Why Discover Dogs Went Undiscovered By Me This Year
Around this time last year, I attended the Kennel Club’s Discover Dogs event in London at the invite of CARIAD. It was the first KC event I’d been to, never having been a fan of, and having no desire ever to head to Crufts. But, I put aside my reservations, trusted I’d be in good company with CARIAD, went along to Earl’s Court and with Linda Goodman had a good day out talking about Susie-Belle and puppy farming to anyone who stopped by the CARIAD stand. Last year, I felt positive, bouyant, there was a feeling of things moving forwards and lots of good energy around. I had a good day out and meeting Linda, who I’d long admired was a real treat.
Roll forward to last weekend and Discover Dogs had moved venue and I’d moved on from thinking the event might be a useful place to educate people on the minefield that commercial puppy breeding is. I couldn’t have attended it anyway, what with the temporary chaos Susie-Belle’s recent diagnosis caused in my head last week, plus the small detail of running a national fundraising monster event. But it made me reflect on how things have shifted, both within and around me this past year.
Last year’s Discover Dogs was held soon after the Parliamentary debate which Pup Aid brought about, which sought to bring an end to pet shops selling puppies and kittens. Although the debate failed to achieve this, it was still a significant moment in the campaign to end puppy farming. Disappointing as the outcome was, there was a swell of optimism around, that the awareness it had brought would lead to positive changes, but just not right then. More work was needed and, a change of government would help. There was the General Election to look ahead to, when a change in DEFRA might see real moves towards ending puppy farming.
Then in May this year the country decided to vote in the Conservative government, the one party of the main ones that had nothing at all in its manifesto about dog welfare or breeding. I’ve written before on this, and nothing I’ve seen since May has encouraged me to feel any more positive than I did then. We do hear from groups like CARIAD that things are going on behind the scenes that we can feel hopeful about; we see Pup Aid’s founder, Marc Abraham spending his professional life attending meetings and lobbying and yet, for the dogs, a year on from the debate and the reality is worse.
I truly want to report positive things, I know for any campaign to retain support, progress has to be seen to be happening and it’s not helpful to feel, let alone voice nothing but despondency and frustration. So I do get the positive messages, the upbeating drums we’re told to listen to. Really, I do. But with the constant bad news coming out of the likes of the RSPCA, Dogs Trust , Battersea Dogs and Cats Home none of whom report any progress that’s helping to control the awful situation for breeding dogs right now, I’m forced to stand by my less than optimistic view of what the government’s doing, or likely to do in the near future. (Incidentally, I did ask Marc Abraham for a comment as I want to be able to report that tangible, positive changes are afoot, but he’s been unavailable for comment).
A quick internet search easily throws up news reports, TV programmes and articles from years back on the scandal that is puppy farming and any one of them could have been written today. The situation is not changing. The dogs are still suffering. The only thing that’s changing is the scale of the problem increases year by year.
So while campaigners and lobbyists continue to push on and sit and listen to those in power pontificating about what needs to be done while refusing to do anything, those of us on the outside are left with educating the public. It’s why I write, why I hope my books and articles might impact people’s thinking and actions. I can only hope that by our collective efforts doing what we all can, we might stem the tide of breeding misery that’s trapping dogs in what is undeniably, if we’re to take an honest perspective, a damn awful situation right now.
Which begs the question why would I not support an event, Discover Dogs, full of potential puppy buyers needing educating?
I asked the KC last week what they had in place at the event in terms of information about puppy farming and avoiding puppy dealers, it seemed pertinent in view of the case they know about of a puppy dealer, member of the Pet Industry Federation, selling KC registered puppies. I know they know about this one (there are others) as I’ve told them and am still waiting to hear what they’re doing about it. I got this response back:
Discover Dogs is an event about finding the right breed but it is also about finding a responsible breeder. The Kennel Club has a stand where there is lots of information about how to buy responsibly, including from a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, and there are leaflets on the stand about the dos and don’ts of buying a puppy. There is also information about buying a puppy responsibly in the Show Guide. The people in the breed booths are excellent sources of advice and the whole show is geared towards helping people to make responsible choices.
So it’s the usual thing. Pushing their Assured Breeder scheme but failing to address the flaws in their two-tiered scheme which allows the likes of Pixieland to claim decades long relationships with breeders supplying them with KC registered puppies. And no dedicated anti-puppy farming KC endorsed awareness stand at an event aimed at puppy buyers. They miss an opportunity really they do.
So it’s simple. The opacity of the Kennel Club’s position on puppy farming prevents me from going anywhere near them, or being able to support them at all. Last year I’d hoped things would be improving by now, relationships with key players and the Kennel Club would bring in real changes for the dogs, not just fine words. But none of that has happened. So, until they adopt an unambiguous registration system that prevents puppy farmers and dealers from using the selling point of “KC registered” and “KC papers”, until a scheme of theirs can guarantee a puppy being sold as ‘KC registered’ or with ‘KC papers’ is not from a puppy farm or kennelled or back street breeding operation, they won’t have my support.
Not that they need it of course. They’re doing very well indeed as the puppy market booms. As are plenty of others who profit from the status quo. Unlike the dogs in breeding places whose puppies will be sold with KC papers because the public don’t understand that this means very little indeed.