Puppy mill owners maintain deplorable living conditions for the breeding dogs and their puppies. Breeding dogs are caged throughout their lives, seldom walked or bathed, and bred constantly to produce litter after litter. The puppies are not tested for genetic diseases or provided with any veterinary care. They live in tiny wire cages until weaned, then are brokered to pet shops, garden centres or sold directly to the public through online ads.
Though operations that sell to pet shops are required to be licensed, they are only required to provide the most basic of standards – food, water, and shelter (loosely defined by the breeder). Mills that sell directly to the consumer online or in person are not held to any standard of animal care.
The Public and Legislative Struggles
Animal welfare groups have worked tirelessly to shine the light of awareness upon puppy mills. In the UK Pup Aid, a campaign led by TV veterinarian Marc Abraham, presented 10 Downing Street with an 110,000 signature petition that led to a debate in the House of Commons. Despite strong support from MP's to support legislative change nothing has been done at Government level to help permanently address the issue of puppy mills.
- Bills proposed to curb puppy mills flounder through lobbying by pet industry
- Even If passed no central organisation to monitor compliance
- Deceptive marketing and sales practices trick consumers
In the US and Australia a similar tale has unfolded: The Humane Society of the United States(HSUS) three-month investigation of an online, large-scale puppy outlet discovered that puppies were purchased from mills throughout the country and sold to consumers through more than 800 different sites to give the illusion they were from “mom and pop” local breeders. Jonathan Lovvorn of the HSUS stated in the report, “Internet puppy sellers…deceive consumers about the origins of the puppies they sell, and as a result unsuspecting families suffer great expense caring for sick dogs, or the terrible anguish of losing a beloved family pet.”
The Permanent Solution – DNA
- DNA is the only unalterable method of animal identification
- Registration of each breeding dog and puppy is cost-effective, and can be tracked via the centralised DNA World Pet Registry http://www.dnawpr.com/
- Breeders maintain detailed records for each dog on the Registry that is visible to local government, consumers and retailers.
- Compliance is monitored at the purchaser level as breeders must register dogs in order to sell to retail or online outlets.
“DNA VERIFIED DOGS GIVES THE CONSUMER POWER TO MAKE INFORMED DECISIONS ABOUT THE PUPPY THEY INTEND TO MAKE PART OF THEIR FAMILY”
Benefits of DNA Registration
- Consumers, animal welfare advocates and the pet-owning public can be assured that puppy mills will cease to exist
- Additional monetary value will be created for puppies that are bred in reliable, good standing facilities
- Would be pet owners are able to make informed purchasing decisions based upon registration records - including animal health information and images of the breeding facility
- Owners enjoy full benefits of DNA registered pets including lost and found, lifetime proof of ownership, storage space for veterinary records, discounts for pet supplies online
DNA – The 21st Century Solution
Public awareness has led to the current outcry against puppy mill practices. Despite the campaigning of recent years the scourge of puppy mills continues to grow. There is real concern that a scattered approach to regulate at local level may result in no long term solution. However, requiring the DNA registration of all canines might just be the solution.
We must recognise the challenges presented by a growing society and the increasing popularity of dog companionship (UK canine population increased by 12% from 2012-2014 PFMA) by providing responsible, effective and healthy choices that has become possible through advancements in animal genetics and veterinary medicine. As we push towards regulation we must consider that we can only regulate what we can identify, and mass dog breeding has historically been deceptive at best.
BioPet Vet Lab is a biotechnology company specializing in DNA extraction and analysis, with a proven system in place to register animal DNA including adult breeding dogs and puppies. BioPet also provides canine and cattle parentage analysis as well as DNA matching of canine faecal samples. A DNA verified canine program compliments legislative changes and helps to discourage the mistreatment of dogs. BioPet has the ability to check that samples submitted by breeders are unique and not duplicates of existing dogs. BioPet’s compliance program will periodically compare registered dogs to ensure that breeders are honest when enrolling dogs. At a minimal cost incurred by the breeder, BioPet can offer both industry and the consumer a computerised registry of dogs and the tools to track a dog to its origins.
- Compliment legislative changes by requiring all dogs bought and sold to be DNA registered
- Breeders required to provide all dogs DNA registration details to the online store, pet shop and consumer prior to sale
- Consumer logs details on DNA World Pet Registry to verify record of dog they intend to purchase
- Pet owners avoid expense and anguish of unhealthy or maladjusted dogs, and puppy mills voluntarily comply or close down
Compliance and Estimated Costs
- Currently monitoring every breeder would be technically impossible and cost-prohibitive
- With compulsory DNA registration, breeders pay £100 annual membership, each DNA test could be provided at £15-£20
- Membership fees help support on-site inspection of breeder facilities and DNA record spot checks to ensure compliance. Puppy mills must voluntarily change deceptive practices of face being closed down
- Accurate records being maintained on the Registry include: registration number and name of the dog, name and contact details of the breeder, name and contact information of the veterinarian, medical and vaccine history, spay/neuter information
There exists a need for a long, term permanent solution around a controllable system of dog ownership in the UK with accountability at its core. There clearly exists a fundamental challenge with lobbying on behalf of the pet industry to maintain loose regulation. In addition, the animal welfare charities continue to work mainly to achieve their own individual agendas lessening the likelihood of real change being achieved. Advances in animal genetics and veterinary science should be at the heartbeat of any new approach, and hope springs eternal that with a new Government in place someone will take this whole sorry affair by the scruff of the neck and implement the necessary change that is required – not for the benefit of any industry but for the benefit of the dogs themselves – after all the UK is a nation of dog lovers and long may that continue.