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Puppy Farming

Puppy Farms - The Reality

Written by Alison Leighfield and published with her kind permission

May I begin by asking the questions:  “Do you know what a Puppy Farm truly is?"Have you ever encountered one or known of one in your lifetime?"

Well they are real, they are widespread throughout England, Scotland, Ireland and Wales.  People’s first impression is that they are mainly in Wales and Ireland, but they are widespread everywhere, although Wales and Ireland are more prevalent, with animals crossing the channel daily back and forth.  Hidden and smuggled in cars, containers and small boxes, sometimes dying on route with hardly any air to breathe and no food or water to sustain life.  Young pups at four weeks old, or even younger, ready for sale and heavily pregnant bitches ready for auction ……… yes, that is right, for auction!  These bigger, heavily pregnant bitches, with “hopefully” a lot of pups inside the belly, fetch a lot of money, sold to the highest bidder.  The profit margin is huge when they are born.  A litter of six or seven is far, far better than two or three. Private auctions held between farmers, organised in private, not open to the public, RSPCA or any other Animal Welfare groups.

I would like to tell you a little more, it is based around my own experiences and how I came to be the guardian of my two rescue Puppy Farm ex-breeding bitches.

I must admit that, many years ago, I was totally ignorant about Puppy Farms.  Truly, I had never encountered them. However, I made a friend along the path of life, a lady who worked within animal rescue and welfare, and somehow the subject arose.  I had recently lost a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel and the idea of offering a home to a Puppy Farm rescue had been gently placed in my mind by her.  Without any hesitation, I took the offer and my journey on the road to learning about Puppy Farms began.

Slowly, I learned about the conditions that these dogs were kept in.  I was shocked and sickened to the stomach.  I classed myself as a dog lover, but how come I was unaware of all this suffering?  How does it remain a secret?  Why are the public not more aware of this brutal trade?  They are often kept in dark, cold barns with no heating and no lighting, stacked crate upon crate high, crate upon crate long.  Not the posh crates that we use at home, bought from pet shops with blankets and toys inside, but hand made, rough, wooden containers with hardly enough room for the dog to stand, lay or move around in;  no blankets, no toys, nothing, just the whimpers of the other lonely, frightened, scared dogs.  Dogs can sit like this, in their own waste, for days, weeks, years, their whole life time, and they also sit in the waste from the other dogs which are stacked above, each dog’s waste dropping through the bottom of its crate.  Cast a thought for the poor dog that sits at the bottom.  Give them another thought as they freeze through the winter and reach unbearable temperatures in the summer. They live like this, it’s their lot.  They are born in it and they die in it.  Hygiene isn’t heard of or known about.  Can you imagine it - the cries, the pain of starvation for food and some company, slowly going mad? 

They can be housed anywhere - caravans, sheds, old cars dumped in fields, out of view and hidden away.  Basically, they can be “farmed” in anything as long as they can be locked up and hidden.  Conditions are beyond belief.  Food and water are scarce, mainly scraps bought in from food outlets, meant for pig farms but given to dogs.  Sometimes it can be the dogs themselves that are offered as food, once they have died.  If they can be fed for free, then they will be.  These dogs are kept and used in unimaginable conditions.  They receive no human contact, never a stroke or a kind word.  A farmer can have as many as two hundred dogs.  To him they are not pets, but animals that are his for farming,  yet cows, sheep and pigs are treated better. 

They will be beaten and kicked, abused in the worst possible way.  When they are finished with, they are shot or found dead in ditches with skulls bashed in.  The lucky ones are put on the roadside, at all hours and in all weathers, sometimes loose and sometimes tied to gates, other times tied up in boxes.  The call is then made to the rescue centres for them to be collected.  The van is there as fast as can be, no questions asked, no names given - there can’t be.  For the sake of the animals, it’s a ‘no questions asked’ venture.  The door is always open for these dogs to find a home;  it’s a heart breaking position to be in.

