The linchpin between puppy farmers, commercial breeders and pet shops

Agents and dealers act as the linchpin between puppy farmers, commercial breeders and pet shops, many collecting puppies directly from puppy farms/commercial breeding kennels mostly from S W Wales and Eire.  For the large majority it is a clandestine operation, the dealer either collecting from each breeding establishment or picking up the puppies at a pre-arranged ‘meet’, often this will take place in a car park, lay-by or motorway service station.  The Kennel Club recently have asked for the co-operation of Moto service stations to log any activity of this nature to try to curtail the activity of underhand trading of puppies. Although this is useful it is only scratching at the surface.

There is large influx of puppies into the UK from Eire, where dealers collect the puppies from puppy farms and travel by road, followed by a ferry crossing, the Irish Sea from Rosslaire, Dun Laoghaire and Dublin to Fishguard or Holyhead on the Welsh coast. They then travel on throughout the UK delivering to pet shops. 

One importer of puppies favoured Stansted Airport, the carrier being Ryanair. Thankfully, due to unfavourable publicity at the time, Ryanair decided they would no longer be associated with transporting puppies from puppy farms in Eire that were destined to be sold from a pet shop environment. However, many carriers still assist this trade by allowing puppies to be flown in their aircraft for export.

Dealers, agents and some pet shops offer an export service.  Whilst many bulk buyers favour puppies that are registered with the Kennel Club, in recent years puppies registered with the Dog Lovers Registration Club UK and those sold with just a pedigree have been sought too. Without the official Kennel Club's recognised documentation, these puppies are invariably cheaper for the dealers to purchase, but can still demand a high price when sold abroad.

It is particularly worrying to realise that no Government department is made responsible for collating statistics for the number of puppies exported, or those supplied and sold in pet shops in the UK.

There is also no legal requirement for a dog breeder to be made responsible for identifying  traded  puppies, either by microchip, tattoo or DNA. Legislation desperately needs to be introduced that will irrefutably link a puppy to the breeder, together with all the relevant paperwork by means of permanant identification. The only time a puppy or dog is required by law to be identified by microchip, is if it is travelling under the Pet Passport scheme. Traded puppies collected by dealers from  puppy farms/commercial breeders are not travelling under this scheme, so it does not apply. The only requirement is that a traded puppy should be wearing a collar and tag as a means of identification, when purchased from a licensed breeder by a dealer and sold in a pet shop. This is insufficient to prove that the breeders selling puppies to dealers and onto pet shops are the same as the names on the paperwork the puppy purchaser receives at the time of purchase.  

If it is important for records of dogs entering or leaving the UK to be identifiable, logged and checked by a Government department under the Pet Passport scheme or Bali Directive, then the same criteria should apply for all traded puppies here in the UK. Every puppy destined to be sold by a third party should be identifiable and this should be made compulsory. Not by the seller at the pet shop,  offering to sell the new puppy micro-chipped and charging a massive amount of £25, but the breeder who should  be responsible for identifying the puppy before the puppy leaves the breeding site. This is even more important when one considers that these very young vulnerable puppies are  classified during transit as cargo/livestock and allowed to be shifted between breeders, dealers and pet shops with the mixing of litters and without any accountability. 

Another massive loophole which dealers and breeders exploit is in the knowledge that the  the only statistics that are collated for the numbers of puppies exported are those by the Kennel Club. These records are only of breeders/exporters that have applied for an export pedigree through the Kennel Club. The numbers are minuscule compared to the numbers of puppies that are actually exported by the puppy farmers/commercial breeders, dealers and pet shops to the USA and Far East.

The only legal requirement for a dealer or agent to  operate legally in the UK is that they acquire a Pet Shop Licence  to enable them to buy and resell puppies. However, this is only a requirement if it can be proven that the puppies are taken to the dealers premises overnight. As most do not, they trade unregulated and outside the law. The same applies to all dealers operating from Eire into the UK where there is legal requirement for a dog breeder or dealer to be licensed.

Transportation of puppies/dogs

New (EU) legislation has been introduced that could have an effect on the welfare of puppies and dogs during commercial transportation as of the 5th January 2007. This new Regulation on the protection of animals during transportation across the European Union (EU), with some parts coming into force  later in 2008 & 2009, is the Welfare of Animals (Transport) (England) Order 2006 and parallel legislation in Scotland, Wales and N Ireland. Eire comes within the EU Directive too meaning that all transporters of puppies arriving from Eire should have authorisation as a legal requirement.  All local authorities should be checking vehicles carrying puppies, it is their responsiblity to do so. 

