Business breeding, intensive breeding, call it what you want. Let’s just be honest and call it what it is – Puppy Farming.
Europe, and sadly Ireland, has an increasingly large amount of puppy farms, both legal and ones secreted away in backyard sheds and filthy barns. With Christmas coming the owners of these farms are rubbing their hands together with glee, knowing full well that they will be doing a roaring trade in the poor creatures which come out of them.
What do you see?
The advert for your precious little darling (Bichon, Cavichon, French Bulldog, Pug, Chihuahua – the current popular dogs – the ‘designer dogs’) are on Done Deal or Adverts, maybe on Facebook.
Eight week old puppy, bred to pedigree parents, raised in our family home with children, cat and another dog. Very well settled and socialised. Vaccinated and ready to go, only two pups left!
This is too good to be true! You call the number hoping you have got through in time and organise a meeting. You are lucky. Conveniently enough, YOU managed to get the very last puppy. Here is where one of two things happens. An arrangement is made to either meet the puppy at the family’s ‘house’ or somewhere ‘mutually suitable’ – probably in a car park somewhere. If you are lucky you will get to meet ‘mum’. Dad will likely be off and about doing his own thing (something often comes up, quite unexpectedly you understand).
But there is that gorgeous little puppy, all is forgotten. The smell, the warmth and the cuddles. Your suspicion has not even been aroused. Money is exchanged, maybe you get the vaccination papers, certainly you didn’t get any papers for the dogs pedigree and almost definitely the pup hasn’t been microchipped (that’s up to a €5000 fine for the breeder right there). Off home you go with your puppy to get used to toilet training, teething and chewing and the oohs and the ahhs from everyone but hopefully not the repercussions for you (and especially for your puppy) of having bought a ‘farmed’ puppy.
What are Puppy Farms?
At some point in time, unscrupulous breeders cottoned-on that they weren’t making money breeding a dog honestly, with love and kindness. They realised that pushing the dogs to their limits, treating them as a commodity rather than a sentient being, was the way to fill their bank accounts. This was the birth of the puppy farm. They come in different shapes in sizes. Currently a council has approved one to extend a house for the purposes of breeding three hundred bitches. This in a puppy farm which had already been the subject of an undercover documentary showing a damning report on it.
Say you have a puppy farm, granted a licence for 200 breeding bitches. A couple of large barns are set up with small pens along them – often only a metre square. In each unit is a dog, sometimes a bed, often only the floor, sometimes a crate which they are expected to stay in most of their lives. If they are lucky there will be a heat lamp, if not – the elements must be faced in those cold, cold sheds. Bitches naturally go into heat twice a year. This wouldn’t make the farmers a lot of money so oestrogen injections are used to bring the bitch into heat more frequently.
Male dogs are brought in to cover (impregnate) the bitch. If the bitch is not happy with this she is put on a block, an archaic wooden device where she is fastened in place whenever the male ‘covers’ her. This is an ongoing cycle. The bitch is then placed in her crate or stall and left to wait out the pregnancy – fed, watered and occasionally cleaned out. They never see the light of day, are never exercised, have no idea what grass feels like, the feel of arms wrapped around them in a cuddle, or the feeling of being loved. Their claws go untrimmed. They develop bedsores from not being able to move in their small spaces and they develop ammonia burns from being left to sit in their own urine.
The puppies arrive. They live in the same small space, they are weaned as soon as possible, often taken from the mum before they should be, risking both emotional and physical damage for both the puppies and mum. Still, for the farmer, the longer they are there the more it is costing them.
From the Farm to your Family
The puppy farmer is a very conniving breed, set up with several phones, many different accounts on different online sales sites and several different aliases. Houses may be rented, papers may be forged and that cute little family and the ‘mum and dad’ of the pups – all part of the illusion as well. Meeting in ‘the family home’ makes it all seem so real. The car park in the ‘mutually convenient’ area – sure, you thought it was saving you time on a long trip. In reality, it is hiding the ugly truth and keeping you from being able to trace them should anything go wrong.
There are always at least twenty more puppies there when they are down to ‘the last two’. Vaccinations? Who knows, they too cost money, often the vaccination certs ‘are in the post’ but they never come. Vans, trucks and cars are constantly boarding boats, trying to get puppies abroad. The conditions in which they are being carried – just horrible! Crammed into very small boxes with no room for movement and hidden under bags and clothing in an effort to get them through unnoticed. The ports are now searching more thoroughly to try and catch these before they get through. A haul of 34 designer puppies were taken in at a rescue centre earlier this year after they were found in a truck at a port.
Health wise, dogs from a puppy farm can have a very tough time. Inbreeding, severe over-breeding, small gene pools and absolutely no socialisation. Skin issues, food intolerance and nervous dispositions are extremely common. What about those left behind? While you sit and adore your new puppy, spare a thought for those left behind. They only have so long until their ‘shelf life’ expires. At this stage, they are thrown on the scrap heap.
Ex breeders are often found left in bogs, dumped at rescue centres or just left roaming. They are left in an awful condition, legs badly damaged due to never being exercised, muscles wasted away, sores, fur completely gone, ammonia burns from lying in their own urine, completely unsure of how to interact with humans or other dogs – terrified of the outside world. It is heartbreaking to see, a relief to see them free but heartbreaking to see them left like this. A result of greed driven by demand.
Lola and Bruce
When writing this I think of a beautiful English Bulldog called Lola, rescued from a life as a breeding bitch for a puppy farmer. Lola was shut in a crate not much bigger than she was for her entire life. She raised countless litters of puppies in her short years in there. When saved by an amazing family she had growths on her toes and elbows from the ammonia in the urine and from sores from the crate which she was a prisoner in – all in the name of money.
Lola will never be able to walk far as her muscles and joints are ruined due to the life she was forced to lead. She has an amazing family that give her all of the love and affection she truly deserves and a divine brother called Bruce – also a rescue English Bulldog. Lola and Bruce’s family have gone to every effort to keep both of them as healthy and well as they can. This is truly a happy ending for Lola. If only this story could end the same for more.
Please think before you shop for a puppy this Christmas!
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