Christine Grahame: That doggy in the window can come at a high price
If you remember the song How Much is that Doggy in the Window we are of like age.
Of course puppies in pet shop windows are a thing of the past, and thank goodness for that. Now that window is most likely to be the internet but that’s not much better, perhaps even worse. Then there are the puppies sold out of the backs of vans from so-called “puppy farms”, some in Eire and indeed some even here.
The bitches have a hellish life and the puppies not much better, and these are pedigrees which will cost into hundreds. Often they are sick and may have underlying behavioural problems.
The people who breed and sell are rotten to the core and see only big bucks, not animal welfare. The people who buy are good people but duped by sad puppy eyes and often end up with large vet bills and even with a sick and dying puppy.
There have been and are many attempts to close down unscrupulous breeders and dealers but often they are one step ahead of the police or the Scottish SPCA. This has led me to set about a piece of legislation of my own. It’s called a member’s Bill and will be about potential owners fulfilling certain criteria before acquiring a puppy.
What I am hoping is that prospective owners will be more rigorous, testing breeders or dealers but also themselves before taking on such a commitment. If we can reduce uninformed demand then I hope to reduce not only an unscrupulous trade, but help people really know what commitment is required so that you and your dog have a good relationship and is acquired from good people for good reasons.
You see I have had a dog in my time, a wonderful Irish Setter called Roostie. She joined the family when the children were young and when I was not working – in those days you took time off for family. We had a large rural garden and long forestry walks. Roostie taught my sons how to respect animals and to recognise their needs. Much loved and much missed. I have worked full-time for many years and though I would love a dog, it would not be fair.
I have a cat and he is fine with my long day-time absences and that is the compromise. You have to be hard on yourself and not fall for the charms of puppyhood. You must also be sensible about the breed you obtain as well as its source. All small dogs are not necessarily the ones needing little exercise. Think Jack Russell. On the other hand ex-greyhound racers just love lolling on a sofa. Staffordshire Bull terriers have a rotten reputation, wholly undeserved, and are often mistaken for more aggressive breeds. Did you know they were known as the “nanny dog” because of their easy temperament? Yet the Edinburgh Dog & Cat Home, as with the SSPCA rescue site at Balerno, is bursting with rejected staffies, bought often by the wrong person for the wrong reasons.
Hence the motivation for my Bill. For too long, like purchases on the internet, puppies have been sold as if commodities. I hope I can help in some way to prevent this.
Christine Grahame is SNP MSP for Midlothian South, Tweeddale and Lauderdale