Bitches are raped every season and pups are usually taken away at four or five weeks old.  They are sold on to brokers who then advertise and sell via Free-Ad newspapers and from mobile phone numbers.   I have noticed that more are being sold on the internet as well.  Sometimes they will meet you on a motorway or at a service station and the pups are sold out of the boot of a car.  Remember, in all this, that these pups are far too young to be leaving their mother.  And also remember the mother: her pups have been snatched, she is desperately looking for them and she is emotionally in great distress.  This pattern of life will happen to a bitch, every season, for as long as she gives pups, normally four or five years, or until she dies with exhaustion or illness.  Never will they have any medical care, as that costs money.  These dogs are weak and under-nourished.  They will have worms, fleas, mange and diarrhoea.  The list is endless and it spreads like wild fire between them all.

Remember, these “farms” can sometimes be licensed, meaning that they have been inspected and can operate legally, having once come up to a good standard and being clean enough for this type of business.  Even so, it should never be allowed to happen, this type of farming involving dogs.  It should be stopped for good. NEVER buy a puppy from an outlet like this, although these pups are generally far cheaper and with papers, which I must add are not always genuine.  Some even come with Kennel Club papers - shame on them for registering Puppy Farm pups.  You will have a very high probability of buying a very sick little dog.  These dogs are still farmed like the unlicensed puppy farms.  They still drop dead with exhaustion, they still lack human contact and they are still starved of love.  No matter how tempted you are, PLEASE do not buy from any part of the Puppy Farm chain.

Please get in touch with your MP and tell him that puppy farming needs to be stopped.  The Animal Welfare Bill is now underway and had its second reading on 10th January 2006.  At the moment, the RSPCA and other welfare organisations are operating under laws where they can’t prevent animal cruelty like this.  If made law, the Bill can protect animals like these.  Please e-mail, or ring, or organise a petition and post it on to your MP.  Make them listen, your voice helps.

This is a business, a cold hearted business, using and abusing man’s best friend…….the Dog.

The “Rescue, Recovery and at  Home” Service

In the summer of 2005 I offered a home to two Cavalier King Charles Spaniels. They were not the typical “re-homing” cases, like in a divorce situation, home relocation or, sadly, a death, but the very real rescue type.  They had escaped with their lives from the Puppy Farm Industry.  I wanted to share my experiences with you, to let you know that there is hope for these poor dogs and, with time and dedication, you can be so richly rewarded………

Annie-Belle

Annie was the first of the two puppy farm rescue Cavaliers that I homed.  I saw her little face on the ‘Many Tears Rescue’ web site.  This is a rescue home specially for rescuing Puppy Farm, ex-breeding dogs and bitches.  I don’t know why, but the yearning to bring her home was so strong.

We travelled the three-and-a-bit hours to pick her up.  It was Sunday, 8th May 2005.  We drove to the very end of the M4, it seemed like an eternity.

I had never been to a rescue home like this, a rescue home for Puppy Farm rescues. I had often visited the local pound homes and the Blue Cross where I live, dropping the odd, unused, donated things that came my way through friends of the dog clubs that I am a member of, but never anything like this.  Every pen was full, some had two or three dogs in them.  Their condition from their previous path of life showed.  Many hid and many cowered, the eyes frightened, all so desperate. 

Finally, we entered a dimly-lit, penned area, and the young lady showed us to the bed at the far rear end.  We saw her, our Annie.  There she was, this little tri-coloured Cavalier, trembling, frightened, scared witless.  You could see her tiny frame through her matted coat.  The damaged eye, which had been caught on a nail in the puppy farm, looked so sore.  They had kept her in the dim light as she screamed at the bright day light; she had obviously never seen it in her life time and it must have terrified her.  Our beautiful sunshine tortured this little dog.  What had they done to her?  What sense could be made of this past treatment?  All my emotions rushed.

