|You have probably heard of puppy farming - the mass breeding of
pups for sale to the pet market - but are you aware of the scale
of the problem?
Can you guess how much money is involved?
Do you know how many people turn a blind eye to the suffering of the dogs involved?
Are you aware of how the industry pervades and corrupts our society and how its influence affects our lawmakers and enforcers when they try to legislate to control it.
An extra warning on
buying a pup (or dog) since the pandemic
Puppies are seldom given to rescue centres. They are easy to sell so if there is an unwanted litter you would be much more likely to find them on the internet than in a rescue centre.
Why would someone give a puppy to a rescue centre when they can get upwards of £500 if they sold it!
The pandemic pushed the price of puppies up to around £2500, well above what they used to be.
Puppies were bred in copious numbers so breeders could make as much money as possible and a lot were being smuggled into the country because of the demand for them.
These were being offered at the sort of prices we have given above but many were from puppy farms in the UK and abroad. Very little care was given to the health of the sire and dam. Pups were being bred to sell, not survive, and those imported were taken from their mothers too soon so they were of the right age on arrival in the UK when offered for sale.
A consequence of this mass, thoughtless, breeding has been a lot of dogs with hereditary problems who are now being bred from (or allowed to breed)
The pups being offered are weak and suffer from a range of hidden congenital conditions that make life hard for them and their owners.
Some develop behavioural issue, aggression being the most common.
Our weekly advice line has demonstrated this. Most of the calls we get are been from people who have bought a dog on the internet and desperately need help.
A lot of dogs are being born to suffer these days simply because so many people want pups. The demand cannot be met by decent breeders so we are still seeing profiteers who know little of breeding or are just in it for the money offering badly bred pups for sale.
Prices have dropped because demand has dropped but be careful. It is still a minefield out there.
Predictions that rescue centres would be inundated with dogs that people could no longer keep because they have now got to go back to work have not turned out to be accurate.
What we are seeing in rescue are a lot of poorly bred, badly socialised and often aggressive dogs that people bought during lockdown.
Dogs like this are likely as not to be the parents of pups being offered today.
|We are not talking of 'farmers' in the normal sense of the word, although some of the perpetrators are indeed farmers with a sideline to boost their income, most are just rather callous people who are taking advantage of an opportunity to make an easy profit.
When we use the term 'puppy farmers' we are describing an attitude of mind methodically applied to breeding dogs.
To a puppy farmer the dogs they employ in their breeding programs are simply commodities.
A means to an end.
These dogs mean no more to them than a potato means to a potato farmer. Something to be planted and harvested. So what if some of the 'potatoes' wilt and die?
So what if some die slowly due to lack of care and basic needs like fresh water and proper nutrition?
There are plenty that will live - at least long enough to reproduce a few times.
And what about the fruits of the crop - the puppies - it doesn't matter if a few of these die - there will always be enough that survive for at least as long as is needed for them to be sold and produce the profit required.
Once the money is in their pockets the puppy farmers simply do not care about the outcome for the puppies.
|Puppy farming is death and torture for the dogs caught up in the trade and the trade feeds on people desires to possess a pet and ignorance of the way the pups are bred.
Puppy farmers are well organised and they seek to cover their activities under a veneer of respectability.
They work together to protect each other.
They seek to influence in many aspects of life. They lobby, spread misinformation, set up holding facilities used to temporarily keep pups in transit prior to distribution.
It is an underground club, much like any other criminal gang with shared facilities within a group of individual breeders who look out for each other. It is organised crime.
They try and infiltrate people into positions where they can feed back information about the plans and movements of authorities that could impede their plans.
They try to influence people already in such positions. Money helps.
We have come across one illegal breeder who has a boyfriend working for the local council that licenses her one legal establishment - he is a dog warden. She has hidden, illegal breeding facilities that are not licenced.
Another illegal breeder we heard of had a brother who ran the local dog stray pound for the council.
By these means and other ways of influencing from within they can improve their chances of hearing about complaints and spot inspections in enough time to cover up and clean up.
|We are not talking about happy sires and dams
enjoying the life and fresh air of the countryside and bringing
their healthy well bred offspring into a caring environment with
plenty of room for exercise.
We are talking the lifestyle of a battery hen with minimal care and veterinary attention bringing poorly bred pups into often badly maintained premises and sometimes never seeing the outside world or getting any human care and attention.
Fresh air is available - often coming through broken windows and holes in the roof.
|Of course we are generalising here - not all puppy farms are like this - some are much worse.
There has been some progress.
These days, in England and many American states, pet shops are no longer allowed to sell puppies (or kittens).
In England, puppies must now be sold directly to the public by their breeders.
The legislation behind this change is known as 'Lucy's Law'.
The same legislation is proposed in Scotland and Wales but is not law there yet.
It takes time for things to change. Sadly often too much time!
It would change faster if more people lobbied for change.
If more people cared enough to want change and put effort into speeding it up.
In the meantime, remember this -
Never Buy A Puppy From A Dealer, Agent or Online and in Scotland or Wales, never from a pet shop.
Only buy directly from a breeder and do your homework.
Look for the signs - don't take anything as seen.
Keep a close eye on your dog
Dog theft is up and on the increase.
Change the law on dog theft - it's slow but it's on its way
Recently there has been a huge increase in thefts of dogs due to the high price they can fetch on the open market.
