Tuesday 17 May 2016

The Kennel Club - still registering puppy farm dogs

Last night, BBC Panorama aired a gruesome exposé of a northern Ireland puppy farmer called Eric Hale. (If you are in the UK, you can watch the whole programme on iPlayer here.)

But it was also an an exposé of the Kennel Club's continued registration of puppy farm dogs.

Despite repeated urging by the Kennel Club to prospective puppy-buyers to avoid puppy-farmed dogs, the organisation continues to register dogs bred by breeders such as Eric Hale. 

Hale is a show-breeder of Beagles - and before that Bearded Collies -  registering the Beagles under his Southistle affix.  He has registered at least 20 litters of Beagles with the Kennel Club - the last that I can find in August 2015, although this litter, from January 2016, was advertised on DoneDeal as also being KC-registered.

Clearly, Mr Hale is also breeding a whole heap of other dogs, as last night's programme revealed. The conditions looked grim - with little bedding and the dogs on sawdust. The programme claimed that the dogs did not routinely get access to the outside.

In its position statement on puppy farming, the KC states:
"Breeders who breed five or more litters a year normally require a breeding licence from their local authority, and in order to continue registering puppies with the Kennel Club, anyone seeking to register five or more litters in a single year is asked to provide a copy of their licence. The Kennel Club will also be entitled to ask for a licence from those individuals who collectively register more than five litters a year from a single address."

So, presumably, the KC has asked Mr Hale for a copy of his breeding license, and this will have shown how many dogs he is licensed to keep.

Here's the public record from 2012 - which shows that Mr and Mrs Hale are licensed to keep over 100 breeding bitches.

The Kennel Club often points out that not all volume breeders are puppy-farmers - citing Guide Dogs for the Blind as a large-scale breeder that is "responsible and caring".  But, of course, this exception does not prove the rule. Assistance dog charities or police-dog breeding programmes may mostly do a good job but, in practice, no volume breeder meets the needs of a really large number of breeding bitches unless they are in the public glare or are blessed with wad of cash from either charity donations or the public purse.

Truly raising, keeping and breeding dogs well is expensive and labour-intensive. 

The KC also maintains that "only two per cent [of breeders who register their dogs with the KC] breed more than five litters per annum". 

This is a weaselly statistic - it may be only 2 per cent of breeders, but it will be a higher percentage of actual puppies - so it is at least several-thousand puppies a year. (KC registrations per annum are about 225k.) 

However, if there are really so few volume breeders registering their dogs with the Kennel Club, how about the KC commits to inspecting any breeder that is licensed for more than, say, 10 breeding bitches - regardless of whether they have been inspected by their local authority (we know this task is often delegated to people who either don't care much or who don't have a clue)?  If the numbers really are so small, surely it is not going to be a huge toll on resources?

The KC constantly maintains that it is obliged to register any dog on its general register, as long as it meets some minimum requirements. Those requirements do not include the conditions in which the pups have been bred. 

Quite frankly, the registration of puppy-farm dogs remains a blot on the KC landscape and it needs to be addressed - to ease both our souls and the KC's reputation.

I have asked the KC for input regarding the continued registration of Mr Hale's puppies and will add here if I get it. 


  1. I found the first expert statement in the video quite shocking.
    "It's like they're treating them like farm animals."
    Well bingo. We treat farm animals appallingly.
    These dogs are being treated like that.
    By why should what we see as horror for dogs, be "okay" for pigs or chickens? (I get it's a bit off topic, but I had to say it.)

    1. Chickens and dogs are a bit different psycologically. Basically, while chickens tend towards not having an intimate bond with people, dogs have had thousands of years of it. So while chickens have almost no bond with people, dogs are almost hardwired to want to accept humans as pack leaders. It's cruel to take an animal so bonded with the human race, and treat them poorly for profit, and it is also wrong to breed that many pups when there are thousands in shelters who need loving homes.

    2. 100% agree Frida. It's not a suitable way for any animal to live.

    3. Anon, the shelter dog things isblown out of proportion. No one should feel as though they must get a shelter dog. Shelter dogs aren't the be all and end all. While I agree that this is a atrocious breeder (I can't watch the vid because puppies are sleeping and if there is barking it can set them off at 5 in the morning), when people say get a shelter dog they are saying far more than get a shelter dog.
      What I hear is it is your job to clean up after the mess that bad breeders make. It is the fault of breeders that no one wants there dogs, and that you should be just fine with getting a dog with little to no known history, of any random breed, that was probably born in a ditch.. You know, instead of getting a dog that was bred with care and love, apropriate health testing, and who has never known anything but kindness from people.
      No, thee puppies wouldn't make that standard, as puppy mill puppies are typically just as bad as random bred shelter dogs when it comes to how they were bred, but it does hold up when measuring shelter dogs against purposefully bred dogs by responsible people...
      Because the argument then goes, why would anyone buy from a breeder when there are shelter dogs needing homes.
      If someone wants to get a shelter dog, by all means, do so, but no one should feel obligated to do so, especially as there can be just as much a hazard in buying a shelter dog as there is in a puppy mill bred puppy...
      By the way, I have heard the UK has just as much of a problem with retail rescue as the US, importing puppies from other countries to sell as rescues.

