Thursday, July 19, 2012

Wake-Up Call for Western Europe

Today we are honored to host our friend Leo, of Kenzo the Hovawart. Please welcome him as he shares his important message:
Kenzo and Viva (and Leo!)
In Western-Europe we take pride in our legislation that ensures the welfare of dogs. Puppy mills and the sale of dogs through pet shops is restricted, if not banned. When we watch the different American SPCA dog rescue shows on our television sets we see a familiar picture. Overpopulation, pet stores, puppy mills, abandoned dogs in shelters. Strays. That's how it was over here 20 years ago. Glad we are so far ahead and fixed these issues, we put it in a little box labeled "American conditions", shake our heads and go on with our day.

As this Belgium video documentary - with English subtitles - will show, that is not the reality at all:

That was an eye opener? More than 160 puppy mills and puppy trafficker operations in Belgium alone. One of the smaller countries in Europe about the size of New York. Maybe Belgiums see the American shows, but this documentary has not even been aired by the Belgium TV networks. That's why the rescue group behind, Animal Trust, decided to go viral. People must know.

When all that fine legislation is not enforced and too many loopholes exist, criminals continue to thrive. Nothing has changed. It has merely moved out of sight. Animal abusers are helped by the myriad of borders, out of tune national laws, corruption, the big buck, and differences in language which we call Europe.

And it is not just Belgium. According to Dutch research, the Internet is now the main source to buy a puppy in this country. Every two weeks, 86.000 animals are sold through the Internet, and in the case of dogs the majority (56%) of them is sold by private persons and traders, not by acknowledged breeders. They are coming from the remaining puppy mills or from puppy traffickers.

The pet store has been replaced by an Internet shop or a local eBay site. Through a network of brokers and middle-man they are directly related to puppy mills that now operate from Eastern Europe where the legislation is more lenient and control even more non-existing. They allow dogs to live in terrible conditions, cramped together in small cages without any health-care.
Photo Credit: Purr Photography
To make the match between buyer and seller a number of middleman and brokers are used, usually disguised as a small breeding operation or a person selling puppies from a home. People think they buy home-raised puppies from either private persons that wanted to breed a litter, or from small scale breeders. What buyers don't see when they visit the "breeder", is the truck with Polish license plates that arrives during the night on a regular basis to bring in fresh supplies.

If you think the issue is isolated or the video shown is out of context. Think again. Here are some examples of operations that were exposed. As you will see on this video of a Dutch puppy trafficker, disguised as a reputable breeder. She first got into trouble, when puppies started dying within days of arriving at the new family. Aware of the problem, she started to falsify the birth dates of the puppies so she could sell them even younger, to be able to close the sale before the puppy died.

Some Dutch puppy traffickers even moved their point-of-sale over the border to Belgium - which is just some miles away, to bypass the Dutch legislation which is strict on consumer guarantees. In this video you can see an attempt of some of the duped families and a TV-crew to expose the puppy trafficker, and how violently they were chased out. A good reminder as well that you are dealing with criminals here, not with animal lovers or dog enthusiasts gone astray.

It happens in all Western-European countries. A recent example from Denmark: a woman was selling puppies from her home. She kept the puppies in the basement in horrible conditions, and received regular fresh supplies from a Polish puppy mill. And again, first when multiple people at once started to act upon their sick or dead puppy, this place could come into the spotlight. In Germany, PETA Germany exposed this puppy trafficker in Erfurt.

The transport of all those puppies is also only revealed accidentally. A delivery truck with more then one hundred puppies has to drive in a ditch on the German autobahn, or customs have to stumble upon them at the Danish border, before we start wondering where all those - too young - puppies are traveling to?

With few resources the animal rights organizations fight brave, but they can only reveal the tip of an iceberg. Politicians should accept that their legislation is not working. The examples mentioned above are not incidental at all, and a more clear picture arises if we would just connect the dots. Due to legislation that is not enforced, puppy trafficking and the Internet, the ban of our pet store sales and puppy mills therefore hasn't helped a lot, and has merely become well meant window dressing.

Europe, you are in need of a serious wake-up call..

