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Not all mums will get the love they deserve this Mother’s Day

The RSPCA is calling for legislation to tackle the illegal trade in puppies and to improve welfare for bitches used for breeding

Motherhood is one of the most beautiful and natural things in this world. And Mothering Sunday is a time to celebrate that, as well as the bond mums share with their babies.

But for some dogs, motherhood is a nightmare which never ends.

Last year, more than 400,000 puppies are thought to have come to the market in Britain from unlicensed breeders. Some of these are believed to have come from large-scale dog breeding operations both at home and abroad. The RSPCA is seriously concerned for the welfare of the pups coming from these sites, as well as for their mums.

Bitches are often used as ‘breeding machines’ to produce as many litters as possible every year, with no consideration for their health or wellbeing. They aren’t cared for properly, and don’t receive the correct treatment or veterinary attention. And when they can no longer produce puppies they are often cast aside like rubbish.

Very often, they are used for breeding when they are just puppies themselves. It is against the law for licensed breeders to breed from a bitch that is under the age of one, and advice is actually that bitches should be at least two before they are bred from.

And legislation also states that bitches should have no more than six litters in a lifetime.

But, for many of these breeders and dealers, these numbers aren’t the ones that matter. Only pound signs are taken into account.

Lisa Richards, scientific officer, specialising in dog welfare at the RSPCA, said: “What dogs like these go through is terribly sad - it just shows there are people out there that that view dogs as cash cows to be exploited.

“We often focus on the puppies affected but sadly the breeding bitches are forgotten. They can suffer long-term health problems from being bred over and over from a young age.

“Being kept in barren cages with no human company or the company of other adult dogs can also have serious and long-term consequences for the behaviour of these dogs. If they’re lucky enough to be rescued, it can be really difficult for them to cope in a home environment and it takes a lot of time, patience and hard-work from their new owners to help them settle in and become confident. Help from a behaviourist is also likely to be required.”

Here are two bitches who were rescued from lives of forced breeding and poor treatment. But for them, the damage is already done - and now the work to restore their confidence and trust in humans begins.

RSPCA inspectors rescued cocker spaniel Ebony - now named Florence - from a suspected puppy farm in June this year.

She was taken in by the animal welfare charity and, while in our care, started showing signs of being pregnant. Weeks later she gave birth to a litter of 13 puppies - ten survived and went on to find homes.

Florence was far too young to be bred from and has ongoing behavioural issues even now. She was rehomed with RSPCA inspector Kate Barnes.

Kate said: “As soon as I saw Florence I knew I had to have her - I used to go to the centre to walk her even before she was able to be rehomed. I have had spaniels before and just fell in love with her.

“For the first five days she was with, Florrie didn’t even attempt to go upstairs - I don’t think she’d ever been in a home environment before or even encountered stairs.

“She has does have separation related behaviour, she really doesn’t like being left and has attached herself to me. Florence obviously had a tough start in life, she cowers down, and really hates being anywhere near her crate - really she just wants to be on laps having cuddles.

“We have a little way to go but she is a lovely dog and we are so pleased she is part of our family.

“Whenever I tell anyone she has had a litter of 13 they can’t believe it - she was far too young to have this happen to her but now she is protected from that life of breeding.”

Field spaniel Lindi was rescued from a puppy farm in 2013. She was found in a dark barn alongside a Patterdale terrier pup, which clearly wasn’t hers, and a carrier bag with a litter of dead puppies inside. She was frightened and confused.

She was taken to the RSPCA’s South Godstone Animal Centre, in Surrey, where rehabilitation work begun. Vets who neutered Lindi said she’d been used as a mother far too many times and had suffered from internal damage as a result.

The centre’s deputy manager, Tony Shaw, fostered her and then adopted her permanently. He said: “When she first came to us she found it extremely difficult to go outside. When we eventually got her out on a lead she was terrified of everything - from the sound of a door closing, to strangers walking by.

“It took her some time but, once she came home with me, she started to come out of her shell. Now she’s a really happy, lovely dog. She is still frightened of busy areas and stays away from other dogs but she’s doing really well.”

For these lucky dogs, the nightmare is over. But for thousands of others out there, it continues day in and day out.


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