Harm and the Farm: Illicit dealings in Puppy Farming

When the term ‘puppy farm’ was first put to me, my mind’s eye conjured up images of dogs bounding happily and freely through fields. I thought of a friendly farmer and his family spending time with their dogs, long walks in the countryside and fresh air. Unfortunately, the reality is often a lot less pleasant.

Research by the Scottish SPCA and the University of Edinburgh has indicated that puppy farming impacts dog behaviour, increases stress and the likelihood of behavioural problems. The risk of genetic disorders and exposure to infectious diseases also increases.

Puppy farming not only negatively impacts the health and wellbeing of the animal itself but also on the individual purchasing a new pet, with a financial and emotional toll.

We spoke to the friend of a dog owner directly affected by puppy farming and the dealer who originally sold her the puppy.

Colleen was with her friend when she went to purchase her puppy from a woman who had advertised on a popular ‘classifieds’ website. The buyer did not want to be interviewed yet she was happy for her story to be shared to stop this from happening to anyone else.

“She went to visit the puppies at the seller’s house. It wasn’t until she got there that she realised something was off…the puppies in the same litter looked nothing alike and there was no presence of the mother with the puppies.”

This was questioned at the time, but her concerns were answered confidently by the seller, who advised that the mother was at the vet for an operation and had been kept in for observation. She also explained that other litters from the same dog had indeed appeared slightly different to one another. It was at this point she had decided to purchase the puppy.

“My friend paid the deposit there and then, despite her initial concerns – she had fallen in love with one of the puppies and wanted to make sure she got her favourite.”

A few weeks after getting the puppy home, Colleen’s friend realised something was off and that her puppy was sick. After taking her to the vet on several occasions and incurring a number of large treatment bills as a result, she decided to get in contact with the original seller again to confront her. However, after several ignored phone calls, text messages and the discovery that the seller had removed herself from social media, she realised that something was seriously wrong.

“It was a shame – the dog was persistently unwell…My friend decided to keep the dog…She didn’t for one moment consider returning the dog as an option”.

41% purchasing a puppy did not see the dog with its mother (The Kennel Club PAW Survey, 2014)

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident and many have found themselves in similar circumstances

The Kennel Club is the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of dogs, offering a voluntary register for dogs and advice for the full experience of purchasing, training and breeding dogs. Their 2014 PAW survey indicated that 41% of people purchasing a puppy over the previous twelve-month period did not see the puppy with its mother and 53% did not see them in their breeding environment. They indicate that it is highly likely that these puppies were bred by puppy farmers and sold by third parties.

The same survey also indicated that 20% of puppies bought from pet shops or directly from the internet suffer from the often-fatal disease parvovirus. This can cost up to £4,000 to treat.

The Kennel Club make recommendations to the government based on their work in an attempt to lessen the demand for puppies sold by puppy farmers through collaboration with other dog welfare organisations in addition to improving breeding standards through registration of animals and making more effective use of assured breeder schemes.

Many find the alternative of adopting a rescue dog even more emotionally fulfilling than the purchase of a new puppy. Adoption not only means gaining a new canine friend for yourself but also giving a home to an animal that really needs it.

At, we take our dogs welfare as seriously as consumer rights and believe that the way forward in tackling the issues of puppy farming and the detrimental impact it has upon consumers is through making informed decisions as consumers. Here are some top tips when considering taking on the responsibility of a canine companion –

  • Ask to see the puppy with its mother – A puppy should not be separated from the mother until it is at least 8 weeks old. Early separation may cause distress for the puppy and problems later in life. The puppies will interact with their real mother. Watch for this interaction with the puppies.
  • Ensure all relevant documentation is provided – Ensure the puppy has all relevant documentation – vaccinations, microchipping (now mandatory under law), worming and the results of any relevant health checks.
  • Ask for their local authority license or proof of membership of The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme – A puppy farmer/dealer will probably not have any of this documentation/proof of membership.
  • Be wary of the method of delivery – A puppy farmer/dealer may offer to deliver the animal to you or arrange a meeting in a car park or at a service station. Request to meet the seller at their home/place of business.
  • Be wary of rushed sales – Many puppy farmers/dealers will request money quickly in exchange for the puppy and almost always in cash.

Trading Standards Scotland are working with the Scottish SPCA to tackle illicit puppy farming and puppy dealing. You can sign the pledge against illegal puppy farms at

If you would like to report a puppy farm, or have information for Trading Standards on the illegal sale of pets, you can contact on 0808 164 6000. We are open 9am-5pm, Monday-Friday. You can follow us on social media – Twitter: @advicedotscot and Facebook at, Instagram:, or get ahead by visiting our knowledge centre at