For the last seven years I've been glued to my TV on the night of Crufts Best In Show but not because I'm a huge fan of dog shows or of the 'spectacle' that is Crufts. It's because the minutes prior to the judge making a decision on which dog wins are the most anxious of the entire year for me as a campaigner against puppy farming.
I'd been praying that the Bouvier des Flandres would win, or even the Gordon Setter. Basically any dog in the line-up would have been preferable to Devon the West Highland Terrier. She was absolutely gorgeous and impossible not to fall in love with. Little more than a pup at just 20 months old she had the cuteness factor by the bucket load. And I can't deny she looked fit, healthy, happy and loved. Basically she was a perfect choice for the dog world. But unfortunately not for the dog welfare world.
As I looked across from the screen with Devon being photographed and publicly adored, I glanced over to my own Westie, Little Bear, who was snoozing happily on her favourite chair.
At 11-years-old, mine is her fourth home and obviously her last. Her past as a breeding dog had not been a happy one. She'd been used as a breeding bitch and then sold on to another breeder. But when one of her pregnancies didn't go to plan she was deposited at a local vet for surgery where it was discovered that all her puppies were dead inside her. She had to be spayed at the time for her own survival. Upon hearing this, her owner said she was of 'no further use' and didn't even come back to pick her up. It was left to a member of the vet nursing staff to find her a new home, which she did.
But, after a couple of years in her third home, the novelty of looking after an older dog wore off and, in addition to having her own health problems, the woman told a mutual friend she 'wanted her gone' asap. I stepped in knowing that at 10 years old and having a few temperament foibles including fear nipping, she didn't have a very bright future.
A year later and Little Bear is a different dog altogether. She has become incredibly affectionate and confident and adores her other adopted canine friends. Happily, the rest of her life will be one she can now depend on - stable, loved and cared for - the way her life should always have been.
I looked back at my TV and the Crufts champion. Once again my heart sank because I knew that for the next 12 months, puppy farmers in their various forms would be rubbing their dirty, greedy hands together with glee. It's taken 26 years for another Westie to win Best In Show but it will have taken less than 26 seconds for the puppy farming community's light-bulb moment to switch on. Westies have unfortunately always been a breed of choice for this vile industry, along with Bichons and Cavaliers and basically any crossbreed version Dr Frankenstein could have dreamt up. But now, demand for Westies will absolutely skyrocket in pet shops, from internet dealers and from anyone who figures breeding is just about putting two dogs together and coming out with a fist full of cash.
Sadly, what the public will be buying, won't be replicas of gorgeous Devon the Westie - unless of course they are extremely careful where they buy their puppies from. This means seeing the litter suckling with mum at two or three weeks of age, making their choice and returning to the breeder to see their pup's progress and how the mum is interacting with her litter before eventually bringing home their new family member at eight weeks of age or older. But, human nature being what it is, the majority of people will sadly bring home the infamous 'Westie skin', eye conditions, luxating patellas and the potential for any number of other painful diseases and infections because they are too impatient and whimsical about what it means to buy a responsibly-bred puppy and then commit to that puppy, once an adult, for possibly 15 years. Yes, Westies can live a very long time if they're healthy and well looked after. A friend of mine's lived to be 21!
Where all this leaves us is that a year down the line, a large volume of these young adult dogs will be surrendered to rescues for rehoming because the novelty will have worn off. Or they'll have numerous health conditions too expensive to treat. And so the endless cycle of spontaneous purchasing, inability to commit to responsibility (so often masked as a 'change of circumstances' when being abandoned to rescues) will see these cute little dogs on a treadmill of home after home after home.
There were of course plenty of other things to be distressed about from this year's Crufts - the crippled Best of Breed German Shepherd being top of the list of making dog lovers weep. But also the ruler-flat faces of the brachycephalic breeds like poor Eric the endlessly brushed and coiffed Peke, and of course the dubious quality and motivation of a few judges. But those are issues for breed specialists and show people to bicker over. For me, the overwhelming priority is to find a strategy that will help overcome the problems that will now affect every cute little white fluffy breed of dog kept in the sheds and barns of the UK as breeding machines, because public demand for this type of dog will soar and apparently 'has to be met'. Not my belief, but that of certain animal 'welfare' organisations who should know better. And sadly, an argument that the law continues to allow by not banning - and if anything encouraging - third party puppy sales (eg pups sold away from their mums in pet shops, puppy supermarkets and garden centres), thus making the puppy farm breeding dogs - as always - the biggest losers.
#wheresmum #seethemsuckling #adopt
Image blogger's own