Illegal export of puppy farmed dogs continues
The issue of puppy farms continues to make news headlines. Last month, a man was fined €4000 for the illegal export of 88 puppies, seized at Dublin Port in February 2015. And just last week, fourteen puppies were seized by Gardai after being found in metal containers in the boot of a car. The dogs did not have access to water or fresh air, and had no valid documentation. They were seized because of alleged cruelty, with DSPCA reporting that this was the fourth seizure of its type in the last three weeks. And who knows how many pups are leaving the country illegally without being detected by the authorities?
In recent years, there has been a tightening up of the laws controlling the export of puppies to the UK. All dogs now require a pet passport signed by a veterinary surgeon, they must be microchipped and registered with an approved database, and they need appropriate vaccinations, including rabies. Furthermore, dogs being exported to be rehomed or resold need a certified health check prior to departure, to confirm fitness to travel. If people break these rules, they leave themselves liable to penalties including a fine of up to €250,000 and/or a five year prison sentence.
These laws are very specific and fair: they are designed to ensure the welfare and safety of puppies. Even animal welfare group that rescue stray dogs in Ireland have to comply with the laws if they are transferring animals to the UK for rehoming. Yet some puppy farmers - who are in the business to earn as much cash as possible - blatantly ignore the laws. It probably costs over €100 per puppy to comply with the legislation: for 88 puppies, that makes over €8800. When you compare this cost to the €4000 fine, you can see why some unscrupulous dealers are tempted to cut corners.
Ireland used to be known as the "puppy farm capital of Europe", and in response, the government brought in legislation to control the mass breeding of dogs. The Dog Breeding Establishment 2010 introduced minimal standards for any premises that houses six or more breeding bitches, with compulsory inspections and licensing by local authorities to ensure compliance. The legislation has not stopped puppy farming: there are currently 73 registered puppy farms, producing around 30000 puppies per year. While some animal welfare groups feel that any production of puppies in a "farm" environment is wrong, the laws at least insist that the welfare of the animals is safeguarded as far as possible in the circumstances.
The challenge for puppy farmers is that Ireland is a small market, and as well as the officially registered breeders, there are probably another 70000 puppies being produced by smaller breeding outfits (if there are less than six breeding bitches, the law does not apply) and by illegal puppy farms (it can be difficult to know what, exactly, happens behind the closed doors of rural premises). This means that there's a total of around 100000 puppies produced every year in this country, which is far too many for our own needs. At current levels of production, export to the UK is inevitable, and that's why puppies are being smuggled out.
The UK market also attracts puppies from Eastern Europe, where there are less controls than in Ireland. While the Irish puppies tend to be breeds like Yorkshire Terriers and "white fluffy dogs" (such as Bichon Frise), most of the pups from the east are "designer breeds", with Pugs, Dachshunds, English and French Bulldogs making up 82 per cent of those smuggled into the UK. It's likely that some of these dogs are also making their way in to Ireland.
The market for puppy-farmed dogs is driven entirely by the puppy-buying public, and as well as legislation, the best way to control the issue is for the public (that means you) to stop buying them. There are some clear clues that a pup is likely to be from a puppy farm:
1. If you are being pressured to come and look at/buy a puppy within the next 24 hours. Responsible breeders would want to meet you several times before letting you take one of their pups
2. If the seller can offer you multiple breeds and dog types.
3. If the seller refuses to allow you to meet the litter "Mum" and ideally, the "Dad". Excuses such as "she's out for a walk" or "she died in labour" should ring alarm bells,
4. If you are asked to meet a breeder in a lay-by, or if a breeder offering to deliver the puppy to your house.
Some may ask: "what's wrong with a puppy farmed dog?" The main issue is that to be successful long term pets, dogs need to be well socialised during a critical time frame. It's vital that between three and twelve weeks of age, a puppy needs to encounter a wide variety of people, situations and other animals. If a pup is kept in social isolation during this period, there can be lifelong consequences, including nervousness, fear and aggression. This is the reason why many people believe that puppy farming is always wrong, even when done in compliance with the law.
I have said before that my preference for most people is to choose a rescue dog, but if you are determined to get a pedigree puppy, remember to do everything possible to avoid a puppy-farmed dog.