    4. "as puppy mill puppies are typically just as bad as random bred shelter dogs".

      I suspect many of the dogs in shelters ARE puppy mill puppies that are no longer wanted when they aren't cute anymore.

      The rest are made up of "oops" litters (random accidental crossbreeding / mix breeding), Backyard breed dogs (deliberately bred "purebreds" or "hybrids" with the intention of making quick cash), and finally the pedigree dogs bred by show breeders.

      Most of these dogs are raised in home environments as family pets. When they grow too big or get too boisterous and become hard to handle (usually in adolescence), they are given up. The sad thing is, it's usually just a matter of lack of training / attention / exercise but so many people are too ignorant or lazy to provide these things - and this is an OWNER problem, not a breeding problem. Yes, genetics certainly plays a part - there are bloodlines of certain breeds that carry terrible temperaments / health (usually as a product of breeding for show and ignoring everything else), and certain breeds are just wrong for certain people (owners once again not doing their research before buying). If people took more time to think about the right dog for them and made the effort to cater to that dog's needs there would be far fewer dogs in shelters.

      And before you give me the tired line of "reputable breeders take back puppies" yes, they DO, but they typically ask questions and make the owners feel bad for giving the dog back. The type of irresponsible person that would give up a dog in the first place, are exactly the type of people that don't want to feel like they are being lectured or embarrassed or have failed, and will take the easier option and give the dog away to a random person, dump it at a shelter, or sell it / give it away on craigslist and other sites.

      Homechecks and interviews by the breeder don't weed out these people - these people often LOOK on the surface like perfectly reasonable people, with nice cars, neat clothes, big houses and good jobs. I know some of these people personally, and they bought very expensive pedigree dogs from a breeder miles away from where they lived (because they wanted the most expensive pedigree they could get to show off with), and then when the dog started having problems (due to these people loving themselves more than anything else) they made the "heartbreaking" decision to give the dog away on facebook (on a public page, not just to their friends). God only knows who ended up with the poor thing, and it was still a young dog, less than a year old at the time. The breeder clearly doesn't look much at facebook sites for rehoming dogs, or they'd have noticed their puppy being given away for free and contacted the owner... wouldn't they?

  2. Because these dogs are supposed to be companion animals that are going to go and live in people's houses and interact with their children. Rearing them like this, with zero socialisation to humans, is frankly dangerous.

  3. Actually they are treated much worse than farm animals. The dogs in the boxes had no light and very little space and couldn't see the other dogs. Even battery hens can see each other. Even pigs that are bred indoors have light. And regulations specify minimum amounts of space for each animal. It is NOT OK for pigs or chickens. The difference is the pig farmer or chicken farmer would be prosecuted.

    Chris R.

    1. People like Mr. Hale and the greedy dealers are not dog lovers , only money matters to them and they make me sick . I was actually looking at puppies on gum tree prior to the programme going on air , but now I have abandoned the idea of getting a pup now as I would be adding to the plight of these poor dogs suffering . I'm horrified and feel helpless that the local authorities are actually allowing these breeders to continue to do this , have they no conscience ??

    2. Catherine V

      Any reason you can't seek a pup from a breeder who isn't a bottom- feeding POS?

  4. Well if mr hale geta away with this again there is something seriously wrong with our authorities. Would he like to be treated like this.

  5. People like this have no conscience or compassion. Anon 01.02 he doesn't care...end of. Neither do any of these scum and so it will continue. People will still buy them and then bleat about how sad they are that their lovely new pup is sick and dying...I am sick of hearing it as they are perpetuating the problem. They wouldn't have said a thing if everything turned out alright. What is needed is to block the outlets...online selling sites, and all Pet shops. It would be a good start...followed by the KC not accepting any puppies for registration that were from animals untested or failing all health tests for the breed, and as JH says, inspecting all breeding premises with more than 10 breeding bitches.

  6. I predict Mr Hale will be made a scapegoat by the KC.

  7. So JH have you finally twigged that there are breeders around who do far worse things to their dogs than the show fraternity? Or is this just more mud to throw at the KC?

    When they said farm animals they meant FACTORY farm, most farm animals these days are treated far better than those poor bitches. The fact is that in the last few decades dog ownership has mushroomed, demand for pups grown insatiable - as prices quoted by Panorama make clear. Even if it had the will the mostly amateur KC hasn't the resources to properly inspect every breeder that applies for registrations, but relies on local authority inspections. The program also made clear how reliable they aren't. Who then is the buyer of a sick pup to turn to? Trading Standards sometimes get involved but they're not specialists - nobody is, unless it's the RSPCA. The industry really needs, IMO, its own regulatory body, ideally self-regulating, like the Federation of Master Builders polices cowboy builders. Taking an interest at government level is APGAW - the all-parliamentary group for animal welfare: they are essentially a pressure group, and not dog-focussed, probably too much to hope that they'll come up with something positive?

