Thinking about getting a dog?

I love dogs. Goes without saying really seeing as I’ve written three books on the life I share with mine, as well as maintaining this website, my Twitter and Facebook accounts, so yes, it’s more than obvious that I love dogs. I’m like millions of other perfectly normal people and it’s only natural that we want to share our homes and lives with our canine companions. But it can be difficult to know how to find and buy dogs these days. It’s a cliché, but a true one, it’s a minefield. Puppy farming, backyard breeders, online advertising, sly duplicitous puppy dealers, all make it a terrible maze to find our way through.

There are some good places online to visit to understand the puppy business and how to buy a puppy safely.

Here’s one the Scottish Government’s Buy A Puppy Safely website.

Or, the Pet Advertising Advisory Group which has a tonne of information.

Another good place to understand how to buy a puppy is here.

The simple answer to avoid supporting in any way the cruelties within the puppy industry is to adopt one from a rescue shelter. I know not everyone will do it, or be suitable adopters, but all can at the very least consider it. Rescues are full of perfectly healthy, homeless dogs. The vast majority are not damaged, not problematic, they simply lack a home, or have been let down by humans.

If no-one buys any puppies, the unscrupulus involved in the puppy trade won’t have a market. But, this is too simplistic an answer and whilst I wholeheartedly advocate adopting rescues, I do recognise that not everyone will  go down that route.

Puppy buying is going to continue. For one thing, people like particular breeds of dogs – I love schnauzers – and whilst there are many perfectly healthy breeds of dogs in rescues, for some people, a puppy is the only option that they will take.

I’d be a hypocrite if I objected to this, seeing as I’ve bought 2 puppies during my lifetime (and rescued 5 dogs). Without Renae being the fabulous sister that she is to her damaged siblings, they wouldn’t be living the happy lives they do these days; so puppy buying has a place in our world, alongside rescue and adoption in my opinion.

It isn’t not going to happen, so what we need to focus on, is ensuring that the puppies that are bred and bought, are from healthy, loving home breeding environments.

So, to find a puppy from a good, responsible breeder is key. They do exist. It’s a question of finding them amongst the far more numerous shoddy, and irresponsible, ignorant and money-driven breeders, downright cruel puppy farmers and devious dealers that exist ready to dupe the puppy buying public.

When I was more naive and less knowledgeable about the puppy trade than I am these days, I used to direct people to the Kennel Club, in the UK. Once they’d brought in their Assured Breeders Scheme, which they say, aims to improve the standard of breeding, it should be easy for people like me to advise that. I can’t.  The scheme has failed to live up to the promises, terrible, volume-breeders have been on the scheme and only removed when investigators pushed the KC to do so. The wealthy Kennel Club should not have to rely on others to police their scheme.

The other real issue when people head to the KC as a source for breeders, is that they have their other registration scheme. They make no claims about in terms of it being any kind of assurance, it’s a register of litters, nothing more. Plus a source of registration fees for the KC. It’s well known puppy farmers register on this scheme. Albert Claude’s breeder, Eric Hale, exposed in a TV documentary in 2016 for his practises, registers puppies every year with the KC.

People need to be aware that KC papers, are meaningless by themselves. Puppy farmers can and do register litters with the KC, and sell puppies with those papers. The KC could scrap their scheme, they could end this ‘marketing tool’ for the puppy farmers, but they won’t. It brings in money to the KC. Which is a commercial business, not a welfare organisation.

I’d love to be able to recommend the KC as a source for puppy buyers, but I cannot, and will not until they tidy up their act. If they ever will.

I advise reading and sharing the websites I link to at the start of this piece, plus this one which has a wealth of good information:

The Puppy Contract.

If you do manage to find your way through the minefield and find a litter of puppies, make sure you visit the home environment. Never, ever allow a puppy to be brought to you, or meet anywhere other than the breeders home.

If the puppy’s not in a home, personally I wouldn’t be buying. But perfectly ‘reputable’, licensed breeders do operate from kennel environments. You will need to make up your mind if that is acceptable. Those breeders are in business, they’re licensed, inspected and meet animal welfare standards and are not the same as puppy farmers who don’t. But, the puppies and parent dogs are not raised in normal home environments; they live in kennels. This is is not my ideal and not something I would venture near. Dogs have a need for human love and company, it’s as essential to them as air and water.

So, visiting the breeder, looking at the litter, take a good, critical look at the home environment. See the puppies interacting healthily with each other but most importantly with their mum. If you’re in the presence of a puppy dealer trying to dupe you, they may well have wised up on the “where’s mum” question and have an adult dog around to satisfy you. But, this may not be the mother, or if it is, she may have been brought indoors from the shed out in the garden.

Take a look out the back and see if there are kennels or sheds which may be housing other dogs or puppies. A decent breeder will keep the environment scrupulously clean, there should be no unpleasant smell from the puppies, no sawdust about, no signs of illness or sickliness in mother or puppies. Don’t listen to any excuses for mum not being there that day, being out with the sister, visiting the vet, etc etc, all these are reasons to walk away and report the dealer in whose presence you probably are.

Do not be tempted to buy a sick puppy because you feel sorry for it. However awful it is to walk away, this is what you must do, for if you take the puppy and hand over your cash, the misery continues and the demand continues. You create space for another puppy to be bought in and sold. But by walking away, doesn’t mean you are doing nothing, for if you come across this, report it.

Report to the local authority, Trading Standards and RSPCA, the local press, report to everyone you can. Be prepared to be bumped around from person to person, for the buck to be passed round, but keep reporting, keep following up. The more reports from the public that are received, the more action is likely to take place to stop the dealers, the puppy farmers, the abusers. We have to ALL make it harder for these people to make a living from the suffering they cause.

There are brave, stoical campaigners who have been battling away for years, reporting, documenting, filming and compiling evidence. They are well worth consulting and supporting.

Puppy Love Campaigns have a website full of names and details of dodgy breeders and dealers. Worth taking a look before visiting any breeder you are considering.

If you are put off picking your way through the puppy buying minefield but still want to have a dog, find a good rescue shelter – your perfect, loving, loyal new friend is almost certainly in one today waiting for you to come along.

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