This requirement means that all carriers of puppies need authorisation if they are transporting puppies as part of a business and states ‘No person shall transport any animal in a way which causes or is likely to cause injury or unnecessary suffering to that animal’. This obligation applies to all journeys, regardless of length. However, this obligation only applies to transport defined as meaning ‘transport in the course of a trade or business’. This does not apply to the transport of an individual animal accompanied by its owner or other responsible person and is fit for the journey or the transport of pet animals, which are accompanied by their owners on a private journey. The Order is the responsibility of the local authority to enforce.

It poses no fear and has little effect on agents and dealers, as most will use unmarked vehicles and if local authorities are not prepared to use their valuable resources and costly time to seek out individuals transporting puppies, then they will continue trading unhindered. Once more  this allows the puppies welfare to be compromised by being shunted around from one country to another to meet the needs of the puppy trade.  

The vehicles used are invariably a van, but it is known that even horseboxes have been used. The vans are not always adequately heated in winter, or air conditioned in summer, this causes discomfort for the puppies and in hot weather can result in dehydration. Specially designed animal carriers are rarely used as they take up too much room, many favour large plastic drums or baths that can accomodate a number of litters, altogether and mixed up. Little wonder that disease is rife and the puppies become stressed. The journey times from puppy farms/commercial breeders in Wales or Eire to the pet shops in the UK are very  long and laborious, often involving a sea crossing and motorways. 

Puppies need a regular feeding regime; this cannot be catered for. One of the biggest concerns is the mixing of litters and the spread of disease, some puppies may be vaccinated against parvo virus by the breeder, but this still does not prevent many puppies dying before reaching the pet shops or shortly afterwards. The stress caused by long transportation of very young vulnerable puppies with an already weakened immune system make them susceptible to disease, causing many to fall sick.

These concerns are not taken into account by the dealers and agents who acquire the puppies cheaply (and easily replaceable) from puppy farmers/commercial breeders to sell onto the pet shops.

The exporters

Dog breeders that show their dogs are also targeted by dealers and agents but they involved in the export trade of the show dog.  When dealers operate within the show dog fraternity they  are sophisticated and are very selective, seeking out individual breeders who specialise in a breed of dog of a particular type or colour. The agents/dealers are prepared to travel the country attending dog shows, taking photos, even using a video camera to watch dogs conformation and movement in the show ring before making a decision on selecting a dog for a client abroad who are willing to pay a high price for the right dog.

Later, when the breeder advertises a litter of puppies for sale, they (the dealer/agent) will present themselves as a prospective purchaser of a puppy. Invariably, they use someone to act as a front person, making the tentative enquiry by telephone in answer to an advertisement offering a litter of pedigree puppies for sale. Then often a ‘family group’ will make an appointment to view the puppies to make it appear as a genuine family that is interested in a purchase. The breeder not suspecting anything amiss, sells their Kennel Club registered pedigree puppy to them thinking it may become a show dog or family pet here in the UK. Sadly, this is not likely to be the outcome in this instance; the ‘prospective purchaser’ is acting on behalf of another agent, who is purchasing a puppy for a client in the Far East, Japan being a favoured destination, where large sums of money can change hands for the right dog.

A breeder may find out only by chance, months later, that a known dealer acting on behalf of importers of pedigree puppies has exported their puppy to Japan. In this instance the breeder finding out by chance, when reading of the transfer of ownership and export of the puppy in the Kennel Club breed supplement. By then it was too late for the breeder to do anything.

Even placing ‘not for export’ prior to sale on the KC documentation does not always protect the puppy, as agents and dealers are known to re-register the puppy again in Eire (S Ireland) with the Irish Kennel Club and export the puppy from there to the Far East.

There is a very real fear and concern that puppies and dogs exported by dealers and agents not only end up being sold in crowded pet shops in Taiwan, South Korea, Japan, Hong Kong and China, but end up in the factory type breeding centres that operate in China and Korea called dog farms. These have been expanding in recent years with Government approval to breed more and more dogs and puppies destined for the dinner table.

See below

Warning: caution needed - graphic pictures that you may find upsetting

Warning: caution needed - graphic pictures that you may find upsetting.

Unbeknown to one Swiss breeder, a number of pedigree St Bernard puppies were purchased by an agent and allegedly were the foundation stock for a dog farm.

Dogs pelts such as those of German Shepherds and Golden Retrievers have been used to make garments such as coats.  Real fur is also used on accessories and cat toys. Various parts of the dog and cat are also used in Chinese medicine.

This should be a strong warning to any breeder to be extra wary of any enquiries made to purchase a puppy particularly if the buyer suggests exporting.

African Puppy Scam Warning

The puppy farmers and commercial breeders continue to sell puppies to dealers, agents and pet shops who advertise that they 'export puppies' providing they are paid well for the litters of puppies.  They have no concern where the puppies eventual home may be - here in the UK or destined for the USA or Far East to a fate unknown.    ________________________________________________________

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