    1. A lot of puppy farms are owned by the show fraternity. Showing is basically the shop window for dog dealing. When you show something you objectify it which is to degrade to the status of a mere object. So showing would be no different it mindset to puppy farming, both basically treats dogs as an object. So both are as bad as each other and as you can read above, both often sit together, as the owner of the puppy farm in the program is a show breeder.

    2. Bob Grundy: you obviously have not twigged that the fella in the program that Jemima is talking about, who owns the puppy farm featured is a show breeder as well. Should of read the article better. When was dog dealing and showing to separate entities? Never!

    3. Always one that is going to say, "See us show breeders ain't the problem. Look at that Puppy Farming. So that makes what we do okay."
      Slightly overlooking the fact that the puppy farm owner is a show breeder. One does not cancel the other out, especially as often as not puppy farms are owned by show breeders.

  8. The KC could publish the names of breeders that register more than 30 pups a year allowing puppy buyers to be better informed prior to their purchase.

    1. Actually, full history of everyone who has registered litters would give great context.

    2. If all dogs were microchipped, there could be an accompanied data base recording breeder, buyer, veterinary details and more, Allowing buyers and authorities to get a history as required.

    3. 3 litters from breeds that are known to have large litters could take someone over that easily. 3 Dane bitches with 12 pups in a litter, for example.. And the breed doesn't even have to be a giant breed as dalmatians, german shepherds, rottweilers, border collies, shar-peis, and labradors are also known to have large litters.
      I once had a 35 lb APBT bitch have a litter of 13, and 11, 12 puppies in that breed aren't uncommon at all.
      At the same time, one could have 10 litters of toy breeds a year and not hit 30 puppies. Singletons and twins are not unknown in breeds like yorkies, chihuahuas and papillons.
      The issue isn't so much, IMO the number of puppies, since that is very much a variable, but the conditions in which the puppies are born and raised. Arbitrary limits like 30 puppies registered gets you put on a list could do more to harm the reputation of good people that are reputable, responsible breeders.

    4. Yes Labella, someone could breed only 3 litters in a 12 month period and have over thirty pups. It should be how many litters they register and a KC list of breeders registering pups from a bitch within 12 months of her last litter. As the KC are happily registering pups like this. I know of a Cavalier bitch that the KC registered three litters from her that she had birthed within an 17 month period. Apparently all the KC do if you register pups from a bitch that has bred less than 12 months before, is send you a letter making you aware of the fact, but register the pups still. If you ring them and confront them about it, the KC will tell you that they are not breaking any laws, but don't they tell us that they are 'the UK’s largest organisation dedicated to protecting and promoting the health and welfare of all dogs.'but how can they be when they are the biggest registry in the UK for pure breed puppy farmed puppies?

    5. I agree about the litter size comment. When I tell people that my Pap's breeder usually breeds 2 litters a year, they think that sounds "irresponsible" and puppy-millish. Most responsible sports people here in the U.S. believe in 1 litter every year or two. But like Labella said, Pap litters are frequently 1-2 puppies, so even with 2 litters, she is breeding 2-4 puppies a year, all of which go into top-notch multi-sport homes (one the reigning world agility champ). I would prefer to see some kind of limit that's like "1 litter or 10 puppies, whichever is greater."

    6. 30 pups is the number that our breed registry (not a multi breed registry) selected as the threshold. It was offered as an example. Take it or leave it.

  9. Not only this crap going on in the UK, but... Ledy VanKavage, millionaire supporter of pit bulls (denies they were ever bred for fighting) just did the following in the U.S.

    The state of Arizona, where she does not live, is one of about half of states allowing individual cities to make breed-specific legislation. For example, requiring pit bulls to be on-leash, owners to carry liability insurance, etc. (Since they are statistically 150x more likely to hospitalize a person or pet than the average dog).

    Arizona also had great legislation banning the breeding or sale of ALL puppy mill puppies, including no sales of puppies at pet stores.

    Ledy wanted to make it illegal for Arizona to have any special regulations for pit bulls, though the current law had withstood 20 years of challenges and was supported wholely by most people in Arizona. So, she teamed up with commercial puppy mill breeding lobbies, pet stores, and the AKC to put forth a bill that would allow puppy mills again, and also allow puppies to be sold through stores and malls... if they would put in a clause making it illegal to have any requirements for pit bulls to have leashes, etc. And it just passed. Once again, shows that pit bull supporters have no interest in any animals other than pit bulls, when Ledy and thousands of her supporters happily came out in support of puppy mills to get their line-item in there...

  10. The Kennel Club are still registering Southistle dogs in 2022!