” (which amounts to giving you your money back when your puppy dies or is crippled for life).
Another man rang me about a GSD he had bought. Sixteen weeks old, already showing signs of displasia, fearful and with a bad stomach problem, the puppy wasn’t likely to make its first birthday. Yet all he really wanted to know was could he sue them for “emotional distress”. I said I would sue him for the emotional distress he had caused by putting money into this selfish and cruel industry. He admitted he guessed they were puppy farmed dogs but liked the idea of wandering along looking at all sorts of breeds until one grabbed him.
I once thought that ignorant and well meaning people saw the fancy adverts and rubbish about being “licensed” kennels and just didn’t understand. I hoped the many campaigns would gradually erode the breeding but it hasn’t. I think the answer lies in the reality of the purchasers. They are not ill informed inexperienced people. They are often people who deliberately go to these kennels because they know nobody will ask any questions apart from “how would you like to pay?”
I’ve seen families go on a day trip to the bigger outlets, kids in tow as if it’s a petting zoo. Although not really looking for a dog, they are often captivated by the sweet puppies and buy one on impulse. What worse reason is there to buy a dog? One family told me they had bought a puppy like that because rescues were “too nosy” and too difficult to get a dog from. When the puppy started doing puppy things and messing and chewing I had to rescue it from them and pointed out that this was why the rescues were “nosy” so that this didn’t happen.
Once you realise how many people are deliberately buying these dogs you realise why there is still growth despite the best efforts of campaigners. I hate puppy farmers and all they represent. The misery they peddle makes my blood boil yet it never seems to get any better.
I use several online forums and there are frequent posts from people saying their neighbour/friend/relative is about to buy a puppy farmed puppy and they have tried to educate them but failed. A few manage to push them into rescue dogs, but most seem to buy anyway. People sometimes want to go choosing a dog like in a supermarket and won’t listen. They want to buy the dog and not answer questions about whether they are suitable, just take the package and leave.
Perhaps the thing that makes me most furious is the self deluding do-gooder. The person that says they “rescued” their dog from a puppy farm. No they didn’t. There is nothing remotely rescue in taking a puppy from a farm outlet and paying hundreds of pounds for it. It is an insult to real rescues to call it that. It is simply investing money in the next stolen dog to be bred from, the next dead puppies that don’t even make it to the shop and the misery of the dog’s lives in hell. Don’t ever flatter yourself that you did a good thing because you didn’t.
The sad truth is that if people didn’t buy them, there wouldn’t be a market for the breeding. Unless we make it more difficult to be able to buy and own a dog this sad trade will never stop.’
For more information about Debbie Connolly and Safe Pets click here.