Puppy farming is the commercialized mass-breeding of dogs, and unfortunately, a growing number of pet dogs start their lives in the cruel and squalid conditions common to the industry.
The criminals behind each farm have two things in common: they’re firmly focused on profits, and avoid welfare. Worse still, their pockets are lined with your cash – of the 8.5 million pet dogs in the UK, one in five are bred in puppy farms— and dog lovers are often left to tend a poor animal that’s been separated too early from its mother, exposed to physiological torture, as well as a cocktail of genetic and environmental health issues.
Kennel Club research found that one in five owners that bought puppies through classified ads spent between £500 and £1,000 on vet’s bills in the first six months of the puppy’s life, leaving new owners with broken hearts and escalating vets bills.
In light of all this, it’s worrying that 1.2 million people in the UK think puppy farms are a good way of getting a responsibly bred dog.
Even if you know the risks and think: “this would never happen to me”, remember that irresponsible farmers are fronting well-oiled machines, raking in profits that can run into the millions. So tried and tested are their methods, they’re difficult to catch – it’s easier than ever to get online, post a classified ad and hide behind a digital veil, duping unsuspecting, innocent shoppers.
In April 2017, GoCompare stood side-by-side with the RSPCA to put cruel puppy farming and puppy shopping habits under the spotlight. So help us fight the good fight – here’s how you can shop for a new puppy, or older waggy-tailed companion, safely.
Shopping for a puppy? Read between the lines.
A farmer may post a classified puppy ad that looks like this:
READY NOW! Rare pomski cross litter, five weeks old. Vaccinated, wormed, £1,000. Free insurance for four weeks.
On the surface, it appears above board (and you could have a healthy, safe puppy tomorrow, great!) but all is not as it seems:
- Puppies can’t leave their mother before they’re eight weeks old
- The puppy in the photo may not be the one you’re buying
- Rare, designer cross-breeds are a treat for farmers because they fetch higher prices
- You may find the price is cheaper and more appealing than that charged by a registered Kennel Club breeder
- Puppies can’t be vaccinated or wormed before eight weeks old
- You need to meet the mother of puppy before collection, no excuses
- An appointment to discuss your situation with the breeder suggests that they care about who you are and the home you can offer to the puppy, so accept an invitation with open arms
- They may tout free pet insurance for the first few weeks after purchase, but this shouldn’t give you confidence in the puppy’s upbringing thus far if you can’t meet the mother or see its living conditions
Is it worth the risk? If you buy the puppy anyway, bear in mind the farmer will need to replace that puppy to fulfil demand. They have more opportunity to hurt someone else looking for a pet, who isn’t as clued-up as you are.
Shopping for an older dog? See-through the tall tail.
It’s not just farmed puppies on the market. Mother dogs that have exhausted their use are put up for sale, too.
A classified advert selling an overbred mother may read like this:
£300. Seven-year-old bichon frise. Selling due to personal reasons. Had five litters, but could have more. Call for more info.
Be wary of:
- A designer breed at a knock-down price
- A high number of litters
- No mention of current health, vaccinations or microchipping
- A vague, detached reason for sale which could suggest it’s not a loved, family pet
Push for what you know is right
If a breeder tries to evade doing the right thing by the puppy, it’s probably a bad buy. Watch out for these calling cards:
- They let the puppy leave the mother before they’re eight weeks old
- They leave the medical checks, vaccinations, microchipping up to you, or boast they’ve already had the necessary care earlier than legally allowed
- They actively prevent you from meeting the mother. They may say she’s out for a walk, or at the vets, when you come for a visit
- Try to meet you at a different location to where the mother lives
Amanda Bathory is insurance editor at GoCompare. To make a safe, informed decision about where to buy a dog, and start a healthy friendship that will last a life time, read GoCompare’s guide to puppy farming.
 Between the 8th and 13th March 2017 One Poll conducted an online survey among 2000 randomly selected UK adults. UK adult population (18+) estimated to be 48,595,258 (source: ONS Annual mid-year population estimates for the UK 2015). 50% of survey participants stated that they had bought or were thinking of buying a puppy. 5% of those participants believe puppy farms are a good way of getting an animal that’s responsibly bred and raised. 5% of 24,297,629 = 1,214,881.45