There were a couple of news stories in the media recently that caught my attention and spurred me on to write about one of the issues that I feel very strongly about, but is a bit of a hazy area of knowledge for a lot of people. It’s being covered more and more by journalists, but it’s worth mentioning again about the subject of pets being bought over the internet, from an ad in a newspaper, from a pet shop, or even down the pub. When I was researching this article I was utterly shocked at the sheer number of money making organisations (for that is all they are) selling dogs online. Some claim to be responsible and not supplied by puppy farms (more of them later) but really, how do we view man’s best friend, or indeed cats or rabbits for that matter, if we treat them merely as commodities. Animals are not ‘things’ to simply buy and sell.
I anger some people when I am seen to lump ‘responsible’ breeders with horrific puppy farmers. I know that many breeders love their dogs to bits and would do anything for them, but I simply can’t get past the fact that in the end, they are putting more dogs into the world, to be sold at a profit, when rescue centres are full to bursting and, according to charity Puppy Love Campaigns a healthy dog is killed every hour in the UK by council run pounds. Is it so strange to find that unacceptable? After all, one of the news stories I referred to earlier was that of a Shar Pei who had been abandoned at a station in Ayr, along with a suitcase containing his belongings. This dog is a pure breed who was sold on Gumtree in 2013 to people her previous owners didn’t know. They hadn’t even bothered to find out their names or address. This rendered his microchip useless as the cads who had abandoned this poor soul hadn’t registered themselves as guardians. It shows that it’s not just people who abandon staffies and fill our rescue centres with them who treat dogs as mere items. Those who covet so-called desirable breeds can do too.
Dogs are for life, not just for Christmas
Dogs bred for profit was the assumed cause behind the second story that I came across in the past week or two. A litter of seven young puppies were abandoned outside Battersea Dogs Home in London in a laundry basket in freezing temperatures. The staff suspect that they were Christmas presents that failed to sell. Unwanted merchandise, if you will. Dogs Trust are currently appealing to constituents to write to their MPs regarding the illegal smuggling of puppies from Eastern Europe into the UK. This is a worrying trend that is set to continue unless people wake up to the fact that if they choose to buy pets from an ad in the paper or online, chances are that those pets have been factory farmed. This means that mothers are kept in filthy conditions, never being exercised or cared for in any way, their pups taken away from them and sold, where they often fall ill or die prematurely due to the conditions into which they were born. By this time, often the seller is untraceable. Apparently, Wales and Ireland are the main trouble spots in the UK for these horrific types of facilities, but of course even if animals are bred there, they can be shipped to any part of the country.
It is such an irony that those who buy animals online are often put off rescue dogs because ‘there must be something wrong with them.’ (See other rescue pet myths busted here.) Dogs Trust annual report 2014 lists the most common reasons given by those who surrendered dogs to the charity. From the commonest they are: Owner in hospital; Housing problems; Work commitment; Unwanted litter; Change in owner relationship; Family crisis; Owner died; Owner pregnant or has a new baby (don’t get me started on that one!!!); Unable to cope with puppy behaviour; Unable to cope with breed traits.
So really, we can see from this that, not only are puppies available at rescue centres if you’d like one, but that when puppies are bought somewhere they more often than not end up in a rescue centres because of the owners, not the dogs themselves. The financial crisis has forced many people to unwillingly relinquish their dogs and I feel for them terribly. Sometimes life throws stuff at you that is completely unforeseeable and one is compelled to make a heartbreaking decision. However, all too often, owners fail to neuter their dogs or fail to take proper responsibility or simply fail to care. This is not the dog’s fault. There are so many lovely dogs, cats, rabbits, and more in rescue centres that there is no reason at all to line the pockets of breeders. Some of these animals may be a bit confused or frightened at first, (wouldn’t you be if you’d been dumped without explanation?) but most dogs respond to love, just as most humans do.
For a list of rescue centres, see my article on Dogs. SSPCA and RSPCA both care for all sorts of animals from mice to horses. There are several dedicated feline rescues, the best known of which is the Cats Protection League. Look at local listings for rescue centres close to you.