Following a harrowing tweet by small Welsh rescue charity Friends of Animals Wales on 25 July saying, “Puppy farmer told me yesterday that farmers and backyard breeders will be breeding from anything with a heartbeat in the next couple of months to meet the demand for pups at any price and the Christmas market”, C.A.R.I.A.D., which stands for Care And Respect Includes All Dogs, and is another welfare organisation based in Wales, is warning that the current puppy crisis is one that only the public can now help stop.
C.A.R.I.A.D. has been campaigning, lobbying governments and trying to educate the public about the barbaric puppy farming trade for over eleven years, but unlike in England where Lucy’s Law was implemented on 6 April this year banning the selling of puppies by third-parties such as pet shops and dealers (a route to market favoured by puppy farmers), the Welsh government is running a year behind in introducing this important new law.
Founder of C.A.R.I.A.D. and Animal Hero Award winner, Linda Goodman says, “Every year we urge the public not to buy puppies as we approach the Christmas period because traditionally, this has always been the very worst time of year to do so for a number of reasons. Puppy farmers breed deliberately to capitalise on the puppy mania accompanying the run up to December, showing no concerns over the welfare of any dogs they’re breeding from, or health of puppies that then go on to be sold.
“But this year the madness started way back in March, the moment Lockdown began. Covid puppies, pandemic puppies, call them what you will, has seen an hysteria from the public, buying puppies without a second thought about their origins, welfare of their parents, and with no apparent hesitation in paying ridiculous money for pups that would normally sell for a fraction of the price. As a result, C.A.R.I.A.D. has received more complaints from members of the public than ever. A lot from people who bought pups in the last few months that were sold as a specific breed or cross breed but have then discovered through DNA testing that they’ve been sold a completely different dog. Others have paid deposits to scammers for puppies that didn’t even exist! Sadly, some of those puppies have since died. It’s like a cross between the Wild West and playing Russian Roulette out there.”
Founder of Friends of Animals Wales Eileen Jones went on to tweet on 16 August, “Three weeks, no calls, no messages. No dogs. A puppy farmer told me they would all be breeding from anything with a heartbeat to meet the expected Xmas demand @WGEnviroAgri [Welsh Government Minister for Environment and Rural Affairs] you have failed so many when #LucysLaw4Wales would have been the start of the end. Heartbreaking. No Freedom Rides for 3 weeks. No new beginnings, no fresh starts, no vet treatment…”
Afterlife2 Actor and animal welfare advocate Peter Egan, patron of C.A.R.I.A.D. added, “With thousands of dogs and pups in rescue centres across the UK all desperate for a loving home, it’s bewildering that people continue to take the risk of buying a puppy that could be sick, or even die, when they could instead wait a couple of months, then adopt a fabulous new companion that has been assessed, neutered, microchipped, and vaccinated from an ethical rescue shelter. Of course, the other irony is that puppies being purchased for thousands of pounds are also ending up in rescues because people have bought on a whim, and soon find they don’t have the time or finances to look after them properly. Or perhaps the novelty of a cute pup suddenly wears off. Why take the risk and spend thousands on a puppy when you know nothing about the background of the pup and fuel canine cruelty, when you could adopt from an ethical rescue for around £200, and have a wonderful friend for life?”
Whilst Wales is known as the puppy farming capital of the UK, the provenance of pups being bought by the public right now isn’t just limited by unscrupulous sellers in the UK. Marc Abraham, the media vet who led the multi-award winning Lucy’s Law campaign in England, warns that pups born in horrendous conditions from countries like Russia, Romania, and Poland are also being sold here legally sparking the current government petition to ban the legal importation of sick puppies from overseas puppy farms, started by dog-lover Lucy Parkinson following the very public passing of Mr Chai puppy, imported from Russia and died 6 days later. This #BanPuppyImports petition sailed passed 100K signatures in just 41 days.
Marc says, “Almost coinciding with start of Lockdown, the ban of third-party commercial puppy and kitten dealers in England, known as Lucy’s Law, ensuring that all puppies are physically seen interacting with their mum in the place they were born, was almost immediately weakened by restrictions being lifted temporarily, enabling all puppies to be delivered to new owners. Add this worrying normalisation of puppy delivery to the huge increase in demand for pups, whatever the motives, from combating loneliness to improving mental health, a project to train or just something fun to keep bored kids happy, the results have been devastating; including poor socialisation with other dogs and humans, as well as the serious likelihood of separation anxiety when people return to work, all problems felt by dogs and their owners potentially for many years to come.”
