Post Purchase Puppy Panic?
Have You Just Paid For a Designer Dog That Could Cost You Your Life Savings?
Increasingly, more and more people are concerned about finding the most convenient place to buy the ‘cutest’ puppy, instead of considering the safe, ethical and legal ways to buy a puppy, and although more evidence is gradually emerging to reveal masses of illegal breeding farms around Australia, dogs and their puppies are continually being exploited and tortured for profit. The nation is not aware of the various ways you can buy a puppy and the risk associated when making such a big purchase. These puppies are not only sold and bought through private and commercial breeders on private properties, they can also be bought, most commonly in pet stores, and also through online and newspaper advertisements. These avenues may produce ‘perfect and pretty’ dogs on the outside, but on the inside there are a multitude of hereditary and socialistion problems that could are a burden to owners and cost a fortune to fix. The dog subsequently becomes more of an issue than a delight, and Australia needs to understand this when buying their next best friend.
Despite warnings and increased coverage of violent dogs on the news worldwide, the Australian public is still not aware that by buying a puppy from a puppy farm is a major contributor to their social behaviour. If puppies start their life off without adequate socialisation with both humans and others animals, they carry the bad habits into society. Not only that, the dogs have a lot of medical complications and issues, which will end up costing you a lot of money in veterinary bills, and in some cases, leads to the dogs ending up back at the pound because they are too much effort or too costly. It then becomes a vicious cycle. To avoid this there are a myriad of things you can look out for when buying your next puppy.
Consumer Affairs receives hundreds of complaints annually from consumers who have been knowingly sold sick animals and have incurred large vet bills. The fact is that pet shops and puppy factory farmers cut corners every step of the way in order to maximise their profits, and as a result, the animals and customers suffer.
The greatest decision to be made is to check your local animal shelter or rescue group like the RSPCA and save the life of an abandoned dog. But, if you’re adamant to get your ‘perfect’ dog, do your research. There is a lot of information if you look in the right places. The RSPCA’s “Smart Puppy Buyers Guide” is a great example.
One of the most common places to buy a designer dog, also known as a Pedigree, is through a breeder. But what can often look like a friendly family home, can be what is referred to as a ‘shop front’, masking the horror and filth the puppies were born into behind closed doors. Realistically, not all breeders are like this, but conducting your own research is the only way to differentiate the puppy farmers or legitimate breeders. One of the most, if not the most important thing to remember is that anyone can apply to local council for a breeding permit and there is no limit on the amount of dogs that a person can own.
You not only need to know what you want from the breeder, you need to know what you want from the dog. A dog is a companion, a best friend, a sympathiser and the best listener around, but it is crucial to know what type of dog and what attributes will be the most suitable to immerse into your home environment. Factors to consider vary. It is important to consider how active the puppy will be, how much exercise it will need and the amount of space you have for it to play, the size of your housing and if it is realistic for the size of the dog, how long the dog will be left alone, and if you have small children or other pets.
Researching the breed is something that must be done before purchasing your puppy, which is something that Michelle Vale did not do, and wishes she had. “I was yearning for a dog after the death of our 18-year-old blue cattle dog,” she explained. “But I had heard so much about puppy farmers and what they do to innocent dogs, I didn’t want to take the risk. So, my first choice was adopting from the RSPCA.” She saw the then nameless 8-week-old Dalmatian and immediately thought he was a perfect fit, but without any research didn’t know anything about the breed.
“He was just so happy and energetic. A perfect fit for our family, and while he has no health or socialisation problems at all, he sheds so much hair that our house looks like the North Pole”, she laughed.
“Aside from that he’s a perfect dog – my little baby following me around everywhere.” Now 2 and a half, “the only problem we have had with him so far was trying to decide a name for him. Sadly, I lost out to my husband who named him Fletcher.”
Michelle’s story of one of many success stories from the RSPCA, as they are a reputable organisation required to provide every piece of information they have on the animal, but this consistency is not guaranteed when buying privately. The RSPCA’s “Smart Puppy Buyers Guide” process sets the standard for this, and for good reasons. Over the last two years, RSPCA Queensland alone has dealt with twelve puppy farming operations, and this seems to be the case in all other states nationwide. Considering this, many sources stress how important it is to ask questions. The more questions you ask, the more answers you get, and in some cases, you could confuse a puppy farmer into identifying his status.
