Most of us have, at some point, heard of the horrors of Puppy or Kitten Farming, and no-one would knowingly buy a puppy or kitten from such a place. – 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 and Kitten farms who, on the face of it, can appear to be reputable breeders – the lines can become blurred at times. Whether the animals 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 or kitten farm, but this is not always the case. Their animals too may appear, on the whole, to be well cared for and have adequate food, water and shelter. So why all the fuss?
Just how can the average person or the first time dog buyer tell the difference?
Puppy and Kitten Farms are NOT run with the best interests of the animals at heart. These “farmers” will produce puppies and kittens of whatever breed, in sub-standard accommodation, often selling them below their market price for a “fast turnover”. They will breed their females every season to squeeze the maximum number of babies from them – often at the expense of the animal’s health – and 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. In a Puppy Farm, they will continue to breed every season, alternate litters will be registered with the Kennel Club, – 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 or kitten farmer may register the second litter to a different mother. Oh yes, this happens!
A second litter in a year may occasionally 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, cheaper household disinfectant may be used and no “un-necessary” health care will be given, vaccinations, health checks and the like – and if a puppy or kitten 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 put dog welfare first, using a good-quality disinfectant, seeking veterinary help and treatment for sick animals, adult or young – and if there is no chance of recovery, veterinary euthanasia is preferable to neglect. The vast majority of animals, 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 babies. If the “mother” to a litter appears to be radiant and in good coat, then she is either not the mother, or the babies were weaned from her very early – far too early. Puppies can go to their new homes at 8 weeks and kittens at 13 weeks – be wary of organisations who sell before this age.
Puppies and Kittens are actually the best indicator that all is not well. They are naturally inquisitive creatures and will approach new people with interest. A litter of puppies or kittens 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. These animals almost always have medical problems – skin problems and digestive problems being the main ones. Some problems are caused by lack of proper care, some are inherited problems through bad breeding and producing too many litters. 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 or kitten 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 puppy or kitten from them – you are helping them make space for the next “batch”.
The advice I would give is “if in doubt, don’t buy”.