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Consequences of Removing the Trigger

Lucy’s Law was implemented on the 6th of December 2017. Lucy’s Law called for an immediate ban on the sale of puppies by pet shops and other third-party commercial dealers.

The term ‘commercial’ means sales as part of a business, for profit. Third-party sellers are dealers; people who did not breed the dogs and who operate as ‘middlemen’ between the breeders and the buying public.

I have visited two large puppy farms in Wales since Lucy’s Law was implemented. One was licensed, and the other was not. There was little difference between the two. Both kept their dogs in appalling conditions.

On October 1st, 2018 DEFRA brought into effect new licensing legislation for breeders stating that:

The number of animals kept for the activity at any time must not exceed the maximum that is reasonable taking into account the facilities and staffing on any premises used for the licensable activity.”

Ambiguous to say the least and, in my opinion, this legislation is too little too late. Both puppy farms that I visited had over 200 dogs/puppies in outdoor kennels. The kennels were filthy. The dog’s feet and underbelly were stained yellow from lying in urine. The space provided for multiple litters was tiny. The dogs were unsocialised and terrified of me.

These puppy farms are in very remote areas and are difficult to find. The puppies are still being shipped off to places like London. They are still infiltrated into a ‘family home’ i.e. a dealer and sold as family pets. They are often shown with fake parents. Puppy farming is still a multimillion-pound business in the UK, and not much is being done about it. One such puppy was Ally.

Case Study Ally:

Functional analysis in behavioural psychology is ‘the application of the laws of operant and respondent conditioning to establish the relationships between stimuli and responses.’ An antecedent is ‘a stimulus that cues an organism to perform a learned behaviour.’ The function of that behaviour is determined by its consequences.

Until the day Ally was rescued, she had never been handled by a human. She lived in a basic outdoor kennel with hundreds other dogs. Her only human contact was when the kennels were cleaned. Cold hoses were used. At feeding time, bowls are thrown into the kennel; no human contact was made. Ally has been in a kennel at a rescue shelter for just over a month now. Ally is fearful of all humans.

When I first started looking at Ally’s fearful behaviour, she was in the kennel with another dog. Without a human present she appeared happy. She would run around with her kennel mate but stay close to him for comfort and support. It was clear that Ally was much more confident in herself when she had a canine companion.

However, when the kennel staff entered the kennel, Ally’s body language and energy shifted immediately. Her fearful behaviour would begin with the distant antecedent when the staff member approached the kennel door. Once inside as the staff member approached Ally all her appeasement behaviours were ignored. Obviously, this is not to judge the amazing staff, they just have not learned dog body language and so want to physically comfort the fearful dog. They are unaware that this is extremely uncomfortable for Ally.

Once the staff member goes to leave the kennels and reaches the door, Ally’s behaviour goes from passive to active with all behaviours heightened; barking, spinning, and jumping. The consequences of her behaviours in her mind work because they make the person go away. This is the emotion Ally wanted to show but was too afraid. Newton’s First Law states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, but merely transformed. In other words supressed emotion/energy will have to be expressed at some point. This expression of emotion is what gains the animal relief. In Ally’s case this is when the trigger has been removed.

When looking at helping rehabilitate puppy farm dogs then, as a behaviourist I would recommend time, space and another four legged friend to help them on their way.

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