We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here’s What They Said

Across the decades, things that were once popular or the norm change. I remember when getting up to turn the TV over seemed perfectly normal or when mobile phones in the 90s seemed advanced compared to the stereotypical brick owned by yuppies in the 80s, writes Kim O’Meara.

Things change, we move on and every generation leaves its mark.

As the next generation, still yet to hit their teenage years becomes more socially aware than ever, we started to wonder what they might change.

When we heard about two 12 year olds, Aimee Wingstedt and Olivia Hall, who chose to focus on the subject of puppy farming for their BBC School Report, we began to wonder if this generation will be the one who finally calls an end to puppy farming, putting welfare about all else.

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said

We began by asking Aimee and Olivia what they know about puppy farming already and why they chose to focus on the animal welfare subject.

Here’s what they told us.

Aimee explained, “I understand puppy farmers to be someone who breeds dogs consistently without considering the welfare of the dog or dogs.

“Puppy farmers always put money before dogs and claim to be dog lovers which is apparently a synonym for loving the money that dogs make them! Dogs are often kept in large quantities at puppy farms.

“The more and more dogs the farmers get, the more and more the health of the dogs get compromised.

“In summary, I feel a puppy farmer is a cruel person who puts profit before welfare and makes dogs suffer while apparently being oblivious to the dog’s cries.

Olivia said, “In my eyes, a puppy farmer is someone who breeds dogs on a large scale.

“Puppy farmers only see puppies as the money they will make them. Puppy farmers keep their ‘livestock’ in [conditions] what any person would call appalling.

“You don’t need to think twice about these places that the dogs call home, it is not what any dog deserves. I first heard of puppy farms when I was younger than 10.

“I was reading a book about puppy farming. I saw pictures and was in shock. Those poor dogs I thought, they have to put up with such cruelty.”

The BBC School Report project is aimed at 11-18 year old students who want to explore subjects and improve literacy and advance journalism, so Aimee and Olivia decided to ask their fellow BBC School Report reporters this question too.

Kirsten Silvey said, “A puppy farmer is someone who breeds dogs in terrible conditions which can cause defects and pain to puppies and mums. They sell these puppies to an oblivious new owner just for profit.

“I first learnt the true meaning of what a puppy farm is when we were deciding on a topic for our BBC new school report, as well as some previous knowledge.”

Catrin Goddard answered, “In my opinion, a puppy farmer is a cruel person who forces dogs to breed. I have always been loosely aware of puppy farms, but I quite didn’t know until Aimee did a speech on them. I then became curious about them.”

And Seren replied, “I see a puppy farmer as someone who breeds dogs in large quantities mainly thinking of the profit. They do not care about the dogs yet claim to be a person who loves dogs.

“A person who loves dogs would never be so cruel. I first became aware of puppy farming when we were doing our BBC School News Report. Although I had heard of them previously.”

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said

To learn more about puppy farming and what the industry is doing to end the trade, Aimee and Olivia visited Crufts and interviewed Bill Lambert, the Health and Breeder Services Manager employed by The Kennel Club.

Aimee tells us they chose to interview Mr Lambert because she had visited Crufts twice before, “I mainly go to buy things for my Miniature Schnauzer named Frankie (pictured below).

“This year we were midway through our BBC Report. We decided to contact several rescue centres, author and campaigner Janetta Harvey and The Kennel Club.

“All the rescue centres felt that puppy farming was not the best thing for them to talk about. However, The Kennel Club and Janetta replied both agreeing.

“Olivia and I prepared some challenging questions for Bill (Lambert) as we knew that The Kennel Club earn money from puppy farms but also campaign against them. Bill is the health and breeder’s manager, so we thought as he is senior management he may be able to provide us with the answers we were looking for.”

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They SaidAudio of Aimee and Olivia’s interview is available here

Here are some of the key extracts of the interview.

Olivia began by asking Mr Lambert to elaborate on the Kennel Club’s registration scheme.

“Do you think the average puppy buyer understands the difference between Kennel Club (KC) papers, Kennel Club registered and assured breeders?”

