Ann, who felt hard done by due to the lack of a family dog in her own childhood, had a yearning for a puppy of her own. Browsing through Done Deal, she found an adorable litter of Yorkshire Terrier puppies selling for €300 each. Although it was a steep impulse buy, Ann couldn’t resist, and two days later she was standing outside a petrol station and taking her new pup to its forever home.
Within a fortnight, the puppy grew sick, it refused to eat and was lethargic in nature. After cleaning up vomit for three days, Ann took the dog to the vets in hopes for a cure. With a prescription for a set of antibiotics, she was sent home. The dog was dead the next morning.
This incidence is not uncommon, and particularly not in Ireland, where the epidemic of puppy farming is rampant. Irish puppy farms are dog breeding establishments that work solely for profit and have little regard for the dogs they use. In most puppy farms, the mother gives birth to litters more than twice a year at an age far younger than recommended. The dogs are kept in cramped, dark conditions with little room to move, let alone play or exercise. Many times, the dogs are underfed, uncared for and left to live in their own faeces and urine. Mothers are viewed as breeding machines and may go their whole lives without any positive socialisation.
To fit the high demand for popular breeds, inbreeding occurs and the pups are sold online to oblivious customers unaware of heredity diseases and illnesses present within the dog’s genetics. Dog owners are left with a puppy dead within a month of being bought or face physical problems later in life costing expensive veterinary bills.
Puppies are taken from their litters and sold before they hit the eight week mark which causes psychological damage to the pup. Recent research has shown that dogs separated from their social group before 60 days are far more likely to show problematic behaviours and mental problems. Dog breeders within the ‘puppy mill’ industry take no heed to this.
Ireland is the puppy farm capital of Europe, producing over 30,000 dogs a year where they are either transported to other countries across the continent or bought by unassuming customers here. Despite constant campaigns by animal welfare groups such as Dog’s Trust, the government is still largely inactive when it comes to the treatment of dogs within the breeding establishment. The laws for breeders in the country are far more lenient when compared to our European neighbours and despite regulations brought in with the Dog Breeding Establishment Bill 2010, puppy farms still thrive.
So how do we put an end to this horrific institution that amounts such harm on ‘man’s best friend?’ It is far easier to solve than you might think. Firstly, if buying a dog it is vital to make sure that the dog is coming from a safe and healthy environment. When buying a puppy, always ask to see the mother and to arrange to meet the breeder at their home rather than outside public areas such as petrol stations or the side of the road. Furthermore, check that the facilities within the home are clean. Ask for medical records of the pup and the mother and ensure that the puppy is older than eight weeks.
With the vast and numerous animal shelters throughout the country holding thousands of dogs looking to be rehomed, going out to purchase a dog is not the only option. Contrary to popular belief, dogs of mixed heritage or ‘mutts’ live longer and are less likely to suffer from genetic diseases present in pedigree breeds.
Puppy farms exist in Ireland due to government apathy and people’s ignorance and they will continue to do so if nothing is changed. Taking the proper precautions when buying a dog from a certified dog breeder or adopting a dog from a shelter hurts the puppy farming industry as a whole. With dogs providing so many services for humans, it’s the least we could do for them.