Breeding bad – the true cost of irresponsible pet breeding

It’s fine to skimp on some areas to make a profit from pet breeding – isn’t it? asks Blue Cross Editor Rachael Millar…

Vet checks, pet food, socialisation, vaccinations, microchipping, finding suitable homes. There’s a lot to think about when taking on the responsibility of breeding your pet.

Skipping genetic tests that prevent inherited disease, breeding from the same pets several times and keeping puppies and kittens in a shed to save your carpet from getting ruined are sure-fire ways to hundreds of pounds – but it’s the pets who pay the price.

In the last five years we’ve seen an increase of 44 per cent in the number of unwanted and abandoned puppies coming into our care and last year our rehoming teams looked after 1,564 kittens. Each year we take in an ever increasing number of stray and abandoned pets – and we’re not alone. All other animal charities are dealing with increased demand too, and this is putting a huge pressure on our services. 

Click and collect

It’s no wonder we’re full to bursting. Puppies and kittens are cute and they’re so easy to get hold of. Browse any online classified listing and you can get your pick of the litter at the click of a button.

Legislation covering the sale of pets is not fit for purpose. The Pet Animals Act (1951) was written more than 60 years ago and there are no laws governing the sale of pets online.

As part of a coalition of animal welfare charities called the Pet Advertising Advisory Group (PAAG), we created a set of minimum standards for the sale of pets online and it’s backed by many of the leading UK classified websites, and by Defra. During the six-month launch period, our moderators helped get 100,000 inappropriate, misleading or illegal ads removed.

It’s a start, but there’s so much more that could be done to make things better. We want to see laws that cover the sale of pets brought up to date so they’re relevant and effective in a modern age.

Illegal imports

Further saturating the already-flooded market is increasing numbers of poorly bred puppies being imported from Europe. Many enter the country crammed into cages in the back of vans without proper access to food or water. 

Not only is the health and welfare of these puppies severely compromised on the journey to the UK, but these conditions create the perfect environment for the spread of disease. Underage puppies cannot be properly vaccinated against diseases such as rabies, and the risk to the UK is a serious one.

Blue Cross wants to see enforcement improved, particularly at the ports. Every passported animal should be properly checked when entering the UK. We think a robust and efficient enforcement system is essential to stop the flow of illegally imported, sickly puppies.

Cash cats and dogs

Breeding laws that cover dogs are out of date too, and laws relating to other animals are non-existent. Anyone can breed from their pet dog or cat without any thought to the welfare of their own animal or their offspring.

Did you know dogs and cats can suffer from inherited diseases? They can cause anything from breathing difficulties to brain problems, and give pets an often short and poor quality of life.

What if we told you that there are some genetic diseases that could be prevented from being passed on from mum to pup or kitten, but that irresponsible breeders don’t bother?

Breeding a dog or cat properly isn’t cheap and it’s a huge responsibility. Pets can suffer complications in pregnancy and the costs can be expensive and heartbreaking. Our veterinary and rehoming teams regularly care for young pets whose mums haven’t been able to take care of them; sadly they don’t always make it. We care for mothers who have had difficulty giving birth too, and there are often very sad endings for these pets.

Anyone thinking of breeding from their pet needs to do a lot of research before making a decision. The problem is now so huge that Blue Cross advises owners to get their pet neutered as soon as they are old enough to avoid accidental litters.

Battery farmed pets

You may have heard of large-scale breeding operations, often called ‘puppy farms’ where little care is taken over the welfare of the puppies or their mothers and fathers. We believe the best place for pets is in a home environment, where they can learn to be part of the family – but not every home breeder is responsible. 

Some unscrupulous home breeders – often called ‘back yard breeders’ – allow their pets to have a litter just so they can bring in an extra income. If you’re searching for a new pet don’t forget to meet at least the mum and check that the parents and litter are healthy and that the breeder’s priority is the pet’s happiness.

We’d like to see consumers doing their research before committing to a pet, but we think this needs to be backed up by an effective law. We’ve called on the new government to carry out a full and proper review of pet breeding legislation to make sure that the health and welfare of animals is prioritised over profit.

So before you allow your cat or dog to have a litter, ask yourself - what’s the true cost of breeding pets for a bit of extra cash?

— Page last updated 19/10/2020