Milo was born on a puppy farm somewhere in the UK like thousands of other unfortunate puppies.
He survived just about long enough to be sold by greedy puppy farmers with no regard for his health or well being.
Milo had not been vaccinated, microchipped or checked by a vet prior to his sale. He had a serious heart condition which required surgery, Kennel Cough, Giardia, Parasites and Bacterial Pneumonia.
Yet there is apparently STILL no law against this.
What is puppy farming?
To some, the term ‘puppy farm’ might bring images of cute fluffy puppies everywhere you can see, having fun, with hundreds of their puppy friends….a dog lovers dream, hey who wouldn’t want to visit a puppy farm like this?
In reality, it couldn’t be further from the truth. Puppy farming is simply; mass, over breeding, battery farming of dogs, kept in inhumane conditions, abused and neglected and used purely for the sole intention of making as much money as possible. Just as battery hens are kept in cramped cages just to produce eggs, this is what happens to dogs forced to breed for money.
Puppy Farm conditions
Dogs in puppy farms aren’t loved and cared for, they’re kept in sheds, caravans, barns and numerous other inappropriate shelters. Often with no daylight, unsanitary conditions and cramped cages and pens. Breeding bitches often never see the world outside, get to socialise or interact with humans or other dogs, they just produce litter after litter until they’re no longer needed. Once they have ‘served their purpose’ if they’re lucky, will get passed to an animal shelter or sold on, and if not so lucky, killed. In fact, 95% of breeding dogs don’t make it out alive.
As a result of this, puppies coming from these places are very often extremely unwell, carrying diseases or have contracted hereditary conditions from their mother who should never have been used for breeding. Many are taken from their mums far too early as well. Puppies are usually sold on to pet shops and then sold at extortionate prices, some are advertised in newspapers and the internet and claim to be homebred or family pets. Unsuspecting owners often will buy a very sick puppy which often dies a short time after or ends up requiring extensive medical care.
Wales: Puppy farming capital
The vast majority of dogs bred in puppy farms, come from Wales. Despite the majority of Welsh people opposing battery farming of dogs, the trade thrives. One of the main reasons for this is because the farming community have the balance of power, so despite the opposition and protests, it continues. One way we can help is by ensuring dogs are not bought from puppy farms. If there’s no demand, there’s less production.
How can I spot a puppy farm?
Spotting a puppy farm is often easier said than done, there are no big neon signs saying ‘puppy farm this way’ but there’s some red flags we should all be aware of which help us distinguish a dog that has come from a puppy farm, from a dog from a genuine reputable breeder.
To begin with, just because a breeder has a licence, it doesn’t mean that they’re reputable and not a puppy farm. Many puppy farms get licenses to breed over a certain number of dogs, and because there are not the resources to check and inspect these breeders, many fail to meet even the 5 basic freedoms of the Animal Welfare Act 2006, but are never shut down.
When looking to buy a puppy:
- Are there lots of other dogs and puppies available to buy all at once?
- Are there lots of different breeds of dogs and puppies all available?
- Can you see where the dogs live and what their conditions are?
- Will the seller let you see the mum?
- Is the puppy less than 8 weeks old?
- Have they been vet checked and had vaccinations?
- Does the puppy look in good health?
- Is the seller trying to ‘down play’ any medical condition?
- Is the seller discouraging you to visit?
- Are they wanting to meet you with the puppy somewhere?
Never buy a puppy from a Pet Shop. Many dogs in pet stores come from Puppy Farms. They’re imported cheaply and sold at profit. In the UK, we have laws around buying dogs from Pet Shops but there are ways sellers/companies and puppy farms get around this. If you buy from a Pet Shop, in store or online, chances are you’re encouraging a Puppy Farm to produce more.
Mum’s the word
One of the biggest indicators a puppy has come from a puppy farm is that you’re unable to see the mum. Sellers will often buy dogs from puppy farms and then try and sell them on as ‘home grown’. Or puppy farms try and pretend to be a local small breeder and simply don’t want you to see the mum as she’s in such poor condition. If you can’t see the mum, don’t buy the pup!
Many puppy farm sellers are now getting wise to this and will sometimes try and pass off another dog as the puppy’s mum. Some of the ways you can spot this are:
- Firstly, check the ‘mum’ is actually a female.
- Check her tummy. If she has recently had pups, she will have more swollen or baggy teats and her tummy will be looser. If the ‘mum’ has a tight tummy and her teats are all back to normal, this is not the mum!
- How is her behaviour around the pup? Most dogs will have a sniff and then leave the pup alone, and a fake mum won’t want to be around puppies that aren’t hers for long. She knows that if she gets too close to the pups and the real mum appears, she will be put in her place and sent off from the puppies!
- Is the ‘mum’ trying to get away from the puppy or seem agitated by it? A puppy’s real mum will put up with all sorts of behaviour from their offspring, a fake mum won’t.
- A real mum will interact with her puppies and know every noise, bark or yelp. A fake mum will appear more bemused and not interact with the puppy in the same way the real mum would.
