What happens to dogs from puppy farms?
Most people have now heard of puppy farms or mills – places of mass puppy production. Puppies are supplied to match the demand for small to medium sized, preferably non-shedding dogs. Most puppies, luckily for us, make good family dogs. Do we ever spare a thought for the breeding machines, the mothers and fathers of these pups?
Puppy farm dogs and bitches may end their lives once their production levels deteriorate. Some lucky ones may find homes to adopt them. But how do they cope?
A recent study has looked into the lives and behaviours of dogs adopted out of the production cycle. Over 1000 dogs, formally from canine commercial breeding establishments, were monitored in their new homes or in homes of their foster carers and their health and behaviours compared to similar populations of dogs that are more traditionally kept as pets.
Commercial dogs had higher rates of health problems than the pet dogs. They also displayed higher rates of fear, toileting issues, compulsive staring and lower rates of aggression (toward strangers and other dogs), trainability, chasing small animals, excitability and energy.
Perhaps with time these dogs will regain some of the pet dog attributes that we value – the ability to be trained, few or no fears of phobias. This study is, however, the first quantitative evidence that health and welfare of dogs may be questionable, if not severely compromised.
While we dislike the thought of dogs being breeding machines, perhaps we are ultimately to blame. We support the industry by continuing to purchasing puppies from farms. The general public do not know when a breeder becomes a farmer (it could be argued that many professionals are also unclear about this). What is clear is that we need further research, carried out by reputable and independent research establishments to determine to what extent the lives and behaviours of dogs and puppies are compromised by intensive breeding practices. As with all animals, we should strive to follow the Five Freedoms of Animal Welfare, whether there is profit involved or not.