The RSPCA has warned that illegal puppy farming has risen significantly in the past ten years. The charity received 4,357 calls about cases in England in 2018, up from 890 in 2008.
While there is a possibility that this could be down to people becoming more savvy about illegal puppy farming and reporting it more often, it seems to be likely that trends on social media have driven up demand for certain breeds. The hashtag #dogsofinstagram returns over 156,400,000 posts at time of writing, and that number is going up by about ten every second. While it might be a largely harmless activity to post pictures of your pooch online, there is a malign component to the way that certain breeds are being turned into lifestyle accessories. The fact that puppies of certain breeds can be easily sold for north of £1,000 makes it an attractive proposition for shady dealers.
The upcoming ban of third party sales of puppies, which takes effect in April 2020, will hopefully help curb the more extreme aspects of unethical puppy breeding, because prospective buyers will directly meet with breeders. Unfortunately, crime is often more enterprising than the law, and there are already reports of breeders renting out nice homes for a few days to give the impression that the animals are being reared in nice, clean environments. In reality, many of these dogs are being kept in unsanitary conditions without food or water.
Another issue is that many people want to circumvent the rules that exist for the express purpose of ensuring dogs are reared properly. Buying a puppy from a reputable dealer is usually a long process, during which you will be able to be certain that everything is as it seems. By checking the place where the dog has been bred and reared (and check at least twice) and checking that the mum is interacting with the pups, you can make a good assumption that the dog is healthy and happy. You can also Google the dealer’s contact number and see how many puppies they are offering for sale – although truly devious criminals will use several numbers.
Unfortunately, many people are simply impatient, and when they see a dubious advert on Facebook offering to let them buy a puppy and take it home immediately, they seize it. Some people simply don’t care what conditions the puppy had been kept in. Of course, these people often end up getting stung too – rogue breeders are liable to pass off sick dogs as healthy. There have been many reports of people paying sizable sums for a puppy, only for it to die days later. You might think this is simply the deserved comeuppance for these people, but it sadly does not do much to dissuade the black market dealers.
This is perhaps a good time to remember the importance of advising clients on the perils – and illegality – of buying puppies from rogue traders. As long as demand exists, there will be people there to supply it. The only way to stop this cruelty is to disincentivise people from unethical puppy breeding.