If you have become aware of the barbaric practice known as puppy farming at some point over the last few years, it’s likely to be down to vet Marc Abraham.
Marc, who grew up in North West London, was running an emergency vet clinic in Brighton when he began to notice a pattern amongst his canine patients. Sick puppies were being brought to him by their worried families, who would be devastated to see their new pets either dying or being put down due to severe illness – and it was always the same virus: fatal parvovirus. This is a highly contagious disease, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea or attacks the heart muscles. Marc explained: “These dogs were either dying or being put to sleep or had serious ongoing problems, so I sourced where they were coming from, which was a local puppy farm dealer, and it opened my eyes to what was going on.”
From that point, there was no looking back, as Marc set off on his campaign against puppy farming. “Having realised what a big deal it was, that was it, I knew I had to do something about it,” he explained to me when we met up over lunch recently.
Once Marc had realised that he couldn’t let the situation lie, the chain of events was set in motion that led to the arrival of colourful bunting, white picket fences and masses of happy dogs and people on Primrose Hill in September 2012. The dog show had already worked successfully in Brighton in previous years, but PupAid patron Meg Mathews suggested that dog-loving, quirky Primrose Hill was the perfect location for the event; and from there the dog show quickly became a much-loved fixture in the local calendar.
This year the event will take place on 6th September. With classes such as Prettiest Bitch, London’s Coolest Dog, Golden Oldie and Dog that Most Resembles a Celebrity; plus a battalion of stalls selling animal-related products; and with high-profile supporters such as, from previous years, Brian May, Ricky Gervais and Abbey Clancy, mingling amongst the crowds, the PupAid dog show is a fun and unusual way to put across a very serious message.
And Marc is clear on the message he wants to convey.
Firstly, “Where’s Mum?” is the question Marc wants us to ask first when considering buying a puppy. If a puppy is being sold without the mother present, it’s likely that the dog is from a puppy farm. Why is that so bad? Well, a decent breeder will want to sell healthy, cared-for dogs that go on to make excellent pets for their new owners; for a puppy farmer, it’s all about profit, with little concern for the well-being of either the pups or their parents. Marc has seen this result in appalling suffering for the dogs, and huge disappointment (and expense) for those who have bought pups in this way.
Meanwhile, Marc urges everyone to act, simply by signing PupAid’s online government petition, which calls for the sale of puppies and kittens without their mothers being present to be banned. If you haven’t already done so, you can add your voice here:
The huge landmark of 100,000 signatures has been passed – currently the total stands at around 110,000 – which means the issue can now be debated in parliament, but of course more signatures can only be helpful.
Meanwhile, Marc is hoping that the parliamentary debate will take place mid-June in the Chamber of the House of Commons. The location is important: some debates take place in Westminster Hall, but Marc is insistent that it takes place in the Chamber so that PupAid’s many supporters can watch it take place on BBC Parliament Channel, or even from the Visitors’ Gallery of the House of Commons itself.
Marc says: ‘We’re working hard to gather enough evidence to change the government’s mind, and to convince them to stop puppies and kittens being sold without their mums.”
With all of this amazing work, it comes as no surprise that Marc was named ‘Vet of the Year’ for 2014. With characteristic modesty and focus he declares: “That prize is for everyone who shared or signed the petition.”
Having immersed himself in the fight against puppy farming, how has Marc found the campaign?
“In one word, phenomenal. Because of what’s going on behind the scenes, because of how it started, and who’s involved, and just how massive it’s become. It’s very overwhelming, and it’s a real lesson: if you really don’t like something, or are against something, or you think something should change, then you go and do something about it.”
And if that’s not an inspiration, I don’t know what is.
Note: Marc recommends adopting a pet from your local rescue centre, such as The Mayhew Animal Home http://themayhew.org
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