Taking on the puppy farmers
Carol O'Brien is determined to stop animals suffering by monitoring rogue online sales
Owner: Carol O'Brien from Shankill, Co Dublin
Pets: Ellie and Dexter, two Chihuahuas
Background: Carol wants to highlight animal welfare issues about online dog sales
When Carol decided she was ready to get a family dog, she did some research to find which type would suit her best. The chihuahua came out at the top of her list: intelligent and playful, but not in need of long daily walks.
When she went online to find a chihuahua for sale, Carol kept finding breeders that she felt she could not trust.
She eventually bought one from a place that seemed like a family home, but as her pup grew up, he developed odd habits (like sucking a blanket) because he had been taken away from his mother when he was too young.
When Carol checked out the background of the 'family home', she discovered that there were large kennels close by, producing puppies in bulk from eight different breeds, and passing them off as 'family pets'. Carol realised there was a lucrative cash market in pedigree puppies, with puppy farmers exploiting and misleading new owners.
She became increasingly concerned about the welfare of other pups for sale, and began to monitor popular classified advertising websites.
When she saw Ellie was up for sale, she could tell from the photo that she was in poor health, so she went ahead and bought her, nursing her back to full health. Recently, she came across Dexter, for sale at just €30, and felt sorry for him, so she drove to Limerick and bought him.
He was only five weeks old – much too young to be taken away from his mother – and he had a swollen belly, with a nasty dose of worms and severe gastroenteritis.
She had to take him to the vet, twice weekly for a month, and only then did he start to thrive like a normal puppy. If he had been sold to someone less committed than Carol, he would not have survived. Carol doesn't plan to take any more dogs on but she is determined to continue to monitor online advertisements for puppies, to prevent other animals from suffering.
She's not alone: Facebook groups such as 'Irish Pound Dogs' are also involved in highlighting problem cases.
DoneDeal is Ireland's best known online classifieds website, with a large selection of animals being sold on it every month. The website is committed to doing everything to deter puppy farmers and dealers from advertising. Adverts are monitored and anyone who advertises too many breeds or posts ads too often is permanently banned. DoneDeal encourages site visitors to adopt from an animal welfare organisation as a first choice, rather than buying a puppy. Rescue centres are allowed to advertise animals needing homes free of charge.
Members of the public are encouraged to report suspicious adverts to the DoneDeal team so that appropriate action can be taken. The team helps the ISPCA, An Garda Siochana, local authorities and others with information that helps them investigate.
Finally, DoneDeal also donates 50pc of the revenues from the dog section to projects for education through their PetAware project, including SpayAware Ireland, National Microchipping Month and other initiatives.
Carol is continuing to spend her free time to try to improve the situation for pups being sold online.
If she sees adverts where people are giving pups for free, she sends an email to the owner, letting them know about the risks of giving dogs away. She advises doing basic home checks, asking the right questions and taking simple steps to ensure that puppies are going to good homes.
The online market place is a busy one, but through the efforts of people like Carol and responsible websites like DoneDeal, it's a safer place for puppies.
Visit Pete's website at petethevet.com