The UK has seen a surge in the inhumane trade of farmed puppies being sold to unsuspecting buyers. These animals are being mass produced in appalling puppy farms in which they are being separated from their mothers prematurely, and transported long distances in cruel conditions to be sold via pet shops, newspaper ads, websites and private dealers. There is growing concern, particularly over puppies being sold via the internet in classified ads, as this leaves little traceability of the traders for the authorities. Reputable pedigree dog breeders rarely advertise litters in newspapers or online, and the Dogs Trust advices against buying puppies from such sources or from pet shops.

The RSPCA stated that in the last year alone there was a 90% increase in calls related to puppy trade reporting in Manchester, which along with Wales is a hotspot for puppy farms.  As well as the increase in illicit UK breeders there has been a rise in illegal imports from Europe. These imports bring with them a rabies threat, and based on information obtained from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs the threat from rabies could go up. Many dogs are illegally imported under the false pretence of being personal pets only to be sold off to those unaware of the dangerous journeys their new pooches have undergone or the dire state so many of these puppies are in – not to mention the health risks they pose to their new families. These animals are being brought into the UK with false documentation and medical certificates, and others without any documentation whatsoever. Besides those wrongly being declared non-commercial, others fail to be declared at all due to lack of law enforcement at ports. The European controls currently in place are repeatedly proving to fail.

To protect the rabies-free status of the UK many, like the RSPCA Chief Veterinary Officer, James Yeates, have called for the Government to take preventative action on the number of dogs being fraudulently smuggled across borders. Additionally, there have been calls for some form of monitoring and assessment to check that the dogs being sold online comply with the Pet Animals Act 1951 under commercial rules and not the Pet Travel Scheme (PETS), which is continuously taken advantage of as a loophole by illegal puppy dealers. For any progress to be made, there must be proactive liaison between the UK government and the European Commission.

Farmed puppies often receive little to no human interaction or canine socialisation whilst caged in inadequately small kennels, leading to various physical and psychological complications. Such battery farming produces puppies with behaviour disorders and shorter life spans resulting from impaired immune systems that lead to painful diseases requiring costly treatments. So what may appear to be a good deal will, in most cases, result in continuous veterinary and training expenses. Due to the often severely poor health conditions of “battery dogs”, there is also the greater emotional cost that comes with the unexpected and early death that is the unfortunate fate of such sick and mass produced animals. Other much loved furry family favourites such as kittens and rabbits are also known to be a part of this mass production of pets, but it is the puppy trade where bigger profits are to be had, leading to this new rise in puppy farms across the country.

Why such a despicable trade has been able to take off, may be to do with the changing societal attitudes towards pet ownership. A change, in no small way, fuelled by the prevalent and ever-growing celebrity culture. The decision to buy a dog is no longer a carefully considered long-term investment towards a loyal companion. Nowadays, all that is required to motivate many to purchase a dog is for a  “celebrity” to be seen parading an “on-trend” pedigree in a ludicrously sized handbag. Dogs have come to be seen as a must-have fashion accessory or status symbol rather than a pet, and like all fads what’s hot and what’s not comes and goes as fast as the passing fame of their celebrity owners.

This impulsive desire and demand for certain pedigrees means big business for puppy farmers who can mass-produce what the market calls for at bargain-basement rates, making big profits and putting people and puppies at great risk. The cliché holds true for puppies as with anything else, if the deal seems too good to be true, you can most definitely be sure that it is. Furthermore, this has no doubt led to the irresponsible pet-ownership that has resulted in animal sanctuaries left unable to cope with the influx of unwanted pets.

For a famously dog-loving nation, it may be shocking that the demand for farmed pups has taken off. But the truth is, like in so many other instances, it comes down to a lack of ethical consumerism. It is not just the producers who must be held to account, we the consumers must be better aware of the commercial choices we make, and what business we fund when we buy a pet, or any other product for that matter.




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