The growing demand for dogs in the UK has caused a darker side effect, namely the growth of puppy farms or unregistered ‘barnyard’ breeders, which can have heartbreaking implications for future owners.
Since the end of 2019, the dog population in the UK has increased by almost 50%, from 9.5 million dogs to 12.5 million according to a survey carried out by the Pet Food Manufacturers Association.
This is largely due to the fact that many people are adopting or buying dogs to keep them company during the Covid-19 pandemic, but this increase is also correlated with a greater demand for puppies, allowing puppy farms to thrive. .
As the PDSA published on their website: “A puppy farm is where several dogs are continually bred and the puppies sold. They are kept in poor conditions because the “breeders” do not care about their health and happiness.
“They are very different from reputable breeders. Usually, reputable breeders will only breed one or two different breeds at a time and should put the health of their puppies and mothers above a quick profit.
“Puppy farms tend to have many more breeds than that available, and dogs from puppy farms can get sick, which can lead to heartache for unwitting owners who adopt them.”
The RSPCA said it received 4,357 calls in 2018 alerting it to potential cases in England, up from 890 in 2008, a number that has been rising since.
Several measures have been put in place to try to combat the crisis, but they are by no means definitive.
Lucy’s Law, which was introduced in April 2020, meant that all third-party sales of puppies six months or younger would be banned, in a bid to crack down on puppy farms and other untrustworthy sellers.
This law means that puppies must be sold by the breeder, from where they were born with their mother.
However, that hasn’t stopped breeders from trying to cash in on this market boom by continuing their illegal activities and tricking hopeful dog owners into buying puppies that were bred contrary to the law. ethically and even cruelly, which can lead to health complications later.
TeamDogs have put together a guide to spotting a potential unethical breeder and what to do when you think you’ve encountered one.
How to recognize a puppy farm
It’s not always obvious that you’re potentially buying a dog from a puppy farm, so watch out for some important signs every step of the way.
First of all, where are the advertised puppies? If the ad is posted on social media, where is it shared? For example, if the ad is posted in a regulated group with moderators who have not deleted the post, it could be considered more legitimate than if it is shared on someone’s personal page or on a “story of social media.
However, generally speaking, any dogs advertised on social media that are not from a trusted breeder or rescue center are more likely to come from breeders with no relevant background or experience.
Also, see how often the breeder advertises for puppies – if they seem to have regular litters for sale and many different breeds, that could also be a bad sign.
Make sure you don’t hand over any form of bail until you’ve seen the dog yourself and have all the correct information in place.
When you visit the seller, you must complete a series of checks to establish their legitimacy.
If they ask to meet in a public place rather than at their home or meeting place, that can be a big red flag.
Other noticeable warning signs can be if the house is dirty, if there are many other outbuildings, or if areas are cordoned off without any explanation.
Listen for the sounds of many other dogs, especially those in distress.
However, sellers can sometimes rent spaces to sell their puppies, so check that it appears that dogs live there and that the animals are comfortable in their surroundings.
The RSPCA has practical advice for the right questions to ask a breeder, including to see if their ID matches the listing, and to show their local authority license if they breed and sell pets as a business .
They must also be able to provide authentic documents/certificates for puppy vaccinations, microchipping – which is a legal requirement – worming and results of any health tests if applicable.
A good breeder should also ask you questions: if he cares about the well-being of his animals, he must hope to put them in the right place.
They should also be happy to use The Puppy Contract if you both agree, this is a free toolkit developed by the AWP and RSPCA that helps protect both breeders and buyers.
Finally, the puppies themselves.
The dog’s health is paramount, so check that he has a wet but not runny nose, clear, shiny eyes and a healthy coat, and is not in visible distress.
Sellers should also be able to address any health concerns you may have with the puppy and produce relevant vaccination paperwork, if required.
Can you see the puppy with its mom and with the rest of the litter? A common tactic of puppy breeders is to separate the puppy from its mother too soon and only show one puppy at a time.
It should also be the same litter you have seen in the advertisements.
The best advice is that if you’re feeling bad, you probably are.
What should I do if I think this is a puppy farm?
If you think the seller is unethical or running a puppy farm, the first thing to do is leave, as difficult as that may be.
As tempting as it is to save a dog from a potential situation, it is far better to leave and let the proper authorities deal with the breeder.
You can report the ad on the website it is on, seeking to have it removed, and report any license violations to your local council.
If you think the dogs’ welfare needs are not being met, you should report this directly to the RSPCA, but if you witness animal abuse directly, you can call the police to deal with the matter.
Like The dog club summarizes: “All puppies are cute, and unless the puppy itself is dirty or has a visible medical condition, there’s no way to tell from just the look of the dog what condition they’re in. been raised, or what they will look like when they grow up.
“Before handing over any money, make sure you are absolutely confident that you are dealing with a responsible breeder.
“Be sure to ask all the questions you need to make sure the breeder is trustworthy.”