Most of us have at some point heard of the horrors of Puppy Farming, and no-one would knowingly buy a puppy from a puppy farm, but how can we identify them? In the old movies, the good guys wore white and the bad guys wore black.  Not so with Puppy farms who on the face of it can appear to be reputable breeders – the lines can become blurred at times.  Just how can the average person or the first time dog buyer tell the difference?

Whether the dogs are kept in the home or in kennels, a good breeder will be more than happy to show off their breeding stock.  Their dogs will appear, on the whole, to be well cared for and have adequate food, water and shelter.  It is less likely that you will get the Grand Tour of a puppy farm, but this is not always the case.  Their dogs too may appear, on the whole, to be well cared for and have adequate food, water and shelter.  So why all the fuss?

Puppy farmers will produce puppies of whatever breed, in sub-standard accommodation, often selling them below their market price for a “fast turnover”.  They will breed their bitches every season to get the maximum number of puppies from them – contrary to good breeding practice, Kennel Club rules and the Breeding and Selling of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 which indicate that only one litter of puppies should be born to each bitch in a 12 month period and not in their first season. Litters will be registered with the Kennel Club only once a year – the second litter will either not be registered or will be registered through another organisation which registers puppies and adult dogs who are pure bred but “have no birth certificate”.  Alternatively the puppy farmer may register the litter through the Kennel Club, but to a bitch who is not actually their mother.  Oh yes, this happens!  A second litter in a year may be born to a reputable breeder, for example, where the dog and bitch got together without the knowledge of their owners – I have even heard of a mating taking place through a chain link fence (the mind boggles), or if the bitch came into season early and her puppies were born early, but these are definitely the exception rather than the rule.

In the interest of keeping costs to a minimum, Puppy Farms will rarely be registered as a breeder with the local authority, cheap household disinfectant may be used and no “un-necessary” health care will be given, vaccinations, health checks and the like – and if a puppy is not thriving or is sick, it will be deemed “not worth the effort” of saving, and will often be discarded to die.  On the other side of the coin, reputable breeder will seek veterinary help and treatment for sick animals, adult or puppy and if there is no chance of recovery, veterinary euthanasia is preferable to neglect.

The vast majority of bitches, having reared a litter will noticeably lose condition and a quantity of their hair will be shed – in large clumps – this is normal and nothing can be done to prevent it.  It doesn’t indicate that the bitch is not well cared for, just that she has given her all to her puppies.  If the “mother” to a litter appears to be radiant and in good coat, then she is either not the mother of the puppies, or the puppies were weaned from her very early – far too early.

Puppies are actually the best indicator that all is not well.  Puppies are naturally inquisitive creatures and will approach new people with interest. A puppy or puppies sitting huddled in one place is a bad sign, and no matter how much your heart goes out to them, please resist the temptation to buy or “rescue” one – or more.  Puppies from puppy farms almost always have medical problems – skin problems and digestive problems being the main ones. It can cost a lot of money to get them put right at the vets – and not all of them will make it. If you buy a puppy from one of these places, you will be storing up heart-ache for yourselves and your family.  Legislation against such organisations has not worked in the past.  The only reliable way to shut them down is not to buy a dog or puppy from them – you are helping them make space for the next “batch”.

The advice I would give is “if in doubt, don’t buy”.

…  Anne