Puppy Farms - How And Why To Avoid Buying A Farmed Puppy

A puppy farm (also sometimes referred to as a puppy mill) is a medium to large-scale commercial dog breeding enterprise, with the emphasis of the endeavour solely aimed at turning the maximum amount of profit for the minimum amount of effort and investment. Puppy farms for dogs are the equivalent of battery farms for chickens, and the care, welfare and living conditions of the dogs and puppies kept and housed as part of a puppy farming establishment are by their very nature, sub-par, and unfit for purpose.

Commercial dog breeders must be registered with their local authority and inspected and certified to trade in puppies, something that many puppy farms will never be able to achieve.  Ergo, many puppy farms and puppy mills are in fact, illegal within Great Britain, although the checks and standards currently required to register as a commercial dog breeder are not particularly stringent, and so local authority registration should not be taken as a standalone indicator of a healthy living environment for commercially bred puppies,  nor of responsible breeding.

Why all potential puppy owners should avoid buying a farmed puppy

Responsible dog breeders have one goal at the forefront of their minds: producing happy, healthy and fit puppies on a small scale, from much loved sires and dams that are carefully cared for and treated with love and respect for the duration of their lives, even after their breeding days are over. Puppy farms simply aim to produce the maximum amount of viable puppies from their dogs as quickly and as cheaply as possible, paying little regard to the health and happiness of the dogs involved.

Breeding dogs kept by puppy farms are simply used as cash cows, producing litter after litter of puppies until their failing health means that they are discarded, often given up to anyone who will take them, abandoned, or destroyed. As puppy farming by the means described above is often unlicensed and illegal, dogs and puppies kept and raised within a puppy farming environment rarely if ever receive veterinary care or treatment, and routinely live in unhealthy conditions while being poorly treated and slaughtered or left to die if they are unable to be sold or used for breeding.

Puppies raised within a puppy farming establishment are significantly more likely than other puppies to suffer from a wide range of inherited or acquired health defects due to their ancestry, living conditions and the standard of care given to them and their dam during their first few weeks of life. Puppies that prove unfit for sale to the private market are again often abandoned or given away freely, and commonly make it into the hands of unscrupulous owners seeking to acquire dogs for dog fighting or the baiting of fighting dogs.

Many pet lovers find it almost impossible to resist the desire to “rescue” a farmed puppy by buying them and so, removing them from this type of environment. However, buying from a commercial puppy farm, even for this reason, supports the ongoing viability of the endeavour, and simply helps to ensure that more and more puppies are bred and raised for this purpose. Understandably, seeing or suspecting that a puppy you are viewing has been farmed can be very difficult for the dog lover to walk away from; however, there are steps that you can take to help to protect the wellness and happiness of farmed puppies as a whole without buying one, which will be covered later on in this article.

How to identify a puppy farm

It can be hard for an inexperienced first time puppy buyer to identify a puppy farm, even if they find themselves in the midst of a puppy farming enterprise. The people who own and manage puppy farms are adept at disguising the seedy side of the operation, and many an unsuspecting owner has inadvertently bought a puppy farm puppy without ever being aware of the unsavoury enterprise going on just behind the locked doors surrounding them. Some of the warning signs to look out for include:

  • A seller that regularly offers pedigree puppies for sale without any formal breed paperwork or certification. Some farmed puppies, however, will be offered for sale with Kennel Club registration, and so Kennel Club registration should not be taken as a sure-fire indication that a puppy has not been farmed.
  • Premises that contain a lot of outbuildings, temporary accommodation such as caravans and sheds, or closed off rooms that appear to have a lot of activity going on around them.
  • A seller that quickly offers an alternative puppy or litter to view if you find the one that you have gone to see is unsuitable.
  • A seller offering multiple different breeds and types of puppies for sale.
  • Puppies shown with a very young dam.
  • Puppies being shown to you one at a time, or without the dam or littermates present.
  • The seller or breeder having only a superficial knowledge of the puppies they own or the breed in question.
  • A seller or breeder who appears uninterested in you; responsible breeders will wish to assess you and your knowledge and circumstances as deeply as you will want to assess theirs. If the seller you are visiting does not appear concerned about this, consider it a red flag.
  • Puppies that are caged or crated when shown to you.
  • A dam that does not appear to recognise or have bonded with their owner, and does not recognise their name. Few puppy farm dams and sires are genuinely named at all, although the seller may refer to the dam by a name in order to perpetuate the illusion of being a responsible, caring breeder.

