Don’t be duped by puppy farmers

There are few things cuter and more fun than a fluffy new puppy, and with celebrities constantly being photographed with their latest designer breed dog, puppies (particularly the current trendy pedigree breeds) seem to be in greater demand than ever.

While there is a UK network of predominantly small, independent breeders, there are only so many puppies a dog can give birth to, even regardless of any legislation designed to protect breeding bitches. So with a constant demand from the public for designer breed puppies, and a demand for this at ‘low or reasonable’ prices, puppy farms and dodgy dealers have moved in to fill the void.

The puppy industry is booming – and it’s a growing problem. Breeders from the UK, and puppy smugglers from across Europe, are producing puppies solely for profit, with little, if any, consideration for the animals’ needs or health. All too often, puppies are taken from their mothers too soon (before eight weeks of age) and transported on long journeys to be sold by unscrupulous dealers.

These puppies regularly suffer from preventable illness and can have behavioural issues later on in life. Others sadly die. Many unsuspecting owners to be have fallen victim to the trade already, and many more will unless action is taken now.

That's why the International Fund for Animal Welfare (IFAW) has just launched a brand new campaign, named P.U.P.S., which aims to help stop cruelty within the puppy trade.  

P.U.P.S. is a public awareness campaign aiming to ensure that members of the public always buy from a responsible breeder rather than accidentally propping up the cruel puppy farm trade. It’s an easy way for any puppy purchaser to avoid being an unwitting part of this cruel trade.

We remind them to always ask just a few simple questions before they buy:

  • Parent – make sure you always see mum and her pups together
  • Underage – it is illegal to sell a puppy under the age of eight weeks
  • Papers – check the puppy has vaccination papers and a clean veterinary check
  • Sickness – check the puppy is healthy, energetic and has a good appetite

Part of the campaign, designed with the help of leading creative agency J. Walter Thompson, is a unique and thought-provoking short film in the style of a kitsch children’s toy commercial about the hidden horrors of the illicit puppy trade.

As well as the public facing ‘advert’, IFAW is working behind the scenes to strengthen existing legislation. We are calling for an end to third-party sales of puppies - that's puppies sold via a middle man. It makes it easier for the buyer, better for the pup and the mum plus it's in line with existing Government recommendations which state you should always see the puppy with its mother and always, if possible, see the puppy in its natural environment.

Ending third-party sales stops puppy farms and makes importation from across Europe much more difficult. This limits the need for puppies to be separated too early from their mums, stops long distance travel in bad conditions and stops breeding bitches having to live a life in darkness, a life unloved, being treated like a birth-giving machine and then being disposed of like a piece of litter when they can give birth no more.

In case anyone is in doubt about the real life suffering and heartbreak caused by puppy farms, IFAW supporter Denise Phelps bravely shared with us the tragic story of the Pomeranian puppy she bought after being duped by a dodgy dealer who fraudulently used a genuine breeder’s details to sell her what was in reality a very sickly puppy farmed pup.

Denise said: “…we bought him on a Saturday for £550, on Sunday he vomited, on Monday we visited the vet, they thought dehydration, on Tuesday he was on a drip but they suspected Parvovirus, by Wednesday my puppy was dead. We were heartbroken.”

If you’re thinking of buying a new dog, IFAW would always advocate that the best thing to do is adopt a friendly and healthy dog in need of a forever home from your local rescue/shelter. But for those people who have their hearts set on a specific breed that they can't find from rescue, please remember P.U.P.S.!

Whether you are in the market for a puppy or whether you aren't, please share our film across your social media channels and in any way you can, to help stop puppies and their owners falling victim to the cruelty of puppy farming.


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Cynthia Milburn, Director, Animal Welfare Outreach & Education
Senior Advisor, Policy Development
Jan Hannah, Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Campaign Manager, Northern Dogs Project
Kate Nattrass Atema, Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Program Director, Community Animal Welfare
Shannon Walajtys
Manager, Animal Rescue-Disasters