Inside The Puppy Trade From Start to Finish
Last week TV viewers across the UK were offered a shocking insight into the realities of the modern puppy trade in the BBC Panorama programme ‘Puppy Dealers Exposed’. Reporter Sam Poling whose previous work includes the Dog Factory, worked for six months with volunteer group Puppy Love Campaigns to expose the extent of the UK puppy trade. Her film follows the supply chain from puppy farms in Northern Ireland and the Irish Republic, to dealers and sellers across Britain making up the puppy trade. The undercover footage is grim and reveals spine-chilling cruelty in nightmarish breeding facilities. But more than this, the programme shows a nationwide network of individuals and businesses exploiting a lax system in which puppies are bred and sold in today’s puppy trade. A system desperately in need of strong, effective government intervention.
Haunting scenes from inside terrible breeding facilities supplying the puppy trade reveal awful suffering for dogs and their puppies: animals kept in darkness, in closed wooden whelping boxes, with water bottles screwed into the sides for automatic watering. One of the farms based in Northern Ireland, run by Eric Hale which at the time of filming was licensed for 120 breeding bitches, kept them in conditions condemned by the animal welfare experts Panorama showed their footage to. As shocking as this is, a further disgusting fact is that Panorama reported that Eric Hale registers his beagles with the Kennel Club and has previously qualified for Crufts. Yet again the Kennel Club are shown to be involved with puppy farmers, something I’ve written about many times and others have been speaking up about for years (while some who could speak out choose to stay silent).
What the documentary also brought to the fore is that the industry depends on a diversity of outlets to sell the huge number of puppies being bred in these dreadful places. The film followed puppy dealers selling to pet shops as well as to sellers in private homes where they convince buyers the puppies are home-bred.
This raised another depressing truth for viewers that, should they rightly decide to avoid buying a puppy from a pet shop opting instead for the ‘home-bred’ family pup, in spite of appearances and sales spiel this may not be at all what they buy. More dismal reality slaps followed for viewers as filmed evidence showed sellers employing ‘show dogs’ to fool buyers into believing mum is present, should the more clued-up consumer ask ‘where’s mum‘. It’s not a pleasant reality, but this once catchy phrase, popularised on social media has lost any worth in the callous world of puppy sales. As Sam Poling reported, even the more careful consumers are easily fooled by sellers who swiftly scotch the question by bringing out their ‘show dog’. If only things were as simple in the puppy trade as asking ‘where’s mum’.
For novice buyers, who simply want to buy the puppy they’ve fallen in love with, they’re now likely to be in the presence of ruthless puppy sellers and dealers who make it their business to deceive. Panorama showed clearly that those trading in puppies make sure they do the deal. They anticipate the ‘where’s mum’ question and have at the ready a barrage of convincing lies – and dogs – they roll out as needed. After all, they do it regularly, daily in many cases, unlike the buyer for whom this is a whole new experience who just wants to take home their new pup and have little reason to suspect that what they’re being shown and told is a pack of lies.
Also shown for the first time on TV, was damning testimony from industry insider, whistleblower Nicola Robinson who first approached Puppy Love Campaigns with her evidence. An ex-employee of Dogs 4 Us, the UK’s largest puppy superstore, during her 4 years of working for the store she accumulated substantial evidence showing major issues with the puppies she had contact with. Panorama revealed she witnessed puppies younger than 8 weeks old being bought from dealers; puppies infected with potentially fatal parvovirus and she told Sam Poling that many times she cradled dying puppies in her arms. In a 30 minute programme stuffed with shocking detail, Nicola’s piles of documents filled with customer complaints detailing sick puppies reveal the endless suffering of puppies; puppies it’s claimed are vet-checked. As Sam Poling questions in one scene, how does a partially sighted puppy pass a vet check? How indeed.
What this documentary shows in all its horrible, honest detail is that the betrayal of dogs in the UK puppy trade is as brutal and thorough as it’s possible to be. All of this and more makes up today’s booming, badly regulated puppy industry that requires urgent government intervention to tackle, and for the government to listen to those who face the reality daily.
Thank goodness for the bravery of people like Nicola Robinson and others, who will speak the truth against this nasty industry. And thanks need to go to those who worked quietly behind the scenes on this documentary, for no other reason than a desire to see an end to the suffering of the dogs caught up in the modern puppy trade.