It wasn’t so long ago that I was living in one of the biggest cities in the UK. I had read about puppy farms, been utterly disgusted, and emphatically signed petitions while going about my day, oblivious to the reality of the situation.
"How could anyone do that?"
"What sort of people treat dogs in that way?"
"I wish I could do something to make a difference."
Questions and platitudes that come from being sheltered behind a computer screen. It's not that I consider myself a keyboard warrior, but what else could I do?
Moving to a more rural part of the UK has opened my ears, my ears, my heart and my soul to the reality of the situation. You see, these puppy farms aren’t hidden away. They aren’t one-off dungeons that nobody knows about, and the humans behind them aren’t fazed in any way by the petitions, the changes in the law, the views the dog-loving public, or the fundamental moral code that you and I live by.
There are only a dozen or so houses where I live now. Three of them are puppy farms. One of the puppy farms is run by our next-door neighbour.
They are well-known locally and the puppies are sold before the litters are born.
This is the reality of the situation. I can tell you with certainty that he does not care about a petition, he does not care about what advocates for animal welfare think and he certainly does not care what I think about the way he treats his dogs. He keeps them in cages at the bottom of his garden. When the puppies arrive, there’s a steady stream of families that come and collect their new canine family member. They are handing over money for a puppy who has never set foot (well, paw) inside a home and they have only been out of their cage for the five minutes that the family have been there for. Oh, apart from the few minutes the previous week where each one was picked up by the neck to be photographed, dropped from the hand of the man who keeps them in this barren environment and then kicked back into their cage.
It's not a secret that they have this puppy farm. The other two puppy farms near us aren’t a secret either. They are well-known locally and the puppies are sold before the litters are born. The torturing humans go on holiday with their immoral earnings and when they return, the cycle starts again.
The petitions feel futile now. That’s not to say I don’t agree with them, I would sign them a million times over if I thought they would change what was happening next door, but they won’t. I have talked to rescue charities who have told me that this case doesn’t reach the threshold for abuse. I have spoken with the local council who say that the onus is on me to prove what is going on. I have talked the housing association about the noise and again the burden of responsibility is on me. I have to be able to record data to prove that the noise levels are unacceptable.
Cages full of adult dogs and puppies make a lot of noise. The sound of frightened souls does more than keep me awake at night; it is destroying me. I love dogs, I have my own dogs and I watch as they respond to the pained canine screams coming from next door. I wonder what effect it is having on them, while wishing more than anything in the world that there was something I could do about it.
This isn’t a man who values life, who has an ounce of respect, empathy or reason.
I have tried. I do not know where else to turn and I know that I am not alone in feeling this way. My neighbour is not the sort of man to exchange pleasantries when we see each other. He shouts over the fence when I’m playing with my dogs in my garden. He has revved his engine as he can see me walking home with my dogs. He laughs at me when he sees my dogs wearing reflective collars because I am walking them in the dark after work. I am frightened and intimidated by him. This isn’t a man who values life, who has an ounce of respect, empathy or reason. This isn’t a man who knows anything about dogs, other than that they make him money, and that he thinks he is untouchable.
This is a man who is untouchable. I have tried everything I can think of and even if the law does change, if there are rules about breeders being registered or about how many litters they can have, who’s going to tell him? Who will check and who will stop him?
Education about buying from puppy farms is, I believe, the only way to stop this. If people stop handing over money, he won’t have the motivation to keep torturing these beautiful dogs. I don’t have the answers about ‘how’ we do that - I would just like you to know that puppy farms are around every corner.
Featured image: stock for illustrative purposes