Rachel Atkinson, 57 from Cheltenham, bought a Cockapoo, Fynn, in August 2021. Fynn was poorly from the moment she collected him, suffering from parasites and viruses common in puppy farmed dogs, and nearly dying just three days after coming home. Whilst Fynn survived, due to extensive care and love from Rachel and multiple vet visits, others in his litter weren’t so lucky.
Rachel opened up about her experience: “I looked on the internet for a reputable breeder and found a well written advert with pictures, references that the puppies were home-reared, the puppies birth dates and highlighting that purchasers could see the mother.
“I rang the number and a lady answered, she was fairly abrupt, not chatty, but not unfriendly. She was a little vague on details and emphasised her son was the breeder. I rang back later to query details about the puppies parents, like vaccine certificates and veterinary health tests, she seemed slightly taken aback that I should ask.
“I visited the puppies with my friend. On arrival, the house was very clean, almost ‘too’ clean, and the garden was beautifully kept – I should have known, no one with that many dogs can maintain an immaculate garden. A very thin and tired female Cocker Spaniel was wandering around, we were told it was the puppies mother. I noticed the mother had flat nipples and did not seem particularly protective of her puppies, I wondered whether she was worn out from over breeding, or perhaps not even the real mother…
“The lady was reluctant to give me her name, instead she continued to reiterate that her son was the breeder. She asked me a few questions about my home environment and whether I had dogs before, when I said ‘yes, for many years’, she seemed slightly uncomfortable.
“All the puppies were in a travelling crate rather than a whelping pen as if they had just been brought to the home for viewing. I then noticed all the puppies had all been freshly bathed, I asked myself why would anyone need to bathe a five-week-old puppy? Alarm bells should have been clanging in my ears, but I had fallen in love with a little chocolate male, Fynn. I would have walked away and reported them, but I couldn’t, I was sucked in by puppy eyes…I paid the deposit of £150 to her son’s bank account, and agreed I would collect the puppy when he was 8 weeks old.
“On collection day, my daughter and I returned to the house, but only my Fynn seem to be there, no sound of other dogs barking or moving around, and no mum dog. I asked about the food the puppy had been fed so I could keep it the same, but she didn’t know and said her son fed them. I wasn’t altogether happy, but paid the remaining £1,000.
“As my daughter and I put the Fynn into our dog crate, we were told ‘don’t worry if he is a bit loose because he has just had his vaccines’. Vaccinations had never made any of my other dogs ‘loose’, but I took her word for it. As we drove away, within moments, there was a horrendous stench and puppy diarrhoea everywhere. We stopped and I cleaned him up and at home I bathed him. Before the end of the day, my little Fynn was extremely poorly, so I took him to my vet.
“Fynn’s faeces was tested, he had a parasite, Giardia, Chlamydia, and rectal Streptococcus, likely from the mother. The vet wanted the breeder’s details to inform them of the diagnosis so they could let the other owners know, and he asked to have their ‘facilities’ inspected. It was obvious to me and my vet that these poor puppies had been bred in a warehouse and sold from a neutral location, hiding the reality.
“With my ‘children’ being adults, and being in the second national lockdown, I was looking after Fynn alone, and it was heart-breaking to stand outside the vets and see the vet peel back the blanket Fynn was wrapped in and hear them say Fynn could die, just three days after bringing him home. The cost was financial, but also costly in time emotion and worry.
“While Fynn is now 11 months and well, and has no lasting effects from his horrendous start in life, it took many months of vet visits, medication and building him up with good food to replace what he hadn’t received as a puppy. My vet did have more puppies come to him which were obviously from the same litter/breeder because they had exactly the same problems, but sadly they didn’t make it.
“I felt dreadful when Fynn became ill, I felt stupid, I should have known better. I have owned dogs for over 20 years, and I ask myself how I become ‘sucked in’ even though I had a gut feeling right from the beginning that something didn’t quite ‘add up’.”
“For anyone thinking about getting a dog, please avoid this heartache and incredible suffering, and make sure you find a responsible breeder, who absolutely prioritises your dog’s welfare above anything else.”