The sudden demand for puppy companions during the Covid lockdown has increased the wealth of dishonest puppy traders. Yet for many pet owners, it’s not until their dog gets sick, they realise they’ve fallen victim to unethical breeding practices. Now, a couple of years on, puppies bought from puppy farms are being handed in to animal shelters by their frustrated owners as behavioural issues arise. Pet sales websites are filling up with listings for puppies to be resold.

As scandalous as it is, in puppy farms, puppies and their mothers are often kept in overcrowded filthy conditions, forced to sleep, eat, go to the toilet, and give birth all in one confining space. The animal welfare groups are rightly concerned for the welfare of these deprived animals who have evolved to crave companionship and love and not to be imprisoned in squalid closed cages.

1. Are puppy farms legal in Australia?

In Australia, all puppy farms must be registered, and all conditions must be met to safeguard the animal’s welfare. Breeder standards and compulsory codes of practice must be in place. Breeders must be government licenced, identified, traceable and independently inspected on a regular basis

The intensive breeding in puppy farming itself has not yet been considered illegal but the welfare conditions on a puppy farm may be illegal under the animal cruelty standards set out in different Australian state and territory codes of practice.  It is seen that these farms are legal providing the animals welfare is taken care of and they are given sufficient food, water, and shelter.

New South Wales, Victoria and Western Australia are restricting the numbers of animals a commercial breeder can own.  Recently several states in Australia are of introducing new legislation to protect animals from intensive breeding with tighter regulations when registering animals and with only licenced farms which have been approved can trade.

2. Why should puppy farms be illegal?

Profit motivated breeding takes away a dog’s freedoms and denies the dog to be loved as a pet and companion. Dogs kept in intensive breeding facilities may be confined in small cages, unhygienic conditions, and ongoing confinement. They may never be allowed out for a walk, play, socialise or have the freedom to enjoy normal behaviours.  They have no choice but to eat, sleep, go to the toilet and give birth in the same confined space.  

Dogs in these intensive breeding programs are continually pregnant, some even from the age of 6 months. Overbreeding with the addition of early infant-mother separation, lack of veterinary care means that the health and happiness of the mothers and their puppies is not cared for. This is then illegal under animal cruelty standards and may lead to health and psychological problems in breeding animals and their offspring.

3. What are the negative effects of puppy farms on the dogs themselves?

When regulations are insufficient or ineffectively enforced, farmed puppies, their mothers, and fathers, are often poorly socialised and given no exercise, regular grooming, or bathing. In these factories fathers are often kept alone and suffer neglect and the mothers often suffer physical injuries because of constant pregnancies and birthing. The mothers often too weak to care for her puppies as she has been bred repeatedly with no recovery time allowed in between litters.

Dogs crave companionship so the conditions must meet the physical, behavioural, and social needs of the breeding animals and their offspring. They must be given sufficient food, water, and shelter.

Studies show that dogs kept in puppy farms develop major and persistent fears and phobias, changed mental functioning, compulsive behaviours such as pacing and circling, and often show difficulty in coping with a normal existence when released to a new home. This means their behaviour is extensive and long-lasting.

Puppies from puppy farms are likely to have a genetic disorder and are at risk of deadly infectious diseases such as canine parvovirus or canine distemper virus. Dogs from puppy farms are more likely to have more behavioural issues compared to dogs from other breeding environments and are likely to exhibit anxiety, fear, and aggression.

At the best puppy farms use dogs as breeding machines and deprive them of the love and companionship they crave. At the worst, they can be a living hell for the animals imprisoned within them.

4. What are the problems of taking a puppy away from their mother too early?

It is vitally important that puppies only leave their mothers after they are entirely weaned and no longer being nursed. Puppies must be completely on solid foods without nursing for at least 5 days before being ready to be sold. At 8 weeks they will be on solid foods and have had enough time to be socialised with their siblings.

Puppies go through different development stages as they grow. Primary socialisation takes place when a puppy is between 3-5 weeks old. This stage is very important as it teaches a puppy different social behaviour. They learn how to restrain their bite and relate to their mother and siblings. They learn to accept their mother’s discipline submissive postures and other perspectives of being a dog. Separation from a litter at this stage could result in social problems. They may show aggression over other dogs when wanting attention from their owners or greeting their owners. Some puppies show food aggression, destructiveness, reactivity to noises and more.

If taken away before the nursing period is finished, they are at risk of being infected with deadly puppy diseases like parvovirus. In some cases, in illegal puppy farms, the puppies are sold without proper vaccinations, worming treatments or microchipping. Puppies receiving no medical care in the beginning of their lives sometimes carry genetic diseases.

5. What’s the difference between a puppy farm and a breeder?

Puppy farms are usually large-scale commercial operations where multiple dogs are continually bred, and the puppies sold. These intensive dog breeding facilities are operated under poor conditions that fail to care for the dog’s health and happiness.

