Right now, as you read these words, there are puppies across the length and breadth of this country in agony – all as a direct result of the sickening multi-million pound puppy farming industry.
In case you don’t know exactly what puppy farming entails it is a global industry which involves breeding dogs in order to make as much money as possible with no regard to the dogs’ health or well-being.
Puppy farms are run ‘like a factory’, in the words of TV vet Mark Abrahams. Their very purpose is to make profit and they do so by producing and selling as many as puppies as physically possible.
Of course, with this comes many implications. A ‘bitch’ is forcefully impregnated over and over and over again – with little or no time to recover. The breeding bitches and the puppies are also kept in incredibly grim environments, shown no love whatsoever, and are massively malnourished.
This means most puppies purchased from puppy farms die incredibly quickly – often just hours after a purchase is made.
RSPCA Chief Inspector, Ian Briggs, told UNILAD:
I’ve worked for the RSPCA for 24 years now and I’ve never seen an area of animal crime explode in the way that puppy farming has over the last five years. There are more and more people getting involved and it just seems to be feeding the demand for these dogs.
It’s run very similar to drug dealing except without the risk, and nearly quite as lucrative. Because if you bring in hundreds or thousands of dogs throughout the year and you can sell each one for anywhere between 500 and a thousand pounds for a minimal outlay that’s high profit and that’s what drives this business.
Puppies bred in puppy farms are typically sold in pet shops or bought via ads in newspapers or on the internet.
According to The Kennel Club, there are many problems with puppy farming. These include separating puppies from their mother’s very early – despite eight weeks being the recommended amount of time they spend together, keeping puppies in poor conditions, and failing to apply basic health measures such as worming and immunisation.
As a direct result of failing to apply these obvious health measures, pups purchased from puppy farms often die very quickly – most of the time from preventable, infectious diseases, painful or chronic inherited conditions.
Not only are the puppies and bitches suffering – but the new pet owners too. Both emotionally and financially – as purchasing from a puppy farm will almost certainly cost a lot in veterinary fees.
Puppy farming is in a bit a grey area where legality is concerned. Technically it is not illegal – however while the authorities are supposed to inspect dog breeding establishments, many local authorities lack the funds, expertise, and resources to properly carry out thorough inspections.
Eileen Jones is the founder of Friends of Animals Wales, a group of volunteers who save puppies from these farms.
When asked how she holds her tongue when dealing with people who treat dogs so abhorrently, Eileen explained to UNILAD with teary eyes:
I think sometimes you’ve got to look beyond that because it would be so easy to respond and to berate them and to say all of the things that you feel about them but that’s not going to save any dogs and thats the most important thing… To get these dogs cared for, loved, get the veterinary treatment they need, and give them a life… because they haven’t got one previously.
It has a huge toll on me and obviously on the volunteers that work in the rescue, the other people that help with these animals, it has a big impact. But it’s not really about us, is it? It’s about what we can do to change the lives of these animals. Even the ones that haven’t got years, but that in itself is rewarding. She’s going to die with somebody who cares. Not in a shed, not in a barn, somebody holding her, and talking to her, she won’t be alone, and that’s so important.
Every animal deserves a good life, but they deserve a good death too. And that’s something that we can give them, and that might sound defeatist and it isn’t at all, but for some of them that’s all we can give them: a good death. But hopefully for most of them we can give them years.
Five years ago Lisa Garner bought a former puppy farm bitch, a Rescue Cavalier called Lucy. Lisa also set up a Facebook page to document Lucy’s progress.
Speaking to UNILAD, Lisa explained:
I think most people, or you’d like to think all people that love dogs, would never knowingly support puppy farming so it’s just important to really highlight who are the dogs behind these cute puppies that you’re buying. I think sometimes people forget about the breeding dogs.
So I adopted Lucy in the March of 2013 and shortly afterwards I set up a Facebook page for her and it was just really, just to document her progress really because she was so malnourished and obviously came from such an abusive background.
So when she was rescued she literally was just a shell of a dog and they would’ve just used her as much as they possibly could to make as much money as they could from her.
Sadly Lucy passed away in December 2016 after a short bout of sickness – however Lisa then began looking into setting up Lucy’s Law, a law which if passed could have a huge impact on puppy farms as we know them today.
Lucy’s law would call an immediate ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third-party commercial dealers. The law aims to make puppies available only from rescue centres or reputable breeders where the puppies are always seen with their real mothers.
Speaking about the law, Lisa explained:
The kind of Lucy’s Law idea was a big sort of team effort and we wanted something that would remember Lucy in a kind of fitting way and I think it is a fitting tribute to her and all she went through and the awareness she raised.
So we just thought: ‘What can we do that’s going to have a big impact on the buying public and hopefully make a difference to all the dogs that are suffering on puppy farms?’ So I think the campaign, like Lucy’s page, really snowballed, people really got behind it because people want to see change.
It’s hard work but it’s definitely worth it and it’s definitely getting the message out there and we just hope obviously from doing Lucy’s Law that Lucy’s life will matter, even more, and it will be the start of change for other dogs.
A petition to establish Lucy’s Law was set up by and so far has over 140,000 signatures. Parliament is set to debate the new law on May 21.
To add your name to the petition, you can do so by signing here.
If you have a story to tell, contact UNILAD via [email protected]
Joseph Loftus is a Gold Standard NCTJ journalist with four years experience working for international and regional press.
As well as working for UNILAD and LADbible, Joseph has worked as Liverpool Correspondent for Unsigned & Independent Magazine, as well as stints with the Liverpool Echo and Warrington Guardian.