Opinion Former Article

Dogs Trust: Charity warns public is being duped into buying 'farmed' dogs

. 95% of dog owners say they wouldn't buy a dog from a puppy farm, yet 900,000 may have done so without even knowing

. Dogs Trust rebrands the trade 'battery farming of dogs' and calls for an immediate review of dog breeding licensing legislation

The UK dog-owning public is being duped into buying dogs from puppy farms says Dogs Trust, the UK's largest dog welfare charity, inadvertently fuelling the cruel trade and potentially landing themselves with huge vet bills.

In a recent survey the charity asked dog owners if they would consider buying a dog from a puppy farm. Although almost 95% said no, when asked where they had got their dog from 15.1% - potentially 900,000 dog owners - admitted they had got them from an advert in the newspaper, the internet, a pet shop or a pet superstore, all outlets often supplied by puppy farms.

In the past six months Dogs Trust has seen a marked increase in calls from concerned members of the public on the subject of puppy farming, many from dog owners whose pets have suffered illness and in some cases died as a result of having been bred at puppy farms.

Dogs Trust is calling for immediate measures to help to stop the puppy farming trade:

1. General public
Dogs Trust is introducing the term 'battery farming of dogs' to associate the practice in the minds of the public with that of battery farming of chickens, and wants to educate the public as to where they can safely go to buy a 'cruelty free dog'.

Dogs Trust's message to the public is:
. Be wary of buying a dog from the internet, from a newspaper, from a pet shop or garden centre
. Always ask to see the puppy interacting with its mother and be concerned if excuses are made as to why you can't
. Check paperwork and be suspicious if previous owner details have been removed or disguised
. If you suspect a puppy has come from a farm don't buy it. You may be saving a dog but you'll be fuelling the battery farm trade

2. Government & Local Authorities
Dogs Trust is calling for the review of existing breeding licensing legislation.

Clarissa Baldwin, CEO of Dogs Trust, says:

"Battery farming of dogs is an appalling practice, abhorrent to all decent members of society. Breeding bitches are kept in unthinkably cruel conditions and bred from continuously until they are too old, then discarded. Puppies often suffer from medical problems and behavioural issues as a result of being inadequately socialised. While most people would never consider buying a dog from such a place, it seems that a large number are inadvertently doing so.

"Most reputable breeders would never sell their dogs through newspaper adverts, pet shops or superstores, garden centres or internet websites. Anyone who sees an animal for sale in any of these places should be suspicious. Newspaper adverts and online websites are of particular concern since unscrupulous breeders or middle men (dealers) are difficult to identify, often posing as members of the public selling 'puppies from unplanned litters'."

WHAT'S WRONG WITH BATTERY FARMS?

Breeding bitches at battery farms:
-Are kept in small pens without natural daylight or contact with other dogs
-They suffer the mental cruelty of having little contact with people and having no space to exercise or opportunity to play
-Are bred from continuously in these conditions until they are too old, then discarded

A battery farmed puppy could have genetic or other health problems relating to its poor breeding conditions. It could also have behavioural problems as a result of being taken from its mother at too young an age.

Common problems for a puppy farmed dog are:
Parvovirus - can be fatal but cost up to £1,000
Worms - can be fatal but if it causes bad diarrhoea requiring a drip it could cost £500
Hip dysplasia - two total hip replacements would cost £7,000
Patella luxation (dislocating knee-caps) - surgery on both knees would cost £1,500
Congenital heart problems - if surgery required would cost £5,000-6,000

CASE STUDY

In August 2009 Clare Marklen decided to get another dog to join her two Jack Russell Terriers (JRTs), She saw an advert online for a litter of miniature JRTs and went to the seller's house to buy one. There was only one puppy left, a tiny black female JRT crossed with a Chihuahua. Clare immediately felt suspicious as the pup didn't resemble the ones in the advert, she was not allowed to see the dog's parents and the sellers did not provide her with a puppy pack about how to look after the dog, but she felt sorry for her so paid £295 and took her home.

Clare explains:

"I should have listened to the alarm bells ringing in my head, but my husband and I just wanted to get her out of there so paid the money. Pebbles was subdued and began to pass blood and have diarrhoea almost immediately. The vet said she could have a number of problems, gave her some medication and an injection and told us to keep her separated from my other two dogs so the infections didn't spread. The next morning I went downstairs to check up on her and she was dead in her basket.

We'd only had her 2 days and I was heartbroken. I repeatedly called the breeder to warn them about the infection in case the other puppies had it, but they just wouldn't answer the phone. I didn't want a refund, I was concerned about the other dogs' welfare."

Clare now has a five month old Parson Terrier puppy, but it took her a further four attempts to find a reputable breeder willing to show her both parents and provide her with a puppy pack.

Dogs Trust offers advice for anyone looking to buy a puppy. The guide can be downloaded from www.dogstrust.org.uk

Notes to Editors
Dogs Trust is the UK's largest dog welfare charity caring for over 16,000 dogs each year at its 18 rehoming centres in the UK and Ireland.

For further information, photographs or interview requests please contact:

Sinead Scott-Lennon
Deputy Head of Communications
020 7833 7650
Sinead.scott-lennon@dogstrust.org.uk

Sally Wright
Senior Press Officer
020 7833 7608
Sally.wright@dogstrust.org.uk

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