Five years ago when I ran an emergency vet clinic in Brighton, I couldn't help noticing that come 6pm on Friday evening a few of our subscribing clinics would transfer a surplus number of small furry critical cases over to be looked after by the round-the-clock vet hospital team over the weekend.
These tiny bundles of pain and suffering were sick puppies. Often just 6-8 weeks old, these recently purchased future family pets were already connected to tubes, drips, and showing signs of severe discomfort - they were dying.
Parvovirus is a horrific disease; extremely difficult to treat successfully with not to mention potentially huge vet bills and such a high level of intensive care demanded it requires all staff to wear protective hats, gloves, overalls and even shoe-covers to prevent the microscopic virus particles' massive contagious capabilities.
Becoming frustrated and angry with this situation I decided to investigate why, how, and where on earth these poorly pups were coming from. My findings led me straight to a local puppy farm dealer - a grotty shed in rural East Sussex full of young pups of varying breeds kept on sawdust - with no mum to be seen.
Pups, I later discovered that had been delivered from hundreds of miles away (Carmarthenshire, SW Wales in this case) now sleeping in, playing on, and eating infected bedding; all awaiting that special purchase by their excited new families, just as the last of the immunity provided by their precious mother's milk wore off...
You see pups born on puppy farms and sold via these kinds of dealers as well as pet shops, websites, garden centres, private houses, imported pups from Eastern Europe, and pups advertised in free listings aren't like normal pups.
Unsocialised and lacking effective working immune systems these pups are cute little ticking time bombs of severe medical, surgical, and behavioural problems ready to go off the second they step paw in their expectant new homes.
Looking into the problem further it became tragically clear that the UK government is failing its animals, in this case dogs, on a massive scale. Puppy farms (or 'commercial dog breeders' as the suits like to call them) often house up to 200 breeding bitches in one shed pumping out thousands of sick and diseased puppies every year.
Retailing from anything between £300-500 (usual price) up to well over £5,000 (exclusive London department store 'designer' price) you can see why puppy farming is now big business, so it's no wonder that corruption, back-handers, greed, and downright animal cruelty feature prominently on unofficial business plans.
If that's not enough then please understand puppy farms are often legal, and so is the buying and selling of pups too with a valid pet shop licence; however, due to the Animal Welfare Act, the conditions they're kept in aren't legal at all. The majority of puppy farm breeding dogs are kept inside their whole lives, never getting to play with other dogs or humans, toys, eat proper food or drink clean fresh water, or experience love.
Conveniently there's no one around to tell these puppy farmers otherwise let alone enforce the law, in fact this industrial type of commercial breeding of dogs is even encouraged by few local councils, and so it goes on.
Turn the clock forward five years and London's second ever PupAid (Brighton was its home for the two years previously) has just taken place last weekend in exclusive Primrose Hill featuring celebrities including Elle MacPherson, Peter Crouch, Abbey Clancy, David Gandy, Meg Mathews, Lizzie Cundy and Peter Egan to name just a few.
Celebrities mean tabloid coverage which means the masses get to hear about puppy farming which is the only way we'll stop this. By raising awareness we hopefully guide these celeb-influenced masses to choose their new four-legged best friend responsibly, either by adopting from rescue or always insisting on seeing pup interacting with its mum.
As well as celebs over 50 doggy trade stands, have-a-go agility, live music, and a BBQ were at PupAid to attract the dog-loving public and more important keep them there, enjoying the fun all day dog show, doggy demonstrations, and a poignant parade of rescued ex-puppy farm breeding bitches - their undercarriages scraping along the ground accompanied by multiple caesarean scars, broken teeth, and rope burns for all present to witness.
Puppy farming must be stopped and it's now staggeringly obvious that it's up to us, the public, to stop it. Furthermore we should all be working together to sort this problem out.
Recent pedigree dog bashing in the media by a leading charity only pushes well-meaning puppy buyers further into the clutches of puppy farmers. I've seen the results in my consulting room; sadly many cockerpoos, maltipoos, and labradoodles sourced in this way have paid the ultimate price.
Unscrupulous people battery farming fashionable crossbreeds, complete with these cutely named 'poo' or 'oodle' inserted in their titles are telling buyers that they're "much healthier than pedigrees" even though no health or temperament tests have been carried out, in addition to all the usual welfare problems associated with puppy farming.
The few animal charities ignoring or downright refusing to help PupAid - a campaign specifically designed to promote rescue and responsible breeding - are denying their supporters the opportunity to be part of something big that will change future UK animal welfare for the better let alone helping these poor animals currently imprisoned in cruel puppy farms. Just because it's not your campaign doesn't mean you can't support it and help hurry this potentially huge awareness raising e-petition into Parliament ASAP. Put your egos and agendas down guys, isn't it the poor animals themselves that matter most?
Awareness via the annual PupAid event, our e-petition and our YouTube viral video is working but there's still a long way to go until buying a puppy without its mum is considered socially unacceptable.
Just like driving without seatbelts, drink driving and the overuse of sunbeds, which have all undergone a massive and hugely successful public behaviour change in recent years, we need to make buying a puppy from a pet shop, a dealer, online, i.e. without seeing the puppy interacting with its mum something to be utterly ashamed of.
Last Saturday was a massive success and as well as everyone that attended with their dogs, I would like to thank my fellow volunteer organisers Stuart, Bex and Milton.
Also huge thanks to main sponsors Barking Heads as well as PetsPyjamas, Adaptil, Agria Pet Insurance, Parvoalert, Sniffys, Primrose Hill Pets, Halo Dogs Agility, Specsavers, Village Vets, Urban Mutts, City Pups, Kennel Club, Sara Abbott, Annabel Giles, photographer Julia Claxton, Alex Silver PR, trade stands, and Royal Parks, as well as all the journalists, photographers and bloggers helping to get the word out there.
PupAid is here to stay and will do everything it possibly can to educate the public. Our country's dogs deserve more than our government is offering so it's up to us to change things for the better.
Join us on this exciting journey and be proud to be part of the fight against puppy farming. Please sign our e-petition to stop puppy farming here.
Pic: Our aim is simply for all dogs to enjoy life just like Chanel the Chihuahua seen here having fun enjoying 'being a dog' at PupAid rather than imprisoned as a battery farmed breeding bitch stuck in a horrific puppy farm (Image: Julia Claxton).
For more photos of PupAid 2013 click here.