It would be a peculiar person that tried to argue that puppies are not adorably cute and fluffy. Thousands of pets for sale adverts flooding the internet show that pictures of puppies rarely fail to look sweet, they succeed in pulling on our heart strings and opening our purses. Cute sells. The puppy business is booming. Yet many of the fluff-balls being sold today have anything but cute origins. So, let me take you on a little journey. To a place that's far from fluffy, one you will hope exists only in my imagination, dark as that is. But it does exist, it's a place that few people ever enter. Luckily for them.
The atmosphere is hard to describe, but let's start with gloomy, colourless, dingy. And dusty. Nose-itchingly dusty from the dirty straw and sawdust on the concrete floor. Through blinking, irritated eyes, through the poor light and dust-choked air, you see row upon row of concrete pens, with cage-like, steel barred, cobweb peppered doors across the front of each one. Dust sprinkled cobwebs. They're not often opened.
Tombs. That's what you think when you look at the spaces enclosed by concrete block walls. But there's no silence of the grave about this place. As your throat tightens, and your squinting eyes adjust to the shadowy gloom, your ears are forced to remain open. The noise that's in every filthy, stinking corner and dreary inch of this place forces its way inside your ears, smashing into your brain against your will. Dogs barking, screaming, crying, whimpering, calling for help. Help that won't come. Hoarse dog howls of despair. Losing their minds. And the wretched, raging sounds won't leave you for a long while after you go from here, to head back into the light and cold, fresh air of freedom.
Standing still, trying to anchor yourself for a journey you've only just begun, you close your eyes. You try to hold back the silent tears which roll down your cheeks, past your nose which wants to close, to stop the nauseating stench from reaching into you, forcing up your last meal. As the sickening smell of years of filth and shit and piss and death and betrayal of man's best friend makes your stomach flip and turn and knot, you force your eyes open and look into those of one skinny grey schnauzer.
She looks down, turns away, shivering, shaking in fear and crawls on her belly through the wet faeces and dirt to the farthest, darkest corner of her concrete prison cell. Away from you. She knows you cannot help her. She gave up a long time ago when she died inside. If she feels anything at all it's fear. She fears you and all humanity.
You involuntarily scratch at yourself. Your skin itches. But is this real? Or are you just thinking it is, as you see the next dog, a filthy, grimy grey, should-be-white westie, with her flea infested coat and scabby skin, eyes running with infection trying to keep her tiny, sickly pup alive and warm, although she's chilled to the bone and starving herself.
Trying not to breathe as you drag yourself through noxious fug, along the row of tombs, you see a spaniel, pacing, circling round and round his pen going slowly, agonisingly mad as his years in the cage lengthen into insanity.
You are here, on this journey to see, to hear, to breathe, to record the reality of legal, licensed puppy farming in the UK today. And when you leave, you take all this with you, and it never goes away. It stays a part of you forever. And you weep, scream and shout and cry out for something, somebody, anybody, to stop this from happening. Once the tears stop, you write your report, you submit your film, you tell the authorities and relevant agencies and you beg them to do their jobs properly. To stop this crazy cruelty that you witness again and again and again. For years, you make journeys like this.
And nothing changes. Except the dogs whose fate it is to live and die in the puppy farms.
Words transcribed and rewritten from in-depth, harrowing interviews with Puppy Love Campaigns volunteer investigator, 'Ronnie', who, since 2008, along with a small group of trusted volunteers has been going undercover into UK puppy farms filming, gathering evidence and reporting to the RSPCA and local authorities. Their footage obtained in often dangerous circumstances has been shown many times on television and through their efforts, successful prosecutions for animal cruelty and breeding without license have occurred. Puppy Love Campaigns continue to investigate and go where others should, but aren't. Into the places where thousands of dogs are incarcerated for years on end to supply the puppy trade. Places where puppies and parent dogs are far from fluffy. Places where they die of starvation, and disease. Where no-one sees, or seems to care.