Judging the provenance of puppies for sale

As well as selling directly from the premises upon which they are raised, puppy farmers have many other methods at their disposal to sell and distribute their farmed puppies to the wider market of buyers, adding another layer of interference between the potential buyer and the unscrupulous puppy farming enterprise itself.

Just because you are shown a puppy in a private house or other premises, or find a litter of pups for sale in a pet shop, does not mean that the provenance of the puppies is genuine or as it first appears.

Many puppy farmers will have established business arrangements with pet shops and even go-betweens in private homes to sell or showcase their puppies for them, and this is something that every potential puppy owner should be aware of when seeking to buy a new puppy.

Be on the lookout for all of the signs and indicators described above, such as multiple breeds of dog being offered for sale, or a seller that is not knowledgeable about the dogs they have on their premises.

  • Never buy a puppy from a pet shop. Many pet shops regularly source their puppies from puppy farms, or will be unable to verify the provenance of the dogs that they are selling. A pet shop is not a suitable environment in which to keep and raise a litter of puppies, and no responsible breeder will sell their puppies to a pet shop for re-sale.
  • Always see the puppies with the dam and littermates. Do not accept any excuses for why the dam might not be present.
  • Assess the seller’s interaction with their dogs, and how the dam appears to be trained and treated. Does she look to her owner for reassurance, respond to her name, and appear happy and well cared for?
  • Always ask for I.D. from the seller of the puppy, and make sure that you view the puppies at the address given on the I.D. Also, do what you can to establish that this address is the place where the dam and puppies usually reside.
  • Never buy a puppy in a pub, out of the boot of a car, or at any other public location. They will very likely be either farmed, or stolen.
  • Do not be afraid to walk away if something does not feel right.

Checking out the breeder or seller of a puppy

Under UK law, any breeder that produces five or more litters of puppies per year is considered to be operating a dog breeding business, and must be licensed and certified by their local council in order to do so. The local authority in question will perform a basic premises inspection and check the health, living conditions and procedures in place within the premises on an annual basis as part of issuing this license.

While having a commercial breeding licence by no means guarantees that the seller or breeder of a litter is not a puppy farmer, breeding on a large scale without a license is one sure-fire way of identifying a puppy farm. Any commercial breeder who is unable or unwilling to produce a license that you can independently verify with the local authority in question should be avoided at all costs.

There are various additional ways of researching the reputation of any breeder or seller by means of checking their address, the frequency of their advertisements, and the opinions of veterinary practices and other dog owners within the local area.

What to do if you suspect that a breeder is in fact a puppy farmer

If you have any reason to suspect that you have stumbled upon a puppy farm, interim seller or unlicensed breeder in your search for a new puppy, the first thing that you should do is walk away. This means that the first step to take in terms of how you can best improve the lot of the UK’s dog population as a whole and the dogs and puppies you have viewed specifically is by not buying any of them.

  • If you have viewed an advert for dogs or puppies for sale or adoption here on Pets4Homes and have reason to suspect that the seller is involved in puppy farming or unscrupulous breeding practices, please report the advertiser to Pets4Homes directly, so that we can investigate and potentially ban the advertiser from using our site.
  • If you feel that a seller or breeder is unlicensed or is breaching the terms of their breeding licence, report them to the local authority in question.
  • If you feel that the animals in question are being neglected or kept in unsafe or harmful living conditions, report them to the R.S.P.C.A.
  • If you directly witness cruelty, abuse, dog fighting or any other criminal activity, contact the police as a matter of urgency.
  • If you have bought a puppy that you find is unwell, not as advertised or that was sold dishonestly, seek legal advice from a solicitor or the Citizens Advice Bureau. You may also wish to contact the Trading Standards Institute.
  • Report the advertiser or seller to C.A.R.I.A.D, by completing their breeder complaint form, an independent campaigning organisation that seeks to identify and end puppy farming in Wales (the UK’s main hotspot for puppy farming activity) and across the UK.

The C.A.R.I.A.D campaign

Whether you are in the market to buy a new puppy or are simply a responsible dog owner, puppy farming affects every dog lover within the UK, and is something that every dog lover should be aware of.

C.A.R.I.A.D. was formally launched in September 2011, with the aim of raising public awareness of puppy farming, campaigning against puppy farms, and petitioning to change the laws relating to breeder licensing.

For more information about the C.A.R.I.A.D. Campaign and how you can help, visit their website to learn more about puppy farming and find a range of resources for both dog lovers and would-be puppy buyers.

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