Puppy farming began as a cottage industry and grew into a multi million pound business. 

What is a Puppy Farm/Battery Dog Farm?

There is no legal definition for the word puppy farming, but it is generally accepted and recognised by animal welfare organisations that puppy farmers are dog breeders who mass produce puppies on a commercial scale.  They breed indiscriminately from their bitches and stud dogs and sell their litters of puppies to dealers and agents who then sell them onto pet shops in the UK and export.

A puppy farmer can be operating unlicensed or can be granted a licence to breed dogs by their local Council. The Council more often than not approves a dog breeders licence and appear reluctant to limit the numbers of dogs held by the licence holder. 

The photographs below are of two Golden Retrievers, a bitch and stud dog both living their entire lives in damp, concrete pens.

These premises were Licensed by Carmarthenshire County Council when these photos were taken.

A breeding bitch living a lifetime in a damp concrete cell. What is her life? She cannot see out only above at the roof of the barn, that is her home, for life.  What is her suffering? She suffers from loneliness,  isolated from other bitches and dogs, human contact and socialization.  She has no exercise run so is dependent on the good will of the breeder/puppy farmer for exercise but it is common knowledge that the owners do not let their dogs out for a free run. So life is just waiting for the next meal, silence, dogs on puppy farms often are silent they have given up on barking for attention because no one responds to their voice and cries for help.   


This is an elderly stud dog on the same licensed dog breeding establishment a puppy farm, living under the same conditions as the bitch and many others in the same barn, an agriculture barn for livestock!  Concrete individual cells with the same damp blackened, mildew walls. 

Both of these dogs are were used as breeding machines regardless of age.  Their puppies were sold to a dealer and onto a boarding kennel that had a pet shop licence.  The same retail outlet that my cocker spaniel was sold from.


 Puppy Farming cont:  

For generations individuals have always bred dogs, particularly in rural farming areas, where it has been seen as a normal part of community life to have a breeding bitch that could produce a litter of puppies.  Most common breeds were working sheepdogs, border collies, springers, cocker spaniels, labradors or golden retrievers.  The farmer would retain the best from the litter of puppies to bring on and work, to earn its keep so to speak, as a working dog and was considered to be an invaluable tool. The breeder's surplus stock was then sold onto other local farmers and further afield to work as gundogs or sheepdogs. The puppies were much sought after, particularly if they came from good, sound, working stock.

Therefore, the breeding, buying and dealing in dogs is nothing new, it was an accepted way of rural life. However, in the last few decades, individuals have exploited dog breeding and used it as a means of supplementing their income. It has became a lucrative trade for some individuals and farmers,  retaining a male and female dog from a litter and acquiring others which substantially increased the numbers of dogs kept. Dog breeding, which originated, as a ‘cottage industry’ soon became a multi million pound enterprise on an industrial scale as it is today in 2015. This is of course, detrimental to the health of the dogs that are often interbred and not health screened for known hereditary conditions within the breed.  More emphasis is placed on monetary gain than the  importance of ensuring good breeding practice by using healthy screen tested breeding bitches and stud dogs.

The farmers often have obsolete barns and outbuildings at their disposal in which to keep the dogs and sought out the market to sell the puppies. Some not only bred from their dogs but have became dealers too, supplying pet shops and other dealers. The Government advisors, the Agriculture Development and Advisory Service, which at the time was part of MAFF (now DEFRA), even encouraged this trade by suggesting dairy farmers diversified by going into dog breeding to supplement their income. This was due to the low income gained from their milk quota introduced by the EEC. During this period, the rural farming communities, particularly in areas of South West Wales, became known as the main source of supply of puppies for the pet trade.

A number of years ago some individuals were even breeding beagles for the vivisection industry, so lucrative was the market for puppies. At least one company was operating and advertising to supply various breeds of dogs to vivisection companies that did not require pathogen free dogs. A very sickening a disturbing branch of the puppy trade.

As more individuals and farmers became involved, the numbers of breeding bitches increased and animal husbandry was compromised, then, as it is today. Some farmers turned their obsolete barns and outhouses over for the sole use of dog breeding, to facilitate the increased numbers of breeding bitches and the demand for pedigree puppies. Others used anything that was available - old cars, caravans, coal bunkers, disused pigstys, wooden or corrugated shelters - the construction was immaterial, providing the breeding bitch had some form of shelter to produce a litter of puppies. The suffering of the breeding bitch was and still is today extensive, often living in isolation, unable to see others accommodated in the same building all suffering the same plight.

The breeding bitch soon became a machine; her sole role in life was to be bred from each season. Her end was no better, drowning, clubbing or shooting were the horrendous methods used.  For many bitches this may have come as a release from a life of being mated each season and continually in whelp and living in filth and deprivation. The puppy farmers treated the breeding bitch as livestock and paid little attention to her basic needs, sadly for the majority, this has not changed, even today, decades later.

