Can books share a message further?
Arguably the greatest challenge for all of us campaigning to see an end to puppy farming and irresponsible dog breeding is to reach the puppy buyers well before they buy, before they become a ‘dog person’. It’s not necessarily before a canine friend is in their lives that people follow dog-related social media pages, look for dog-focussed information, or buy the dog and pet magazines. That often comes afterwards, when puppy is home, and by then it’s too late to talk about puppy buying and how to avoid supporting the puppy farming industry. Time and again people will say they knew little about puppy farming until they had reason to look into it, when their new puppy got sick.
But, it’s the people who are currently creating a thriving market in puppies that we must reach and affect by any message we want to impart. Reaching them and changing their behaviour before they buy the puppy and become ‘dog-savvy’. But getting into the shopping minds of the thousands of puppy buyers who find their puppies online, or in petshops is a big challenge. And then there are those who get a puppy through friends or acquaintances who breed their pets for the money they can make, in what is, a poorly regulated but highly lucrative industry. Stopping people’s complicity in this can feel a gruelling, soul-destroying task.
There seems to be so much information around about the dangers of buying puppies badly, yet, the market appears to be growing, not shrinking. Why is this? Is it that we’re not targeting the messages in the right place, or we’re going about it the wrong way, or that the message is not an effective one? Or, is it that the horror stories of puppies being bought only to suffer illness, or worse, shortly afterwards are seen by some potential buyers, but they think it won’t happen to them and go ahead with the quick buy of a convenient puppy? It’s probably a combination of all this, plus more.
As more and more pages and groups on social media set up, aiming to raise awareness of puppy farming and its horrors, more stories of survivors get shared and Facebook ‘page likes’ grow, it would be comforting to think that all our collective efforts are making some headway into the nation’s puppy buying psyche. Perhaps we are. But we’re up against a fierce onslaught of opposition: the puppy dealers, smugglers, farmers and all round nasty cast of characters are probably as numerous, if not more so, than those of us who are trying to prevent them continuing their ugly trade.
I hope the articles in dog and pet magazines that are published regularly, the blogs that are written and shared reach some of the people who go on to either rehome a dog, or, buy from a decent breeder. Yet, there will be many people who are looking for their first ever puppy and will never even know such things as dog magazines exist. (For those of us who are dog aware, or even dare I say obsessed, this is hard to believe, but true!).
It’s one of the things that I want my books to achieve. I wish them to be read and shared by people who may or may not use social media – again, there really are plenty of people who remain outside the social media world – most of my family and many friends included! And by people who wouldn’t pick up a dog or pet magazine, but do enjoy reading a book, or two. I’ve been pleasantly surprised by the number of people who have contacted me in the past two years following the publication of “Saving Susie-Belle” to say they’ve received the book as a gift, and learnt about puppy farming as well as enjoyed reading about our lives and journey together. Or, others who tell me they’ve shared the book to help spread the message. This is the wondrous nature of books, we can lend them widely, dip in and out, and re-read and continue to enjoy them for a long time after their initial splash into our personal space. That’s something that social media, for all its advantages, can’t do. It’s one great wish I have for my books, that they sit around on bookshelves and in libraries for years to come, prompting people to contemplate just what the puppy farming industry means for dogs the world over.