Animal welfare update – times they are a-changin’

Back in February, I posted an entry about the pedigree dog industry (and it is an industry, as there is a lot of money involved). In April, I was contacted by Helen Coen, the Online Community Manager for the RSPCA, to say there had been an update on this issue and she would tell me about it if I was interested. Well, yes. I was. She got back to me with details of the PIP, or Puppy Information Pack, which forms part of a contract between breeder and buyer to ensure both that the puppies are healthy when they leave the mother, and that the new owner will take full responsibility for the welfare of the puppy according to its needs (every breed is different, after all). Before buying a puppy, the potential owner can find out if that breed will suit their lifestyle, if they have the time and energy required to look after the dog properly, and also make sure the breeder has brought up the puppies to the highest of welfare standards.

This is great news. Although it’s not yet mandatory, it goes some way to ensuring that the welfare of the puppies, from birth and all through their lives, is the most important thing to consider. I get irritated by the idea of so-called ‘handbag dogs’ – tiny things that celebrities carry around – and ‘status dogs’, used by thugs to intimidate the public (which, of course, leads directly to people getting their own dogs, which are often vicious, as a method of self-defence). A dog is a friend for life, a feeling being, who is loyal to a fault and loves unconditionally. The least they can expect from their owners is the same love and care in return, and this is why I’m annoyed with the Kennel Club, because all too often it’s not the welfare of the dogs that’s most important to them, but what they look like.

I was brought up to believe that all animals should be respected. I can’t begin to calculate the number of hours, days, weeks (months?) of my life I’ve spent watching wildlife documentaries. I haven’t been to Monkey World for a while, but I keep up my support by renewing my ‘adoption’ of orang utan Gordon each year – hell, when he became a father, I actually found it hard not to burst into tears, I was so proud of my boy. (His son Jin is beautiful, by the way.) So I fail to understand people who don’t respect animals, and when animals are mistreated, I get angry.

The PIP puppy contract, then, is a good thing. It’s not law yet, but it’s a start, and that’s OK. If you’re thinking of getting a puppy, I would urge you first to visit your nearest RSPCA rescue centre. But if you insist on buying from a breeder, do your research first. Make sure you know what you’re letting yourself in for. Because dogs, like any animal, once in your care, are your responsibility. They rely on you to keep them healthy, happy and safe. Please don’t let them down.

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