You may have heard the phrase “adopt, don’t shop” or seen it hash-tagged in the Instagram comment sections under photos of an adorable litter of puppies – but what does it actually mean? And why are people so keen for you to adopt a dog rather than buying a new puppy from a breeder?
One key factor in the effort to promote adoption is that there are tens of thousands of abandoned dogs sitting in local authority kennels. In their annual survey of over 130 local authorities, Dogs Trust reported that there were 37,283 unwanted dogs in various council-funded kennels in 2020, with 3,463 dogs sadly euthanised to help alleviate pressure on the kennels and prevent overcrowding. And this is only the council kennels: There are also hundreds of charities like the RSPCA, Battersea Dog’s Home and Blue Cross that also help to home abandoned and stray dogs that haven’t been included in this annual survey.
Unfortunately, the lockdown measures earlier this year prompted a sudden surge of families seeking dog ownership, with internet searches for “buy a puppy” up by 120% in the first month of lockdown. However, with furlough ending and unemployment rates rising, it’s feared that many dogs will be abandoned or given to shelters due to financial pressures. On the flip side, anyone returning to work after months of working from home may suddenly find they are unable to cope with a new dog.
“At Blue Cross we don’t judge people who make the responsible decision to give up their pet if they can no longer provide the care they need. In the current economic climate, we know circumstances can change so quickly and we’re always here to provide support for struggling owners,” says Becky Thwaites, Head of Public Affairs at Blue Cross. “We would much rather people come to us for support than struggle on with a pet or worse still be forced to abandon the animal.”
There’s also the dark side of the dog breeding industry to consider when making a decision on whether to buy a puppy or dog. Increased demand has led to unscrupulous breeders adopting unethical and sometimes illegal practises to increase supply. As well as asking people to pay hugely inflated prices for dogs, breeders and illegal sellers have also taken to selling sick, imported or underaged puppies to cash in on demand. “We’ve seen a massive increase in fraud – people paying deposits for dogs which don’t exist, illegally smuggled puppies, underage puppies and poorly-bred puppies,” says Becky. “With Christmas coming up, we fear many may rush and buy online with little research and may fall victim to these unscrupulous sellers.”
Poor breeding can result in horrific congenital health issues for the puppies (meaning the issue was present at birth), especially in breeds like pugs and French bulldogs, which commonly have a number of genetic deformities. Congenital health issues are not covered under pet insurance, and specialist vet treatment can quickly add up to thousands – and sometimes tens of thousands – of pounds. The same goes for any health issue that the dog presented with before being insured.
It gets worse. Online sellers are even taking to listing non-existent puppies for sale and giving their address as charity shelters. “Blue Cross has had members of the public contact three of our rehoming centres in Manchester, Cambridge and Hertfordshire to make us aware that they had almost fallen victim to online scammers who are using our Blue Cross addresses as a fake collection point,” warns Becky. “Each person had tried to buy a puppy from various groups on Facebook and had been asked to put down a deposit of between £200 and £300 before picking up the pet. When they asked for more details about where the pet was or where they could collect the pet, the scammer would provide a Blue Cross rehoming centre address.”
With so many sellers taking to fraudulent and abusive practices to meet demand, it’s never been more important to try and eliminate that demand so the motivation for this criminality is removed. Plus, with so many dogs living in shelters desperate for a loving home, why would you try and buy?
BEFORE YOU DECIDE TO BRING A DOG INTO YOUR HOME, FOLLOW THESE STEPS:
1. Taking a dog into your home is a huge decision that will affect the next 15 years of your life (or longer). You need to take time to weigh up all considerations, including whether you can afford this commitment, whether you have the time to properly care and train a dog, and whether your lifestyle allows you to offer them a loving home.
2. Research different breeds. Dogs differ dramatically depending on the breed. Some breeds need three walks a day, others just one. Some breeds are naturally aggressive, some are family friendly. Some dogs are difficult to train, some are easy.
3. Research the breed’s health extensively. Different breeds have different associated health issues and some are known to have lots of genetic problems, especially flat-faced, curly-tailed dogs like pugs and French bulldogs. Any pre-existing conditions will be exempt from your pet’s insurance, meaning you will have to pay for the treatment.
4. There are so many charities and shelters with dogs up for adoption, and some specialise in certain breeds. Take your time looking into which one is right for you, and speak to the charities to decide what is best.
5. Whatever you do, never buy a puppy from a puppy farm, never collect a puppy before it is at least 8 weeks old, never buy an imported puppy and report any suspected unethical breeding, selling or animal welfare issues to the following authorities:
– The Local Council,
– Trading Standards,
– Animal Protection Services,
– The Kennel Club, RSPCA
– The police.
Animal welfare is taken very seriously by the legal system and these people will be held accountable if reported.