Buying a Puppy: How to Spot a ‘Puppy Farm’

Unlicensed puppy farms still exist in the UK, which have been partially fuelled by lockdown and an increased demand for puppies. When buying a puppy, knowing how to tell if your puppy comes from an unlicensed puppy farm is of the utmost importance and learning how to ‘spot a puppy farm’ is invaluable and could potentially save you from a lot of emotional and financial hardship. 

What is a puppy farm?

A puppy farm is a commercial dog breeding facility, specifically for profit. It is not an actual farm and the welfare of the bitches and puppies is unimportant. An unscrupulous seller will do everything they can to cover up the fact they are a puppy farm. Where the puppies are being bred, is not necessarily where they are being sold from. The animals are often kept in poor conditions without adequate food and water, confined to a small space and left in their own excrement. They usually aren’t treated for worms or vaccinated. Puppies are often interbred, and the bitches have puppy after puppy, becoming exhausted and ill.

Often, puppies are shipped across the UK to be sold in ‘normal’ looking houses to trick a possible buyer. So, doing a bit of research is recommended. Have a look at the seller’s profile: if they are advertising many litters of different breeds, this is a red flag.

What is the long-term effect of puppies bred in a puppy farm?

Many puppies will have physical, behavioural and psychological problems. There are physical issues, caused by inbreeding, including inherited diseases, such as blindness, hearing loss and metabolic problems. 

Puppies bred under these conditions lack socialisation and handling. You may get them home and just the sound of a vacuum cleaner and washing machine would be alien and scary to a puppy from a puppy farm.


What questions should I ask a puppy breeder?

Before you even visit your potential puppy, ask a few questions over the phone:

  • Can you see the puppies with their mum?
  • Did they breed the puppies themselves?
  • How old is the mother and how many puppies has she had?
  • Will the puppies be wormed and vaccinated?
  • Have the puppies been checked for any inherited conditions?

Questions to ask during your first visit.

  • Can you meet all the puppies?
  • Have the puppies been socialised with children?
  • What food would the breeder recommend for the puppy?
  • Will the puppy be microchipped?
  • What age will the puppy be allowed to come home with you?
  • Is there any paperwork with the puppy?
  • Is there a puppy contract?

What are the warning signs to look for when visiting a prospective puppy?

  • Make sure the mum is present; don’t accept any excuses, such as she’s at the vets, out for a walk or asleep. If the mum is present, make sure you can see visible signs she really is their mum. Look for how they interact; has she got teats?
  • Don’t agree to meet with the breeder at a ‘convenient’ place, such as a motorway service station. Be sure to see the puppy in its own home.
  • A puppy isn’t ready to leave its mother until it is eight weeks old. Don’t be persuaded to pick up your puppy before this age.
  • Don’t be rushed into making a decision – a good breeder will want to make sure they get to know you, too.
  • Examine the puppy carefully; their mouth should be clean; they should have clear, bright eyes, white teeth and a shiny coat with no evidence of fleas.
  • Watch the puppies playing happily and interacting with their siblings.

Are puppy farms illegal?

Licensed puppy farms are not illegal but unlicensed farms, which have not been approved by local authorities, are illegal. On Monday 6th April 2020, third-party puppy sales were banned in England. If a business sells either puppies or kittens without a licence, they could receive a fine or be sent to prison for up to five years.

Lucy’s Law

After a ten-year campaign to ban puppy and kitten dealers, ‘Lucy’s Law’ was passed. The campaign, led by vet Marc Abraham and Lucy’s adopted owner, Lisa Garner, means that anyone wanting to buy a puppy must now buy direct from a breeder or adopt from a rescue centre. 

The campaign was named after a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel who was rescued from a puppy farm. Lucy was subjected to terrible conditions living for five years in a cage, breeding multiple times a year. The treatment she received at the puppy farm resulted in fused hips, curvature of the spine, epilepsy and more.


What to do if you think you have found a puppy farm

Walk away. It may be very hard to walk away from a puppy, but by doing so will help prevent the puppy farmer making a profit and funding the cruel puppy trade. It may be tempting to ‘rescue’ the puppy, but you’re actually just making space for another puppy to fill.

There are some positive things you can do. Report the advert: if you found the advert online, report it to the website. If you are worried about the conditions the puppies are in, or their welfare, report them to the RSPCA.

If you witness any direct cruelty, ring the police.

Kennel Club Assured Breeder scheme

The Kennel Club Award breeder scheme is the only organisation accredited by United Kingdom Accreditation Service (UKAS) to certify dog breeders. They promote good breeding practice and recognise breeders who prioritise the health and welfare of their puppies. They will give you the reassurance that you are buying a puppy from a reputable breeder that is regularly checked for good practice.

How do I buy a crossbreed puppy?

Puppies, such as Cavapoos and Sprockers, are becoming increasingly popular, despite not being a recognised Kennel Club breed. The Kennel Club is still a good source of information when looking to buy a crossbreed.

However, good old-fashioned word of mouth when looking to buy a puppy shouldn’t be dismissed.

Animal Rescue

An alternative to buying a puppy is to rescue. Every year, thousands of dogs and puppies are rehomed. There are many benefits to adopting: saving a life, saving money and adopting helps more than one animal by making way for others.

‘Ella’ and ‘Many Tears Animal Rescue’

Here at Diddy Dogs Lodge, we have our own little rescue dog, ‘Ella’, who we adopted from Many Tears Animal Rescue. Many Tears Animal Rescue is based in South Wales but fosters and rehomes dogs throughout the UK.

The photograph below is of ‘Ella’ in kennels at Many Tears Animal Rescue, awaiting her ‘forever home’

Many Tears Animal Rescue are a unique rescue centre who predominantly rescue ex-breeding dogs from puppy farms. They give all dogs the necessary medical treatment and a thorough assessment to help rehabilitate and find them new homes. They interview and vet each new potential home and new adopters to ensure the best homes are found for each individual dog.

Here’s to a happy, healthy puppy

However you decide to acquire your newest furry member of your family, by following these simple rules, you can help to protect the nation’s dogs, give them the best start in life and help stop the awful trade in puppy farming!

Founder of Diddy Dogs Lodge Limited. Contact Jill Loomes:


Tel:07969 355500