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Rescue a pup from a puppy milll?

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Ellie investigates the puppy import from Hungary to the Netherlands – Hungary being the most prominente land of origin of illegal pups. She uncovers a huge business: the illegal puppy trade is actually one of the top 3 most lucrative criminal activities in Europe (after the drugs trade).

How does the illegal puppy trade work?

In this documentary, you can see how the mother dogs are kept: countless dogs of countless breeds are chained, and kept together in huge, dark, dirty hangars. 

The pups get taken away from their mother as young as 4 weeks of age, to be put on sale. They then stay in huge distribution centres in Hungary, where they are just dumped together and sorted by breed. 

They then get transported to the Netherlands (often at a totally illegal age, and thus not appropriately vaccinated). A ‘hot’ region for this is Brabant, where the pups are then put up for sale, at sales point with tons of puppys staying there. They present themselves online as small-scale breeders, and they pretend that the recomposed litters are actually all from the same mother and they they grew up in a home environment. This whilst there is of course no possible way of tracing the mother, who is probably still chained in a dark hangar.  

What is a puppy mill? When can you suspect illegal puppy trade is involved?

In an ideal world, pups are kept and raised with love, and not as a commodity. A litter belongs in the home and if one same address advertises for more than a handful of pups, red flags should be popping up in your head. Especially if they sell multiple breeds.

Why does it work?

  • Because we fall for the cuteness factor. As the importer pushes a pup in your arms, can you really be strong and say no? Can you really bring yourself to leave the pup behind, in protest against the industry? 
  • Because we are so impatient. Buying a puppy from a responsible breeder means a loooong waiting list, just like hoping to get pregnant yourself. There is no guarantee when it will happen, because the mother dog is treated with respect and not as a product. Should you wish to have a puppy tomorrow, you can easily achieve this the illegal way.
  • Because we are not colour-blind, when it comes to dogs. We MUST have a pup of precisely the colour we’ve always dreamt of. This is only possible if you have a huge breeding operation. With a small scale breeder, you get what you get. The dogs are not mass-produced to every consumer taste. 
  • Because we think it is good to ‘rescue’ the pup from the illegal trade. The only thing we achieve with this, is lining up the pocket of criminals and perpetuating the trade.
  • The (perfectly reasonable) legislation around the rabies vaccination (if you want to import a pup, it needs to be vaccinated against rabies, which is only possible from the age of 15 weeks) can also discourage well-read people, who want a much younger dog who are still at the beginning of their socialisation period. Transport and separation are stressful events, and to put a pup through it during his fear phase (15 weeks onwards) is asking for trouble: you run a huge risk that the dog gets traumatised.

What is so wrong with the illegal puppy trade? Animal welfare

The circumstances in which the dogs are kept are awful. Images from police raids are hard to watch: dogs who are chained for their entire life, dogs who have not seen the light of day in years, dogs with such serious wounds that you can see their bones! Dogs with diseases that go untreated, and dogs who don’t even get enough water and food. 

What’s so wrong with it? Transport

Pups from all over Hungary are moved en passe from their birthplace to massive distribution centres, where they get dumped together with other pups, and sorted by breed before being transported to the Netherlands, Germany, and the rest of Europe.

As you can imagine, the pups get little in the way of attention and socialisation during this process; and the ideal age for being separated from your mother does not rank highly on the list of priorities. 

What’s so wrong with it? Health

Considering the state of neglect that the dogs are kept in, and the lack of appropriate veterinary care, many pups arrive in your home sick – some dying.

Besides the awful toll this takes on the individual pup’s quality of life, you also end up with huge veterinary bills in the thousands of euros.

What’s so wrong with it? Behaviour problems

Dogs who come from the illegal puppy trade grow up in very unfavorable circumstances where they seldom enjoy any attention, and they often arrive in the Netherlands completely estranged from people, to name but one issue. These dogs are often incapable of functioning as a family and city dog – at least not without help from a dog behaviour specialist (if you are having trouble with your imported dog’s behaviour and you’re based near The Hague, contact us for help). 

Only the most resilient dogs make it through the proces psychologically unscathed. Below, a couple of examples of predictable problems: 

  • Taken away from his mother too young -> lack of impuls control, lack of bite inhibition, attachment problems like separation anxiety
  • Impoverished early environment -> Hypersentisivity to stimulation and the agression/hyperactivity/destructiveness problems that go with it.
  • Few positive interactions with people -> fear aggression and, at the very least, generalized anxiety

What can I do? 

  1. Be patient. You do not NEED to have your pup next week. Contact small-scale breeders and be ready for a long wait. 
  2. Do not trust cute pictures. Find out whether more litters are being sold out of the same address, and find out if they also sell different breeds (huge red flag). 
  3. Do they see the same picture used again and again, with different adverts? Walk away. 
  4. No matter how heartbreaking it is, do not ‘rescue’ a pup from the illegal trade. If you only find out that you were duped once you get there and the puppy is already in your arms, still, w.a.l.k.   a.w.a.y. Do you want to help? Let yourself heard, warn people against that “breeder”, tell the police. 
  5. Be colour blind: So what if the pup doesn’t have the colour you were hoping for? Getting the right colour is not worth the animal suffering caused by the illegal puppy trade.
  6. Do not buy a pup from Marktplaats

Let’s all treat dogs like they are living, breathing beings with emotions, and not some commodity. 


Extra help: How to spot a puppy mill?

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