Avoiding puppy farmers and irresponsible breeders

Puppies in hands

When choosing a breeder, it's important to be able to recognise the warning signs that they may be a puppy farmer. Puppy farmers produce lots of puppies in poor conditions and with little consideration for their health and welfare.

Know how to spot an irresponsible breeder

All puppies are cute, and unless the puppy itself is unclean or has a visible health condition, there is no way of telling from just the look of the dog what conditions they have been bred in, or what they will be like when they grow up. Before you hand over any money, ensure that you're absolutely convinced that you're dealing with a responsible breeder.

Make sure that you ask all the questions you need in order to feel satisfied that the breeder is trustworthy.

What is a puppy farmer?

Puppy farmers churn out large numbers of dogs with little regard for the health and welfare of the puppies they produce, or the dogs they use for breeding. A puppy farmer's main goal is profit and they will often cut corners to try and maximise the number of puppies they sell at minimal cost and effort on their part.

What happens on puppy farms?
  • Dogs are kept in awful, dirty conditions without the space required for comfortable movement, with little light, ventilation or socialisation
  • The females will be repeatedly bred from, with no time to recover between litters
  • Puppies will be taken away from their mothers distressingly early and will be moved far away, with some puppies not surviving the move. Those that survive will be sold on the internet, in pet shops or through puppy dealers to thousands of unwitting owners in the UK
What are the consequences of puppy farms?
  • Puppy farms do not health test, immunise or worm their dogs. As a result, the puppies bred by puppy farmers are more likely to suffer from common, preventable, infectious diseases and/or painful or chronic inherited conditions. They may also have shorter lifespans
  • Many puppies are severely traumatised by the experience and may have behavioural problems for life

Learn about our campaign about banning third-party sales.

To try and avoid buying from a puppy farmer, or other irresponsible breeders, we suggest you do not buy puppies from the following:

Puppy dealers

Puppy dealers are agents for puppy farms. They buy puppies and sell them on, advertising them in newspapers and magazines, often masquerading as breeders. If an advert lists more than one breed of puppy for sale, then the person placing it is probably but not always a dealer.

Ask if you can see the mother with the puppies, and if they make an excuse about why the mother cannot be seen, do not buy a puppy from them. Never buy a dog from the back of a van at a motorway service station or from a car park at an airport, as this is how many dealers operate.

Pet shops

Pet shops prevent puppies from being exposed to essential experiences that allow them to adapt to home life. Without these experiences, many dogs will grow up to have behavioural problems as they get older.

Also, many of these puppies will come from puppy farmers who have little regard for the future of the dogs they produce. Pet shops are inappropriate environments for puppies to be kept or sold.

Directly from adverts (without meeting in person)

Buying a puppy directly from adverts without first meeting the breeder, seeing the puppy or viewing the environment in which they were raised will not allow you to make the important checks that help you determine if the breeder is a responsible breeder or a puppy farmer.

If you do decide to buy from an online or newspaper advert, always search the internet for the phone number given on the advert to see if they are selling multiple litters or different breeds this would suggest that they are puppy farmers. Do not buy from adverts that state “ready to go” these most likely come from a puppy farm.

Things to be aware of

What to do if you suspect someone is a puppy farmer

If you think that a breeder may be a puppy farmer, or is breeding irresponsibly:

  • Never purchase a puppy from them, even if you think you are rescuing the puppy. That puppy may be better off going home with you, but by giving the “breeder” money, you are funding them to breed even more dogs, possibly from the puppies’ mother, in horrible and unethical conditions
  • Report them to the RSPCA, the police or your local authority  local councils, animal health officers and the police have the power to enforce the law

If a breeder has relevant convictions, particularly those under the Animal Welfare Act, we are able to review these convictions under our disciplinary regulations. This could result in an expulsion and bar from access to registration facilities including litter registration and affix/kennel name holdings.

What if you think you have bought a puppy from a puppy farmer?
  • First, approach the breeder  attempt to openly discuss any issues and to try to reach an amicable solution
  • Your rights as a purchaser are going to be based upon the contract with the breeder. The sale of a dog might be covered under the general terms of the Sales of Goods Act 1979 and as such there will be legal rights and remedies available
  • You should also explore your statutory rights under the Trade Description Act. Seek guidance from your local trading standards office or citizens advice bureau. This applies both to breeder and owner. Alternatively, advice can be sought from a solicitor, although undoubtedly it is best to resolve any problems directly with the people concerned
  • We do not register breeders, and therefore we are not able to become involved in disputes arising from the purchase of a dog
Important factors to avoid
  • Don't buy around Christmas time – most responsible breeders will avoid selling puppies around this time
  • Do not buy from a breeder who does not show you the puppy interacting with its mother
  • Do not buy from a third party, meaning anyone other than the breeder
  • Do not pick up the puppy from anywhere else other than the breeder’s house or premises
Who not to trust
  • Do not buy from anyone who says that they can get you any colour, breed or sex you want  they are probably a puppy farmer
  • Do not buy from a breeder who appears to have poor knowledge about the breed
  • Do not buy from a breeder whose dogs don’t seem to like them and aren't comfortable with them handling the puppies
  • Do not buy if the mother or the puppies do not seem happy even if feel you will be rescuing the puppy
  • Do not trust a breeder who says you can take a puppy from the first meeting. The breeder should be asking you to visit multiple times
  • Do not buy from a breeder who does not ask you questions about whether your lifestyle and home are suitable for their puppy. A good breeder will want to ensure their puppy is going to a good home

Next step – buying a dog