As the founder and former director of the Rainbow Rehoming Centre in County Derry-Londonderry, I was delighted that Northern Ireland Says No To Animal Cruelty ( Nisntac) highlighted the cruel industry of puppy farming and backyard breeding with a protest at Belfast City Hall on Saturday June 6, which was well attended.
In the 18 year history of the Rainbow Centre, we have received regular complaints from members of the public who had, unwittingly, purchased puppies from such establishments. Each account was remarkably similar to the other. None had happy endings.
Each caller had responded to an advertisement in a newspaper or online, and had agreed to meet a breeder, usually in a car park, because the breeder insisted this would save the caller a long and complicated journey to his ‘home’.
After choosing a puppy from a van load of caged puppies, the owner took the puppy home, only to find soon afterwards that the animal was unwell.
One lady who had deliberately chosen a sickly looking pup, because she knew it needed urgent help, took it directly to a vet because it vomited worms on the way home. Sadly it died after treatment failed, leaving her with a hefty vet’s bill.
Some puppies bought were only three or four weeks old. Far too young to be taken from their mother’s milk, with its nutrients and antibodies to help them fight disease. They had not been weaned, so couldn’t eat.
Another lady who had chosen what she was told was a Jack Russell puppy informed us it had grown to the size of a German Shepherd and she couldn’t cope.
Yet another victim of these unscrupulous breeders paid £250 for a puppy, which actually survived. But the dog, although small was completely unmanageable. This was a recurring theme, and probably due to the fact that such puppies are kept in cages and not handled in the early vital weeks and months, so they find it difficult, or sometimes impossible to adjust to being handled daily in their new home. She passed the dog on. Others simply sent theirs to the pound. And so the sad stories continued.
It appals me that not only is this vile practise still going on, but it has been allowed to flourish.
These puppy factories cause suffering to thousands of animals on a daily basis. Animals that spend their entire lives in cages in dark sheds, never seeing the light of day, producing litters of pups every six months. They are never handled. They are never wormed, so pass on their heavy worm burden to their puppies, whose bellies are bloated with them, and fool some buyers into thinking they are simply fat healthy puppies. Worms can and do kill them.
Thousands of good natured, loving dogs are being put to sleep throughout this country on a daily basis. Or filling rescue centres that are struggling to keep afloat. The irony is, if you get a dog from a rescue centre, it will be wormed, it will be vaccinated, it will be microchipped for you (microchipping has been law for the past five years), it will be deflead, and it will be neutered for you when it’s six months old- all at a fraction of the cost that a backyard breeder or puppy farmer will charge for a sickly puppy. This is because rescue centres care about the animals, not the money.
We are supposed to be a nation of animal lovers. The recent Panorama programme on puppy farming here shamed this country, and everyone who supports this cruel industry. We need to stand together as one voice in opposition. Writing to our MPs and demanding an end to it. The world is watching.