Dog breeding

RSPCA study highlights depth of bad dog breeding practices in UK

The root cause of the puppy breeding problem is the huge demand for puppies of certain breeds, an RSPCA report has revealed.

The demand for puppies – especially for popular “design” breeds – significantly exceeds the number of puppies released to the market through legitimate and responsible sources, such as reputable breeders and rescue centers.

The annual UK puppy market is unknown, but estimates vary between 700,000 and 1.9 million. A recent study found that the trade in cats and dogs in the EU is worth € 1.3 billion per year.

What are the origins of puppies?

The Kennel Club (KC) registers around 235,000 puppies each year, but that would represent only 30% of the puppies sold each year. It is therefore unlikely that the number of puppies registered with KC will be sufficient to meet the demand for puppies per year, especially on some popular breeds. So where do the extra puppies come from?

The RSPCA’s puppy report regarding the problem in England, released in February, found that around 70,000 puppies were from the 895 licensed dog breeding establishments in Britain.

Figure 1.jpgRescue organizations, including the RSPCA, account for around 50,000 relocated dogs each year, but the majority of them are adults. It is believed that around 3,000 puppies are welcomed each year. And it’s believed that only 3-5% of puppies are sold in commercial pet stores.

The huge gap between the number of puppies demanded and the number released nationwide creates an opportunity for unscrupulous breeders, traders and traffickers to exploit members of the public, leaving behind a trail of sick puppies and dying.

The RSPCA Puppy Report: “Did you sell a puppy?” Exhibiting the breeding, trade and sale of puppies estimates that around 30,000 puppies are imported from the mainland each year, while up to 40,000 come from Ireland.

And the report also estimates a total of around 430,000 puppies from unlicensed breeders each year. It is believed that around 20% of puppies are obtained from neighbors or friends who breed accidentally or to supplement their income.

That works out to around 770,000 puppies released to the market each year, but surveys show the actual number could be double.

In response to an 88% increase in the number of appeals regarding the puppy trade over three years, the RSPCA launched its Scrap the Puppy Trade campaign in England in October.

It aims to educate the public on responsible puppy sourcing, as well as call on the Westminster government to introduce laws to tackle puppy traders. We are asking for a compulsory license for anyone selling puppies in England to try and tackle the puppy trade as a whole – from organized illegal trafficking to opportunistic breeding on the streets.


The demand for many puppies appears to be focused on certain breeds which, in turn, are often driven by childhood experiences, family and friends, and celebrities which may change over time due to fashions or trends. modes.

Over the past decade, the demand for “designer” crossbreed dogs and “purse” dogs has skyrocketed. Breeds such as French Bulldogs, Pomeranians, Shih-Tzus, Yorkie Terriers, and Pugs have increased significantly. This has led to a sharp increase in the number of registered KC puppies born to these breeds.

For example, 10,087 pugs were recorded in 2015, a five-fold increase over the past 10 years. And, also in 2015, 14,607 French Bulldogs were recorded – 40 times more than those recorded ten years ago.

RSPCA Deputy Director of Public Affairs David Bowles said: ‘It is not clear whether this demand for these specific breeds can be met by existing registered breeders in the UK, but what is clear is that ’is that puppy dealers have a head start over regulators. and have already responded to these changing demands and source these breeds from commercial puppy farms overseas or on a large scale.

The RSPCA is now seeing firsthand the welfare issues these puppy traders and traffickers are causing.

In 2013, RSPCA Inspector Caroline Doe discovered 19 British Bulldogs, French Bulldogs (pictured below) and Pugs imported via Dover. All 19 dogs had respiratory problems and suffered from various infections. They were transferred to the RSPCA and taken to the Leybourne Animal Center in Kent, where they were subsequently relocated.

In another case, three Manchester-based puppy traders were convicted last year of animal welfare offenses and fraud in connection with the importation of puppies from Ireland. When the business was raided 87 dogs were found, including breeds such as Pomeranians, French Bulldogs, Shih-Tzus and Yorkshire Terriers.


Meanwhile, statistics released by DEFRA last month revealed that 93,424 animals were imported to the UK in 2015 for commercial and non-commercial reasons. More than 85,000 of them came from the EU and 33,249 from Ireland, Lithuania, Hungary, Poland and Romania – all countries known to have large puppy breeding operations. This is 75% more than the previous year.

David added, “The puppy market and trade is largely unregulated, resulting in welfare issues for puppies and breeders, disgruntled and often distressed consumers, and a hidden economy.

“The growing demand for puppies does not appear to be met by the existing small-scale breeder and appears to have resulted in unregulated large-scale commercial breeding of puppies and puppy imports from Ireland and mainland Europe. This trade poses risks to the health and well-being of dogs.

The full report can be viewed here.

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