Four years ago, I adopted Susie-Belle, a miniature schnauzer who had lived for around six or seven years in a puppy farm, being repeatedly bred from; her puppies taken away and sold by dealers in the lucrative puppy market. Adopting Susie-Belle has changed the direction of my life, as witnessing first-hand the terrible damage that’s done to dogs in the puppy farming business led me to write two books on the subject and, to devote my life to helping to end the cruel industry, says Janetta Harvey.
In puppy farms, breeding dogs are given the bare minimum to keep them alive, and productive. Once they are no longer able to produce puppies that are saleable, they are dispatched. A fortunate few, like Susie-Belle are given to rescuers and get the chance to live, if their health can be recovered, which in some cases it can’t be and their days of freedom are few. For many, rescue never comes and they die in the miserable breeding facilities.
Susie-Belle, pictured in the early days after being rescued
When she was rescued, Susie-Belle was emaciated, almost bald, both eyes were nearly blinded by cataracts, she had multiple infections, several rotten teeth, a prolapsed, infected womb, and emotionally, she was terrified of humans and the outside world. She received a great deal of love, rehabilitation and specialist veterinary treatment, during the six months that she was in the expert foster care of the Diana Brimblecombe Animal Rescue Centre, which is where I adopted her from. Despite this work, it was another good year after coming to live with us before Susie-Belle really started to enjoy a normal dogs’ life, without being constantly plagued by fear and anxiety.
The harm that the breeding industry inflicts on dogs like Susie-Belle is a great disgrace in our society and since adopting her, I’ve had my eyes opened to the enormous scale of the tragedy that puppy farming represents. One that’s only possible because puppy buyers are continuing to provide a ready market. While she was trapped in a filthy Welsh breeding shed, not seeing daylight, nor receiving any care or attention, let alone love through her breeding years, Susie-Belle’s many puppies would have been transported over hundreds of miles, most likely ending up in pet shops and being sold via online advertisements.
Those buying her puppies would not have given any thought to, or necessarily been aware of, the dreadful conditions that Susie-Belle was forced for years, to live in. Ignorance of what the puppy farming business means for dogs is still present in society, despite years of news stories, magazine and newspaper coverage. It seems hard to believe for those of us who are aware, but, many puppy buyers today remain genuinely ignorant until it’s too late. Until they’ve bought the puppy, inadvertently supported the cruelty and in some cases, lost their new puppy through illness entirely caused by its poor start in life.
Susie-Belle, pictured in happier times
Huge sums of money can be made by puppy farmers and dealers. It’s a business that has nothing to do with a love of dogs but everything to do with the money that can be made from them. They are "cash crops." The beloved companions that puppy buyers like to believe are produced by those who love dogs just as much as they do, represent nothing more than cash in the bank for those profiteering from this lucrative business. The most irresponsible and greedy breeders thrive in an industry which is poorly regulated, with woefully enforced welfare standards. Puppy farms are often legally licensed breeding facilities, subject to local council inspections.
Conditions the dogs live in, for years, can be poor, and yet, licenses still be issued. They are found all over the United Kingdom, with Wales having a disproportionately high number due to the isolated, rural locations that puppy farmers favour. The distressing sounds and stench of a puppy farm are best hidden away from the public if at all possible and disused agricultural buildings offer the ideal space to contain large numbers of dogs.
However, as the puppy business booms, it’s not just the large scale rurally located puppy farmer cashing in. These days, unscrupulous breeders are keeping dogs in suburban houses in cages and garden sheds. Join this with the growing trade in imported puppies from European puppy farms and the criminal gangs that are posing as puppy breeders and selling poorly bred and sick puppies and the scale of the horror for dogs, becomes distressingly clear. This is a terrible trade worth millions of pounds to those involved and utter misery for the dogs.
But, for Susie-Belle, in the four years that she’s been living in freedom with us, she has undergone a remarkable transformation from the timid, hurt, damaged soul that she was, to the loving, peaceful dog that she now most certainly is. It is her deep, inner strength that we see shine brightly now as we live our lives together, which I write about in order to help others to see what suffering lies behind the cute puppies in the commercial puppy breeding industry. And why it must end.
Susie-Belle and Janetta, pictured above. Photo Credit: David Crump
Susie-Belle's journey through life has been a hard one, tougher than most humans would dare to think about, but far from remaining imprisoned by her past she has allowed herself to be coaxed, cuddled and loved into her new life, one that she now enjoys fully as a free, much loved dog, not something to make money from. So many dogs will never know this, as their sad fate is to live and die producing puppies.
To Avoid Supporting the Cruel Trade in Puppies
The best way is to rehome from a reputable rescue centre. It’s not just older dogs that find themselves in rescue today, there are many young dogs who are bought and then given up on soon afterwards. Or, puppies who are born in rescue. It’s always worth taking time to contact many rescues within your area and to be patient if you don’t find the dog you want straight away. Bringing a dog into our lives should never be something we rush into, whether that’s buying a puppy, or rehoming a dog.
If you really do prefer to buy a puppy, never buy from a pet shop. Puppies need to stay with their mothers until they go to their new homes. They should not be sold in a shop or through online advertising where they are delivered to you.
If you are not rehoming from a rescue, do not collect a puppy from anywhere other than the breeders home. No good breeder will want their puppies to be sold in a pub, garden centre or in a carpark – if you buy a puppy in any of these places you are guaranteed to be supporting puppy farming.
Marge is a 6 year old ex-breeding dog who is currently looking for a new home with Pro Dogs Direct on dogsblog.com
When visiting the breeder, make sure you see the puppies with their mother. Dealers and bad breeders are now using adult dogs to fool buyers into believing it’s mum. Look for interaction between puppies and mum. All should be happy, natural and healthy looking. Mum should be interested in her puppies. If you are given excuses for why mum is not present don’t accept them, walk away. It’s common for dealers to say she’s at the vet, or out for the day, these will be lies designed to dupe you.
Look to see that the puppies live and were bred in the home, it shouldn’t be hard to spot clues that the puppies are happy and in a clean, home environment. They should not be brought to you from outside.
Ask to see health certificates for any screening that your chosen breed ought to have. The breeder should be happy to supply you with vaccination and microchipping records and have treated the puppy for worms. Before visiting ask what the breeder is doing about the first vaccinations.
Look for signs of illness or lethargy, healthy puppies should be lively and playful.
Don’t feel hurried into choosing and paying for your puppy. Do not expect to make contact with a breeder and within a day or so take home your puppy. It is a lifetime commitment and good breeders will want to make sure you are the right person for one of their puppies, as much you need to be sure the breeder is a good one. Expect to ask, and be asked plenty of questions.
If you have any doubts about the breeder or puppies walk away. Do not buy the puppy thinking you are saving it. All you are doing is making a sale and creating a space for another puppy, you are keeping the puppy farming and dealing trade thriving. Instead, report the person selling the puppies to the local council and the RSPCA. And follow up your reports with each agency to see what action is taken.
For more information on buying puppies responsibly, and rehoming visit: www.rspca.org.uk or www.dogsblog.com. For information on puppy farming, visit and support the work of: www.puppylovecampaigns.org