If you're lucky enough to have a dog in your life, the next time they're by your side, take a long, hard look at your best friend.
Then imagine for a moment that he or she is not with you, but instead is locked in a small, dark space for the next six years; confined in squalid conditions with nothing to sleep on except a hard, plastic bed with some shredded newspaper at best, or just a cold concrete floor covered in sawdust. Your dog has to toilet themselves in the same space that they sleep and eat every day. The skin on your dog's paws is burnt from standing in their own urine. No walks, no playing, no treats. Sometimes not even a bowl of clean water to drink from.
If your dog is female, imagine her being forcibly mated to become pregnant as many times as she physically can during her years of incarceration. If your dog is male, he's a stud dog kept in complete isolation to ensure he is out of his mind with frustration.
Your beautiful, sensitive friend is now back at your feet malnourished, infested with fleas and mites, ears painfully infected. Visually impaired from being kept in perpetual darkness. Gentle mouth full of rotting, abscessed teeth, poisoning your dog's system and causing excruciating pain. How do you feel? Distraught? Angry?
As a dog lover, you'd find the thought of this happening to your own dog absolutely unbearable, if not completely unimaginable. But as the saying goes, "there but for the grace of God go I". Had fate not brought you and your dog together in a different way, he or she could very well have been in the situation described above.
When the public hear the words 'puppy farm dog' or 'ex breeder' it's easy for them to feel disconnected from these dogs - like people put them in a separate category - a sub species of the companion animals 8.5 million of us share our homes with in the UK. But these dogs are no different to your dog. Their misfortune is to be born in the wrong place at the wrong time and be kept by the wrong people.
Such is the case of a tiny Chihuahua called Brie. Her misfortune was to have been born in a Welsh puppy farm. The only saving grace for Brie is that one of the small, cash-poor rescues that take in ex puppy farm breeding dogs, stepped in to save her life.
Brie's mum Claire Stokoe has a lot of experience with Chihuahuas and says:
"When I first saw Brie she was in the arms of a staff member at the rescue, I didn't think she'd survive the 300-mile trip home and wondered "had made a mistake?". She'd had two litters in her short life, both C-sections because her body is so small, and she had an ugly wound down her tiny belly from a recent spay. Unlike my other chihuahuas, Brie had no muscles in her legs at all, so could barely walk a few steps without falling over, her ears were flea bitten, she had a big scab on her nose and she weighed less than 1 pound. I later found out that if Brie had not been rescued when she was, she'd have been drowned in the farm's slurry pit, a common practice on puppy farms.
"It soon became apparent just what horrors she'd been through. She'd scream and run into walls if any sound or movement startled her, she found it hard to open her eyes in the light having spent so long in the dark, and she was absolutely terrified of people. But somehow, she found it within herself to trust me.
"The more I found out about the everyday lives of these breeding dogs on the puppy farms, the more I was in awe of the heroes that rescued her and spend their lives saving thousands of dogs just like Brie every year. I would sit and stare into her little hazel eyes as we sat on the couch together and I wondered how anyone could hurt her. Having PTSD myself, Brie and I have an understanding; I watch for her triggers and try to minimise them and in return she makes me realise that anything is possible - even if you are only 6 inches tall."
Next time you look at your own dog, remember the thousands of dogs enduring lives of hell in UK puppy farms - all because some believe that public demand for puppies in the UK must continue to be met, at any cost.
Your dog is no different to a puppy farm breeding dog. Fate just made your dog a whole lot luckier.
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