As I pen this article on World Animal Day 2023, a day dedicated to improving animal welfare standards globally, I am compelled to address an issue that is not only close to my heart but is a growing concern that undermines the very essence of animal welfare in the UK.
It has been my great privilege and responsibility to be the UK’s ambassador for World Animal Day. Today, I raise my voice against the acute and urgent problem of irresponsible dog breeding that lurks in the shadows, often unaddressed and underestimated.
Puppy farming, a term we are all too familiar with, is but the tip of the iceberg. Beneath the surface lies a more insidious issue – breeders who, with blatant disregard for ethical standards, perpetuate the cycle of breeding dogs with no consideration for improving or even maintaining the health and welfare of the breeds. Their motivations are as varied as they are nefarious, from the pursuit of profit to a stubborn refusal to acknowledge and address inherent health issues within certain breeds.
As the co-founder of dogsblog.com and a lifelong advocate for canine welfare, I have witnessed firsthand the tragic consequences of such irresponsibility. Thousands of dogs, born into a life marred by health complications, behavioural issues, and in the worst cases, untimely death. This is not just an animal welfare issue; it is a moral crisis that calls into question our integrity as a society that claims to value the lives of all beings.
The UK has made significant strides in animal welfare, yet we find ourselves at a crossroads. We can choose to turn a blind eye, allowing this underbelly of unethical breeding to fester, or we can take decisive action, implementing stringent regulations and fostering a culture of responsibility and accountability amongst breeders.
We must confront the uncomfortable truth that breed specialists, often perceived as guardians of their respective breeds, are sometimes the very individuals who perpetuate these problems. Clinging to outdated standards and practices, they contribute to the propagation of genetic disorders and health issues that mar the lives of these magnificent creatures.
Every dog born into a life of suffering, every puppy that faces a future marred by health issues, is a stark reminder of our collective failure to address this issue. The time for platitudes and incremental change has passed. We need radical, immediate action.
I propose a multi-faceted approach to eradicate irresponsible breeding. Firstly, the implementation of stringent breeding regulations that prioritise the health and welfare of the dogs above all else. These regulations should be enforced rigorously, with severe penalties for those who fail to comply.
Secondly, we need to foster a culture of education and awareness. Prospective dog owners must be equipped with the knowledge to identify and avoid irresponsible breeders. Every puppy purchased from such breeders is an endorsement of their practices, an unwitting complicity in the suffering of countless dogs.
Lastly, we must hold breed specialists to a higher standard. The preservation and improvement of dog breeds is a noble pursuit, but it must be balanced with an unwavering commitment to the health and welfare of the dogs. We need a paradigm shift, a move away from aesthetic standards that compromise the physical and mental well-being of these animals.
On this World Animal Day, I implore you to join me in this crusade against irresponsible dog breeding. Together, we can usher in an era where every dog is born into a life of love, respect, and dignity, free from the shackles of preventable health issues and suffering. The change begins with us – with every choice we make, every stand we take, and every voice we raise against this abhorrent practice. Let us be the generation that turns the tide, that prioritises the lives and welfare of these loyal companions above all else. The urgency of this issue cannot be overstated – the time to act is now.