Why A Lively Imagination’s No Substitute For The Real Thing
I’ve never been into a puppy farm aka dog breeding facility. I’d like to claim I have the emotional courage to cope with the sights, smells and sounds, but I fear I’d be wrecked by the reality. When I began writing on this subject I sought out everything I could from those who do have first-hand direct experience of what dogs in dog breeding places endure, day in day out, year on year. I looked worldwide for primary sources, there are very few UK based. Almost all of what we see in the public domain is secondary reporting.
To write honestly for the dogs, I have to know all I can about what the dog breeding industry involves. I won’t make it up. I have a lively imagination – what writer doesn’t? But an imaginative world is not enough for the dogs, not when my writing is my campaigning. I’ve channelled my imagination and honed my words by absorbing the hard and nasty experiences of others who have gone where few ever do. Over the years I’ve built relationships with the very few rescuers and investigators who will speak of what they know. Some of what’s been told to me appears in my articles, a lot doesn’t. Trust is paramount in order not to jeopardise future rescue and investigations into illegal and legal dog breeding. I use what I’ve been told to help others know the truth. For example descriptions of life in the dog breeding shed for my fictional dog ‘Maya’ in my latest book arise directly from information given to me by these brave few.
Yesterday I launched a new idea – calling for collective action by those who want to do something but don’t necessarily know what, or how. It’s not an original idea, I’ve borrowed from activists in other realms who do similar, linking up with like-minded groups to act collectively for specific aims. You can read more here, and I’ll be writing more on this in future posts, but what’s sparked me to move this from being a longstanding but vague idea in my mind, to one of action is the case of convicted illegal dog breeder Richard Jones. I know this is one which Puppy Love Campaigns have long experience with, and deep frustrations over. It’s a case they cried out for help from the authorities with for years. I was desperately moved on their behalf when I realised they’d told me about this Richard Jones case some time ago (it finally came to court last week after raids by the police and council last summer). Knowing they’d been in Richard Jones’s dog breeding shed years ago, reported and not been able to close him down, or save the dogs, I knew I had to write more on this from their perspective. Much of this they’ve told me over time in order to deepen my knowledge and help me with my writing. Their experience deserves to be heard and you’ll understand why we owe them respect for always being there for the dogs, even when the system drastically and tragically fails them. In their words:
We first visited a cold October day in 2011. Before we even entered the premises we could hear the dogs howling and wailing. The sounds alone were awful but worse awaited us. Inside the freezing, drafty tin barn which was meant for cattle or machinery were over 50 dogs of all breeds. All pens were made of breeze blocks and the doors were solid so the dogs had no view at all. There was no access to the outside world, no runs and no enclosed exercise area. Each pen had sawdust on the floor and there wasn\’t a single bed anywhere, for any dog. No comfort of any shape or form. The place stank as you’d expect. One poor Rotty had wire over the top of his pen, probably because he was demented and would have jumped out. There was no heating and the huge gap at the top of the door let the weather inside. Some dogs were friendly, others were terrified. The malamutes and Shi tzu coats were matted. Water was fed by a tube linked to a tank which of course would freeze in winter. The breeze block used for the pens wasn’t sealed so urine soaked into it, this is against licensing conditions as all surfaces are meant to be impervious. The pens were of reasonable size but still the dogs were encased in a barren environment. It was horrible, a prison for dogs in every vile sense of the word.
We duly reported to Ceredigion Council who told us it generally complied with license conditions. Emails flew back and forth and when we asked about comfortable heated whelping pens for pups we were told the breeder took whelping females to his home 5 miles away to give birth. There was no-one living onsite and with him working full time elsewhere, his visits would have been brief; in winter when the roads would have been blocked on occasion, they’d have been even less. The Council told us Richard Jones home never held a license and when we asked for inspection reports on whelping areas we were ignored. Of course we kept complaining and involved the the Welsh government office for animal welfare who told us they could not interfere with a council but they would pas our concerns on. You have to ask what’s the point of their existence if they have no power? The case dragged on for years with no improvements. We visited at least 4 times and reported each time. And for anyone thinking that Kennel Club registration means something, Richard Jones sold KC registered puppies for years.
For those who’ve read ‘Saving Maya’ or my other books, you may well recognise some of the descriptions. Illustrator Annabel Wilson drew inspiration for her image of the place ‘Maya’ was confined from photographs supplied by Puppy Love Campaigns.
Sadly, Richard Jones, illegal dog breeder, seller of KC registered puppies, convicted last week is just one of many, many more similar places which operate both legally and illegally many of which Puppy Love Campaigns visit and report on, time and again. Although their evidence and voluntary efforts have directly resulted in the closure of over 10 breeding facilities, there are others, like this one where they are faced with obstacles beyond anything they can overcome. The official enabling of this industry in all its terrible forms is something we must all continue to battle against. My writing is one aspect of how we can educate the buying public, but the authorities must also be ‘educated’, put under continued scrutiny and we need to all play our part. And keep doing so. Small acts multiplied many times over, do change the world.