Tackling the issue of poor health in pedigree or “designer” dogs: Pete the Vet on TV3’s Ireland AM

To watch the video discussing how to tackle poor quality pedigree and “designer” pups, see the link at the foot of this page.

  • A recent Telegraph article focussed on “The dark side of designer dogs” , describing how celebrities are fuelling an increase in people wanting designer dogs.
  • As the article says, designer dogs (i.e. dogs bought for appearance, status and style) are more popular than ever before, yet buyers have been warned it’s more cruel than cool to own one. Many are left suffering from “intolerable pain” because of genetic defects and poor conformation as a result of unregulated breeding,  peers have warned during a recent House of Lords debate.
  • This issue is an important one: it’s about people breeding and selling dogs with the prime motivation of profit, without enough regard for the welfare of the animals.

There are two aspects to tackling this: first reducing the demand, and second, controlling the supply.

A) Reducing the demand for designer dogs

The demand is the one that consumers can change themselves: there is only a market in poor quality “designer” dogs because people seek out these types of dogs and are prepared to pay big bucks for them.

The typical series of events that lead to problems with “designer dogs” are as follows:

  1. Person sees a type of dog in the media, decides that it looks “cool”
  2. They make an emotional decision that they want one themselves
  3. They try to get one as soon as possible, usually by scouring the internet
  4. They find one and pay high sums of money for it, without looking into the background of the situation

This encourages people to breed poor quality dogs that sell for high prices, and the dogs go on to suffer because of inherited (genetic) and conformation (poor body shape/design) problems

Instead of doing the above, potential new dog owners should follow a different sequence of steps

  1. Person sees a dog in the media, decides that it looks cool
  2. They should then do research about the breed to find out about potential health and welfare issues
  3. If they still want one, they should find out how to buy one that has the best possible health
  4. They should not rush into getting a pup: they should be prepared to wait until the right one becomes available

When they find the right one, they should ask the right questions

My recent article in the Daily Telegraph on buying a puppy privately describes, in detail, what questions should be asked.

B) Reducing the supply of designer dogs

The easiest way to reduce the supply of designer dogs is to reduce the demand: if less people are looking for them, fewer breeders will produce them
Otherwise, it is difficult: where there is a demand, unscrupulous people will find a way of supplying the product

  • The best that can be done to directly affect the supply is for the government to fully enforce the Dog Breeding Establishments Act 2010
    This act is currently being reviewed, following public consultation which closed 6 months ago, and it’s hoped that this will lead to a more effective regime to control so called puppy farmers
    This legislation requires anyone who has six or more unspayed bitches to register with their Local Authority, and to comply with specific standards of accommodation, care of the animals and record keeping.

The review will bring some changes, with critics focussing on two areas that need to be improved:

  1. Better enforcement of the existing laws
    It’s all very well to have good laws to protect puppies, but if they are not enforced, then what’s the point? Many in animal welfare circles have been disappointed that when people have failed to register as dog breeders, rather than being prosecuted, they have just been told to sign up. And when people have broken the guidelines, instead of being penalised, they are simply asked to adjust the situation. There are also concerns that there are not enough inspectors on the ground, and that inspections are pre-arranged, rather than random. So in this next phase of dog breeding regulation, full, strong enforcement of the law is essential.
  2. Tightening up of some aspects of the laws
    There should be a ceiling to the number of dogs that can be kept on one puppy farm? Some currently have up to 500 bitches which is far too many
    There be a specified number of staff members per breeding bitches of around one person to ten dogs is around the right level so that pups can be properly socialised and cared for.


Reducing the demand for poorly bred pups

Find out about a breed’s health problems before buying one

  • Don’t rush: take time to find the right puppy
  • Ask the right questions from the breeder
  • Talk to your vet about the answers to these questions
  • Visit the place where the pups are bred
  • Meet the mother and father of the pup

Reducing the  supply of poorly bred pups

  • Government action needed
  • Proper enforcement of Dog Breeding legislation
  • Random inspections of dog breeding establishments
  • Prosecutions/ fines for people who break the law
  • Raising standards in Dog Breeding legislation in current review process

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