Avoiding puppy farmers - THE IRISH WOLFHOUND CLUB

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Newspapers, internet adverts, pet shops and pet superstores - just don't go there!

Many dogs are bred for a quick profit by what is often referred to as a 'puppy farm'. They are raised without care or love and sold to unsuitable households. Many of these puppies are advertised through newspaper adverts or sold on the internet or at pet/puppy superstores, and you are strongly advised not to buy your puppy from any of the above.

There are lots of resources on the internet that give advice on how to avoid puppy farmers and we encourage everyone looking to buy a dog to read up on the subject. Ironically, many of the 'puppies for sale' web sites also give advice on how to avoid puppy farmers and yet it is on those sites that puppy farmers are most active.

The best way to avoid a puppy farmer is to check out the breeder:
  • Don't assume that just because a breeder seems caring and responsible that they are!
  • Take nothing for granted and be prepared to check and double check anything the breeder tells you!
  • Find out the registered names of the parents of the puppy - make sure you see their registration papers.
  • Look into the pedigree of those dogs and check any claims about winning show dogs in the line.
  • Check how many litters the mother has had already and how frequently she has been bred from.
Socialising puppies is very important.
Photo: Petr Nasadil
  • Check how many litters and puppies the breeder has registered with the Kennel Club in total and over what period of time.
  • If the breeder is breeding a large number of litters each year (more than four) check whether or not they have the appropriate licenses to breed dogs. 
  • Does the breeder have a number of different breeds producing puppies? Breeders who make a living from selling dogs may not have time to socialise each puppy to the required standard. 
  • Ensure you see the conditions in which the litter is living. Do not accept a puppy from a breeder who restricts your access to the place the puppy actually lives. Some have "display areas" which are very different from the reality of that puppy's life. 
  • How are you asked to pay for the puppy? If the breeder insists on a deposit or all or part cash, this should set alarm bells ringing. How will you be recompensed if the puppy's receipt shows an incorrect amount and you take your puppy home and discover it is unhealthy? 
  • When you visit, do the conditions make you feel uneasy? Don't purchase a puppy you feel sorry for, as it just makes space for the puppy farmer to breed again. Report any suspected animal welfare problems you observe to the local authority and or RSPCA.

This is all easier to do than you may think! 
 Read on to find out more . . . 
and don't forget that you can contact us for advice.
Responsible breeders carry out a range of health tests.
Photo: Edita Beresova
Puppy farming of Irish Wolfhounds
The puppy farming problem facing our breed is one that is very difficult to tackle, and we ask all our members and the general public to help us protect the welfare of the individual dogs being bred from, the puppies they produce and the longer-term health of the breed in general.

Responsible breeders very rarely advertise puppies for sale on the internet. The exception is irishwolfhoundpuppies.co.uk, which was set up by a group of breed club members. They are IW owners who only accept advertisements from breeders whose hounds are fully health tested and are well reared and members of a UK breed club. Good breeders generally have a waiting list of homes for their puppies as they do not tend to breed very often. Please be prepared to wait for an Irish Wolfhound puppy from a responsible breeder, even if you are not looking for a dog to show. The old saying 'good things come to those who wait' is very appropriate in this situation.
Irish Wolfhounds are becoming a relatively rare breed in the UK, the number of official registrations for Irish Wolfhounds in 2015 was 293. What is alarming is that a significant proportion of Irish Wolfhound registrations are a result of puppy farmers. The Irish Wolfhound Rescue Trust and the Club are aware of more and more cases of puppies being sold carelessly.

Responsible Irish Wolfhound breeders complete a range of health tests and are willing to share the results of these tests with you. Ensure you see results for heart status in the parents, which should be within twelve months of the litter, and you must be sure each puppy has an individual PSS (liver shunt) test. See the Irish Wolfhound Health Group website for further details.

Puppy farming in a home near you
Puppy farmers don't always have an industrial sized shed filled with caged dogs in squalid conditions. They may keep their dogs as 'pets' in their homes, may ensure that mother and father are available for you to meet, may grill you about your personal circumstances to demonstrate that they are concerned about the homes their puppies are going to, and generally do a very good job of convincing you that they are a caring, responsible breeder. But they may also be breeding their bitches season after season, with no regard for the health and well-being of those bitches. So never assume that because a breeder appears to be responsible that they are. Make sure you do the following checks:

Checking the pedigree of their dogs
Puppy farmers often claim a great pedigree for their dogs. Perhaps with lots of champions in the line, or related dogs winning lots of shows, or qualifying for Crufts. Every dog has ancestors and a pedigree is just a list of these. All Irish Wolfhounds have documented ancestry going back for hundreds of generations.

Whatever the claims of the breeder it is possible to check the pedigree of the dog. When you are speaking to the breeder ask for detailed information and make notes. Always ask for the registered names of the parents, and ask to see the registration papers to verify their names.