Tese dog breeding premises were licensed at the time these  photos were taken. 
They sold their puppies to dealers and onto pet shops

The dog, a sociable animal, needs the companionship of human company and exercise, neither was available. Little or no attention was paid to basic animal husbandry, such as worming and vaccination, neither were used and diseases such as parvo virus, which was common place, spread rapidly. The greed of the puppy farmers to produce as many puppies as possible, at as little cost as possible, meant that cruelty and suffering went hand in hand. It was reported that on one sheep farm rotting sheep cacasses hung from the rafters of a barn where the dogs were kept, this was the only food that was available for both dogs and puppies, many of the puppies were poorly but were left to fend for themselves. In simple terms, puppies were cheap to breed but the puppy farmers had too many dogs to care for and lacked the manpower to enable them to do so efficiently, this caused immense suffering.

The puppies were taken from their mothers far too early, often unweaned and placed in any container, dumped in a vehicle and transported to ‘a meet’. This was often a motorway service station, car park or lay-by, where puppy farmers had previously arranged to exchange puppies for hard cash with the dealers. Litters from various farms would become mixed, this caused disease to spread even further afield and many puppies died as a result. The puppies were often undernourished, weak and had difficulty withstanding the transportation, sometimes hundreds of miles from the breeders premises to ‘the meet’ and then onto the pet shops or retail outlets.

During the last 20 years or so, puppy farming has often been highlighted in the media. The true horrors of the existence of breeding bitches held within the confines of barren, cold, comfortless barns, outhouses and old vehicles was uncovered by animal welfare organisations, such as Puppywatch, who were at the forefront of highlighting this clandestine trade in pedigree puppies at the time.

It soon became clear that in areas such as South West Wales the trade for mass-produced intensively reared pedigree puppies destined for the pet market was prolific. It was becoming a multi million pound industry, with few safeguards in place to ensure that the welfare of the breeding bitches, stud dogs and in particular the puppies, were not compromised.. No longer was it just a ‘cottage industry’ supplying the pet retail trade in the UK, but also was a very rapid growing industry supplying a worldwide market. Puppies originating from S W Wales could be found in pet shops in Hong Kong and Japan, this still applies today.

In three areas of Wales during 1995, namely Cardiganshire, Carmarthenshire and Pembrokeshire, there was approximately 230 licensed dog breeding establishments. This, together with the estimation of 290 unlicensed dog breeding establishments makes a total of 520. All having at least 10 breeding bitches, the average being 40, at least one was known to have 145 breeding bitches! This one establishment alone could produce over 1,000 puppies in a year. Imagine for a moment the total number of puppies produced from over 500 dog breeding establishments in a year from just these areas of south-west Wales, then I think you will understand the concerns that I have for this despicable trade in puppies.

Not only was puppy farming operating from S W Wales, it existed in Scotland, N Ireland and certain parts of England too and continues until this very day. The laws to govern dog breeding at this time were the Breeding of Dogs Act 1973 and later the Breeding and Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999. In essence very little has changed, the trade of puppy farming still exists. The introduction of the Sale of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1999 was thought by many to stem the trade in puppies, however this has not been the case. Whilst those breeders that are licensed may have in theory new regulations to comply with, many more no longer have to be licensed as they no longer come within the jurisdiction of the new Act. In some areas the new legislation is either very loosely enforced or non-existent, one particular area of great concern is still S W Wales which has the largest output of puppies from puppy farmers, commercial breeders and individuals, who regularly supply dealers and agents with puppies for the pet outlets in the UK and abroad.

Councils have the powers to prosecute for unlicensed dog breeding activities but many fail miserably in enforcing existing legislation or prosecuting for unlicensed dog breeding. Without effective enforcement many breeding bitches, stud dogs and vulnerable puppies suffer in the hands of the unscrupulous breeders who know they can flaunt the law and Councils that are not acting in the best interest of the animals.

Puppy farming is also of particular concern in the Republic of Ireland where no dog licensing laws existed to govern dog breeding until recently. This made it extremely easy for dog breeders to breed in excess, many keeping the dogs and puppies in disgusting conditions. The puppies taken from their mothers far too early making them extremely vulnerable, frequently sickly and harbouring disease. The lack of legislation and regulations to govern the excesses of dog breeding has allowed dog breeders to produce litters of puppies in vast numbers and compete with the Welsh puppy farmers in rearing puppies for the puppy trade. As there was no requirement for dog breeders to be licensed in in the Republic of Ireland until recently and even now all not all have registered with their local Council, this has encouraged some Welsh puppy farmers to uproot and move to the Republic taking advantage of this very lax situation. They can keep as many dogs as they like, (one is know to have between 700 and 1,000 breeding dogs) breed from their dogs as frequently as they wish, use any accommodation regardless of condition or type, without the fear of any checks being made from an authority regulator. This makes puppy farming very lucrative for the unscrupulous, allowing animal welfare to be seriously compromised. The puppy farmers in the Republic continue to supply the pet trade throughout the UK, particularly in London, the South East, East Anglia, Manchester, Leeds, and various other hot spots as far north as Scotland.  They also supply agents/dealers in the Far East and the USA where puppies can be found having originated from Wales and Ireland selling in pet shops and through dealers.

These photos clearly show puppies for sale in pet shops in Japan isolated and appear without water, certainly no toys for stimulation and play.

The display cages are clean but the puppies have nothing to play with. All they can do is sit and look in the hope that a kind person removes them from their glass prison. Not a good start in  life for an active puppy.



 There is copyright on this photograph as it is not in the ownership of Puppy Alert 

Please go to the link below to read about puppy farming today

Puppy Farming update 2008

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