“We made sure we investigated thoroughly before we went to buy Molly,” explained Matt Graham, owner of the 18-month-old Pedigree Cavalier King Charles Spaniel. “We saw how she interacted with us when we met her, how she interacted with the breeders, and how her mother reacted as well.” Armed with all the knowledge he needed to know when approaching the breeder, Matt is a great example of how to approach purchasing a Pedigree puppy.
“She was, and still is extremely sociable. No one can stay away from her, everyone always wants to pat cute little Molly because she greets them with a smile,” he said mockingly.
Although impulse buying Molly after the death of their eight year old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Matt had significant information on the breed. Regardless of his prior information, “we made sure to question the breeder on everything!” he laughed.
It is important to ask about any hereditary illnesses, vaccinations, desexing, heart worming, while also gain information regarding the puppies’ parents, including size, breed and temperament. Sources also stress the importance of questioning the breeders intentions, with both the mothers, fathers and puppies – whether they keep the mothers after the puppies are born – and also if this is their full time occupation. Because if it is, this generally signals a puppy farmer.
Documentation is crucial to prove and reinforce what the breeder has claimed. Matt made sure that he got this evidence before he continued any further. “We certainly weren’t leaving without proper documentation to prove what he had claimed, as well as information on how they had raised Molly, like what she ate and how much” he explained, “so we could carry that on at home.”
“Molly is one of the happiest puppies I’ve ever encountered. She is healthy and happy and can run for hours. Even though she is small for her breed, she can keep up with the biggest of dogs, and we are thankful that we purchased from such a reliable breeder!”
This case was a success, and many are, but only if you take initiative like Matt did. Otherwise, you may encounter backyard breeders, which are also common. The RSPCA recognises them as irresponsible breeders of animals, resulting in an animals accidently getting pregnant due to failure to desex. When dealing with backyard breeders, the same protocol should be taken to protect yourself and the animal. Both types of breeders can be found in both newspaper and online advertisements, so thorough investigation is important.
Breeders exploit the impulsivity of buyers via cute puppies, but no breeder compares to the manipulation of pet stores. Sources including ‘Where do Puppies Come From’, dog expert Cesar Milan, the RSPCA and Pets Australia are all adamant to avoid pet stores and online and newspaper advertisements due to being stealthy, deceptive and underhanded players in the puppy farming industry. By placing the product, the cute, fluffy puppy in the window, people will see how cute they are and buy there on the spot. But, the source of these puppies rely heavily on puppy farmers.
“Pet shops are the leading distribution network for puppy farmers to sell their puppies to the public” states the RSPCA website ‘Where do Puppies Come From?’. In an interview with the RSPCA website, Associate Professor Paul McGreevy of the Faculty of Veterinary Science at the University of Sydney claims that breeders who supply pet stores have “very little regard for their physiological or behavioural health.”
The reason why pet shops are so highly criticised is due to the delivery of puppies so prematurely and without adequate documentation. They do not have crucial care and nursing from their mothers when they are delivered, which behaviourists refer to as their development stage, and are isolated and thrown in bright pet shop windows. They, like those in puppy farms, are caged up, not socialised, and do not have access to the outside world. These behaviourists claim that these puppies are more likely develop behavioural issues, such as shyness and fear aggression, than a well-socialised dog.
Though there are claims that there is no evidence to support the link between puppy farms and pet shops, the RSPCA Position Paper A4 Sale of companion animals from pet shops sets out what the RSPCA believes should be the minimum requirements of a licensing system and code of practice for these types of shops.
Some great deals are also found in advertisements, but in this case, it’s the classic saying of ‘if it sounds too good to be true, it probably is’. Both online and print advertisements, for example, Petlink “hide behind aliases” according to to ‘Where do Puppies Come From?’ It is important to, again, check where the puppies were bred, and carry out the same protocol you would when buying any other dog.
So, instead of making in impulse purchase, take the time to research. While Michelle and Matt both had successful experiences with both breeders and the RSPCA, it is clear that it was successful because they had adhered to protocol. They researched, asked questions and judged the character of both the animal and the seller before purchase. The result, they avoided unnecessary medical bills and crippling socialisation problems. If people continue to impulse buy, the results could be disastrous. “Puppy farms contribute to the staggering numbers of juvenile and adult dogs that end up at our Shelters,” explained Michael Beatty – Media and Community Relations Manager at the RSPCA QLD. “The general public must be made aware that puppy farms are simple money making exercises, nothing more, nothing less!”