Animal Protection Services (APS), a charity set up specifically to investigate and prosecute animal cruelty has seen a tidal wave of public reports of illegal breeders, sellers, and scammers too. An APS spokesperson said, “Our officers are busier than ever investigating complaints of sick puppies. Our charity will pursue criminals who benefit from the illegal puppy trade and seek to confiscate assets through the criminal courts. Anyone with concerns about a puppy that they have bought, you should call us on 0330 120 0909.”
But the puppy crisis extends further than just the selling and purchasing of pups. Keele University academic Dr Daniel Allen, who with SAMPAUK (Stolen and Missing Pets Alliance UK) has led the campaign to have pet theft reclassified as a specific crime says, “The risks of having a puppy stolen are now greater than ever. Dogs are being stolen at a most alarming rate causing unthinkable distress to their families. Litters of puppies are being stolen from breeders and thieves have no qualms about who they are targeting, with a recent report of a now traumatised 10-year-old boy who had his puppy Zara stolen from him, while they played together in their front garden. Dog thefts will continue to rise until the government takes this crime seriously, and the courts have access to appropriate custodial sentences.“
Dr Allen’s #PetTheftReform petition has also surpassed the required 100K signatures needed to trigger a Westminster debate, but there is increasing frustration and disappointment from campaigners, that the UK government has already twice rejected calls for pet theft crime to be taken seriously.
Interestingly, Irish online classified website Done Deal has just suspended their advertising of dogs due to the alarming increase in pet thefts in the country. Now there are calls for other online sites to follow their lead. With Covid19 a continuing concern worldwide, and fears of a UK resurgence with local lockdowns happening, UK charity Naturewatch is actively campaigning to ask the major UK classifieds to help the situation by suspending advertising of puppies during the pandemic.
Caroline Ruane, CEO, Naturewatch Foundation says, “Seeing the writing on the wall at the start of Lockdown, Naturewatch targeted Gumtree, Pets4Homes, and Preloved asking them to do the responsible thing and remove adverts for puppies and kittens during the pandemic. This action resulted in all three websites significantly updating their guidance regarding animals for sale – but it’s not enough! Please add your voice to the campaign. For puppy farmers, Christmas has come early. With many people continuing to work from home, public demand for puppies remains high. This has seen puppy farmers attach sky high prices, turning their already lucrative ‘business’ into a goldmine – often raking in cash that’s hidden from HMRC. If you suspect someone is involved in illegal puppy farming or breaching animal welfare standards in the breeding of dogs, please contact, in confidence, our Animal Crime Manager, Andy Swinburne firstname.lastname@example.org or calling 07392 185373.”
But the horror doesn’t end there. What happens to stolen pets is also of grave concern to Hidden-in-sight who help Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) and law enforcement agencies investigate animal abuse around the world.
Director of Operations for Hidden-in-sight, Mark Randell says, “For years we have been investigating and uncovering horrific dog-fighting rings across Europe and in the UK. Our dog-fighting investigation was showcased on the BBC News in the UK, and our work recently contributed to a major organised crime gang being taken down in Athens, Greece seizing guns, drugs, cash and dogs. The connection between organised animal abuse and organised crime is very real.”
C.A.R.I.A.D.’s Linda Goodman concludes, “We like to think we are a nation of dog-lovers, but how can we call ourselves this now? We’ve become a nation of ‘instant puppy-wanters’, creating the perfect storm for this unprecedented puppy and dog welfare crisis. It’s being fanned by the greed of opportunistic, low-welfare breeders, and fuelled by the public’s “I want it now!” mentality. We have to try and stop this madness. Campaigners and many mid-small sized charities are working tirelessly to try and make a big difference, but with little or no resources; all supporting each other’s work because the issues are so interconnected.
“What we desperately need right now is for the public to put on the brakes and take a puppy buying break. Unsold and unwanted puppies usually end up being handed in to rescue centres anyway. Online classifieds urgently need to create safer environments too, and preferably only allow reputable rescues to advertise dogs and pups for adoption or fostering from now until after Christmas, something PAAG (The Pet Advertising Advisory Group) should really be pushing for.
“By working together we’ll have some breathing space to get vital new laws and bans in place to protect puppies, breeding dogs, and of course puppy buyers.”