We seem to be in the midst of a canine epidemic. For a nation of dog-lovers, we’re not treating our canine companions very well. The rescues are overflowing with unwanted dogs, and yet take one look on Gumtree (or Preloved, or any number of other online sales community) and you’ll find thousands of dogs and puppies for sale.
Just taking a 5 minute look at Gumtree’s pet section fills me with an awful sense of dread. Today they have just over 11,000 adverts in their ‘Pets for Sale’ section. A lot of these adverts are for entire litters of young animals. Further down, there are over 4,500 adverts for dogs. 4,677 to be precise, although that will change in a minute as more ads are created/removed. I’m picking on Gumtree because I know they’re notoriously bad at managing the adverts on their page. Sure they have rules, but the majority of them don’t seem to be actively enforced. For example there is a rule that kittens and puppies have to be at least 8 weeks old before they can be sold (in my perfect world that would be something closer to 12 or 13 weeks, but I can imagine why breeders might not want to keep feeding and cleaning up after a litter for 4 or 5 weeks longer) and the advert has to be accompanied by a photograph of the animal for sale. I’ve just scanned through the front page and found a number of entries where the dogs’ ages aren’t mentioned, and one where the image is quite clearly taken from their default images folder, and has nothing to do with dogs. If Gumtree cannot monitor these basic rules, then it’s really no wonder there are worse things going on if you scratch the surface.
Warning – this blog may get rather upsetting, and will contain links to some awful stories. If you don’t want to read about animal abuse then I thank you for reading this far and will talk to you in my next blog.
There are sadly, many reasons why a person might need to get rid of their pet dog. The most common in these trying times are redundancy; either no longer being able to afford to feed the dog/pay for vets bills etc, or being forced to move into accomodation which does not allow dogs. Often, rather than put their dog into rescue kennels where it might have a long wait until a suitable home is found, they take it upon themselves to find a home. This sounds noble, especially when the owner doesn’t want to accept any money in exchange for their pet, but this act can occasionally end in tragedy.
This story has been reported in the news, and by the RSPCA, so I hope you’ll forgive me if you’ve already heard it. It’s truly horrific to read.
It starts with a Staffordshire bull terrier named Tyson. He was offered on Gumtree for free, and found his new home with a 19 year old named Sean Deakin and his girlfriend Sarah Tame of Wigan. Barely days after taking Tyson home, Deakin attacked him with a hammer in the early hours of the morning. Tyson suffered around 20 blows to the head, whilst Tame watched and laughed. Three hours later the terrified dog urinated on the bed. Deakin reacted by stabbing him in the chest with a 6 inch knife. Over the course of the next 12 hours, Tyson slowly and painfully died, and was found 4 days later, thrown out with the rubbish. I highly doubt this was what his previous owner meant for him when he was given away, but it is not a one-off incident.
This story and more horrid examples of what can happen to a dog ‘free to a good home’ can be found on the Animal Rights Action website. Also, the RSPCA website often tells the heart-breaking stories of the dogs and other animals they are called out to help.
Moving away from the truly horrific, I need to have a good rant about dog breeding in general. I simply don’t understand why people breed their dogs (or any pets, but I’m sticking to dogs for now). Puppies are cute, yes, but surely no one breeds from their dog just so they can keep one of the pups? It’s the money, right? I’ve heard the excuse ‘I’m going to get her spayed, but it’s only right to let her have one litter’ which, to be frank, is absolute rubbish. Dogs are driven to breed by their hormones. Spaying and castrating removes those hormones and the dog’s happy as anything not creating puppies. Happier, most likely – with all dogs there are risks to breeding, and you can bet that loving owner doesn’t want to deal with the repercussions of their pet dog requiring a C-section, not to mention that an ‘entire’ dog is at risk of ovarian/testicular cancer where a ‘fixed’ dog is not.
It seems to me there are three kinds of breeders operating through Gumtree, and I’m not sure I really approve of either kind. The first, and least awful, (by which I mean ‘most responsible’) are the registered KC breeders who charge a heck of a lot for one of their puppies, insist on home checks and that the puppy is spayed/castrated at 6-9 months. Sounds ok, but still – if they’re not selling to the show circuit then what is the point of the puppy having such credentials? (I hold a certain degree of contempt for the show circuits; they are doing a heck of a lot of damage to long-existing breeds. Labradors, for example, used to be bred for purpose; a true Labrador was a functioning gundog, not a set of shapes and measurements which fit somebody’s expectation of the breed, and that’s before I’ve even started talking about Cavalier King Charles spaniels and Chihuahuas who have been bred so out of proportion that they can no longer give birth naturally, and bulldogs who have developed respiratory issues due to breeding to produce shorter muzzles.)
Next on my list of online puppy sellers are the backyard breeders. These are people who have an unspayed bitch and decide to breed from her; sometimes with their own dog, sometimes through bringing a friend/acquaintance’s dog in to do the deed. They raise the puppies in their home and, for the most part, you’ll end up buying a healthy puppy. There’ll be the more unscrupulous individuals who don’t bother with getting their puppies vaccinated, who don’t worry about worms or fleas, and who are happy to let the puppies go earlier than the recommended 8+ weeks, but often these puppy sellers seem like perfectly normal, animal-friendly people. Maybe they are, but how many of the puppies they sell to un-checked households will actually remain there for the rest of their days? Gumtree’s animal section swells dramatically after Christmas, Valentines’ Day and Easter with a wealth of puppies and other animals given as gifts, or brought into the family during the festive season, only to be discarded a week or a month later when the family decide a puppy is too much work/they’re actually allergic/they’ve just realised a puppy won’t be able to come on their summer holidays with them (all actual excuses I have seen online.)
Finally, and by far the worst, are the puppy farmers. These hideous people breed their dogs every single season, generally having a number of different breeds on offer at any one time. The puppies are their product and they’re mass produced in the cheapest way possible. One look at Many Tears Animal Rescue will show you what condition ex-breeders are left in. These dogs are often bred to death just to sell ‘pure breed’ puppies at £500 a pop. A lot of the breed stock are rehomed from online adverts, or stolen from cars/back gardens/outside of shops.
Ultimately I’m saying ‘don’t buy a puppy you’ve found on the internet’. In fact, don’t buy a puppy at all – go to a rescue and find a dog already in need of a home. Until the dog population has been brought back down to a manageable level and the rescues are a little less over-flowing, there is absolutely no reason to breed your dog or to encourage others to breed theirs. Gavel!