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  Inside Out - South of England: Monday January 5, 2004


Puppies face a grim new year

Inside Out's Chris Packham uncovers the misery behind the puppy farming trade.

There are a number of disreputable dog breeders out there who are in the business just for the money.

The Inside Out team decided the only way to check the true health of puppies being sold by one such breeder, at Keepers Cottage Stud near Farnham, was to buy one.

So, they sent an undercover vet, posing as a buyer, to investigate complaints.


et John Hawkridge and  Inside Out's Chris Packham
Vet John Hawkridge tells Chris Packham about conditions at the kennels

Vet John Hawkridge bought a 13-week-old white German Shepherd bitch for £440. He then gave her a thorough examination and carried out a series of tests.

The results are shocking. The puppy turned out to have a gut infection, mange and an infestation of fleas, ear mites and worms.

Keepers Cottage is run by John Lowe who also lied to the vet telling him that tests had been carried out on the puppy's parents to check for serious hereditary problems.

Inside Out has discovered that no such tests were ever done.

Mr Lowe is well known to Surrey Trading Standards department which has a long list of complaints from people who have bought puppies from his kennels.

John Lowe
John Lowe insists it is his customers that make the pups ill

Many of those puppies have fallen ill within days of being bought, and some have since died.

Dreams dashed

Ian Birch, from Petworth, West Sussex, will never forget the day he bought a West Highland white puppy from Mr Lowe as a birthday present for his 12 year old daughter, Vicky.

The dog fell ill within two days and had to be put down.

A few days later the family's eight-year-old German Shepherd, Khan, became ill too and also had to be put to sleep. Mr Birch's four children were heartbroken.

Twelve-year-old Vicky wrote a letter to Mr Lowe.

A poignant letter of broken dreams

She wrote: "The 'West Highland' puppy my Dad bought me for my birthday made my dreams come true. I loved him from the moment I saw him because he was so cute, sweet, and loveable.

"My dream became sorrow when he became ill... it has broken my heart to lose him and I want to thank you for breaking my heart. I'm wondering if you have children would you let their hearts be broken like mine is?"

Mr Lowe did not reply to Vicky's letter or others written by her father.

Ian Birch is still furious and warns other people not to go near Mr Lowe.

His advice is: "Stay away from him and don't give him the pleasure of taking your money as that's all he wants is your money; he's not concerned about the animals. Just stay away from him."

Huge vet bills

Others who have bought from Keepers Cottage Stud feel the same way.

Jillian Macdonald, of Woodley, near Reading, bought a female German Shepherd from Mr Lowe which turned out to have parvo virus - a killer disease.

Her dog survived but not before she had passed the disease to the family's Golden Labrador, costing them £2,500 in vet bills.

John Lowe
Prospective buyers get little chance to meet the puppies

Miss MacDonald won a court judgement against Mr Lowe but he has never paid up.

So how does she feel about Mr Lowe?

"I hate him. I really hate him and he shouldn't be allowed to get away with this any longer. People need to speak up to stop him," she says.

Mrs Joan Pearce, of Westbourne, near Emsworth, also suffered after buying a West Highland white from Mr Lowe.

She decided to buy a dog as a companion following the death of her husband but within five days the puppy was dead.

Mrs Pearce told Inside Out: "I cried my eyes out. I literally sobbed and I was absolutely distraught. No animal deserves what he went through and I honestly feel he (Mr Lowe) should be closed down; made to cease trading so nobody else has to go through the anguish we went through."

Mrs Pearce also won a county court judgment against Mr Lowe who was ordered to pay her a total of £590.

Mr Lowe has not paid a penny, but Mrs Pearce says she can not afford to pursue the matter.

Public complaints

Mrs Joan Pearce
Mrs Pearce: 'I cried my eyes out'

Mr Lowe is licensed to breed six different breeds and has 46 bitches. But the BBC has discovered that Mr Lowe is advertising seven different breeds.

Waverley Borough Council, who licence Mr Lowe, admit they have received 30 complaints from the public this year and Surrey Trading Standards has warned Mr Lowe not to continue selling puppies in poor condition.

Undercover vet, John Hawkridge remains appalled at what he found.

"It's the sort of thing I saw quite frequently 30 years ago and I really thought these sorts of places no longer existed.

"It really is most extraordinary that you can still, in this day and age, go to somewhere which is basically a farm; animals kept in farm conditions on straw and sold to people without any care whatsoever who they are selling them to."