If the breeder is claiming a history of top show dogs in their lines then ask them for those dogs' registered names too, and ask which shows they have done well at and in what year. If they can't answer these questions, are vague, or are reluctant to tell you, alarm bells should be ringing in your head. If they do answer your questions, make a note of the answers given, in particular registered names of the parents of the puppy and you will be in a position to check their pedigree and any claims about related dogs doing well in the show ring.

Using our access to the Kennel Club Breeds Record Supplement (the official list of all KC registrations in the UK) and our Club's archive of show results, we can help you verify the claims made by a breeder - simply contact us.

If a breeder has misrepresented themselves to you or lied in any way you should not buy a dog from that breeder.

Kennel Club Registration Papers and 'Endorsements'
All responsible breeders register their dogs with the Kennel Club. But Kennel Club registration does not guarantee that the breeder is responsible. For £12 anyone can register a puppy with the Kennel Club as long as the parents of the puppy were registered at birth and they meet the registration guidelines. Sadly, the KC registration scheme is abused by some irresponsible breeders and puppy farmers.

The endorsement "progeny not for registration" means the parents are pets/companions only and not for breeding. This is the clause that most responsible breeders put on the KC registration papers, especially when selling a puppy to someone previously unknown to them as even though a home may be carefully vetted we can all be taken in. Endorsements are used to help prevent irresponsible breeding and puppy farming - more information about endorsements can be found in the Kennel Club Endorsements leaflet.

We strongly recommend that you do some more detailed research into a breeder if they are:
  • Offering to sell a puppy without KC registration papers at one price and with papers at a higher price - we have had reports of puppy farmers charging several hundred pounds to register a puppy with the Kennel Club when the actual cost is £12;
  • Offering to sell a puppy with endorsements on the papers at one price and without endorsements at a higher price.

Abuse of breeding bitches
The Irish Wolfhound Club Code of Conduct states:
  • Bitches should not be bred from until two years of age or after their 7th birthday
  • Bitches should not be allowed to whelp (have a litter) more than once in every twelve months
  • Bitches should have a maximum of three litters in their lifetime.

Do not buy a puppy from a breeder if any of the following are true:
No Irish Wolfhound bitch should have puppies after
the age of seven - she's an old lady.
  • The bitch has had a litter before she was two years old, or after her 7th birthday.
  • The bitch has had more than one litter within twelve months
  • The bitch has had more than three litters in her lifetime.

Always ask to see the registration papers for the mother of the puppies and make a note of her registered name and her date of birth. Also ask how many litters she has had, and when. Make a note of the answers.

Contact us if you want help you check on the breeding history of that bitch (number of litters, puppies and dates of birth), and any other dogs the breeder may be breeding through the Kennel Club Breeds Record Supplement.

It's not a perfect system because puppy farmers don't always register every litter but it is a good place to start.

The guidance in our Code of Conduct is there to protect the welfare of our dogs and to stop breeding bitches from being abused and used as puppy factories. If a breeder is breeding outside of these guidelines then they are not breeding responsibly and it is likely that they are abusing their dogs by using them as puppy factories.

Dog breeding licences
The Breeding and Sales of Dogs (Welfare) Act 1991 makes it illegal for a bitch to have more than six litters in her lifetime. (Note this number of litters is certainly not suitable for Irish Wolfhounds whose average age is only seven years. Although many live longer, they do not have the lifespan of small dogs.)

From 2012 the Kennel Club will no longer register litters from any bitch that has already had four litters.

Following the changes to the law in 1991 every local authority in the country has an animal licensing policy that requires breeders of dogs to be registered with them if they breed more than a specified number of litters each year, regardless of the number of dogs that they are breeding from. This is to make sure that the breeder meets minimum requirements with regards to animal welfare. This limit varies from local authority to local authority, but it is usually set at 4-5 litters per year.

If you are speaking to a breeder who indicates to you that they breed a large number of litters every year (more than four), or if you find evidence elsewhere that they may be breeding a large number of litters (e.g. they are regularly advertising puppies online or in newspaper classifieds), make sure that you ask them whether or not they are licensed with their local authority and check with the local authority that there are no pending investigations or complaints against them. Responsible breeders rarely breed more than two litters each year out of different bitches. If they're not licensed, and especially if they have no knowledge of the legal requirements around breeding dogs, then proceed with extreme caution and do more research on the breeder. Responsible breeders will not be offended or put out by these questions.

We can help you research the breeding practices of any breeder that you are speaking to, and the information we will provide you with will be based on fact, not hearsay or gossip. Our only interest is in protecting the welfare of individual dogs being used to breed, their puppies and the long-term welfare of the breed.

Reproduced by kind permission of the Italian Greyhound Club
with amendments to their original article.

The oldest Irish Wolfhound club in the world.
Established in 1885 by Capt George Augustus Graham.
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