• The truth about Gum Tree and the puppy farms in the UK

    Sep 20th

    I mentioned in the last blog that my new focus for saving animals would be dogs. I also mentioned that there are two key issues – right here in the UK – that are causing massive welfare issues for the pooches.

    1) The selling dogs on Gum Tree

    2) Puppy Farms.

    Let me explain, very briefly, why each is bad and what, if anything, one fool in East London can do about it.


    Why is selling dogs on Gumtree so bad?


    Gumtree: sell your car, fridge or…er..dog

    Gumtree is a free online listings service where you can advertise anything from flats for rent to tricycles for sale. You probably sold me your fridge on it (and it doesn’t work too well)

    Go onto Gumtree and search for dogs in London and you’ll quickly find an ad like this.


    A typical gum tree ad in London for a Staffordshire Bull Terrier –  the type often favoured by young men who want to look ‘street’ – this dog is more than likely to have a terrible life ahead of it.

    Isn’t it cute?


    What often happens to a dog like this, from what I have read and from speaking to various charities and local dog wardens that know about this, is that it sells at too young an age from someone that doesn’t have a clue about breeding to someone who doesn’t have a clue about looking after dogs. The dog is sent from bad home to bad home.

    Because ads are largely free on the site, people are encouraged to breed dogs for a quick buck. The pups are  not vaccinated or wormed and the younger they are the more cute they look  (and so are picked up more readily) and the quicker and cheaper it is to raise them. The dogs therefore suffer from being taken from their mother at too young an age and this, combined with an unhealthy upbringing, means they are often susceptible to diseased, including Parvo Virus, which can easily kill.  If they don’t die they can go to a home where they are often abandoned later (‘it whined’ is a common excuse, or ‘it needed exercise and I don’t have time’ is another) or they are resold on gumtree (older dogs go for as little as £1, have a look yourself)

    Its the old story: when money and animals mix, animals lose.

    Of course, this isn’t the fate of all dogs on gumtree, and gumtree supposedly has a policy whereby you cannot advertise a dog less than 8 weeks old,  but in the case of the ‘bull breeds’ like Staffordshire Terriers and Bull mastiffs (or anything that looks ‘hard’ and has a big rounded head) it’s fairly common.  How do I know? – I’ll tell you in the next few blogs and it ain’t much fun.

    Another sign that the dogs are likely to have been mistreated – and excuse me for being poisonously judgmental here – is that the people that sell them are too hopeless to be able to spell (dog-loving dyslexics forgive me the generalisation) . Here you go…

    Is this guy’s spelling a clue to whether he can look after a dog or not.


    I have even heard accounts of dogs being bought online for little money to be used as bait for dog fights. It makes sense – how else would you train up your dog to kill another dog for very little money?

    To find out how widespread this all is – and what I could do to help –  I have contacted a well-respected charity called All Dogs Matter in North London who do an incredible job of rehoming and rescuing dogs in the capital.

    More on this to follow very soon.


    What is puppy ‘farming’ and why is it bad?

    When I was fourteen years old we got our second dog and soon after it almost died.   My mum found an ad in the local paper from a man selling Cairn Terriers  in Wales (the breed we wanted) for not very much money. Since our first dog, a west highland terrier, had been inordinately expensive and was from a pedigree home of show-dogs with names like ‘Richard  III’ which were powdered with white chalk to make them look better we thought we would try something cheaper and less silly. My mum picked the dog up (mum, correct me if I am wrong here, but it was at the gate of a farm and you weren’t allowed in?) and bought it home.

    A sweet little fluffy brown thing we called Flora appeared in our lives.

    After a few weeks when her ears didn’t stand up properly we wondered if it was indeed the breed we asked for. Shortly afterward it got sick and spent 48 hours on a drip in hospital with Parvo-virus. This is a huge killer of puppies. Thankfully it  pulled through and spent the rest of my teenage years making my life much sunnier.

    I now realise that Flora was almost certainly from a puppy farm.

    Puppy farms are places, often in remote areas like Wales, where expensive pedigree dogs are mass bred in terrible conditions only for profit and then sold through newspaper ads, on the internet or worse still – to fancy big pet shops who then sell them on to the unknowing family in the street. The results is horrendous cruelty on a mass scale, puppies that often die of ill-health and mother dogs that live a life or repeated breeding until they can do it no longer.

    You only need to google some images of puppy farms to see how bad it is.

    But what can I do?

    Stupidly or heroically, I’ve just contacted all the anti-puppy farming groups I could in the UK to offer my services as an undercover photographer to go on any planned raids to expose cruelty. I can take a good photo but I’m not sure I can drag my arse over a barbed wire fence. If I can help I will though, we shall see.

    But before I talk about any of that, if you are thinking of buying a pup off the internet or a pet shop DON’T!

    Always make sure you see the parents of the dog, know how it was bought up and make sure it was healthy. If you want more info look here


    Guide to buying a dog




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    4 Responses to “The truth about Gum Tree and the puppy farms in the UK”

    1. Hi Martin,
      thank you for your blog posts, I read them since you started your year of help. This one (like some others) I’ll share on Twitter and Facebook and hope lots of people read it and share it..as many people are not aware of this awful problem, both – Gumtree and puppy farms…so sad. But if there weren’t buyers, I guess there wouldn’t be sellers. One question – do the pet shops know about the puppy farms conditions etc? Silly question I guess, sure they know and they don’t care, they are just after the money, just like the ‘farmers’.
      Me and my boyfriend are long wanting to get a doggie and slowly we plan and hopefully soon we will be able to get one cheeky pup. First we wanted to buy a specific breed from proper breeder, but soon we changed our minds and when the time comes, we hope to get one from a dog shelter, probably Battersea. Can’t wait! We meet you in London fields then 🙂
      Good luck with your photography mission with the anti – puppy farm groups, I am looking forward to read all about it!

    2. Hi Katka, thanks for your kind words and also for considering buying a dog in the right way. Yes, then I’ll meet you in London Fields! Do stay in touch….

      I think a lot of the pet shops DO know about the conditions but don’t care too much. I’ll try and find out


    3. An acquaintance of mine, a middle aged mother of three and nurse with no clue about dogs, bought a cute little puppy in Cologne city centre on the street.
      This was her first dog.
      Guess what the lovely pup was? A Staffordshire terrier male.
      Of course the cute lapdog developed some traits that do not exactly predestinate him to live next to a public school where the family in fact lives.
      Children are sometimes silly when seeing a dog in a garden and tease it… you never know.

      It was a rather dominant dog and even if the husband, who had more sense when it came to the dog, went with him to a professional trainer the dog remained dominant (bad luck) and did not want to accept anyone in the family really as an alpha…

      As you can get real complications in Germany when your dog bites a child, the family decided to part with the dog.
      But they did not want to give him away as they knew well enough that all the German shelters are full of this kind of dog and to adopt him out privately would have been too risky, the husband told me (as in fact no average German wants to keep a listed breed dog). So the family decided to euthanize the young (maybe 2 years old) Staff male.
      End of the (sad) story.

      So it goes often enough when people fall in love with a puppy that is sold on the street.

      When the family got the next dog it was – as far as I heard – a dachshound.
      I am afraid, the dog was of course not from the rescue…

    4. a very sad story. I didn’t realise that the problem over there was as bad a here. thanks for the post

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