Bill Lambert: "No I don’t think they do. We’ve spent many, many years building up the value of Kennel Club registrations. Kennel Club registration is very important because it does give you information about the dogs and once we’ve registered those we can actually attach information, we can keep health records and health information attached to it.

"But it’s not a registration system for the breeder and that’s what the Assured Breeder Scheme is so there’s a big difference. Registration system for what we call Kennel Club registered is actually a register of the dog but the Assured Breeder Scheme is a register of the breeder and those breeders who are under the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme are under far more restrictions and have far many more rules which they have to adopt to keep being members of that scheme and keep breeding dogs with us."

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said
Hubble is 5 years old and was recently rescued from a puppy farm after being used for years to breed puppies

To which Aimee followed up with:

“Why does the Kennel Club allow puppy farmers to register their puppies with the Kennel Club and fool the average puppy buyer if they do not know the difference?”

Bill Lambert: "Well there is a Licensing system in the UK and that is the responsibility of the Local Authorities so you have to have a breeding licence if you are currently breeding more than 5 litters. In fact, in Wales, it is if you are breeding more than 3 litters. So that is the Government’s responsibility. Now it does come back to what I was saying about encouraging those people to keep with us.

"If we were actually to say, right - first of all, we have to define what a puppy farm is and that’s not quite as simple as it may seem. Our view is that a puppy farm is a large-scale breeder who puts profit above health and welfare. Not all large dog breeders are bad and we have large breeders on our Assured Breeder scheme, such as Guide Dogs for the Blind who breed lots and lots of puppies but they breed them all in good conditions so it’s not just about the numbers. It’s about how many are bred and how poorly they are bred. But again, it’s about keeping those people with us.

"If we actually just don’t allow those people to register with us at all they would just be completely under the radar and we won’t know who they are, where they are and what they are doing."

Olivia then asked:

“Why don’t the Kennel Club scrap all the registrations except those through the Assured Breeder Scheme?”

Bill Lambert: "Again, unfortunately, it’s the same answer. It’s because we are trying to keep people with us to know where they are.

"Currently, we only register between 30 and 40% okay, so now if we were to just say they’d have to be with the Assured Breeder scheme that would bring that number down to about 5% or less than that so we would have even less control or influence and it’s only by having influence.

"If you go around Crufts today you can see, if you go to The Kennel Club stand or the Crufts stand for example, there is lots of information people can pick up there about breeding dogs, about what they should look for. The puppy buyers they have to actually play a part in this as well because the puppy buyers are the people who are making the choices where they buy their dogs from. So again it is trying to keep people with us, trying to give positive messages and trying to influence people to do the right thing."

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said
Lacie spent 5 years being used as a means to an end - a breeding dog - in a puppy farm. She is now looking for her forever home

Olivia wanted to know more about how much the Kennel Club charges – and why they don’t charge more for non-assured (non-regulated) breeders.

“Currently the KC charge £15 for an Assured Breeder to register a puppy and only £2 more for a non-assured breeder to register a puppy. Why don’t the KC club charge more for non-assured breeders to register a puppy?”

Bill Lambert: "Well I think I would agree with that. I think that the differential between the £15 and a non-assured breeder to register a puppy should be larger. I personally would like to see assured breeders having to pay half the price to register their puppies than other breeders do but we’re not quite there yet and that’s something that I have to have an internal argument inside the KC to try to persuade the KC to take that view."

Aimee then followed up with:

“Do you think the KC could do more to hit puppy farmers where it hurts in their pockets?”

Bill Lambert: "That’s a difficult question, again anyone can register with the KC and it’s a little bit like if you have a car and you drive a car on the road, it has to be registered with the DVLA, the government’s licensing regime. We’re like that.

"We don’t restrict people from actually registering their dogs with the KC and we do have some basic restrictions, for example, we won’t allow people to register puppies from a bitch that’s under a year old, we don’t let them register from a bitch that’s more than 8 years old, so we have some basic welfare restrictions.

"The other thing that we do is because all of our information is in the public domain, people can go and find out how many people are breeding and what they’re doing so that’s almost a self-policing mechanism so that actually having that information out there it makes those breeders accountable.

