Posted: March 28, 2017 in Diary

It’s hard to believe that it was way back in 1978 when “A dog is for life. Not just for Christmas” was born. Clarissa Baldwin OBE came up with the most famous slogan in the dog world for The National Canine Defence League (NCDL). In fact, this catchy slogan was so famous it was even entered into the Oxford English Dictionary of Quotations.

In October 2003, the NCDL changed its name to Dogs Trust and Ms Baldwin stated that reasons for the name change included: “… Defence has negative connotations, and league is just desperately old-fashioned.”

Of course, predicting the future is always a gamble but as the Dogs Trust’s then Chief Executive, Ms Baldwin said: “Change is always a difficult thing to manage but sometimes you have to do what you believe to be right and not what is easy.” How very true.

When the charity became Dogs Trust it stated that its mission was: “working towards the day when all dogs can enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction.” Certainly, nobody can argue that this is every dog lover’s ideal world scenario.

Fast forward to 2017 and Dogs Trust is now the largest dog welfare charity in the UK. The slogan remains in place 39 years on. But, despite its simple genius, it’s incredibly sad that today even Dogs Trust admit that it has failed to achieve its intended goal.

Today, the real world for dogs has changed unrecognisably.  Although we would all ideally like to see a time when the public can buy healthy happy puppies from healthy happy parents, the possibility of this happening is now further away from becoming a reality than at any time in history. Ironically, in part, due to the charity’s own recent actions.

There are thousands of dogs in the UK who will never “enjoy a happy life, free from the threat of unnecessary destruction” because of an industry that some of us call puppy farming. If “A dog is for life” was intended for the public moral conscience, then now it should surely extend to the life expectancy of dogs as well.

For breeding dogs in puppy farms, life limiting health conditions are the norm. Should they remain in puppy farms until they can no longer breed they can look forward to being ‘disposed of’ at the whim of their keeper. Some are relinquished to smaller rescues that are prepared to take the time and raise the money for their rehabilitation and are then adopted by kind and compassionate members of the public who understand their special needs. But for the majority, they are the ‘disappeared’. I’ve even seen a licensing inspection report that states the method of retirement for the establishment’s ex breeding dogs is ‘incinerator’.

For these legally exploited dogs no amount of licensing and regulation has or will ever help. They are nameless, unaccounted for victims of a greedy industry where corruption is rife.

The pictures with this blog are all that physically remains of five magnificent dogs who crossed the bridge too soon over the last seven years. Boomer, Cariad, Amy, Gwennie-bear and sadly Flora, passing so unexpectedly just a few weeks ago: Mast cell tumours, lymphoma, hemangiosarcoma, alveolar carcinoma – just some of the evil diseases that claimed all my sweet, gentle friends – the youngest being just six years old. Like so many others, Flora’s life of freedom outside the licensed puppy farm that sold her puppies to licensed pet shops, lasted less than 3 years. So unfortunately, ‘A dog is for life’ is inconsequential to ex puppy farming breeding dogs who have been rescued, as well as the hundreds of thousands of nameless dogs who have died over the years in these establishments without ever knowing human kindness, let alone love.

Doggie montage (2)

Only when you’ve shared the pain and suffering of these exhausted and broken dogs can you truly understand the horrors that puppy farming inflicts on man’s best friend. You try to make up for the shameful neglect and abuse they are forced to endure so that the supply of puppies can meet public demand. But when they leave you – always too soon – you can’t help but feel cheated that what should have been the best years of their lives were stolen from them.

It’s hard to comprehend why ‘meeting public demand for puppies’ should ever be more important, more valuable and more passionately fought for, than the lives of the breeding dogs themselves. And yet for some it is.

A recent comment by Dogs Trust in The Independent stated: “The simple fact is that there are too few puppies to meet demand in the UK and as long as the supply of puppies from responsible breeders falls woefully short of meeting the demand, unscrupulous breeders will breed dogs for profit …”

There are a great many problems with this statement, but here are just three: 1) It isn’t a ‘simple fact’, 2) it appears that the supply of puppies to meet demand is the priority here and not the welfare of the breeding dogs producing them. And 3) if Dogs Trust ever want the supply of puppies to come from responsible breeders rather than being ‘woefully short of meeting the demand’, this will only happen if responsible breeders don’t have to compete with low welfare, high volume breeders continually churning out cheap puppies from dogs used as breeding machines.

The charity has also argued that a shortage of puppies could lead to pups becoming more expensive. But surely a good quality, healthy puppy should be something to strive for and if that means puppies become more expensive, that would be no bad thing. The fact that puppies can be bought so cheaply and in such high volumes, sold in a way that relegates them to being nothing more than goods and commodities, is exactly why so many people don’t value them as lifelong companions and sentient beings. In fact you could argue that to make ‘A dog for life’ a reality, this would be one of the most significant solutions to the problem.

Something else that has escaped the public’s attention is that because the gene pool of puppy farm breeding dogs is so poor, the puppies they give birth to are predisposed to being poor quality themselves and are unlikely to live to what is considered the average life expectancy of a dog – regardless of breed or cross breed. So again, the chance of the puppy buying public being able to even have a dog for life is diminished. And that’s just the physical health toll. The behavioural issues of puppies originating in puppy farms is a blog all in itself.

my girls

Failure to address the problem of poor welfare breeding and selling of puppies is like saying to the public, “you don’t deserve to have a healthy puppy or a long-lived healthy canine companion”. And as excellent as the charity’s Dog School concept is “to help thousands of dogs overcome training and behaviour problems”, it is like applying a band-aid to an arterial bleed.

The RSPCA, IFAW, the Mayhew and every other welfare charity – with the exception of Dogs Trust, The Blue Cross and Battersea Dogs and Cats Home – wholeheartedly agrees with the recent EFRA Committee’s strong recommendation for a ban. They understand that the puppy farming problem will continue to get worse while the third party selling channel, i.e. pet shops and dealers, continues to enable it. And as long as it does, whether bought at Christmas or any other time of year, a dog is unlikely to be for life.

It is regrettable that Dogs Trust have put the proposed ban on puppies being sold in pet shops in their ‘too hard’ file. Perhaps now would be a good time for their current CEO to revisit the wise words of his predecessor and remember that “sometimes you have to do what you believe to be right and not what is easy”.  After all, it was during Clarissa Baldwin’s reign that Dogs Trust itself campaigned for this very ban!

It’s sad to think back to 2003 when the NCDL changed its name because “Defence had negative connotations.” Never have the exploited dogs of this country needed Dogs Trust more than they do today – not only to defend them, but to fight for them and instead of vehemently opposing a ban on the selling of puppies away from their mothers in pet shops, to do the right thing for all dogs by admitting they got it wrong.

Linda Goodman

Founder – C.A.R.I.A.D. (Care And Respect Includes All Dogs)

Comments are closed.