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Overview of puppy farming in the UK

Our earliest memories of finding a perfect puppy to love at home are so important for learning about how to care for animals.  At Naturewatch Foundation we’re hearing all the time about how many families are really struggling with that experience, discovering that their new pet puppy has been poorly bred, exposed to serious disease, removed from their mother and siblings too soon, and transported for miles for trade throughout the UK. Families are left with broken hearts and empty pockets, faced with the trauma of a dying puppy and enormous vet bills.

We believe that only a loving, experienced breeder will raise a litter of puppies with care. We know they’ll think about the welfare of their dogs before they're born, while they're puppies, and long after they leave to be family pets, and accept a lifetime responsibility for the animals they breed. We think every puppy needs this care and attention to become a secure and relaxed dog, ready to fit in with family life.

Our aim is to bring puppy farming and cruel trading to an end, so the British public can trust that their new puppies have been bred responsibly. We want to address the serious health and behavioural problems that so many people are experiencing today due to unscrupulous breeding and ruthless third-party trading.  In doing so, we aim to reduce the number of unwanted dogs that find themselves abandoned at already overflowing rescue centres. 

Sickness, Socialisation and the Environment

In Britain we buy 800,000 puppies and dogs every year to be our companions and friends. About half of these come from caring breeders or from animal shelters. The rest come from puppy farms both here in the UK and abroad – sites that breed puppies in volume for financial gain. These 400,000 puppies are sold through online ads, puppy supermarkets, pet shops and on the black market. If a buyer can’t be certain how a puppy was raised, it’s likely to have been intensively farmed.

Among the welfare issues we pursue, the breeding and sale of dogs as domestic pets in Britain today is one of the most damaging and shocking. Intensive farming exposes dogs to viral, bacterial, parasitic and genetic disease. Poor hygiene and packed breeding sheds increase dogs’ likelihood of pain or premature death after infection. Often puppies will be sold by experienced dealers to an unsuspecting buyer before symptoms are apparent. Of course sick puppies, with health issues which can last for life or lead to death, need rehabilitation and professional care rather than sale as domestic pets.

In addition, animal behaviour experts agree - to lead a happy life as a family pet, good health isn’t all a dog needs. It is vital that puppies experience everyday domestic life through the formative first weeks from birth to teach them what contact with people is like. Buying a pet puppy that has no familiarity with people and home life can lead to upset for families and tragedy for dogs, if behavioural issues emerge and owners find they can’t cope. To be raised in outbuildings, bred from a bitch that’s exhausted, removed from the litter and mother too early and transported around the country in fear is the worst possible start in life for a puppy.

Meanwhile, in the wider environment, intensive farming causes yet more harm. Used bedding, dog waste and dog remains, (many puppies are never sold), are a danger in themselves: these hazards can contaminate land and water all around a site for years to come as farmers spread this waste to land.

Click here to read about how the puppy farming industry operates in the UK today.