Slowly I ventured to crouch down beside her and extend my hand with a tiny, delicate morsel of food in my palm. The young lady again explained that they had yet been unable to hand feed her.  I persevered and, with time, she crept forwards and took my offering.  Again and again she came forwards, just unbelievable.  I couldn’t see much, as tears now clouded my view.  I looked to my husband who was standing close by, a tall man, a man’s man, and, yes, there he was also, tears in his eyes.  We stood in silence, our world just stopped for a moment, to be able to take it all in.

Well that was done, the paperwork completed, and towards home we started.  Not a single peep from our travelling companion who was tucked away safely on the rear seat.  It was silence all the way home. The car windows were fully down, the stench of her made you heave.

When home, we allowed her the time to venture around the house herself. Slowly she did; it took days.  Mainly she hid in dark corners.  I had never seen such a sorry, sorry state.  Tummy and teats were dragging on the ground - the evidence that she had given birth to many.  A little body, so misshapen that you could hardly recognise it as a dog; her coat bald with mange in many places; her nose robbed of hair from where she had rubbed and rubbed between bars; sores under her coat, raw and red; welts like I had never seen before; her spindly thin legs wobbly from lack of muscle and movement and her back stiff and rigid.  I doubt if ever in her life she could have walked.  It was then that she stole my heart.  It was then that I knew I wanted so very much to be involved with these little dogs and their welfare for the rest of my life.  I felt humble in front of her.  Under my breath I begged her to accept my apologies for another member of the same human race as myself, for the person that had forced her to endure such cruelty.  What had they done?  Why, oh why?

We managed all the conditions that cropped up in the following weeks, like the worms, mange, fleas etc. and before long she could tolerate sunlight and the curtains in our home could be opened.  Quickly she picked things up, like toilet training and a few basic manners, and that now and again a good bath was still in order!  Sitting in her own waste for years left her stained and the odour was more than skin deep, so we worked hard on that and slowly the coat grew, her tummy filled out and before long she did look like a little dog.  The very best thing was to see the first tail wag - had she turned the corner? Was she now happy for the first time in her life?  I can remember her expression when she first felt the touch of grass under her feet.  I think it tickled as she danced and pounced.  It was all so new for her.  Everything was a delight - birdsong, aromas from the flower beds, just living was now fantastic.  What amazed me, and will always do so, is that through all this she trusted me.  With all her little heart she gave me her gift, and it was just that, her trust.  I asked for no more.  How I loved her.

Having another dog was an enormous help for her and me.  “Rosie”, my Sheltie, was in her element. After recently losing her companion, she quickly accepted her friend and they settled down wonderfully.

Weeks rolled into a month, and she was coming along in leaps and bounds.  We had ventured out for walks with a harness and lead and she enjoyed these trips.   Funnily enough, she loved other dogs and would look forward to meeting them when walking.  I prompted other dog owners to stop and touch her, stroke her and make a fuss of her.  Before long, she was well known, loved by all, a very special little dog.  I felt so proud of her, my little Annie. What courage she showed, what miles she had covered.  We were learning so much from each other.

Months later, in late September, the damaged eye was removed.  After the surgery was finished, the vet told us that the top row of teeth on the same side as the damaged eye were all cracked to the roots. They were also removed.  Perhaps this now answers how the eye became damaged - a foot and a kick perhaps - yet another brutal attack on a poor, helpless little dog. The eye healed beautifully and she seemed so happy with us.

Sadly, I owned Annie-Belle for a total of only eight months - on January 12th 2006, Annie was put to sleep.  I found out a few months after owning Annie that she had a condition called “Syringomyelia”.   It was the same condition that took my previous two Cavaliers from me.  It is an inherited, genetic condition, found mainly in toy breeds, but with a very high percentage being affected in the Cavaliers.  A painful, neurological condition found only by M.R.I.  Hers was a severe case, and when things became unmanageable, even with all the medications, and her quality of life was in question, we did the kindest thing and let her have peace.  We gave her her wings.