About the authorLeo Scheltinga, Dog blogger from Denmark. Living in Copenhagen with his family and two Hovawarts. Blogs about daily life with his dogs, the Hovawart breed, tracking and K9 nosework, and anything else about dogs at Kenzo the Hovawart.


  1. What a heart-breaking story. We like to believe that at least somewhere, this was all figured out. That somewhere there was a system that worked. I honestly believe that it needs to be illegal to sell live, sentient beings over the web and that puppies shouldn't be sold in the newspaper, like used cars. If you care enough to get a puppy, you should care enough to research and find a reputable breeder.

    1. Yes, it is very sad. A very good first step would be we start enforcing the laws already in place. But bottom-line it is like you say: if we would just know/educate ourselves before we buy a puppy, the problem is solved.

  2. Thank you so much for leaving words of comfort for me on the passing of my beloved cat, Alex. Marc and I are heartbroken. We know we did the right thing, and every day we realize how much Alex was “preparing us” during the last few weeks, but it doesn’t make it any easier. We can’t stop the tears…. But having wonderful friends, like you, and the support of the CB is making it better….

    1. Alex will always live on in your hearts and memories, and ours as well. He was such a dear boy. Love you and RIP, Alex. Hugs to you, Hilary and Marc! xoxoxo

  3. Dear Kim, I so agree with your response to the first comment. We need to enforce the laws already on the books with regards to puppy mills and to the cruel and inhumane treatment of animals. I continue to be bemused by how people can be so cruel--to animals and to children. Of course, the bottom line with regard to puppy mills and the conditions described in your posting is greed. Peace.

    1. You're most correct, Dee, that the source of the problems and suffering stems from greed. Just to clarify for anyone reading our comments, Leo details the need to enforce the laws on the books in Europe - where there are many more restrictions that we have here in the U.S.

  4. Humans just need to be as smart and as human as they let on.

  5. It's hard to actually discern a GOOD breeder. Three years ago, I didn't know, but I thought I did.

    Puppy milles, though. That's where pet store dogs come from. That's what you're getting when you outright purchase a dog on a website. I understand wanting a puppy NOW, but sometimes now just isn't going to happen, and it's best to wait. A puppy mill puppy is sure to be a situation of heartbreak.

    1. In the case of Belgium the irony is that selling puppies on the internet, or doing a cash transaction for a puppy on the internet, as well as delivering a puppy to a buyer is illegal. But apparantly nobody thought about how you could enforce that. Maybe all the rules have even given people a false feeling of safety...
      The "old" common sense rules regarding selecting a breeder still apply, whatever legislation is saying. Trust only your own judgement.

  6. I've read studies that showed that people with progressive political viewpoints were less likely to actually donate time or money to help someone than people with conservative political viewpoints. Apparently, when people feel their viewpoint is compassionate, they don't feel the need to actually show compassion.

    I wonder if having progressive animal legislation in Western Europe works the same way. Because the laws exist, people get complacent about whether they are actually treating animals humanely.

    Great guest post, Leo.

    1. It is recognizable. A lack of taking ownership and an expectation the state will/should fix it.
      Thanks Pamela.

  7. Hey Celia Sue, Hey Hovawarts, Jet here.

    Wow, we thought Europe was far ahead of us here in the states as well. Thank you for "lifting the veil" and sharing Mr. Leo. Extremely thorough and well written post.

    Naughty humans who do this confound us K9s...

  8. Greetings Kim and Leo
    Sadly, this emotive and informative posting, by you, Leo, highlights the plight and the fact this unacceptable situation needs to be totally eradicated. You may well know they are referred to as "Puppy Farms" in Britain. Different name, same outrageous outcome.
    With respect and hope to you both and those defenceless puppies, Gary

  9. Leave it to the puppy millers to skirt the law by moving locations. What some people will do to make a buck.

  10. I've been wanting to check out Leo's post for some time, but wanted to be able to commit the time. Now that I have I am saddened. Not only for the puppies, but for their parents as well. I can't help but compare to the United States. If Europe outlawed selling puppies from puppy mills and pet stores and still it exists, is there any hope for us? How disheartening.

    Thanks for sharing this info Leo. I clicked on the video back when you and Kim first posted this, but now I click again because the truth needs to be shared. You my friend are a truth-teller. We need more people like you.


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