Why it’s not just fakes we need worry about
This week saw the repeat airing on the BBC of an episode of ‘Fake Britain’, which looked at the case of Lisa Walsh, a dog breeder who, in 2014 was convicted of selling puppies with fake Kennel Club registration documents. She ran a puppy farm where hundreds of dogs were bred over the years, as well as buying in others to sell on. The scam targeted puppy buyers who sought out pedigree puppies, people described in the programme as:
customers happy to pay a premium price
for pedigree status, unknowingly in this case, ones that were completely false.
An interview with Caroline Kisko, Secretary of the Kennel Club said that Walsh violated the trust the KC extends to breeders and that the KC has to rely on the issuing of local authority licenses,
in order to know that someone is a proper breeder.
Mmmm. It doesn’t have to, it chooses to only rely on that, rather than putting resources into looking properly at the breeders who are paying the KC £16 per puppy to register them, in order to get the ‘premium price’ in the puppy market. (This is separate from the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme which does involve KC inspections, but which, in reality the average puppy buyer has no clue about the distinction between).
Ms Walsh’s activities were clearly fraudulent and affected the KC as well as many others. One thing the programme didn’t cover – it’s remit is after all ‘Fake Britain’ – is that breeders can, and are selling puppies with genuine KC papers when the dogs have come from backgrounds that are plain nasty. Yes, these are the ‘proper breeders’ with Local Authority licenses that Ms Kisko says the KC relies on, rather than their own inspections. Breeders that keep their dogs in places like this:
I’ll come back to the schnauzers in this picture in a moment. ‘KC registered’ and ‘pedigree papers’ are topics I’ve commented on several times as they’re found all over the internet as selling points. Just one example I saw last week, an ad for a puppy: £4000 without pedigree, £4700 with KC pedigree. This is the kind of thing regularly used as effective sales tactics by the puppy sellers in today’s lucrative market.
Which is why the KC should take responsibility for the role it’s playing in what is an out-of-control market. It’s the KC registration system which is allowing almost anyone to breed, register litters, pay the KC fees, get the papers, no questions asked, and sell, to buyers willing to pay a premium as ‘Fake Britain’ identified.
The lack of any monitoring by the KC on their basic registration scheme is really disturbing to me, especially after cases of blatant fraud like the Lisa Walsh case. That, along with their reticence to act when they’re presented with cases that should cause concern. Take the example that I first raised in August: Pixieland. A member of the Pet Industry Federation at that time, and probably still so, although the logo has recently been removed from the website. It certainly caught my eye as a business selling several breeds of KC registered puppies, also advertising PIF membership. Didn’t look good at all. Especially as the KC oppose the stance taken by the PIF that selling via third parties is acceptable.
So, when presented with a third party seller, advertising a three decades old relationship with breeders of KC puppies, I expected the organisation to act quickly, when it cares about the welfare of dogs, and states on its website:
We always advise puppy buyers to see the puppy in its breeding environment and with its mother and do not believe puppies should be sold in pet shops or by third parties
It’s a reasonable expectation that when it’s against their own Code of Ethics for breeders to sell puppies to “commercial dog wholesalers, retail pet dealers” the KC would act without delay, what’s the point of a Code of Ethics if not? Especially when dogs are suffering with every passing day.
In September, in response to my questions, the KC said they were investigating and would decide what, if any, action would be taken. Having heard nothing, and seeing that despite a few tweaks to their website Pixieland appear to be continuing just the same as ever, last week I asked the KC about the outcome of their investigations. I received this statement from Caroline Kisko, Kennel Club Secretary:
We continue to lobby for legislative change to make the sale of puppies in pet shops illegal and it is against our Code of Ethics to sell puppies to pet shops, but we are still looking into this particular case and the actions that we can take. We are taking this seriously and will give a full response as soon as the matter has been resolved.
This will be the Kennel Club taking it so seriously, that months after I raised it, the matter is still being looked into. If only the KC with its well-stocked bank account – all those litter registrations from breeders, large and small scale certainly amount to a hefty sum – were as efficient as a tiny, voluntary group of investigators who know exactly what the conditions some of the breeding dogs supplying Pixieland puppies are forced to live in, while the KC ponderously investigates. And it’s back to those dogs in the photo, these schnauzers, living surrounded by their own mess:
Puppy Love Campaigns provided me with these photographs, obtained two months ago of some of the dogs supplying puppies to Pixieland. They’re confined to a life of breeding on a farm in Wales, all so that their puppies, or at least some of them, will one day end up being sold in Sussex with genuine – not fake remember – KC papers.
A spokesperson for Puppy Love Campaigns told me:
when we visited that breeder it was the middle of the day, no dogs to be seen anywhere, all were locked away. The dogs we saw had no beds or bedding material, there were faeces clearly visible in the thin scattering of sawdust on which they spend their lives.
I have to ask, if a tiny, volunteer organisation can obtain this evidence without much trouble, what on earth is taking the Kennel Club so long to investigate? This is an organisation that professes to recognise its responsibility for improving breeding standards and be opposed to puppy farming; I’m waiting to see evidence of that in this one particular case.
This is an organisation that claims to have dogs welfare at heart, but it’s allowing breeders who confine their dogs in stone outbuildings, with only sawdust as bedding, to register their puppies and get legitimate KC certificates.
It’s an organisation that’s taking money from breeders whose dogs, like these schnauzers, live restricted lives none of us would like our pet companions to endure. They’re not happy, regular dogs, not when the person who took these pictures tells me:
The dogs were very timid and though inquisitive shied away from an offered hand
How reminiscent this is of many other dogs I’ve met who have come from puppy farms and similar breeding facilities. The KC is taking money from this breeder for each puppy registration, and they’re being sold via a third party. All against the KC’s own Code of Ethics. How much more investigation is needed in order for them to act?
I’m desperate for the Kennel Club to do better, to stop the system that allows breeders to gain legitimate papers, which the public will pay a premium for, because they believe it means these conditions are not where their puppies have started their lives. When, I wonder will the KC accept this is blatant hypocrisy, and that they are complicit in a miserable trade.