Leave Loopholes And Nothing Changes For The Dogs
In my last blog I raised niggling worries I have about legislation which only focuses on the last stage of the puppy market chain – the point of sale. As US states and cities have been introducing retail bans for over a decade, I’m keen to understand how the UK might learn from this and even perhaps do it better, despite, disappointingly no sign that the UK is likely to do it anytime soon.
Despite what many think, there have been no government proposals to do it, not from the Conservative-led coalition that came to power in 2010, nor the recent Conservative government from 2015. The Secretary of State and Minister in both governments, George Eustice MP, has never to my knowledge given any public indication that new laws to stop shops and other third parties from selling puppies has been considered a possibility under a Conservative government. In this regard we’re different from the US where such laws have been introduced, but as my last blog discussed, how effective they are at changing things for the dogs in the breeding facilities themselves isn’t clear.
A major problem is that with no legislation yet targeting online puppy sales, it leaves a gaping loophole and a wide open market place for breeders even where retail store bans exist. They just sell online. When it comes to dog breeders in it for the profits, selling via any route is what they do. Close one route, they just use another. They don’t care who they sell to, or how, they simply care about the money each dog brings them. This is seen publicly at the dreadful dog auctions which are a disturbing feature of the US puppy industry. The poor dogs are sold to the highest bidders. Sadly, sometimes they’re rescuers who in misguided efforts to save dogs, push up the prices meaning that while they may save some dogs from breeding lives, they’re just putting money into the pockets of the very people causing the dogs to suffer. Read more about this controversial issue in this Paws4Change blog.
It’s not only at auctions that the role of rescuers in the puppy industry needs to be recognised and fairly addressed if any legislation is to be effective for breeding dogs.The US retail bans have exclusions for rescues. But, if legislation targeting the sale of puppies doesn’t include measures that are appropriate for rescues with equal scrutiny, is this leaving open loopholes ripe for exploitation? It happens at the auctions where breeders sell to the rescuers and the breeding dogs remain stuck in the exact same situation. Nothing changes for them if their puppies are still sold, whether to dealers/shops/retailers or rescuers. Without also enacting and enforcing tough measures directed at the breeding facilities themselves, what’s the point?
Leaving rescues out of legislation targeting the sale (or adoption) of puppies creates a worrying loophole where it’s easy to see nefarious puppy dealers getting round the law by operating as rescues. It’s a concern expressed to me by Kim Kavin, author of The Dog Merchants:
If you click over to America’s biggest adoption website, you’ll see right at the top that more than 12,000 rescue groups are offering animals (mostly dogs) on that website right now alone — and nonprofit rescuers, in the States, are far less regulated than commercial breeders, who are inspected while rescuers are not. Often, the rescuers don’t even have to be licensed at all.
It’s something that Dogs Trust also identifies as a legitimate concern in the UK. Taken from a recent Dogs Trust statement is this, which supports the concerns expressed by others who see the necessity of tackling the whole trade if the dogs are to be effectively protected:
If a ban on third party sales was introduced, the options for getting a dog would either be directly from the breeder or from a rehoming organisation. As rehoming organisations are not regulated, and anyone can set themselves up as one, we are deeply concerned this could be exploited by puppy traders setting themselves up as rehoming organisations. Defra recently announced there will be no regulation of rehoming organisations so there is already a gaping loophole. We are already hearing reports of dealers blatantly buying puppies in Ireland and selling them in the UK as ‘rescue’.
In the heated debates of recent times this concern has largely been crowded out. It deserves much more attention as there are already numerous examples in the UK of dubious businesses presenting themselves as rescues. On social media there are many groups doing their best to expose dodgy ‘rescues’. These ‘rescues’ appear to be legitimate shelters but in reality are simply dog dealing businesses. This side of the puppy industry is very real, very nasty and definitely requires more scrutiny and to be included in any proposals to halt the problems endemic in today’s puppy trade.
There just are no simple solutions to dealing with a complicated, multi-million pound business with many facets. Banning one part of it will not end puppy farming or stop breeding dogs suffering. Controversial as the decision is of Dogs Trust and other organisations not to support an immediate ban on selling puppies via third parties, if legislation doesn’t do the job right, is it legislation worth having?
Lessons can be learned if we’re open to hearing from others who might understand things differently and I asked Kim Kavin for more thoughts on the rescue side of the coin and US legislation. As online sales are a huge part of the market – both in the UK and US – she told me:
So we have equal numbers of breeders and rescuers doing business online here in America, and the same predictable problems cropping up on both sides of the industry, but we’re only trying to enact laws targeting one side—and it’s the side that is already at least somewhat regulated. That’s insanity. It’s not looking out for the dogs or for the consumers. It’s picking a one-sided fight to demonize the breeders while giving rescuers a free pass for doing business in identical ways online.
I’d be perfectly happy to give rescuers an easy time, a ‘free pass’ IF I knew that all rescuers were truly wonderful people who only had dogs interests in mind. But, sadly, that utopian view is absurd in today’s world, a world where serious money is being made daily by those in the puppy industry. So, to thoroughly improve the lives of breeding dogs, the whole dog breeding and selling business needs attention. Attention that seeks to close all possible loopholes, not ignore or sweep concerns about them to one side.