real life

The three small steps you can take to ensure you're not buying from a puppy farm.

RSPCA Victoria
Thanks to our brand partner, RSPCA Victoria

For a young family, couple or simply someone in search of his or her new best friend, owning a puppy at some stage is almost like a rite of passage.

Need some practice with your partner before having a child? Get yourself a puppy. Want to make sure your child isn’t the centre of attention in every facet of their life? Get yourself a puppy. Looking to invest in a daily and excitable welcome home from work? Time to get yourself a puppy.

But in all this talk about how dogs and puppies have the power to complete a home, little is spoken about the responsibility we have to them.

Namely, the responsibility we have to ensure we are buying our puppies from ethical and reputable breeders and not puppy farms. To make sure we’re not accidentally encouraging – and funding – the existence of puppy farms, and the subsequent squalid and inhumane conditions they allow puppies and their mums and dads to live in, there are a few things you can do.

1. First things first, what makes a puppy farm?

In order to avoid accidentally buying a puppy from a puppy farm, it’s important to recognise what they are and how they’re defined.

A puppy farm, also called a puppy factory or puppy mill, is an intensive dog breeding facility. They operate in conditions that fail to meet the social and psychological needs of a dog. For example, the dogs often live in squalid conditions that are detrimental to their health.

Puppy farms are very, very lucrative businesses. Those that operate the businesses are in steadfast pursuit of profit, and as a result, the welfare of the dogs in question is ignored. The dogs are deprived of the love and care they need with the growth of business prioritised over compassion.

Owning a puppy at some stage is almost like a rite of passage. Image: iStock.

2. How to find an ethical breeder.

For a lot of people, it's not just a dog they're seeking, but a particular kind of dog. If this is you, and you're looking for a place to buy the puppy you've always wanted, there are a few steps you can take to make sure you're purchasing the dog from an ethical breeder and not a puppy farm.

According to RSPCA's Smart Puppy and Dog Buyer's Guide, this is what you can do to make sure the breeder is ethical:


Step 1: Visit the place of the puppy's birth.

Step 2: Meet the mother (and perhaps even the father if he's around) to check if they're healthy and happy.

Step 3: Check that the breeder shows a high-quality standard of care and living conditions for all of their dogs.

Puppy farms are a serious animal welfare problem, particularly in Victoria, and it's crucial those looking to buy a puppy can spot one before they support one.

If in your search you do come across any place you think may be a puppy farm, report them to RSPCA Victoria so they can work on shutting them down.

cost of owning a dog
Before you pick up one of these guys, meet their mum or dad first. Image: iStock.

3. Adoption is a great option.

If you don't have your heart set on a specific breed of dog (and by the way, it's totally fine if you do), then the absolute best thing you can do is adopt from the RSPCA.

One of the biggest myths surrounding adoption is the animals have been surrendered due to behavioural or health issues.

In fact, according to RSPCA Victoria CEO Dr Liz Walker, more often than not, those given up for adoption are fantastic pets, that cannot be cared for due to circumstances changing in their owner’s life.

"Our data shows that in most cases, animals given up for adoption are healthy, happy pets whose owners were simply unable to keep them," she says.

Dr Walker says for those interested in adopting, the stereotype that the dogs are often "broken" is far from reality.

“It’s a powerful reminder to aspiring pet owners who might dismiss the adoption option, believing rescue animals as ‘problems’, ‘broken’, or ‘secondhand’. In fact, nothing could be further from the truth."

Simply, there are dogs of many different shapes and sizes who - through no fault of their own - need good, warm, compassionate homes.

Could your home be one of them?

This content was created with thanks to our brand partner RSPCA Victoria