Reflections on the Cruel Trade of Puppy Farming by a USPCA Welfare Officer

My time working as a welfare officer with the USPCA has brought me in contact with many dog breeders, from small scale hobbyists who enjoy producing the odd litter of cute pups to large scale purpose built dog breeding farms where cash/profit is the only motivation.

The majority of breeders I have met have been responsible genuine animal lovers with their dogs and puppies welfare their main priority. Unfortunately, for a steadily growing number of more unscrupulous breeders that I have come across, this couldn’t be further from the truth.

Some previous cases spring to mind.

One cold January evening I received a call from police who were in attendance at a property where they had concerns about the way in which some dogs were being housed there.

On arrival at the premises I discovered a large number of differing ages and breeds of dogs being kept in horrendous conditions.

Five young boxer dogs were feasting on the carcass of a dead calf which had been thrown onto the faeces covered floor of their makeshift pen which hadn’t been cleaned for many weeks. A dead rat lay in a drinking bowl of water in an adjacent pen occupied by a further six boxer type dogs. On further inspection of the premises I observed thirty plus West Highland Terriers being kept in freezing cold concrete bunkers in zero daylight and zero form of heating. Their coats had turned yellow through urine staining, their paws were blistered and scalded from the urine saturated floor. There was an overpowering eye watering stench of ammonia all through the premises.

This operation was being run by a father and three sons from a well known criminal family with pups being sold from approx. £250-£500 in huge numbers.
In short, over 70 dogs of different breeds were seized by police and USPCA from the premises and eventually two members of the family involved received bans from keeping animals.

In another case of mass dog breeding, myself and USPCA colleagues visited an old farm which had been adapted for keeping dogs. There were around 80 small breed dogs being kept in makeshift pens outside. The pens had been built on a slight incline with no proper drainage facility which meant that urine and faeces from the top pens flowed straight through every other pen on the site and the unfortunate animals had no choice but to stand and lie down in each other’s excrement. On examination of the dogs, most seemed to be frightened, preferring to cower in the corners of their pens rather than come to a human hand for affection. Their overgrown coats were in some of the worst condition I have witnessed in 12 years doing my job.

A much more horrifying discovery was to be found at this particular dog farm, in a small shed at the top of the yard we found a butchers type mincing machine containing the semi rancid remains of dead puppies. 3 more dead puppies were lying beside the mincer, awaiting the same fate. The minced puppies were being disposed of by feeding them to ferrets.

Dogs were seized by Police and USPCA and the owner of the establishment was prosecuted for causing unnecessary suffering to animals.

Unfortunately not all owners of these establishments are prosecuted and often when they are, the sentences handed down are much too lenient. A lot of establishments still go undetected. As a Welfare Officer, I find this extremely frustrating.

To witness huge numbers of puppies being kept in filthy, unsanitary, squalid conditions, denied most if not all of the ‘Five Freedoms’ of basic animal welfare, destined to be sold off on the Internet or driven hundreds of miles in cramped unventilated vehicles, transported to other countries sometimes illegally and end up as a cute cuddly pup in the window of a high street pet shop being sold for many hundreds of pounds.

The 5 Freedoms
A failure to provide a companion animal with one or more of these basic welfare standards can now be prosecuted under the Welfare of Animals (NI) Act 2011.
1. Freedom from hunger and thirst
2. Freedom from discomfort
3. Freedom from pain, injury or disease
4. Freedom to express normal behaviour
5. Freedom from fear and distress

The current USPCA trafficking Campaign is advising members of the public to take three simple steps when buying a puppy.
• Don’t buy pups in carparks from the back of a car or van.
• Always go to the breeder’s premises and ask to see the puppy’s real mother.
• Check with your local council to confirm the breeder is licenced