THE BLOG
04/10/2015 16:05 BST | Updated 04/10/2016 06:12 BST

Puppy Farming: The Cruel Gift That Keeps on Giving...

Some people love Christmas, some hate it, and of course, many won't celebrate at all. With adverts already popping up telling us exactly how many shopping days there are until the big day, animal welfare campaigners and rescuers alike are getting an all too familiar knot in their stomachs.

So what could this terrible thing that keeps us awake at night be?

It's the knowledge that right now, across the world, breeding dogs kept in low welfare, large scale commercial breeding establishments, called 'puppy farms' in the UK, 'puppy mills' in the States, and 'puppy factories' in Australia have recently been mated against their will. Vulnerable breeding machines that have been put under starters orders to produce literally millions of Christmas puppies to satisfy a consumer-led global marketplace that continues to ignore its role in their suffering.

These embryonic festive pups may not yet be a glimmer in a small child's eye or even scribbled on their wish list for Santa; but make no mistake, these puppies will be born and will be bought by the public in the belief that they'll be giving the best Christmas present a child could ever receive.

But it's a game of Russian roulette, because for all the suffering these breeding dogs and their offspring are made to endure, most families and individuals purchasing these puppies will also suffer. They'll experience emotional pain, grief and horror; and regardless of the monetary cost of the puppy they've bought, they'll have no option but to continue injecting large sums of cash in a desperate bid to try and save the precious life of a pup that was meant to bring so much joy to the world. Or, in the worst case scenarios, left trying to get any form of justice for the death of their little bundle of heartache.

Puppies often 'appear' well at the time of purchase, quickly becoming limp and lethargic, they start vomiting and having bloody diarrhoea. Symptoms appear days or even just hours after being brought home because their tiny, weak bodies have often been pumped full of drugs to mask any illnesses just long enough for the sellers to get their cash, ditch their mobile phones, and run. Too many of these fragile lives will end up on a cold veterinary slab.

Puppy farmed pups are rarely the age that they are advertised as; usually removed from their mothers far too young, before they've been weaned, leaving them with limited immunity to killer bacterial and viral infections. For example, deadly Parvovirus is rife among puppies starting life in these hideous, large scale commercial breeding establishments which, by the way, can be both unlicensed as well as (more commonly) licensed, by local authorities.

After being transported hundreds of miles across countries - even continents - these puppies often change hands several times with each link in the chain helping themselves to their greedy share of blood money. But of course, none of this seems to matter to many buyers who seem more concerned with how 'cute' the puppies are; sadly the actual origins and welfare of the pup's parents barely register, if at all, as a priority in their decision making process.

For others, however, they will have followed advice and still been cruelly duped by clever scammers that are raking in huge sums of money without a shred of remorse for their evil deeds. And this is why changes to current outdated trading legislation are now so urgently needed for both canine welfare and protection of public health.

This evil puppy trade is both cunning and sophisticated - knowing exactly how to manipulate public emotion, con local authorities and even forge documentation. It doesn't matter what your background or education is either - as long as you're prepared to part with your money you're fair game.

That in 2015 there are still people who buy puppies in retail pet shops, puppy supermarkets or garden centres is baffling, i.e. buying a puppy without seeing it interacting with its genuine mother and littermates. What's even more bewildering is that, in this country, puppies can still be sold in pet shops or by third parties.

Depressingly there are other equally disturbing side effects of the festive puppy season.

Firstly, a high percentage of these Christmas gift puppies will soon be unwanted when it hits home how much time and commitment is required; relinquished to already-struggling rescue centres from Boxing Day onwards and well into the New Year.

Yet another tragedy is that so many people don't even realise that there are equally cute puppies and adorable youngsters available for adoption in these rescue shelters.

How ironic that adopting from a reputable rescue is now a safer option than the risk of buying a puppy that is likely to have started life on a puppy farm? Buy a pup from an unscrupulous seller today and you risk inviting life-threatening diseases such as Rabies, Echinococcus, or Leishmaniasis into your family home, or a cute pup that's likely to suffer behavioural problems such as nervous aggression and biting in pure fear. Adopt a dog or puppy from a rescue shelter and for an inexpensive one-off donation fee you'll bring home a new best friend that's behaviourally assessed, chipped, protected against fleas and worms, house-trained, and usually neutered too - what a bargain!

Unlike the puppy trade, reputable rescues have a policy of not allowing pet acquisition during the Christmas period for good reason; understanding decisions based on seasonal emotions are definitely not any basis of responsible pet ownership.

Finally, it's also no coincidence that another heartbreaking side effect of this puppy buying madness is that all too often the allure of a brand new life at Christmas sees rescue centres faced with even larger numbers of older dogs being abandoned at the same time - and all to make room for that newer, "more fun", "more cute", "more likes on Facebook", ball of fluff.

Wouldn't it be wonderful to finally kill this trade in animal and human misery and at the same time hit puppy farmers and their dealers where it hurts most - their pockets?

So this year campaigners and rescuers alike are hoping for the greatest miracle of all; that for once the public will say "no" to buying Christmas puppies and "yes" to adopting a new best friend in the New Year.