Puppy farming is a sad and cruel trade. The sooner it is outlawed the better but in the meantime, if we can educate ourselves and others about the battery farming of puppies, look out for signs of puppy farms or that a dog has come from a puppy farm and stop buying dogs from these breeders, we can take another step towards stopping puppy farms altogether and helping dogs like Milo from having to endure them.
How to report a suspected puppy farm
Whether you believe you have discovered a puppy farm, have had a bad experience buying a sick puppy, suspect the puppy was not bred by the seller or believe you have been mislead in any way when buying a puppy, there are procedures you can follow; logging the complaint and enabling the authorities to build up a bigger picture of the breeder in question and gather evidence.
To start with, if you’re worried about the immediate welfare of an animal, your puppy died or became extremely sick soon after you bought it and you think it was directly because of how it was bred, you can contact the RSPCA. If the RSPCA receive numerous complaints about a certain breeder, they can prioritise investigating that breeder and help stop them sooner.
You can report a breeder using the following link
If you suspect animal cruelty you can also call the RSPCA cruelty hotline on 0300 1234 999
Licensed breeders and Local Councils
You can contact your local council who can provide a full list of licensed dog breeders in your area. Although anyone can breed a dog and sell puppies, you will need a Dog Breeding Licence if you keep bitches at any premises and they give birth to five or more litters during a period of 12 months. Although the license doesn’t necessarily mean the puppies aren’t being bred on puppy farms (there isn’t the resources to inspect all licensed breeders, hence why there are so many puppy farms getting away with their practice) it does mean that ‘back yard breeders’ selling large numbers of puppies without a licence, can be prosecuted.
If you suspect you have bought a puppy from a dealer rather than the breeder, you can also contact the local council to check if they’re listed or not. Likewise, if you believe someone is breeding dogs as a business without a license, contact your local council for a full list of licensed breeders.
If your puppy has been vaccinated, another way to check if the seller bred the dog, is by looking at the name and address on the vaccination card.
For more information on pet shop licensing click here https://www.gov.uk/pet-shop-licence
Is the local council listening?
When a Local Council issues a dog breeding license, part of that license requires the breeders to ensure their dogs and puppies are kept in certain conditions that specifically adhere to the Animal Welfare Act 2006.
If you have reported a suspect puppy farm or unlicensed breeder to the council and you’re concerned the council is not enforcing these conditions of the license and the welfare of the animals is of concern, you can report the local council to the Local Government Ombudsman and DEFRA here.
Kennel Club Registered
The Kennel Club has a full list of reputable breeders known as ‘Assured Breeders’. This is a list of reputable breeders and comes under the Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme. This isn’t to be confused with KC registered though. Puppies can be KC registered but this is purely a registration of the puppy, it doesn’t mean the breeder is registered, so don’t be fooled just because a puppy is KC registered.
If you have bought a KC registered puppy or a puppy from a KC Assured Breeder but are concerned they’re not who they say they are, contact the Kennel Club immediately for them to investigate.
They can be contacted on http://www.thekennelclub.org.uk/about/contact_us.html
Trading standards covers the sale of pets as well as all the usual goods you would expect to be covered under law. If you have been sold a puppy that has died, become extremely ill or you feel you have been mislead when buying the puppy, i.e the seller didn’t breed the dog, they have false paperwork or incorrect information about the dogs breeding history, you can report them to trading standards. Alternatively, speak to Citizens Advice Bureau who can point you in the right direct too.
Trading Standards have successfully prosecuted unscrupulous breeders under trading standards law because they have:
- Provided false information about the dog / breeding history
- Mislead the buyer when selling the puppy
- Sold ‘faulty goods’ i.e sold a puppy knowing it was sick, diseased, had a hereditary condition the buyer wasn’t made aware of
- Failed to disclose important information about a dogs history or done so in a manner which was ambiguous, unclear or unintelligible.
If any of the above apply to you, contact Trading Standards.
If you believe someone is importing puppies in illegally, you can also contact the trading standards department and the local police.
Small Claims Court
Just like with Trading Standards, the law sees puppies as ‘goods’ and as a result, if you feel you have been mislead when buying a puppy, you can take the seller to the small claims court within 6 years of purchasing the puppy. The maximum amount that can be awarded to you is £10,000.
Local papers and online advertisements
Many puppies coming from puppy farms, end up being sold via online advertising or adverts in local newspapers and classified ads. If you suspect an illegal breeder or puppy farm, contact the local paper / classified / website to inform them. They may wish to undertake an investigation of their own and either take further action or remove any adverts.
If you suspect a breeder is making profit from the sale of puppies and are not paying tax, you can report them to the HMRC here https://www.gov.uk/report-an-unregistered-trader-or-business
If you believe a breeder / dealer is making a profit from the sale of puppies while claiming benefits and not declaring this, you can also report them to the Department for Work and Pensions here https://www.gov.uk/national-benefit-fraud-hotline
As well as being responsible for ensuring we aren’t buying from puppy farms and knowing how to spot an unscrupulous breeder, we can also help anyone else that may fall prey to their scams. Reporting suspected puppy farms, unlicensed breeders, sellers/dealers posing a breeders and breeders who miss-sell sick and dying puppies, will all help clamp down on this sick trade and make it harder for puppy farms and unlicensed breeders to continue making money from the suffering of dogs.