HOW TO SPOT THE SIGNS OF AN UNETHICAL DOG BREEDING ‘PUPPY FARM’

Source: Manchester Evening News (Extract)
Posted: October 10, 2021

Rising demand for dogs in the UK has caused a darker side effect which is the growth of puppy farms, or unregistered ‘backyard’ breeders which can have heart-breaking repercussions for prospective owners.

Since the end of 2019, the UK’s dog population has risen by almost 50%, from 9.5 million dogs to 12.5 million according to a survey conducted by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association. This has been due largely to many people adopting or purchasing dogs to keep them company during the Covid-19 pandemic, but this rise has also correlated with a greater demand for puppies, allowing puppy farms to flourish.

As the PDSA posted on their website: “A puppy farm is where multiple dogs are continually bred and the puppies sold. They are kept in poor conditions as the ‘breeders’ don’t care for their health and happiness.

“They are very different from reputable breeders. Usually reputable breeders will only breed one or two different breeds at any one time and should put the health of their puppies and their mothers above a quick profit.

“Puppy farms tend to have far more breeds than this available, and dogs from puppy farms can be unwell, leading to potential heartache for the unwitting owners who take them on.”

The RSPCA said it received 4,357 calls in 2018 alerting it to potential cases in England, up from 890 in 2008, a number which has been steadily climbing since.

Lucy’s Law, which was introduced in April 2020 meant that all third-party sales of puppies six months or younger will be banned, in an effort to crack down on puppy farms and other untrustworthy sellers.

This law means that puppies have to be sold by the breeder, from the place they were born with their mother.

However this hasn’t stopped breeders from trying to take advantage of this market boom by continuing their illegal activities, and duping hopeful dog owners into buying puppies that have been bred unethically and even cruelly which can cause health complications further down the line.

TeamDogs have put together a guide for spotting a potential unethical breeder, and what to do when you think you’ve encountered one.

How to recognise a puppy farm

Spotting that you’re potentially purchasing a dog from a puppy farm isn’t always obvious, so look out for some important signs at each stage of purchasing your puppy.

Firstly, where are the puppies advertised? If the advert is posted on social media, where is it shared? For example, if the advert is posted in a regulated group with moderators who haven’t removed the post, it could be seen as more legitimate than if it’s shared to somebody’s personal page or social media ‘story’.

However, generally speaking, any dogs advertised on social media that aren’t from a trusted breeder or rescue centre, are more likely to be from breeders without the relevant background or experience.

Additionally, see how often the breeder posts adverts for puppies- if they seem to have regular litters for sale, and from many different breeds, this could also be a bad sign.

When visiting the seller, there’s a series of checks you should do

If they ask to meet in a public place instead of at their home or venue, it can be a big red flag.

Additionally if the house is dirty, if there are many other outbuildings, or areas are cordoned off with no explanation why.

Listen out for the noises of many other dogs.

However sellers can sometimes rent out spaces to sell their puppies from, so check that it looks as though dogs live there, and that the animals are comfortable in their surroundings.

The RSPCA have handy advice for the right questions to ask a breeder, including asking to see if their ID matches the advert, and to show their Local Authority license if they are breeding and selling pets as a business.

They should also be able to provide genuine paperwork/certificates for puppy vaccinations, microchipping-which is a legal requirement- worming and results for any health tests where relevant.

A good breeder should also ask you questions too: if they care about the welfare of their animals, they should hope they’re rehoming them to the right place.

They should also be happy to use The Puppy Contract if you both agree to it, which is a free toolkit developed by the AWP and RSPCA which helps to protect both breeders and buyers.

Finally, the puppies themselves.

The health of the dog is paramount, so check that they have moist, – but not runny – noses, clear bright eyes and a healthy coat, and are not in visible distress.

Sellers should also be able to answer any concerns you have about the health of the puppy, and produce relevant vaccination paperwork if applicable.

Are you able to see the puppy with its Mum, and with the rest of the litter? A common tactic of puppy farm breeders is to separate the puppy from its mother too early and only show one puppy at a time.

It should also be the same litter that you’ve seen on the adverts.

The best advice is, if it feels wrong, it probably is.

What should I do if I think it’s a puppy farm?

If you believe that the seller is unethical, or running a puppy farm, the first thing you should do is walk away, as hard as that can be.

As tempting as it is to rescue a dog from a potential situation, it is much better to leave and allow the relevant authorities to deal with the breeder.

You can report the advert to the website it is on, in an attempt to get it taken down, and report any licensing breaches to your local council.

If you believe that the dogs’ welfare needs aren’t being met, you should report it directly to the RSPCA, but if you directly witness animal abuse, you can ring the police to deal with the matter.

As The Kennel Club summarises: “All puppies are cute, and unless the puppy itself is unclean or has a visible health condition, there is no way of telling from just the look of the dog what conditions they have been bred in, or what they will be like when they grow up.

“Before you hand over any money, ensure that you’re absolutely convinced that you’re dealing with a responsible breeder.

“Make sure that you ask all the questions you need in order to feel satisfied that the breeder is trustworthy.”

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