What Constitutes a Puppy Farmer?
Updated: Jun 25, 2020
In today's society, with the wonders of technology and the ease of travel (in normal times!) and communication, puppies are available everywhere you turn. For those looking to add a little bundle of fun to their family, this makes finding a responsible breeder a complete minefield.
I am contacted by a lot of people who are worried about unknowingly buying a puppy from a not so reputable source and inheriting a much higher risk of health and behavioural problems down the line. In these strange times of COVID-19, we are also seeing extremely inflated prices across all breeds with no justification. Spotting a puppy farmer or commercial breeder is not an easy task though.
You may have seen in the news that a pair of TV 'stars' from 'Love Island' recently bought a Pomeranian puppy (imported from Russia via a Cheshire based 'breeder') that then died just 6 days later. I have also been contacted by a family who have been unfortunate enough to have had the same thing happen to them, albeit directly from someone in the UK. These situations are what responsible breeders are desperately trying to remove from society by ensuring that their puppies are well thought out litters from fully health tested parents that can be seen with their pups. It is now illegal under 'Lucy's Law' to sell a puppy without it having been seen with its mum in the place that it was born and I am already seeing 'Lockdown' puppies being sold on just weeks or even days after they have been acquired. For more information click here.
So what constitutes a puppy farmer? I had this exact conversation on a forum the other day and it turns out there were quite a few different opinions, all of which are perfectly valid. The following points are all suggestions of circumstances that may indicate you are looking at a puppy farmer.
Dogs kept as livestock, only for the purpose of breeding and purely for income.
If a breeder has no real relationship with their dogs, for me this is a red flag. A breeder should be able to confidently give you a description of the temperament and character of each of their dogs. If not, then there is very little interaction and connection, and the dogs are essentially livestock. Dogs being kept in kennels and outside is not necessarily a bad thing, a lot of working dogs are, but their owners and handlers still have a strong relationship with them. It's when this relationship is missing that it is of concern.
Numbers of breeding bitches.
If a breeder has numerous bitches of breeding age that are all being bred from then it is likely that they fall into the category of a puppy farmer.
The number of litters per bitch in their lifetime.
Similarly, if one bitch is bred from on what seems like an excessive basis then you may well be looking at a puppy farmer. The Kennel Club will not register a litter when the mating took place before the bitch was 1 year old or if the bitch is 8 years old at the time of whelping, and they will not register more than 4 litters per bitch.
The number of litters a year.
If a breeder is advertising numerous litters every year then you will likely have already come to the conclusion that they are a puppy farmer.
The number of breeds being bred.
If a breeder has, say, four or five different breeds of dog that they are breeding from then this is also an indication of a puppy farmer.
What do they do with dogs when they have fulfilled their litter quota or aren't producing well.
Take a good look at how a breeder treats dogs that they are no longer actively breeding. Do they keep them as pets for the rest of their lives? Do they go to new homes as pets? And what is the reasoning for them being rehomed (there are some perfectly valid ones)?
Cutting corners with health testing.
Are all of a breeders dogs health tested before breeding and do they take the results into account? If the answer is no to either of those questions then you are likely looking at a puppy farmer?
Does the breeder take responsibility for their puppies for the rest of their lives?
A responsible breeder will always support their owners and take back a dog that they have bred at any point in their lives for any reason. If the breeder you are looking at doesn't offer lifelong support like this then you are likely looking at a puppy farmer. Even if it is a breeder's first and only litter, not offering this service is highly irresponsible breeding.
They never keep any of the puppies that they breed.
Anyone who breeds reasonably regularly and never keeps any pups back to bring on and continue their line is likely a puppy farmer. I don't personally think a breeder should have to keep a pup from every litter they breed but if they never keep any then it's all about the money. The aim of a responsible breeder is to improve the breed. As such, if there is not a puppy in a litter that is a better example then it is best not to use any of that litter to continue your line.
Spotting a puppy farmer is nowhere near an exact science but the points above give a good idea of what to take into account. There is no checkbox list that will give you a 'yes' or 'no' answer as to whether the breeder is a puppy farmer or not. A puppy farmer may not even have a farm - it is just as likely that they will live in a house so don't just assume that this means all is ok. Unfortunately, there is a rather large grey area in which you have to judge what is morally acceptable to you when it comes to who you buy your puppy from. It's also not just about dogs being kept in poor conditions (the sort of things you see in the news) as many puppy farmers run very tidy operations. Ultimately it is about the welfare of the dogs and the quality of the puppies.
Do you have differing views of what constitutes a puppy farmer? Or have you had direct experience with one? Let us know in the comments.