The UK is facing a puppy welfare crisis

The puppy industry is booming – and it’s a growing problem. Breeders from the UK, and puppy smugglers from Europe, are producing puppies solely for profit, with little (if any) consideration for the animals’ needs or health. Some reports suggest unscrupulous breeders can make £35,000 weekly in tax free additional income.

Dogs require adequate shelter, food, water, social time with humans and other dogs, vaccination and medical care. Conditions in commercial breeding facilities, or puppy farms, frequently fail to meet the very minimum requirements set out by law in the Animal Welfare Act 2006. Often, puppies are taken from their mothers too soon (before eight weeks of age). This can lead to severe health and behavioural issues later in their lives. A recent survey by the Kennel Club showed that 41% of people who bought a puppy in the last year did not see the puppy with its mother.

Animals coming from puppy farms overseas may have forged documents claiming they are over 15 weeks of age (the legal age to travel) and have the required vaccinations. These pups are often subjected to lengthy journeys in inadequate or even inhumane transport conditions. People buying these puppies will never know the journey they have endured and won’t be aware of any health concerns or vaccinations they may be lacking.

What we are doing about it

IFAW is taking a three-part approach to the puppy crisis in the UK.

First, we are asking the Government to introduce new laws that protect dogs and their puppies in the UK. By amending the Animal Welfare Act 2006, we can improve regulations and enforcement to save dogs from this terrible abuse. IFAW is calling for a full ban on third party sales of puppies – that’s no sale of a puppy without the puppy’s mother present.   

Second, IFAW is partnering with online platforms where dogs are sold to better protect puppies from abuse. We have joined the Pets Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG) and are working with other NGOs calling for change in order to have a stronger voice for animals.

Third, IFAW is working to educate the public about responsible pet buying choices. IFAW believes that once the general public possesses the knowledge and tools to make informed decisions on this issue, the demand for irresponsibly bred and sold puppies will naturally reduce.

If you’re thinking of buying a puppy…

If you’re looking for a new canine addition to your family, always remember PUPS. It's a simple way to make sure you don't unwittingly support dodgy breeders. 

These are the questions you need to ask:

  • Parents - Is the puppy with its mum?
  • Underage - Has the puppy reached the legal age for sale (8 weeks in the UK)?
  • PapersAre all of the puppy’s papers available and in order?
  • Sickness - Is the puppy healthy and vaccinated?

IFAW recommends adopting from a shelter, an adoption agency or an assured breeder – and exercising caution when purchasing from a third party, or responding to online adverts without visible puppy and breeder information.

When you’re ready to add a new four-legged friend to your household, make sure you know your legal care responsibilities as outlined by the UK Government in the Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs. When you take the time to learn all about a puppy’s needs, your new companion will thrive in its new home.

More information is also available in the Puppy Information Pack (PIP)

What can you do?

Useful info/links:

Buying a cat or dog

Code of Practice for the Welfare of Dogs        

Puppy Contract



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