Hope in a ‘house of horror’
When I visited Hope Rescue in April, I learned many things from people who see first-hand the cruelty of today’s dog breeding industry. It’s one thing to read about dogs taken from places not fit to live in, let alone raise puppies in, it’s quite another to go into them. That I know I could not manage. I’d never cope with the trauma of seeing, smelling, holding dogs who had lived in darkened rooms with little water, covered in faeces and urine. At Hope I met some of the welfare team who have done this, and Bunny, one of the dogs.
Today Bunny is a happy, confident, sassy little dog. She is fortunate. Not only was she rescued from a terrible situation, it was by Hope Rescue. The rescue took over 50 dogs from what was described this week in court as a ‘house of horror’. They ensured each one received veterinary care, behavioural help and a lot of love.
The suffering of Bunny and the others reached court, thankfully. And this week the people responsible received suspended prison sentences and a ban from keeping dogs for 10 years. They should have been jailed.
There has been some significant media coverage, which is good to see. I can only hope that it helps more people understand what is going on when they buy puppies.
It’s easy to forget when meeting Bunny, with her confident cheekiness, that she spent her first months in a filthy, urban, family house. This was not a rurally located ‘puppy farm’. The state of every dog and puppy living there was terrible. Desperately young puppies as well as adult dogs, were covered in fleas, with urine soaked, matted coats. Many of them were unrecognisable as dogs due to the appalling state of their condition.
I cannot imagine walking into a scene like that. I also cannot grasp the screaming immorality of making money by breeding dogs leading to this. The dogs were sold on sites like Gumtree, advertised as ‘raised in our busy family home’ and the mother their ‘loved family pet’. So often we see these descriptions. People take them at face value, or turn their blind eyes away from what they know is really going on as they hand over the cash and walk away with the puppy they want.
In just 2 years the people responsible made £125,000 from breeding and selling puppies. And subjecting dogs to the utter misery of confinement in stinking, dark rooms, with no care, let alone anything remotely resembling love. Money. Easy money. That is what drives this kind of breeding operation.
During the pandemic, puppies sold for thousands of pounds. One hundred and twenty five thousand pounds went to these people. I would bet everything I own that they are the tip of an iceberg and around the UK many similar operations exist, and still do, even if they may be scaling back as fewer people can afford to buy. But those in the breeding business are always ahead of things, and they’ll be sniffing the air, biding time, waiting to profiteer again from suffering as soon as they can. Unless they are stopped. Which requires them to be reported.
How many prosecutions will there be? Not enough.
When Hope Rescue works in cases like this, they can rarely speak publicly at the time. Working with the authorities, the legal process has to take its course. The impact for the rescue is enormous and the demands on their resources, huge. It also takes a grim emotional toll on the welfare team.
Financially, it’s not possible to post appeals at the time with footage of the dogs as this jeopardises the legal process. You won’t see footage of van loads of dogs arriving from unreported breeders in the middle of the night at Hope Rescue with appeals for funds. What you will see is a team dedicated to ending the abuses in the breeding industry. A team that works with the authorities and is not afraid to do so. The team know that for the best future for dogs, their work has to be more than patching up.
During my short stay at the rescue in April, I came to understand better how the collaborative work of Animal Licensing Wales and Hope, and a very small number of others, is bringing an end to some of the abuses in the commercial dog breeding business in Wales. But it’s hard, debilitating work for those caring for the victims of this terrible industry. And expensive to do. But thank goodness they are not shying away from doing it.