How to Spot a Puppy Farmer This Christmas

We can’t resist a cute puppy. Those big eyes, soft ears, and paws too big for their wobbly legs.

But behind the wagging tails lies a hidden trade that has developed into the worst industrialised cruelty to dogs in UK history: puppy farming. And it exists because we can’t resist a cute puppy, writes Joanna Randall.

Around half the puppies purchased in the UK each year come from puppy farms – that’s over 400,000 pups bred in facilities where animal welfare is disregarded in order to maintain low overheads and maximise profits. They’re big profits too. It’s been calculated that some puppy farmers are able to make over £500,000 in a single year by treating dogs like breeding machines.

How to Spot a Puppy Farmer This Christmas

The true cost of ‘cute’ is simply too high

Christmas is the time of year when puppy farmers line their pockets with cash from uninformed buyers. We all know the mantra ‘a dog is for life, not just for Christmas’, yet impulse puppy buying continues to happen in the holiday season. It’s time to ask: why is this still happening?

With online advertising it’s easier than ever to buy a puppy, and easier to be duped into supporting cruel puppy farming. From classified sites to Facebook groups, the online marketplace has created hotbeds for unscrupulous puppy farmers and their third-party traders.

Puppies are now available at the click of a button, able to be delivered to your house like groceries or Ikea furniture. But the easier it is to buy a puppy, the more careful you should be.

Puppy farmers and traders are experts at making a sale. They will go to extreme lengths to hide the truth about where their pups were really bred. It can be difficult knowing who to trust. So if you’re considering bringing a puppy into your family, here’s a few hints for how you can avoid puppy farmers.

How to Spot a Puppy Farmer This Christmas

How to Spot a Puppy Farmer

1. Is there a phone number attached to the puppy’s advertisement?

Do a search online using the number. If the search results show various advertisements for different breeds, that’s a puppy farmer.

2. Is the puppy being sold in a pet shop?

Unless the store has partnered with a rescue group to promote dogs for adoption, that’s a puppy farmer. Responsible breeders never sell their animals in pet shops.

3. Are you asked to meet the seller at a mutually convenient location? A park? A fast food outlet? A car park? 

If you’re asked to meet them anywhere other than where the puppy has been bred and raised, that’s a puppy farmer. They may come up with reasonable sounding excuses, but don’t buy into it. They don’t want you to see where their puppies come from.

4. Where’s mum?

Are you told the puppy’s mother is unwell, staying with a friend, at the vet, groomer, or anywhere other than with her puppy? If you can’t meet the mum, for any reason at all, that’s a puppy farmer. If you are presented with a dog they say is the mother, see the puppy suckling to be sure.

5. Do they say you can take the puppy home straight away during the first meeting?

If so, that’s a puppy farmer. Buying a puppy from a reputable breeder is a lengthy process. Good breeders will ask you lots of questions: about your work, family, time spent at home, experience with dogs. You will be invited to meet the puppy, and their mother and whole litter, at least once before taking the puppy home. The whole process should take several weeks, if not months, from the moment you make your first inquiry. Some of the best breeders will have long waiting lists.

6. Do they refuse to give you the name and contact details of their veterinarian?

Have they misplaced them? Did the vet go on holiday at the exact time you’re buying the puppy, so you can’t contact them to check? That’s a puppy farmer.

7. Do you feel pressured to buy the puppy?

Chances are, that’s a puppy farmer. Perhaps the puppy appears sick or lethargic, and perhaps you feel emotionally compelled to rescue them by purchasing. However, buying a puppy from a puppy farmer only funds their ability to continue the cycle of cruelty to the breeding dogs left behind. Instead, take down the seller’s details and report them to the RSPCA or local authority as soon as possible.

But would you like to know the best way to avoid accidentally buying a puppy from a puppy farm?

It’s easy: simply choose to adopt a rescue dog instead.

There are thousands of perfect dogs and pups waiting for loving homes right now - and you won't even have to pay the hundreds of pounds that puppy farmers charge.

To find the best friend you’ll ever have, visit dog adoption site The site, which is sponsored by Direct Line Pet Insurance has helped over 40,000 dogs to find new homes after dogs like Clara, pictured below - ex-breeding dogs - find themselves in rescue after they're no longer required.

How to Spot a Puppy Farmer This Christmas
Click the photo above for more information about rehoming Clara

Be a Christmas Canine Campaigner and take action against puppy farming at

About the Author

Joanna is Campaign Manager at Naturewatch Foundation. She is owned by a 14 year old rescued terrier called Tilda. Follow Joanna on Twitter.

Naturewatch Foundation believes all dogs deserve a safe start, long life, and a happy ending. But this will never be possible while puppy farms exist. Visit to take action to end puppy farming. You can also follow Naturewatch Foundation on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram.

One comment

  1. If these unscrupulous puppy mill trash run true to form, like the US and Canada, then I bet they do not pay taxes on all that cash that changes hands with the pet stores, it’s normally cash transactions and therefore untraceable. Maybe informing your Government tax revenue people would be a good idea. Let’s take all steps to get rid of these sub humans.

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