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A dog is for life

So, Lucy’s law has now helped put a ban on the third party sales of puppies and kittens – Hurrah, and it was just in time for Christmas too when many puppies and kittens will be bought ready to delight, sometimes unsuspecting, people on the big day who will now have a 10 year+ commitment to an animal which may not be appropriate.

Friends always say to me that they want a puppy/kitten but also want to adopt. So after my 20 minute generic talk on the level of emotional, physical and financial commitment needed, I tell them to head to their local rescue around February/March time. This gives the unwanted Christmas puppy time to disappoint his new owners as he was not born toilet trained, is now teething and their youngest child appears to be allergic so he is given to a rescue centre.

Lucy’s law has now effectively made it illegal to run puppy/kitten farms, which it kind of was already as 0/5 of the Five Freedoms (at least that’s what they were called when I was at college, it may have changed now) had been met. My concern is that the more something is banned, the more it goes down the back allies of society. If this is to happen with puppy farms, the worse the conditions will get. Puppy farmers are already excellent deceivers and are well versed in hiding their tracks so they will find a way to continue.

But what about the buyer of the puppy? Should they not be held responsible too? After all there are other laws we have which make it the buyers responsibility to ensure their goods are ethically sourced. If you unknowingly bought a stolen car, in the eyes of the law you are potentially a criminal as it would be your responsibility to make sure the sale was above the law.

A friend of mine bought a puppy, this puppy is now nearly a year old and has not once had a firm stool and consistently has an upset tummy. It transpired that they got it from a puppy farm (despite my 20 minute generic talk). After admitting the dog was probably from a puppy farm I crossed my arms and pursed my lips in anger at him. His response was ‘But the way I see it, we saved the dog’ and then on came my 30 minute talk about how for every one puppy bought, five more are bred – that’s how businesses work, they sell a product, make money, expand and repeat. The issue here is that lay person does not actively want to buy from a puppy farm but when they find out they have, they think they have done a good deed by ‘saving’ that pup.

Now, had my friend have been threatened with a say £200 fine, I don’t think he would have been quite so happy about the situation and would have maybe done a bit more research into where his puppy came from.

The issue we have here in relation to puppy farms is that the lay owner who is simply buying a pet has no idea what signs to look for and the puppy farmers will have all bases covered. Puppy farmers will have a ‘show mother’ who is a dog of the same breed as the pups, in incredibly good health and kept in the family home, the pups are then delivered to the ‘show mum’ when potential buyers come to view, so they have ‘seen the mother’, at least they think they have and buy a pup without realising what’s going on behind the scenes. This is the part which needs to be tackled. Fining the buyers may seem unfair but it may also encourage them to do more research into the breeder or even push them to adopt from a rehoming shelter. It may encourage them to ask questions, reputable breeders will not be insulted to be questioned further, they would welcome it as it would show that the buyer really does care. Charities should be registered so can be authenticated and again, would have no problems with buyer asking lots of questions about the business.

Education is also key and the public do need to be educated – where may they go for that? Hopefully straight to the vets where staff can give honest, unbiased advice. As an industry vets, nurses and receptionists need to be well armed in this department.

Staff training in this area is key as they need to be tactful but firm without being too gruesome about the reality of puppy farming. Vets should be more proactive when they suspect a puppy from a farm and front of house should have a good knowledge of signs which the owner should look out for when buying a puppy.

One day, people will realise the damage they are doing to these poor puppies/kittens in order to make a quick buck, but until then, as an industry we all need to work together to help Lucy’s law be as effective as possible.

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