United against illicit puppy trade

Participants of the Great North Dog Walk cross the starting line.As a dog lover, I was overjoyed to be able to stand alongside Emma Lewell Buck MP, South Tyneside’s Deputy Mayor Olive Punchion and Deputy Mayoress Mary French, to officially open the Great North Dog Walk, held annually in South Shields, in the North East of England.

The event is organised by founder Tony Carlisle, a friend of IFAW and a recent recipient of one of our prestigious Animal Action Awards for his contribution to fundraising for animals, over an amazing 26 years. 

The Great North Dog Walk is the official Guinness World Record holder as the largest event of its kind with more than 25,000 dogs attending this year's event alone! Those massive numbers aren't just good for the charities that benefit from the event; they're also a great opportunity to reach thousands and thousands of dog lovers in one place. And, that's why I was there. 

As well as giving a quick talk at the start line on opening, IFAW had chosen the event to do a soft launch of our new puppy campaign, P.U.P.S, which launches officially later in the year. 

In each of the 25,000 participants’ goody bags was IFAW's new leaflet outlining simple guidance for those considering buying a puppy, via our new P.U.P.S mnemonic pneumonic and logo. 

The puppy trade is booming in the UK and unscrupulous sellers are using puppies bred in terrible conditions here and from across parts of Europe simply as a cash crop, with little or no consideration for animal welfare (for either the breeding bitches or the newborn puppies). 

What's even worse, these puppy farm pups are more often than not being masked as puppies bred in loving home environments. The puppies themselves can likely be in ill health, lacking papers, vaccinations and microchips and by purchasing them, dog-loving members of the public are propping up this brutal industry, often without knowing.

Left to right, Great North Dog Walk founder and organiser Tony Carlisle and author, IFAW UK Regional Director Philip Mansbridge.That's why IFAW is calling on the Government to stop 'third party sales' (i.e from someone who didn't breed the puppies themselves) of puppies, which is currently completely legal if from licensed breeding facilities. This is what is allowing puppy farmed dogs to supply pet shops and the online trade. 

Our P.U.P.S campaign aims to raise awareness of this issue and give guidance to buyers and potential buyers as to what to look for and what questions to ask when meeting the puppy and the vendor. The premise is simple - just remember P.U.P.S:

Parents - make sure you see mum and her pups together. 

Underage - remember it is illegal to sell a puppy under the age of eight weeks old. 

Papers - always check your pup has vaccination papers and a clean veterinary check. 

Sickness - check the pup over for sickness and ensure the puppy is energetic and has a good appetite. 

There are always two ways to drive change - by changing laws or by changing behaviours. When it comes to puppy sales, behaviour change is so critical. It's easy for all of us to press harder with our questions when we buy a puppy and to come into the meeting with our heads in gear as well as our hearts.

Whilst IFAW would always advocate adopting a dog from an animal rescue centre or group, rather than buying a newly bred one, we do recognise that there is still a big market for newly bred puppies. That's why it is so vital that if you, or anyone you know is thinking of buying a puppy, think P.U.P.S...... so you don't end up supporting suffering simply by wanting to give love.

--PM

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