Puppy farms are very lucrative businesses, especially with the increase in demand for dogs during the Covid lockdowns of the last couple of years. Some puppy farms will also have dogs brought in from other countries overseas.  Those that operate the businesses are all out for the profit and as a result, the welfare of the dogs is ignored. The growth of the business is prioritised over compassion and the dogs are deprived of the love and care they need.

When puppy farms have dogs brought in from other countries overseas, they produce all types and breeds of dogs, so you cannot be sure you are buying a purebred especially when puppies are sold to an intermediate or pet shop.

Puppy farms are very different to a reputable dealer. In general, a reputable dealer will specialise in only one breed of dog. They will have knowledge and evidence of the puppy’s ancestry going back a few generations and introduce you to the parents on site. They will have health information available and up to date vaccinations and will belong to an association or breeding club.  A reputable breeder will limit the number of litters for the health and wellbeing of the parents.

6. How can you tell your dog is from a puppy farm?

It is easy to be deceived by dishonest sellers if you have not asked the right questions when buying a puppy. If there is something that seems suspicious or too good to be true, there is a good chance it is, so look for red flags!

  • Make sure that you see the puppies’ mother as well as ask for vaccination and microchip papers.
  • Visit the entire facility to look where the puppies have been kept, and ask questions.
  • Avoid pet stores and great deals online. Many puppy factories supply pet shops with false information.
  • Make sure the puppy is at least 8 weeks old before leaving the mother.
  • Ask for genuine paperwork, to prove vaccinations, microchipping, worming, and any other health checks.
  • Check the puppy’s eyes, nose, ears for discharge, sores and look carefully for any skin problems or fleas.
  • A legitimate owner will check out your credentials and ask why you want to own a dog, why do you want this breed and how will the dog fit into your family.
  • Do not let the owner rush you and if you have any doubts walk away, remember puppy farms are all about profit so it does not matter to them where the puppies end up.

7. Puppy Mills & How To Stop Inhumane Breeding of Dogs | Best Friends Animal Society

In today’s digital world people will most likely use the internet to find a new puppy. Christmas time and most certainly during the Covid lockdowns puppy sales increased.  Puppy scammers take advantage at these times, so it is always best to be aware of red flags.

The lack of scrutiny on online sellers has made online trading sites like Gumtree and the Trading Post major centres for puppy sales.

Take the emotion out of the decision and make it a logical well thought decision also helps.

  • Know the typical price for the breed you want and avoid great deals which are too good to be true.
  • If they are saying a puppy has been vaccinated and it is not old enough yet, it could well be a puppy farm ad.
  • To avoid a prospective buyer finding out the real conditions the puppies are born into the seller may offer to meet at a halfway destination or ‘ship’ a puppy interstate.
  • Avoid being deceived by ads making use of buzz words like healthy, happy, or well-socialised and copycat stock photos which are found on multiple websites
  • Look for inconsistencies in the photos of puppies being sold with different backgrounds or photo styles.
  • Think twice if the seller wants to handle communication by email and not on the phone.
  • If you feel like they are pushing you, to make a quick decision and seem anxious to complete the sale or get a deposit as this could be a warning sign.

8. How big is the puppy factory problem?

About 40% of Australian households have at least one dog, making them the most popular type of pets. Out of these millions of puppies have been born in puppy farms and roughly half of them are sold online each year. Around 90% of puppies sold in Australian pet stores are from puppy farms.

Puppy farms can hold anything from 20 to 1,000 mother dogs. Female dogs can be bred twice a year then sadly abandoned or killed when they can no longer get pregnant and are not useful. It can be legal to keep a mother dog confined for 23 hours a day, producing litter after litter, and being denied a decent dog’s life.

9. What happens to a puppy if it is not sold by the puppy farm?

If the puppies from a puppy factory are not sold, the pet stores snap them up a cheap price and for a fraction of the cost that they will charge their customers. If no one buys the puppy, the store will lower the price and continue the price reduction until the puppy gets larger and older. If the puppy still doesn’t sell, they are given to friends, employees, or rescue groups.

At many, even large shelters, a dog can be euthanised simply because the shelter is full, and more room is needed for dogs coming in. In Australia over 2000, 000 dogs (and cats) are euthanised every year because there are not enough good homes for them.

10. Can you report an illegal puppy farm?

RSPCA requires a compulsory registration and licensing system for all outlets selling companion animals. These conditions under which animals are bred kept and offered for sale must be detailed in a code of practice with compliance with the code of practice made a condition of licencing

If you suspect this, you can report them to the RSPCA by calling 1300 CRUELTY.  Any puppy farm caught doing the wrong thing will have their animals seized and receive large fines and even jail time of up to 2 years for each offence.

Closing Thought

It is vital that the consumers take on the responsibility to do more research. It is the consumers who are creating this demand for puppies from whatever source they can, so it is also the consumer who can end it by boycotting buying their puppy from a puppy farm.