How to buy a happy healthy dog or puppy

Wicklow People (West Edition) - - LIFESTYLE - PETE WED­DER­BURN

PUPPY farming con­tin­ues to be a con­tro­ver­sial topic in Ire­land. For those who are un­clear about what this en­tails, puppy farming means treat­ing dogs like cat­tle or sheep: us­ing them as breed­ing machines to pro­duce pup­pies to sell for profit. This was orig­i­nally en­cour­aged by the Ir­ish govern­ment as an eth­i­cal way for farm­ers to di­ver­sify into a new type of “live­stock farming”. The prob­lem is that dogs are not like other farm animals: they have dif­fer­ent needs which aren’t eas­ily met when they are kept in large groups of animals.

The phrase “puppy farming” has be­come a deroga­tory term, which is un­for­tu­nate. There are many dif­fer­ent types of “puppy farming”, and it’s wrong to tar them all with the same brush.

At one end of the spec­trum, a breeder could keep twenty breed­ing bitches, be­tween them pro­duc­ing an av­er­age of half a dozen pup­pies a week. These pup­pies could be well cared for, prop­erly so­cialised, with all of their health needs ad­dressed. By the time they reach eight weeks of age, they could be ready for homes where they will be­come much-loved, well-adapted pets.

At the other end of the spec­trum, a puppy farmer could have three hun­dred breed­ing bitches, pro­duc­ing ninety pup­pies a week. The sheer vol­ume of pups would make it chal­leng­ing to give them all the at­ten­tion they need to meet all of their needs. There would be a risk that they would not have their so­cial and health needs met in full, and there would be a se­ri­ous risk that they would end up as fear­ful, poorly young adult dogs who do not fit in well into their new homes. Given that pup­pies can change hands for up­wards of €500 each, this would pro­duce a turnover of over €2 mil­lion per year. Dog breed­ing on a big scale can be a highly prof­itable in­dus­try.

It’s this larger-scale type of puppy farm that has an­i­mal wel­fare ac­tivists up in arms. Un­der Ir­ish law, as long as a dog breed­ing es­tab­lish­ment like this is reg­is­tered and li­censed, there’s noth­ing that can be done about it. The law should be suf­fi­cient to pre­vent se­ri­ous cru­elty to animals, but it’s more dif­fi­cult to guar­an­tee that all of the animals in­volved have good qual­ity lives and that the pups that are pro­duced will go on to be healthy, well-so­cialised pets.

The chal­lenge for new­bie pet own­ers is how to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween high-pro­duc­tion in­dus­trial style units and a smaller out­fits with higher qual­ity pup­pies.

Some puppy farm­ers re­alise that peo­ple want to buy from a fam­ily-type breeder. Many ad­verts on in­ter­net sales web­sites do their best to main­tain an im­age of a whole­some dog-friendly back­ground. On the ground, they may ma­nip­u­late the pre­sen­ta­tion of their set ups to cre­ate this il­lu­sion. They may rent a bun­ga­low in the coun­try­side purely to make it look like a fam­ily home. Or they may sug­gest meet­ing a puppy buyer in a car park “for their con­ve­nience”, so that there is no link to the premises where the puppy was bred.

Peo­ple who are look­ing for a new puppy are warned about these tricks, but it can still be easy to fall for them. A coali­tion of an­i­mal wel­fare groups, the Ir­ish Pet Ad­ver­tis­ing Ad­vi­sory Group (www.ipaag.ie) has a web­site with a down­load­able check list to guide new puppy own­ers. But it can still be dif­fi­cult for peo­ple to be sure that they are buy­ing a puppy from a re­li­able source.

A new web­site, www.pet­bond.ie, aims to change this. The web­site has been set up by a young vet who re­alises the im­por­tance of choos­ing the right puppy in the first place. He has seen the con­se­quences of peo­ple buy­ing un­healthy pups from in­dus­trial-scale breed­ers. He knows about the tricks they use to try to per­suade peo­ple to part with their cash for pup­pies that they have fallen in love with.

Pet­bond lists ad­ver­tise­ments for pup­pies that are ready to be sold, but rather than just ac­cept­ing all-com­ers, the web­site uses a sim­ple sys­tem of per­sonal ver­i­fi­ca­tion of breed­ers be­fore they are al­lowed to ad­ver­tise their wares. First, a check list must be com­pleted, to en­sure that all pup­pies have been prop­erly mi­crochipped (as they should be, un­der an Ir­ish law that is all too of­ten ig­nored by some dog breed­ers), vac­ci­nated, and treated for par­a­sites. Sec­ond, there is a per­sonal interview with the vet­eri­nary team at Pet­bond, for ex­tra re­as­sur­ance that the dog breeder is be­hav­ing in a fully eth­i­cal way.

These checks al­low Pet­bond to of­fer a re­li­able way of find­ing a high qual­ity, healthy puppy.

Pet­bond also recog­nises that res­cue dogs are the per­fect choice for many peo­ple. It can be dif­fi­cult to tell the dif­fer­ence be­tween a re­li­able res­cue cen­tre and a fly-by-night do-gooder pre­tend­ing to be a “res­cue cen­tre”. The vet who es­tab­lished Pet­bond has seen peo­ple end­ing up with chal­leng­ing dogs that should never have been re­homed to a fam­ily. Pet­bond only works with an­i­mal res­cue groups who have been fully ap­proved, so that when a new owner gets a pet through the web­site, the risk of com­pli­ca­tions is kept to a min­i­mum.

Pet­bond is a so­cial en­ter­prise that also has other al­tru­is­tic ac­tiv­i­ties, such as of­fer­ing free vet­eri­nary care to home­less peo­ple based at the Fa­ther McVerry Trust.

If you are look­ing for a new pet, visit www.pet­bond.ie. You’ll sup­port good dog breed­ers and dog res­cue cen­tres, and you’re far more likely to end up with the best type of pet for your fam­ily.

It’s im­por­tant to find the right source when get­ting a new pet

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