When she had left me, I took time and reflected on the few months that we had together.  Never had I learnt so much so fast; such rewarding times, such wonderful, caring, sharing times.  She amazed me every day with the little things that she did. Her stamina, her bravery and the funny side that showed itself; a remarkable little dog, a wonderful little dog, she taught me so much.  It was a privilege to have been able to love her.  I take comfort in the fact that she had the chance of a life. Together we saw Summer, Autumn and Winter.  Annie felt the sun on her back, the rain under her feet and the crunch of crisp leaves in the park, the wind through her coat and Jack Frost nippy and cold.  I grieve now for the others still caged in the farms.  What future do they have?

Others ask if, even after all the heartbreak, I would do it again - rescue a Puppy Farm ex-breeding dog - and I reply: “without any hesitation!”. 

Open your door, give your time and patience and you will be so richly rewarded.

"Thank you Annie-Belle xxx"

 Honey-Bee

Honey is the second of the two puppy farm rescue Cavaliers that I homed.  I brought her home five weeks after I collected Annie.  I had always wanted to own a couple of Cavaliers together and now I had my chance.  Like Annie, I saw Honey’s photograph, with her few lines about herself, on the ‘Many Tears’ web site. That was it, she was mine, and on the 15th June 2005, I travelled the long journey to Wales, with a good friend, to collect her.

Honey was more adventurous than Annie.  She was sat at the front of her pen watching life pass her by.  I watched her for a few moments, from a short distance, before walking forwards and introducing myself to her.  I had taken the same tasty food, cut into small pieces, like I did before.  I somehow guessed that I wouldn’t need it.  The closer I walked, the more delighted I became.  A huge Blenheim girl this was, with huge saucer eyes like whirlpools.  I adore the Blenheims, and she was a dream.  Unlike Annie, she showed no signs of nervousness.  I entered the pen and she was on my heels….sniff, sniff, sniff - a nosey one!  It was instant really; she just came to me, no questions; she gave herself there and then.

I couldn’t complete the paperwork and get her in the car fast enough.  The ride home just flew past.  I was so excited to have a Cavalier companion for Annie and for myself.  The long awaiting and much wanted duo was complete.

Her entrance into my home and garden astounded both my friend and me.  It was as if she knew the place already. Confidence flowed out of her. Within the hour, she had explored and worked her way around it all. The next step was the introduction to Annie and Rosie.  The meeting of two soul mates is how I shall describe the meeting of the two Cavaliers. Once they had seen each other, they never left each others sides.  It was instant friendship; they bonded like glue.

Honey wasn’t in the same awful state in which Annie had arrived.  There was still the deep stench of urine around her and her coat was still dirty with staining, but, physically, she was in a much better condition.  Her legs were still wobbly and her belly was huge and distended from producing many litters, and even though she was still jumpy, I felt, perhaps, she hadn’t received the same amount of physical cruelty that Annie had received.

Within days we were out walking and she was introducing herself to many neighbours and friends.  Within the month, we were attending fun obedience classes and she loved it.  This was something that I never managed to do with Annie.  She was always too frightened, all the noise and hustle was a little too much for her.  My husband told me that when we went training, Annie would camp out by the door awaiting our return, sleeping patiently, but with an ear out listening for the car.  I had Honey scanned by M.R.I. in the July.  She was clear, no Syringomyelia.  After having three affected dogs and now to have one clear, you cannot imagine my relief and joy.

The Christmas 2005 dog club party will be memorable to me for always.  Honey received the “Best Rescue” cup and the biggest trophy that we have for the “Most improved dog of the year”, her little name now engraved upon it - “Honey-Bee”. What an achievement, to say the least.  As time passed us by, Honey just became more beautiful, more confident, now showing that lovely Cavalier temperament. They are as different as chalk and cheese these two, introvert and extrovert, but both so lovely in their own ways.

