So it’s a bit off-topic for the blog, but its very topical in Irish society today. And very close to my heart. Ireland is known as the ‘Puppy farm capital of Europe’, with hundreds of illegal puppy farms in operation today.
A puppy farm, according to Rescue Animals Ireland, is defined as; “a commercial dog breeding facility that is operated with an emphasis upon profits above animal welfare and is often in substandard conditions regarding the well-being of dogs in their care. Due to the frequently poor breeding conditions in puppy farms, puppies bred there often suffer from health and/or social problems. Puppies raised in a cramped environment shared by many other dogs become poorly socialized to other dogs and to humans. “
In the UK there are 895 registered puppy farms which produce roughly 70,000 puppies a year, whereas in Ireland there are only 73 registered which produce 30,000 puppies yearly. Worked out that’s 410 puppies per farm per year, compared to 78 per farm in the UK. Some farms have over 500 breeding bitches, where the DSPCA recommend that there are fewer than 10.
Conditions on these farms are atrocious. The mothers are often kept in the dark, having litter after litter with no proper veterinary care (for the pups either) and without access to clean water. enough food and live in their own filth. Puppies that come from these farms often end up with a list of medical complaints and behavioral issues from the lack of care and their cramped conditions, and sometimes lead a very short life as a result. There can be a high risk of in-breeding on puppy farms, and it would not be unusual for the pups to be taken away from the mother before the appropriate 8 weeks.
You could easily be fooled; these illegal breeders know how to pull the wool over the eyes of potential buyers. For example, they have been known to use the same address for multiple sales, and pretend to be a loving family whose pet had a litter. The next week they will pull the same stunt with a totally different litter of puppies. This way, the buyer doesn’t see the conditions of the puppy farm. Or they will ask to meet the buyer in a car park, or deliver the puppy direct to the buyers house.
What you can do;
The best thing you can do if you’re looking for a new pet is to rescue one from a shelter. Rescued dogs are among the most loving, they will have had their vaccinations in most cases and will be micro-chipped. When you rescue a dog, you free up the space in the shelter for them to take in another also, so you really save two dogs.
If you really do have to buy one, there are steps you can take to be sure you are buying from a reputable dealer. These are some tips from Rescue Animals Ireland;
- The majority of reputable breeders do not advertise in classified ads on the internet and in newspapers. Check to see if the breeder has multiple breeds for sale. If they are selling more than one breed, walk away! Check with the Irish Kennel Club for a reputable breeder.
- They create ‘designer’ breeds by mixing dogs and creating odd names like “cavachon” (Bichon Frise / Cavalier King Charles Spaniel mix) or “puggle” (Pug / Beagle mix).
- ‘Teacup’ or miniatures of a breed for sale. Teacup dogs are often dogs that were born prematurely and carry greatly increased health risks. They are prone to heart failure, dental problems, behavioral/temperamental problems and various other complications, many of which are causes of their relatively short lifespans.
- Be wary of a breeder that doesn’t show you the area the mother and pups were kept. Ask to see the mother and if possible the father.
- If the breeder offers to deliver a pup to your home or meet you in a car park before you have seen it at their home, walk away. This is a common way for breeders to prevent people from seeing the conditions the pups have been raised in.
- The pup should come with vaccination information signed by the vet. They should also give information on food, vaccinations, worming etc.
- It currently costs 13euro to 20euro register a pup with the Irish Kennel Club. If a breeder claims that both parents of the pup are IKC registered then the pups should also be registered. IKC will not register more than one litter a year from a dog. They will also not register pups if the mother isn’t over one year of age or if the mother is over eight years of age. They can have no more than six litters in their lifetime. This is for the health and well-being of the breeding dog.
- Be suspicious if the breeder doesn’t ask questions of you. A responsible breeder will want to ensure that their dogs are going to good homes.
- If you suspect that the breeder is a puppy farmer, do not buy from them. Sometimes people will see dogs and pups in bad condition and feel sorry for them and buy them. This only gives the breeder more money and they will continue to breed dogs. Instead report what you have seen. Give as much information about the breeder to your local ISPCA.
You can also donate to the various charities fighting the illegal puppy farm trade and support the care of dogs in shelters. See the links below.
Throughout my life, we have had 4 beautiful dogs. All of which have been rescued. Our third dog, Angel, was adopted through Dogs In Distress. She had been on a puppy farm her entire life and had been over-bred from (a dog should have no more than 6 litters in their lifetime). When she was taken in, she needed a tummy-tuck to get her poor stomach back into shape and just wanted to rest after her ordeal.
When we adopted her a few months after being taken in by Dogs In Distress, we could see in her eyes the pain she had been through. We had no idea what age she was, but she knew she was finally in a home where she was loved. She didn’t know how to play with toys, and had to learn to be able to show affection, but the elderly dog we will had too, Sally, showed her just how to live.
She wasn’t a ‘designer’ breed, she was a beagle crossed with a pointer, and most likely was bred for hunting dogs. We knew she was definitely bred with beagles as it was the only breed of dog she didn’t like to see on the street.
Unfortunately due to her age (we assume she was quite elderly) after 4 years she was taken by an illness. We loved her from the moment she got her and she brought us such a huge amount of joy and comfort.
This was Angel when she was first taken in. She was scrawny, and in desperate need of veterinary care. However, it wasn’t long after we adopted her that she fell in love with life!
Now we have adopted a beautiful black Labrador, who was also from Dogs In Distress. He is by far the happiest, most loving and caring dog we have ever had. He was surrendered to a pound by his family, and then taken in by DID who gave him to a foster home for a few months before we got him.
I have always felt that the personality of a dog is far more important than how they look. Remember, designer breeds carry a lot of health issues and temperament problems.
Please consider rescuing a dog before buying one! If you see something suspicious, report it.
https://dogsindistress.org/ (I am very fond of this organisation as they keep the dogs in foster homes while they are waiting to be adopted!)