Mr Lowe did speak to the programme on the phone, and insisted that his puppies don't have fleas and it's his customers who make the puppies ill. He claims he'll always buy puppies back, but the BBC has met people who say that is not true.

The RSPCA gives the following advice:

  • Insist on seeing the puppy with its mother where it was raised
  • Never buy from an unlicensed breeding establishment
  • If unsure, ask to see the breeder's licence
  • Avoid adverts offering lots of different breeds for sale
  • Never buy a pup sold straight from a car boot or at an open-air event like a market

The Kennel Club add:

  • Always buy from reputable breeders - contact the Kennel Club for breeder details
  • Never buy if you feel sorry for it - they can invariably be ill
  • Try and leave the breeder and then report the breeder to local authority or RSPCA
  • Dog should ideally be raised in home - assess the state of house
  • The mother should be on site - ideally the father too
See also ...

Inside Out: South
More great stories

BBC - Huge rise in puppy farming in Wales
BBC - Puppy farm grant row

On the rest of the web
The Kennel Club

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Readers' Comments

We are not adding any new comments to this page but you can still read some of the comments previously submitted by readers.

Nikki Hurry
I was absoutely disgusted when I saw last night's programme on the puppy farm. The Council and the RSPCA Should shut that place down now and take care of those dogs and pups! Keep up the good work Chris and co.

Jenny Brunyee
I was disgusted to see that there have been so many complaints but yet the council have not made him cease trading. Surely something will be done now?

Barbara Mills
Having been a dog breeder for some 20+years, I was obviously appalled by what I saw on this programme. The only way to get these places shut down is by the Local Authority. I would be very interestd to know which vet endorsed his licence. If he does not have one, then the law should close him per se.

M Brown
This sort of thing should have been stopped long ago. I have three pet dogs all who have been docked and also a bitch, who has been spayed, dogs should be kept as pets only, and brought up in a family home as mine are. I also have three children who respect our dogs as part of our family. Also, I am concerned for the little German Shephard puppie in your show. What has happend to him/her, and we would love to offer a loving home.

Mr Machie
I brought a puppy from J Lowe and unlike the negative portrait your programme gave, my puppy was happy and healthy. I was given a bag of food with my puppy and Mr Lowe clearly explained all my questions about my puppy. I found him to be a little eccentric but a very kind man who loved all his dogs.

Patricia Bint
How can puppy farms like the one shown on your programme still exist? What are the RSPCA doing about it? They should just go in there and shut the place down. If they can't do this, they are not preventing cruelty to animals.

Brenda Heath
Would it be possible for the BBC to do a follow up to this puppy farming at Keepers Cottage in Farnham? I am sure many other dog lovers were horrified. What are the RSPCA, Waverley Council & the courts/police doing to stop this Mr Lowe trading?

Ariana Windle
I am appalled that in this day an age people are allowed to breed and sell animals like this. Why haven't the local authorities shut him and others like him down? We have had dogs for years (now own just one collie) but we would be more than happy to take in ANY PUPPY from that farm that needs a home. Please contact us if you are serious about rehomeing these puppies. We are happy to be inspected.

Debbie Joel
I was extremely greatful to your programe as I am currantly looking for a German Shepard puppy and I didn't know that that puppy farm was only a few miles away as I am desperately trying to avoid them. More programes like this should show these dispicable people for what they are. Those poor little puppies.

Gina Siwcki
I think it is auwful that anyone could even think of doing something like that to those poor animals. What happened in the end to this puppy farm?

The Davies family
We brought a Beagle puppy from this man! He is in good health, but we were first time buyers and now know we should have been more careful.

Pauline Heather
I am outraged that local authories still are able to maintain these appalling puppy farms.I would like to know to whom I could write to attempt to change things for the future.

Mrs Margaret Scott
It shouldn't take that many complaints to stop a man like that, who's only interest is money. Why does it take so long even after many complaints, to still let him sell sick and dying puppies? This man makes me feel physically sick.

Samantha Jordan
Please could you let us know if this kennels has been closed down and are there any puppies in need of a good home.

Irene Platt
Puppy farms produce many badly reared and bred puppies for sale to the unsuspecting general public. Additionally, the breeding bitches and stud dogs are condemned to a sterile, isolated life of continuously producing litters without the benefit of human or other dog socialisation. Altogether a heartless money grabbing business built on cruelty.

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