By Kirsteen Campbell, Chief Executive, Scottish SPCA

Puppy farming is thriving and is having a devastating effect on animal welfare in Scotland.  The launch of the Scottish Government's Buy a Puppy Safely campaign is a welcome step forward in the fight against this illegal trade of misery and we are absolutely delighted to add our support. 

We know there is a very high demand for puppies in Scotland with many people sadly falling victim to unscrupulous puppy dealers, inadvertently funding the illegal trade and being financially impacted or emotionally heartbroken by the experience. Many people will be unaware that this is a multimillion pound industry, often linked with serious and organised criminals. Fuelled entirely by greed and profit, these criminals have little to no consideration for the welfare of the dogs sold.

Before being sold on to unsuspecting members of the public, the dogs and puppies on these farms are exposed to unsanitary living conditions. Something I have sadly witnessed first-hand. As a result of the breeding regimen and the conditions the pups are kept in, a large number suffer from diseases and infections such as giardia and parvo virus. Farmed puppies are also more likely to exhibit significantly higher rates of undesirable behaviours particularly relating to fear, anxiety and aggression. 

According to the Scottish Government’s new campaign, on average, owners who buy from an Assured Breeder spend nearly 20% less in vet bills during their dog’s lifetime compared to those with dogs from puppy farms and 1 in 4 of those pups bought online die before their fifth birthday, whilst 1 in 3 get sick or die in the first year.

This must stop and we are determined to do just that.

Over the past year we have been working with our partners to raise awareness of this barbaric trade in Scotland and reduce demand for these illegally bred puppies through our #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign. We’ve been delighted to welcome great support from the Scottish Government and across the Scottish Parliament – we are all unified in our ambition to end this trade.

We’ve also been working with our partners to reduce the supply of these pups and disrupt the trade at source. Our Special Investigations Unit spearhead a mutli-agency taskforce who work tirelessly to bring puppy traders to justice through Operation Delphin which includes support from Dumfries and Galloway Council, ISPCA, USPCA, DSPCA, RSPCA, HMRC Trading Standards, Stenaline, Police Scotland Port unit and APHA.

In 2017 our frontline team responded to 89,522 incidents as a result of calls from concerned members of the public to our animal helpline, an increase of around 4,000 from the previous year. Last year nearly half of all seized animals, following cases submitted to the Crown Office, were rescued from puppy farms. We also prevented an additional 75 puppies involved in the illegal puppy trade entering Scotland via Cairnryan Port from Ireland. Working closely with our sister organisations in Ireland we were able to work together to ensure these pups received the highest possible care and were happily rehomed in Ireland.

The new Scottish Government Buy a Puppy Safely campaign highlights both the pitfalls of buying illegally-bred puppies and the warning signs which the public should look out for, and we are proud to support it.

While we would always hope that people would consider rescuing an animal in need, this campaign will reduce the numbers of animals who need our support by making it easier for members of the public to buy a puppy responsibly and avoid falling victim to this cruel trade. It will also encourage people to report any concerns regarding potential puppy farms to our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999, something which we rely on every single day to allow our frontline team to investigate.

Together we can, and we will, stop this brutal trade. 

-         Kirsteen Campbell, CEO, Scottish SPCA