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Would you know if you were buying from a Puppy Farm?

Puppy farms are ‘establishments’ where breeders focus more on profit than they do on their animals’ health. These breeders will breed puppies for sale in pet shops, online, or from a separate location like a farm (rarely are they sold where the real conditions of the dogs can be revealed).

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Puppy farms can vary in sizes, a large scale operation could hold several hundred dogs, cramped and in wire cages; an example being in 2008 where 700 dogs were removed from a premises in Tenessee. These dogs live in extremely poor conditions where they are under socialised, not exercised, have no or very little human contact, underfed, and kept in the dark usually outside in sheds in cramped conditions where they sleep, eat and give birth in their own excrement. These dogs are money making machines, bred constantly, always pregnant and discarded when they can longer make money (Turner, 2010). If this wasn't enough for the puppies they are often removed from their parents far too early, and any health checks, vaccinations and worming treatments are ignored. The parents are not given any genetic testing to check for hereditary conditions and therefore puppies are more likely to develop conditions later on in life, especially as dogs that are closely related are bred together (Kennel Club, 2014). The breeders do not care about the animals’ health and will just continuously breed regardless of the consequences. As a result of the way they brought into the world puppies from a puppy breeding facility are more likely to suffer from common, infectious diseases, painful or chronic inherited conditions, behavioural issues and a shorter lifespan. Some puppies do not even make it the first week when they have been taken to their new homes.

As well as the potential health problems there is also the possibility of behavioural problems developing because of this environment. There are a number of important stages that a puppy goes through to develop into a psychologically healthy animal and these stages are missed when puppies are brought up in these conditions. Some puppies are taken away from their littermates around 5 weeks of age and during this time they are still learning from their mother and siblings. They learn dog etiquette and how to correctly socialise with one another. At this time they are only just starting to wander away from their litter for a few minutes at a time. Respectable breeders will start to separate the litter at this time for literally a few minutes at a time to slowly build their confidence. They will start to introduce novel objects to lower the chance of them developing a phobia in later life. Puppies kept in cramped cages with no lights and no new objects and no human contact are going to become very fearful when suddenly thrust into a home environment where they are now among people and other animals and hundreds of objects they have never come across before.

Many people reading this may be thinking that they would obviously never purchase a puppy from one of these places but figures published by the Kennel Club suggested that in 2014 41% of people questioned did not see the mother of their puppy when they bought it. More shockingly 53% of people did not see the puppies living environment when they picked their puppy (Kennel Club, 2014). This needs to change. Puppy farmers have gotten clever and some will actually take the puppy litters to a third party residence where they will put them with an unrelated healthy looking female dog and pass her off as the puppies mother.

So how do you ensure you are not buying from a Puppy Farm? Here are a few tips;

- Be wary of a seller that has multiple litters of lots of different breeds. - Always ask to see the parents of the puppies or at least the mother dog. Breeders are not always being truthful when they say the mother is at the vets, or having a rest away from the puppies etc. - A breeder should always be willing to show you where the puppies are being raised; where they go to sleep, where they eat, and how they are currently being socialised i.e. have they been exposed to any novel objects, children etc.? - A good breeder will ask you lots of questions and should be able to answer all of yours. If they care about the future of their puppies they are going to want to know where you live, if you have had a dog before and what your home environment is like for example. - Like mentioned in the article some female dogs are put with unrelated puppies to give the impression of a reputable breeder. When observing the litter and female check that there is lots of positive interaction going on and that the female is actually interested in the puppies. You could check to see how the female responds to her name, the likelihood is that if she is a puppy farm dog used only for breeding she won't have a name, or at least won't be used to responding to it. - A reputable breeder will have genetically tested and health checked any parent dogs before breeding them. Ask to see these certificates. DEFINITELY DO NOT buy a puppy from a pet shop. They may look cute and cuddly but puppies in a pet shop are likely to have come from a puppy farm and may be harbouring many health problems. Similarly do not pick up a puppy from a neutral location without having gone to see the puppy and its environment beforehand. As harsh as this sounds, the best thing you can do when you think you have come across a puppy farm is to walk away and then go and report it to a local authority. Buying a puppy from one of these places is just making a gap for another puppy to fill whilst funding the people behind these cruel practices. If you are especially worried about buying from one of these places you could always look for alternative places to get your dog from such as one of the many dog rescues found in any country. Many dogs end up in rescues through no fault of their own, you can find many different breeds and age of dog and many of these places will have onsite dog trainers and behaviourists to help you throughout your dog’s adoption.

References Kennel Club (2014) Puppy Farming. Available from (Accessed 25/02/2015). Turner, J. (2010) Animal Breeding, Welfare and Society. Routledge Publishing.

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