Thieves are also kidnapping dogs and holding them to ransom.
The law covering such thefts has been weak and the police tend to look on such thefts as 'petty theft' and not place a high priority on them.
There has been a petition on the parliamentary petitions website seeking to change the law on dog theft and make it a specific crime.
Many of us have signed the petition which achieved 316,545 signatures before it was closed.
Having achieved over 100,000 signatures, the petition was due to be debated in Parliament but before any such debate could be scheduled the government announced plans to make changes to the law and bring in new offences relating to the theft of dogs.
A 'Pet Theft' taskforce' was appointed in May 2021 to look into the theft of pets and the effect this has on their owners and has come back with recommendations for changes to existing laws and the introduction of new legislation that will, amongst other things, make the theft (or abduction*) of a pet a specific criminal offence with specified penalties.
There are a number of other recommendations in the report which was published in September 2021 which can be accessed here.
There are plans to tighten up on legislation covering the illegal smuggling of dogs and puppies which can be viewed here.
* Pets are taken for more than one reason, not only to sell for profit but also to ransom back to their owners. The proposed law take this into account.
|A press release summarising the proposed new legislation can be viewed here.
The proposals are simply that - proposals - part of 'The Action Plan for Animal Welfare', designed to improve many aspects of animal care and welfare laws in the UK. The page contains links to others aspects of animal law being considered for change.
Proposals sometimes do not make it onto the statute books so if you approve of these changes, keep an eye out for progress and lobby your local MP to vote in favour of the new laws when they come up for parliamentary approval.
Watch out, new legislation can be watered down by 'stakeholders' who have interests in the activities the laws seek to regulate.
On the other hand new laws can be strengthened by 'stakeholders' who have an interest in regulating the activities of other stakeholders who's activities undermine the purposes of the laws. In essence we are all stakeholders.
Normally there are consultation periods before the introduction of new legislation so all interested and affected parties can have their say.
These are important and we should get involved and press for the changes required to improve animal welfare, regulate activities concerning the keeping, breeding and care of animals, make the abduction of animals a specific offence and recognise the sentience of animals.
Get involved - have your say.
Below is a link that offer guidance about how the law relates to dogs and their ownership.
It's a bit sad that in this day and age basic consumer law and consumer rights are the only laws that apply to the purchase and keeping of a dog and owners have no additional protection.
There are many laws about a dog owners responsibilities. It all seems out of balance - please kepp an eye on the proposed changes above.
|Buying any animal is regarded, under British Law, as exactly the same as purchasing any other consumer product.
Amongst other things, it must be 'fit for purpose' and 'as described'. If not, you have certain legal rights as the buyer.
Know your rights when buying a puppy or any pet and use those right if anything goes wrong.
Until the law is changed to recognise the special relationship between an animal and a human the only way to hit back at people who sell sick animals because they are ignoring basic welfare needs and only breeding for a quick profit is to use consumer protection law against them.
More advice/information on buying a cat or a dog here -
DirectGov - Buying a cat or dog
Our own view is that further legislation is required to alleviate the problems associated with licensed and unlicensed commercial breeders. The number of litters bred each year, which constitutes required registration as a commercial breeder should be reduced to three litters per annum as a top limit.
Our view on supply to the public is that the sale of puppies should only be permissible directly from their breeder. This should apply in all instances and there should be a complete ban on third party sale, be it from retail premises or via agents.
Local authorities should issue breeders with unique references
and maintain a public register of breeders which includes a
registered address of the breeding/retail premises. All
advertisements for the sale of puppies should be required to carry
this registration reference along with the address of the premises
where the puppies are being sold.
Advertising media should be obliged to only accept advertisements for publication which bear the registration reference and address of point of sale and should be obliged to check with the local authority covering that address, in order to verify the reference matches the registered address and advertised address, prior to publication of the advert.
Self produced advertising, posters, leaflets, own website etc, in fact any medium, should carry the same requirement for address and registration reference.
The fee for registration and licence as a commercial breeder should include that of retailer and inspections of premises would be for both aspects of trading and would occur at the same time.
Non-commercial breeders, hobby breeders, occasional breeders, backyard breeders should also be bound by the same requirements and should be obliged to register each litter with their local authority and be issued a reference before they can offer the puppies for sale. The fee for such registration should be minimal as inspection of premises would be required. A simple registration form, downloaded from a local authority website or available to be picked up at council premises, filled out and sent in with a fee, registered and a response issued by email or post with the reference included.
Commercial breeders would require a single reference covering continued activity. Occasional breeders who fall below the level of litters that constitute commercial activities should obtain a reference for each litter bred and offered for sale.
Rescue organisations should be obliged to register with local authorities and obtain an exemption from licensing requirements for re-homing puppies. The exemption should only apply to charitable organisations and registered non profits as defined by charity law and/or company law.
Unregulated commercial rescue's who do not meet these standards should be obliged to obtain and apply a reference in the same manner as a commercial breeder.
and sale of dogs act (welfare) 1999 and preceding acts of 1973 and
1991 gives Councils the power to licence breeding establishments.
Although all councils are interpreting the same law, the information they gather, the conditions they require and the way they inspect premises and enforce legal requirements varies. The information they display on their website also varies in content and quantity.
Why not check out how your own local authority deals with this issue?