Step by Step Guide to the Puppy Import Trade
I’ve written at length before about what a “Puppy Broker” is – think of them as ‘electronic pet stores’, who obtain puppies from a breeder, and then re sell them for a profit. Unlike pet stores, who at least admit to not having bred the puppies they sell, many brokers will bend over backwards to obscure the fact that they aren’t the actual breeders of the puppies.
Brokers who do admit that their dogs are European imports like to use a lot of buzz terms about just why they’re importing puppies for re sale. They’ll talk about “superior health”, and “champion lines”, and they like to toss around references to a better policed European breeding system. What they never actually spell out for you is the actual chain of events – how a puppy gets from a breeder in Europe to a puppy broker in Toronto, or some other North American city.
This article caught my eye, because it fills in some of the blanks for us:
From the Austrian Independent –
Styrian police discovered 47 puppies stashed in a Slovakian van during a routine motorway traffic check on the A2 yesterday (Weds).
Cops said the animals were transported in carton boxes and on the car’s floor.
The 31-year-old driver is facing animal cruelty charges. He admitted he had been driving nonstop for hours and was on his way to Spain.
A vet said the man had five King Charles Spaniels, one Jack Russell Terrier, eight miniature pinscher, four Pomeranians, one French Bulldog, four Chihuahuas, three wire-haired dachshunds, 20 Maltese and one Labrador. He said the youngest dogs were just five weeks old.
The emphasis in bold is mine, because it plays such an important part in explaining just why so many of the Eastern European import dogs have temperament problems.
In the immortal words of a puppy broker, which I’ve never forgotten, “Puppies are like baked goods – the older they get, the staler they are, and the less money you can charge for them”.
The North American pet market wants their puppies young, and in the prime of their ‘cute puppy’ phase – generally, between 8 to 9 weeks of age. Here’s a breakdown of what it takes to get those puppies to North America, before their ‘best before’ window expires.
Bunchers are the guys who visit the Eastern European breeders, and round up the puppies. They’ll pick up entire litter lots, of the various breeds that are in demand, load them up, and do the paperwork that’s required to get them ready for shipping to North America. Since there’s at least a week or two of ‘advance’ work to be done before the puppies are ready to be shipped, the Bunchers are usually picking these puppies up almost as soon as they are weaned – that’s as early as four weeks.
This is Leah, at four weeks old. Her legs are wobbly, her teeth are still erupting, and she startles rapidly. She’s barely out of her neonate phase, and into her transitional one.
A four week old puppy is a fragile thing – it’s immune system is still reliant on the antibodies it received from its mother, and it is physically unable to regulate body temperature effectively and so gets cold or hot very rapidly.
This is the most important phase in a puppy’s emotional development, and it is when they most need the company of their littermates and their mother.
Bunchers, of course, are not concerned with these niceties. Their only goal is to get their goods to market, as quickly as possible. Once rounded up, the puppies are transported (apparently sometimes on the floors of vans) to a holding facility, where they stay until all the necessary paperwork has been done that they need to be able to be shipped.
Once this is ready, they’re packed into crates, and loaded onto airplanes. Technically, it’s unacceptable to ship multiple puppies together in one crate, but in reality it still happens all the time, especially if the shipper on the European end either doesn’t know about this regulation, or has been paid not to care. Sometimes, the shippers aren’t too up to date on proper animal welfare, which explains the crate which arrived in the USA shrink wrapped, and full of suffocated puppies. A few dead puppies, however, are considered ‘acceptable loss’ – after all, the pups are bought for sometimes as little as $50, but they can be re sold by the bunchers for a few hundred – and there’s almost no limit what the brokers on the other end can charge.
The pups who make it onto the plane face a grueling journey – with layovers, a flight from Poland to Toronto is going to depart at 7:30 in the evening, and arrive at 1:00 the following day (that’s a 23hr 5mn trip). Since the puppies, however, are traveling as cargo, they usually are required to have a four or five hour layover, to ensure they’re loaded onto the connecting flight.
Think about it – that’s at least two to three hours in advance arrival, a day and change in transit, and then another three or so hours being processed on arrival. Alone, in a crate, with no food, no water, no potty breaks, no companionship. For puppies that are, by now, probably no more than five to six weeks old.
The pups arrive, are processed, and are picked up by the puppy brokers. At this point, they have to be vetted, and treated for any conditions they’ve acquired over the interval since they left the Bunchers (parasites like coccidia and giardia, and viruses like parvo, thrive in conditions of stress).
Veterinary treatment costs money, so a lot of the brokers choose a sort of ‘do it yourself’ method, as we can see in this photo of a puppy receiving ‘care’ at the hands of the Broker who imported it.
You can imagine how well that usually works out.
Once the surviving puppies have been dosed with antibiotics, fluids and worming medicine, the Brokers prop them up against some stuffed animals, take their photos, and add them to their websites, or the numerous “puppy for sale” websites which have proliferated in the last ten or so years. Some will be sold via on line sites like Kijiji, and many will be portrayed as having been bred by the person selling them. In many cases, buyers only find out where their puppies really came from when (and if) they finally get a copy of their registration papers.
That’s an awfully long trip, at an awfully young age, for puppies who should be still at home playing with their litter mates. By comparison, it makes the cross country trip from Missouri to a New York City pet shop look like a comparative walk in the park, and yet people who would never dream of buying a pet store puppy will purchase one from a broker, without seeing the irony.
We need people to understand that there is just as much, if not more, cruelty involved in the import puppy trade, as there is in the domestic puppy mill business. All of the shiny on line photographs in the world can’t justify the abuse these tiny little victims endure.
For more info, visit the Wrong Puppy – http://thewrongpuppy.org/
You rock!! This is an excellent article, and made me cry 🙂
Here in Texas, we’ve been more focused on puppies smuggled in from Mexico – I hadn’t really thought about all the pups flown in from eastern Europe.
.-= Barb´s last blog ..Talented Teddy! =-.
Excelent article, Carol. Congratulations!
Unfortunatelly, there are people all over the world to feed this sick trading.
Let´s try to improve their knowledgement.
I´m RT and FW this post!
.-= camilli´s last blog ..Atitudes Sustentáveis: Compostagem =-.
I send people to thewrongpuppy regularly
Some get it, others elect to suffer elective tunnel vision.
5 week old puppies are infants. AND, on top of all the other wrong and bad about separating and shipping 4-5 week olds, you CANNOT adequately vet check pups this young. Heart murmurs sometimes don’t even become audible before 8-10 weeks old. How the hell can you do any kind of orthopedic exam on a pup who is just a ball of cartilage? And other god awful issues like spina bifida, hydrocephalus etc… are not readily obvious in many cases.
And the utter lack of giving any sort of a shit about genetic health shows up. Bulldog rescue has dealt with a number of imports with some or all of these problems. But by then the pups were sold, the money is pocketed and good luck to any buyer who thinks they’ll be able to get compensated or sue, no matter how pretty the contract and guarantee looked
Foreign puppymilling scum and skeevy importer-brokers motto “How do we do it? Volume!” Crank out enough “units” and some loss is just OK fine.
I think the dog importing business is so comlicated,you opinion is so professional,thanks for sharing.
Having hand raised Jack Russells myself, I’m absolutely stunned that ANY of these pups are surviving the trip. Sick and shocking. And I thought puppy mills were bad.
.-= Jack Russell´s last blog ..Feb 25, Jack Russell Terrier Names – Jack Russell Names =-.