"If we were to switch that off and make it actually harder for people, of course, we would lose all of that information. So, I think the truth is that we can always do more, there is always more that you can be doing to try to improve animal welfare and we’re on that road, that’s what we’re trying to do all the time."

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said
Ursula spent years locked up in a puppy farm. She is now trying to get used to life as a pet while she waits for a forever home

Olivia asked what The Kennel Club’s view is on their image as profiteers from puppy farmers.

“What is your answer to those who say the KC is the only organisation that makes a profit from the misery of farmed dogs and campaigns against it at the same time?”

Bill Lambert: "Well I don’t think that’s quite true. We work with a lot of welfare organisations, for example, every single breed that we have here [at Crufts] will have a breed rescue.

"Now if every single breeder was responsible for example our Assured Breeders have to take responsibility for puppies throughout their lifetime. Now we do not make a profit out of the Assured Breeder scheme. We actually fund that scheme, we put all that money into it, so we certainly are one of the most active organisations out there for putting information and money into education for breeders. Now that said, can we do more, yes, of course, we can do more.

"The welfare organisations are slightly different from us. We are the only organisation that supports dog breeding because good dog breeding done well is very good. We think that people buying puppies have a far better chance of selecting the right breed that’s right for them, buying from a good breeder, buying a puppy that’s well socialised, that has been reared in a lovely family environment, we think that is a very good way of buying a puppy. And those puppies, if they’re bred well, then they have far less chance of going into a rescue shelter because they’ve had to be rehomed so it’s about trying to get people to do the right thing from day one and because of that dog breeding can be a good thing.

"Unfortunately, a lot of the other organisations that we work with, the charities, for example, they see the result of very poor breeding and one of the arguments often used is, oh so people shouldn’t breed dogs all the time there are dogs in shelters and rescue centres. That argument doesn’t quite work because every single one of those dogs has been bred by someone, has been bred by a breeder, so our aim is to try and make those breeders do the right thing so those dogs don’t end up in the shelters."

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said
Dougal was recently rehomed from an animal rescue after being saved from a puppy farm

Reflecting on their interview and Mr Lambert’s answers to their direct questions, Aimee and Olivia feel their questions weren’t answered as fully as they could have been.

They tell us, “He seemed more concerned about defending The Kennel Club. But after all he does work for The Kennel Club, that’s his job. We do understand that he needs to defend The Kennel Club as well as answering our questions and he seemed happy to meet us and was very kind to us.

“When an average person buys a KC registered puppy they think it’s healthy and special, but it could have been bred in the worst puppy farm you have ever seen, or you can even think about but The Kennel Club still register it.”

We Asked Two 12 Year Olds to Tell Us What They Know About Puppy Farming, Here's What They Said

So, do Mr Lambert’s answers on steps The Kennel Club is taking for the future give them hope?

Aimee tells us, “I didn’t hear much about action against puppy farming, just influence and encouragement. I don’t think you can influence or encourage puppy farmers because they are only interested in money. The only way to help the puppies and their mums and dads is to cut off the money. The Kennel Club could really help do that, I wish they would.

Olivia concluded, “I feel that the way all the dogs, bitches and puppies living at puppy farms is terrible, but their future all depends on the people reading this, the people who have donated to rescue organisations and the people who campaign and care. Dogs can’t do anything to change their lives but we can.

“If we don’t buy dogs from them even if we think we are rescuing them, we will just be making space for another ill-treated puppy.

"If we raise awareness and more people know than those who don’t know, then we can finally and once and for all finish puppy farms as a trade, as no one will be buying from them. If this does happen, or even if more awareness goes forward, their futures will be much brighter.”

Our opinion?

We’ve heard this all from The Kennel Club before. Their quotes about breeders ‘going underground’ are tired, and frankly, disappointing. They've said it all before and nothing really has changed, not by their hands or as a result of their actions anyway.

Mr Lambert’s quotes about what the public know about the differences in registrations between assured and non-assured speak volumes when tied to their efforts to build the KC registration brand.

And yet, even as our disappointment still remains with the actions of the body in charge, but they'd have you believe not responsible, hope grows that the next generation won’t tolerate the same old, same old rhetoric from the 145 year old institution.

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