Sadly, Honey’s companion left her side on the 12th January 2006.  Her battle with Syringomyelia was more than she could further endure.  They had spent only seven wonderful months together.  I worried that she would be lost without her friend but, yet again, she continued to amaze me.  Quietly she looked around for a few days and then slowly accepted that her friend wouldn’t be returning.  I feel so sad to this day to watch her alone, but she has now bonded well with my Sheltie and cuddles with her in their bed for comfort.  I now feel confident enough to say that Honey has found her peace and quiet, her home and it’s comforts. She is also a special, courageous little dog.  I adore every bone in her little body.

Honey, although well and happy in herself, hasn’t been free from all health issues.  During an eye examination in September, severe dry eye was noticed.  Even with treatments to try and increase the tear production, there hasn’t been any improvement.   A specialist ophthalmologist examined her and we were told that the corneas are badly ulcerated, which explains the blue tinge to her eyes and the constant heavy weeping of sticky, thick mucus.  We were also told that Honey is probably nearly totally blind.  This was a shock for us as she seemed to be coping so well around the house and when out walking.  Further pointers have given us concern about a condition known as Curly Coat, again another inherited genetic condition within the Cavalier King Charles Spaniel.  Honey is due to see Dr Barnett and Claudia Hartley at the “Animal Health Trust” just outside Newmarket on the 23rd January 2006.  This is their speciality subject, it is there we will find our answers.  It will be a long journey for us, over three hours travelling each way.  Hopefully, at the end of this appointment we should know if it is this condition that she, unfortunately, has or has not.  I know you will all wish her well and, hopefully, at a later date, I will be able to keep you updated on her continued progress.

On reflection, I can honestly say that offering a home to these two Puppy Farm ‘rescues’ has been one of the most rewarding things I have ever accomplished.  I knew nothing when I started, but feel confident enough to keep doing this as often as I possibly can.  It has its ups and downs, anxious times as well as the rewarding times.  It has been a steep learning curve and has given me more enjoyment that I ever thought possible.  I’m sure it is within everybody's capabilities to do this.  It only takes time, patience, love and an admiration for this wonderful companion……….the dog.

Update on Honey:  

On 25/01/06, I received the following short message from Alison :

We are now home after a total of 8 hrs driving, eyes on stalks and very stiff!

Sadly it is Curly Coat and Honey is now one of the research dogs being watched and studied for the illness. Blood and tissue samples were taken, so onwards for finding the gene etc. All I can do is keep her comfortable.

Because I was ignorant of the condition, I decided to ask Alison if she would explain a little about the condition and she responded by sending the following information:

 

Curly Coat is another genetic, inherited illness that affects CKCS. This breed seems to be the only one that combines Curly Coat with very severe Dry Eye, hence the research paper being done at the Animal Health Trust, Newmarket.  Pups are born with an obvious "curly coat" and when the eyes open they look very different, at this stage a breeder will put to sleep.  

 

Later on a dog will develop the very worst dry eye, ulcerated corneas, scarred, sore and painful and will gradually become blind.  The mouth is dry hence no saliva and loss of teeth.  Pads on the feet split making walking impossible and the nails fall out leaving exposed quicks - very, very painful.  Joints are stiff, lots of clicks and clacks. Generally the dog ages very fast, Honey is probably 3 or 4 but looks at least 10. 

 

The classic "curly coat" is just that -  dry, brittle, harsh, very curly and fuzzy.  All in all not nice.

 

I use different drops in the eyes, hourly, on a daily basis. 

Vaseline and almond oil on the feet pads and also on her dry cracked nose, twice weekly.

Evening primrose oil and star flower in the diet, in a shampoo and coat conditioner,

The list is endless and takes hours to do daily.

Her diet is rich in Omega 3 oil, oily fish, rich raw meat, fruit & vegetables.

If you would like to find out more about puppy farming and the terrible suffering inflicted on man's best friend, please take a look at the following links

www.purdysprotest.com

www.freewebs.com/manytearsrescue 

www.puppywatch.force9.co.uk