Why these news stories caught my eye
Three news stories have popped up in my newsfeed today and got me thinking. Most weeks I’ll read several news reports covering similar stories: prosecutions of those involved one way or another in the puppy trade. Or investigations into it. There’s not a lot different to these three, but they come on a day when I’ve been working on my new book. Which means a lot of thinking and reflecting.
Going through old notes and seeing these stories it’s hard to fight a feeling that we’re getting nowhere. The puppy trade is as awful now as it was when I first adopted Susie-Belle. Worse, probably. Certainly, these days it’s riven with criminality on a frightening scale.
Yes, new laws have been introduced. On paper things should be better. Certainly plenty of people believe the Westminster Government cares about animal welfare. The noises made resonate with people who just want things to be better.
But is it just smoke and mirrors? I want to think it’s more than this, I really do. I want to see the enacted laws enforced and working. But, the dogs keep suffering, the news stories keep coming.
A BBC programme due to air in Northern Ireland tonight is billed as,
A new investigation by BBC Spotlight sheds light on an illegal multi-million pound puppy trade.
A new investigation is always welcome. It might reach an audience that other programmes haven’t. But, the topic is not new. The “multi-million pound puppy trade” is not new and neither are reports into it.
Tonight’s Spotlight report promises to expose,
..how many illegally exported dogs in the UK begin life in barns and sheds in the Republic of Ireland. Northern Ireland is also identified as a hub for trafficking such dogs into other parts of the UK.
My dog, Albert Claude comes from Eric Hale’s puppy farm in Northern Ireland. A BBC Panorama documentary exposed the scale of Hale’s (legal) breeding operation in 2016. It showed hundreds of dogs kept in the dark, in barns and sheds, in crates. The documentary won a BAFTA. Albert was born in September 2018, probably in a crate, in the dark, in a barn.
In 2016 many contributed to a government consultation into the puppy trade and the welfare of breeding dogs. The Dogs Trust have been investigating, reporting and campaigning for effective control of the puppy trade, including puppy smuggling for many years. They have long called for an approach that addresses every aspect of the trade. They spoke to me in 2016, explaining why only addressing the end point – the sale of puppies – would never be enough.
After endless rounds of consultation, the UK Government opted for just that, banning the third party sale of puppies. This never was going to address the issue of smuggling. Sadly for the dogs, the holes in this approach are glaringly obvious today. And campaigners continue to campaign.
The scale of the problem is bigger and nastier than it’s ever been.
We’ll see what tonight’s BBC Spotlight programme reveals that’s new.
The other story that caught my eye today, a successful prosecution of a woman in Milton Keynes for selling sick puppies. She sold the puppies using online selling sites. She got a 15 month jail sentence and is banned from keeping animals for life. The bit that caught my eye in the story were these words from the Judge,
“The British people would expect a sentence of immediate custody, to give the message that if you get involved in this filthy, horribly mean trade, you should expect a custodial sentence.”Judge Sheridan
Of course, some British people, a lot unfortunately, are wilfully ignoring the origins of the puppies they buy today. They are not only sustaining the trade, but causing it to expand, year on year.
The final miserable story today, a man jailed in a horrific case involving the suffering of horses, goats and dogs in his care. A total of 171 animals. He got just a 19 week sentence.
But, as I always do, I look across at my dogs and know that I have to hope. I have to hope that things will improve. That a serious legislator will one day emerge with the commitment and opportunity to end this vile and nasty trade which ruins the lives of millions of man’s best friend. Every year. Every ongoing year.
“Hope just means another world might be possible, not promise, not guaranteed. Hope calls for action; action is impossible without hope.”Rebecca Solnit