How much is that doggie in the window?

Publication: Wag! magazine

The end of the evil trade of puppy farming looks to be in sight, but for one family and their loveable dog Bonnie the changes have sadly come too late.

Winter 1999

Would-be dog owners sighing over adorable puppies rarely have any idea of the far from fluffy trade that produced many of them.

Thousands of puppies in this country are bred in so-called ‘puppy farms’ where conditions are harsh and inhumane.

Bitches are bred at successive seasons to maximise profits and kept confined in pens with little or no exercise or human companionship.

The first few weeks of a puppy’s life have a profound effect on its future health and behaviour. Bad breeding can result in genetic and hereditary health problems and behavioural disorders due to the lack of socialisation.

Multi-million pound industry

Now a new law is set to stamp out this mass ‘farming’ of dogs by breeders who put their multi-million pound profits before the puppies’ welfare. It should also put an end to unscrupulous dealers who act as fronts for puppy farmers.

The Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act, which comes into force at the end of this year (note: 1999), was drafted by an alliance of animal welfare and associated organisations, including the NCDL.

But changes won’t happen overnight – which is why we need your help as much as ever before. Puppy farms sell through dealers or pet shops, or direct to the public through adverts in local papers.

It’s all too easy to be tempted into an impulse purchase of a cute puppy such as Bonnie the labrador, who was bought by trainee police officer Elizabeth Rawling. Elizabeth made the mistake of visiting a pet store armed with money from a Lottery win.

The result was both understandable and predictable – she fell in love with Bonnie, unaware she was almost certainly a puppy-farmed dog. With a 15-week police training course about to start, Elizabeth gave her loveable new pet to her parents Gary and Christine to look after. Trouble came quickly: they soon realised Bonnie was limping and in constant pain.

Trips to a vet and consultant, and research by Elizabeth’s brother William, found that Bonnie has severe hip dysplasia, a painful genetic disorder that proper breeding can help to avoid. More than a few minutes playing or a few yards walking leave her in agony,and she needs constant care and attention.

A future for Bonnie

Many families, faced with the enormous cost of operations and drugs, might have had Bonnie put to sleep.

But Gary had taken the dog to his heart. He refused an offer of a new dog from the store, realising that an exchange would probably sign Bonnie’s death warrant.

The couple now look after Bonnie and provide medication, care and attention – which includes a special doggie bathing pool that helps her exercise safely.

Gary said: “So far we have spent roughly £3,000 on a £350 dog, but she can have what she needs – she’s a member of the family now.”

During his career as a police officer, Gary was involved in a raid on a puppy farm and he was horrified to think of Bonnie’s early life in those conditions.

“To unscrupulous breeders it’s just money,” he said. “If one out of every ten dogs ends up with hip dysplasia and gets put down, they don’t care. They have still got their £350.”

Puppy farms will not simply melt away on their own. The NCDL will he monitoring them to ensure the law is enforced – but we need your help too.

For more information you can visit the website of Dogs Trust (the new name for the NCDL) here.

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