It’s estimated that up to 25% of puppies sold in the UK were born in puppy farms. This poorly regulated industry often results in the cruel treatment of dogs, with puppies being born in squalid conditions, and mother dogs being mistreated, all in the name of a quick profit. But what are puppy farms, and what can you do to avoid them?
What is a puppy farm?
A puppy farm is a large-scale dog breeding premises, the aim of which is to produce as many puppies to make as large a profit as possible. Because the aim of the breeder is to make a quick buck, corners are often cut with regards to the dogs’ welfare. The living quarters of the dogs can be cramped, loud, too hot or cold, and dirty, and the dogs are often locked inside 24 hours a day, sometimes in complete darkness.
Puppies born in puppy farms are prone to suffering from all sorts of health issues, such as eye infections, matted fur and rotten teeth, and such cruel treatment so early in life can cause behavioural and psychological problems. Many of these puppies are in such bad condition that they can become seriously ill, or even die, within weeks of moving into their new home. The mothers of the puppies are bred more often than is healthy for their bodies, and it is rare for both parents to have gone through the necessary health tests before breeding.
Is puppy farming legal?
At the moment, puppy farming is legal in the UK. Anyone breeding five or more litters per year is required by law to have their premises inspected by their local council, or by an authorised vet, who is there to make sure that the dogs’ living conditions are acceptable. Despite this, unethical dog breeding is still a booming business.
Much of the time, checks are not stringent enough, or reports of cruel breeding conditions are swept under the carpet. There are also illegal breeding facilities, which are not declared to the council, and therefore are not inspected. Another issue is the illegal importation of puppies from abroad, from countries where the puppy trade is poorly regulated, such as the Republic of Ireland.
How can I help end puppy farming?
Especially if you are looking to buy a new puppy, or even if you’re not, there’s plenty you can do to help shut down cruel dog breeding practices in the UK:
- Don’t buy a puppy from a pet shop. These dogs are often bought en masse from large-scale puppy farms. If you’re looking for a new four-legged friend, have a look at our tips for buying a dog below.
- Report suspected illegal puppy farms. If you suspect that someone is breeding dogs without a license, or if you are worried about the living conditions of newborn puppies, contact your local authority, or call Consumer Direct on 0845 4040 506.
- Support the cause. Pup Aid is an annual event held on London’s Primrose Hill to help educate the British public about puppy farming, and to raise awareness about the issue. Find out what happened when PawPost attended the 2015 event here.
How to avoid buying a puppy from a puppy farm
Despite the cruelty of the situation, the majority of people who buy a puppy that has been bred on a puppy farm are completely unaware of the circumstances. Breeders often use tactics to avoid raising suspicion about breeding conditions. However, there are some steps you can take, when buying a dog from a breeder, to make sure that your pooch is coming from a safe place.
- Meet the mother of the puppies. Puppies should not be separated from their mother until they leave for their new home. Shady breeders will often make up excuses for why the mother is absent, but don’t take no for an answer!
- Don’t buy a puppy younger than 8 weeks old. Any younger than this and the puppy has been removed from its mother too early and isn’t ready for its new home yet.
- Check the kennelling conditions. If the puppy has not been raised in the house you’re visiting, ask to see the kennelling conditions, and report any inadequate housing to the RSPCA. Don’t buy the puppy in order to “rescue” it, as this only exacerbates the problem.
- Don’t buy on impulse. Any breeder who is happy to sell a puppy without any prior meetings or contact with the prospective owner is likely far more interested in making some quick money than the welfare of the puppy.
- Pick up your puppy from its home. Illegal puppy farmers often set up meetings in public places such as car parks, or offer to deliver the puppy to you. If you haven’t seen the
- If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is! Do some research and find out what prices other breeders are offering for the same breed.
- Find a certified breeder. If you’re set on getting a pedigree dog, contact a Kennel Club Assured Breeder. All dogs sold by these breeders have been through the relevant health checks, and have been brought up in the right conditions.
- Adopt a dog! Over 100,000 dogs and rescued by charities in the UK each year, and they’re all looking for new homes. Check out our Adopt a Dog section to see some of the pooches available for adoption from our friends at All Dogs Matter.
Wherever you decide to get your new puppy from, don’t take the decision lightly. Your new pooch will likely be part of your family for the next 10-15 years, so it’s important to pick the right dog to fit your lifestyle, and that you’re ready to take on the responsibility of a new pet. For more information, check out our resident dog trainer, Val’s, tips on how to choose the right dog for you and your family.