Something close to my heart is the issue of animal welfare, and the abomination that is puppy farming particularly affects me. So I’m really pleased and thankful that David has agreed to add his signature, in chunky black marker pen, to a Gibson guitar which is to be auctioned next month to benefit Pup Aid, the brainchild of TV vet and animal campaigner, Marc Abraham.
The guitar in question is a classic Epiphone Casino, also signed so far by Liam Gallagher (of Oasis), Mick Jones (of The Clash), Gary Moore and Paul Weller.
Puppy farms or mills, or ‘battery farms for dogs’, as is considered a more aptly descriptive term, concern the mass production of puppies for commercial profit. It’s an embarrassing problem which is quite close to home for me, as it’s something that goes on in the countryside – Wales in particular. The pups are usually parted from their mothers far too soon, transported around the country to dealers, and then sold online and through newspapers, as well as in pet shops.
This cold-hearted operation on a vast scale is purely to line the pockets of unscrupulous, callous breeders; the welfare of the animals involved is not in the least bit important. It produces puppies often lacking in the necessary skills of socialisation, with sometimes dangerous infestations of fleas and worms, commonly suffering from fatal health problems such as pneumonia or hereditary conditions such as hip dysplasia. They often require considerable and costly veterinary or behavioural treatment. Their lives can be short and painful.
It shouldn’t take much imagination to realise that these dogs develop psychological problems to go with the physical ones. Breeding bitches, usually cooped up in cages or pens, rarely see the light of day. They live in the most dank, dirty, dingy conditions, their hair painfully matted, their food found alongside their faeces. Mated on every heat, they are fed barely enough to keep them producing litters, with little or no veterinary care. They benefit from no exercise, mental stimulation or affection. When they have served their purpose, can produce no more and thus cease to be profitable commodities, they are discarded; stomachs bloated, too weak to stand, ill-equipped for a world beyond the walls within which they have forever been cocooned.
What a miserable, pitiful existence for loyal creatures of companion meant to be man’s best friend.
Unfortunately, so many dog owners are ignorant – often conveniently so, it has to be said, as vanity takes precedence over reality’s harshness at times – of their plight. It is believed that as many as 15 per cent of the dogs in the UK right now may have started out in life on a puppy farm.
I am supposed to say that you should always buy from a reputable breeder, but forgive me if I don’t. My feelings are such that I believe very few exist. People breed puppies to make money. I find that morally disgusting, knowing that every single day, in the UK alone, a dog is killed every hour in council-run pounds because nobody in a nation of supposed animal lovers can give it a home. There are many things that I resent my taxes being spent on, and euthanising perfectly healthy dogs is one of them. My view, however much it may offend, is that by buying any puppy made to order you are condemning umpteen more to a completely unnecessary premature death, and that troubles me tremendously. (Writing as someone whose four-legged friends have only ever, and will only ever, come from rescue shelters, this is my prerogative and I make no apologies for it.)
What I will say instead is that September is National Dog Adoption Month in the UK, October being the American Humane Association’s equivalent. If you are considering bringing a pet dog into your life – which is proven to make you happier, friendlier and live longer, don’t forget – please rescue one from a shelter and give an abandoned or neglected dog a second chance at a happy and fulfilling life. From my own experience, it may well be the best thing you’ve ever done.
Do let everyone who may be interested know about this guitar auction (further details to follow just as soon as they are confirmed), but also please do all that is in your power to convert those that may not even care to know about puppy farming over to the side that believes strongly that such unforgivable cruelty has to stop – and will stop if our superficial species can behave in a manner that makes it worthy of its part in that old cliché about dogs being a man’s best friend.
(This the day that the World Society for the Protection of Animals announced that the South Korean government has agreed to consider phasing out bear farming by the end of this year, by the way.)
Of course, you may wish to go one step further and contact your elected representative to find out when he or she is going to stop turning a blind eye to a thoroughly disgraceful matter. Support your local animal shelter. Report breeders to animal welfare organisations. Boycott pet stores that sell animals. Please don’t let me stop you if I’ve touched a nerve here.
As ever, I look forward to sharing your thoughts. Brownie points for all the dog owners; doubled, naturally, if your dog has spent time in a rescue shelter.
Thank you for reading my rant du jour and thank you, David, for being generous with your time – and ink – today.