Why Yesterday Was a Good Day
Christmas is a busy time for those making money in the puppy market and a bad time for those of us wanting it to shrivel away to nothing. Any publicity that can disrupt sales is good and yesterday saw a fair amount which might have stopped some Christmas puppy buyers from shopping.
Firstly, thanks to Emma Harper MSP, the Scottish Parliament hosted an hour long debate on illegal puppy trafficking. The debate attracted media attention – helped by the photogenic and irresistible presence of rescued puppies – and input from many good speakers. In the lead up to yesterday, Emma’s been consulting many ‘in the know’ including the Scottish SPCA and the only volunteer group in the UK with years of direct, first-hand experience of puppy farms, multiple dealers, breeders and all-round nasty characters that populate the puppy trade – Puppy Love Campaigns.
Several speakers spoke knowledgeably and passionately about the complexities of the massive puppy industry. The Pet Travel Scheme, problems of online sales and advertising, the sophisticated criminal elements in what is a cruel and lucrative trade were frequently cited. It was good to hear plenty calling for rehoming to be a first option and the work done by the SSPCA and Dogs Trust was given justified credit.
The need to educate buyers more effectively cropped up a lot. An interesting contribution from Willie Coffey MSP asked for understanding for the position of councils when faced with applications for dog breeding facilities – it’s a reasonable point, easily overlooked when objectors are incensed about the injustices faced by breeding dogs:
It is also important not to blame our councils for having to consider dog breeding establishment applications—they have to do that as part of the licensing scheme, as set out in law. They may not welcome or support the applications, but they have to consider them—that is the law. As my colleague Ruth Maguire said, East Ayrshire Council will be considering such an application in my constituency in January, which has attracted a huge number of objections.
Of course, they have to consider applications, they don’t I assume have to grant them.
The final speaker in the debate illustrated many of the problems inherent across all aspects of puppy breeding, not just the illegal end of the trade by sharing the story of Dieta. Gillian Martin MSP spoke of Dieta’s life spent breeding and how this led to long term problems which persistted when she’d outlived her value to her breeder and went to live in a home. Gillian described how Dieta didn’t know how to play, run, respond to affection or humans in any normal way. I know about Dieta’s life and background and included her story in my first book as an example of how it’s not only obvious ‘puppy farms’ that irreparably damage dogs lives.
When buyers are quite rightly advised to only buy from ‘reputable’, ‘responsible’ breeders, to see puppies with mum, to have full paperwork, well Dieta came from a breeder many would consider ‘reputable’. She’d have been present when her puppies were sold, with credible paperwork. Yet, the damage to her was little different to that experienced by my own ‘puppy farm’ breeding dogs. The life of a dog spent breeding is not the life of a happy dog, it doesn’t matter how it’s wrapped up and marketed and there are no simple ways this massive industry will be brought to an end. But I’d like to see some of the things being suggested get underway soon.
It will be interesting to see if what was a positive, interesting debate brings forth useful actions in Scotland in the coming months. The full debate can be watched on the link here and the transcript read here
On top of the awareness from the Scottish puppy debate, last night also saw BBC Watchdog once again highlighting the puppy trade with a report from Matt Allwright looking into Ivy Leaf Kennels in Durham. Google this kennel, along with owner Kevin Knox and wads of news stories spanning many years appears. This particular BBC report was a good example for millions of prime-time television viewers of how a legal puppy breeding and selling business, one that’s licensed operates. And how this alone, is no assurance that the puppies – or their parents – are living anything like healthy, happy lives we should all expect dogs to enjoy.
Kevin Knox is a breeder and dealer, he told the undercover reporter he buys in puppies as well as breeding his own. In the film puppies are seen in small, barren , sawdust covered pens. These conditions would deter some buyers, but not all; some likely buy the puppies in the misguided belief they’re rescuing, but what they’re really doing is providing a sale and making room for another puppy to take that place. As Roseanna Cunningham MSP said a few hours earlier in the Scottish parliament:
There is also a tendency for well-meaning buyers to want to rescue puppies that might be sick or come from dubious sellers. Unfortunately, that simply fuels the trade. If rescue is the intent, there are plenty of well-known establishments whose premises can be visited and who will have brought puppies and dogs back to health before trying to rehome them…
The BBC Watchdog report devoted a good amount of time to discussing why the sparse conditions of Ivy Leaf Kennels, while they may meet licensing requirements, fail to provide puppies with anything close to the kind of life they could, and should experience. It’s a clear example of why there are calls from welfare organisations for a complete overhaul of the licensing regime so that it works in the way it should to protect the animals.
The programme was all good publicity and awareness in this Christmas puppy buying time. As many speakers in the Scottish puppy debate said, education of the buying public is critical and must be ongoing. It’s also important that while those of us who know what to look out for see it as obvious, novice buyers simply don’t. And we shouldn’t expect them to, but need to keep putting the information out there and do it better. In the report, Matt Allwright made the point that for one buyer who ended up with a poorly puppy, as she was not a ‘puppy expert’ she couldn’t be expected to know the behaviours of the puppies she saw weren’t normal. Frustrating as it is to many who have been campaigning and educating for years, the drawbacks of blasting puppy buyers as stupid were explained in the debate by Colin Smyth MSP:
If we demonise those consumers who have suffered by making the mistake of buying from an illicit breeder, they might not seek the advice of or report the offences to trading standards officers, due to being embarrassed.
So all in all yesterday was one of the more positive when it comes to getting publicity against this dreadful trade. One I want to see the end of, and will continue to do what I can to educate on. Writing is my chosen means, and by sharing my articles, various ramblings, books and blog posts, you might just take away a sale from a puppy dealer or dodgy breeder and encourage someone to adopt instead. All our collected efforts are needed, no-one has all the right answers, but together we might just end this trade one day. Please help by sharing.
The BBC Watchdog episode can be viewed here: