Puppy Farms in Ireland

Statement from Nanci Creedon Dog Behaviour Expert
Ahead of the Cavan Protest in Relation to the
Puppy Farm Planning Permission of Ray Cullivan
In Cavan



I am publicly calling on the Cavan County Council to reject Ray Cullivan’s bid for retention permission for his puppy farm in Poles, Co. Cavan.

*This is an opportunity for the people in power to make a statement that Ireland will no longer tolerate the sale of unhealthy dogs, and as a nation of animal lovers, we expect a much higher standard of physical and mental care for breeding dogs and their pups*


Whilst I will not comment on the fact that Ray Cullivan was in breach of the law when breeding dogs without planning permission, nor will I call for his accounts to be investigated (which they should), I will leave that to those who know more, the grounds of my objection is based on the fact that puppy farm dogs are much more prone to dangerous behavioural and medical complications, and there for any pup that is sold from such an environment is ripping off the buyer.


So many people are fooled into purchasing pups from such establishments by cunning tricks where such pups are taken from their living environment (which would turn off any perspective buyer) and are instead purchased from a family home, or the back of a car, so the buyers are oblivious to the environment from which the pup spent their precious early weeks.

The pup’s parents are rarely seen, and the truth behind the day to day life of the parents is, of course, not disclosed.


Puppy farms also pose a risk to society. The below studies have shown, time and time again, that puppies from puppy farm environments are more fearful and more aggressive than pups from responsible sources, resulting in more risk of dog bite to the general public.


Cavan County Council vets have reported that there is no welfare concern for the dogs on site. I would respectfully ask those vets to explain where they acquired their behaviour qualifications, and how they behaviourally assessed all of the dogs on site to determine their mental health.


I would like to make a number of points, based on scientific published research, to educate those who are less informed on the fallout of the puppy farm environment for the dogs involved.






A survey carried out on over 2000 dogs in the UK found the following statistics

  • Half of puppies (49%) bought online, without being seen first, fall sick, and around 1 in 5 puppies (17%) end up with serious gastrointestinal problems.
  • Almost 1 in 5 people (18%) who bought a puppy online or from a newspaper advert are forced to spend between £500 and £1,000 on vet bills in the first six months of the puppy’s life – often more than the original cost of the puppy.
  • More than a third of people (37%) who ended up with a sick puppy after buying online or from a newspaper advert experienced financial problems due to treatment costs, and 35% suffered from emotional problems.
  • More than a third of puppies (37%) bought online or from a newspaper advert without being seen first were bought as a spur of the moment decision, with almost two-thirds (60%) being bought solely because of the way they looked.
  • Buying a puppy from a responsible breeder can cost owners 18% less in unplanned veterinary fees, and puppies are 23% less likely to need to visit the vet.

BBC Scotland investigated the trade from Ireland to Scotland and found that 20% of the pups bought on the internet will die within 6 months (BBC Scotland. 2015. The Dog Factory).






A study by Franklin McMillan behaviourally evaluated a large sample of American dog owners comparing dogs bought from stores (puppy farm pups) to dogs bought from responsible breeders.

Dogs bred for commercial profit are significantly more likely to show greater aggression towards family members, unfamiliar people, and other dogs than pups from responsible breeders.

Commercially bred pups are more likely to show greater fear of other dogs and non-threatening things than pups from responsible breeders.

Commercially bred dogs are more likely to show separation-related problems and house soiling than responsibly bred dogs.

Commercially bred pups are more likely to show the following behaviour problems – aggression, house soiling, body licking and separation anxiety.

Puppy farm dogs are less trainable than dogs from responsible breeders.

Puppy ream dogs have less favourable behaviour and temperament scores than puppies from responsible breeders.

And What About the Parents?

In relation to ex-breeding stock, the adult dogs who are rehomed after being used as breeding stock show significantly higher rates of fear, house soiling, compulsive staring (zoning out), are less trainable, and are significantly less likely to show signs of excitement, energy, chasing or aggression. This study concludes that the deprived life, where the dog could not escape from its situation has resulted in the dog developing a coping mechanism of ‘shutting down’. (McMillan et al 2011)


In my career as a dog behaviour consultant I work with dogs who have behaviour problems on a daily basis.

In my experience, the above studies are true. In Ireland, many dog owners are not aware that they have purchased a dog from a puppy farm until I ask the right questions and make a connection. These owners have been tricked in to buying a dog with many behaviour problems.

The early weeks of a pup’s development (weeks 3-12) are the vital weeks that help develop that dog and its temperament. A pup that spends these weeks locked in a barn or shed is not getting exposure to the essential socialisation and capitalisation experiences that a well-bred pup will.

Fundamentally, the domestic dog is a species that man has created. At it’s very core, a dog is an animal that needs to human company to be able to express natural behaviours. During weeks 3-12 pups should be exposed to the normal life stimuli – TV, microwave ping, central heating, walking on tiles, on carpet and on wood, trips in the car, meeting children, family and friends. Smelling new scents, hearing new sounds, experiences that will help to build that pup into a well-adjusted, happy, healthy adult dog.

Early environment strongly influences the emotional stability of puppies later in life, with pups from responsible breeders less vocal and distressed when they join their new home, and much calmer in their new environment. Deliberate inclusion of gentle exposures to new stimuli, and handling very much helps the emotional development, and the welfare, of the pups (Gazzano).


We need to listen to science. Puppy farms are awful for puppies, awful for the parents, and result in new dog owners being sold a ‘product’ that is not fit for purpose. These pups are more likely to DIE and more likely to BITE.

Yet for the sake of lining the pockets of these individuals our puppy farm economy is booming. Are they paying their taxes? Are they registered for VAT? Are they following the Dog Breeding Establishment Act legislation? Seems not.


Hsu, Y. and Serpell, J.A., 2003. Development and validation of a questionnaire for measuring behavior and temperament traits in pet dogs.Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association223(9), pp.1293-1300.

McMillan, F.D., Duffy, D.L. and Serpell, J.A., 2011. Mental health of dogs formerly used as ‘breeding stock’in commercial breeding establishments.Applied Animal Behaviour Science135(1), pp.86-94.

McMillan, Franklin D., et al. “Differences in behavioral characteristics between dogs obtained as puppies from pet stores and those obtained from noncommercial breeders.” Journal of the American Veterinary Medical Association 242.10 (2013): 1359-1363.

Pirrone, F., Pierantoni, L., Pastorino, G.Q. and Albertini, M., 2016. Owner-reported aggressive behavior towards familiar people may be a more prominent occurrence in pet shop-traded dogs. Journal of Veterinary Behavior: Clinical Applications and Research11, pp.13-17.

Gazzano, A., Mariti, C., Notari, L., Sighieri, C. and McBride, E.A. (2008) Effects of early gentling and early environment on emotional development of puppies. Applied Animal Behaviour Science, 110, (3-4), 294-304.

Do puppies from ‘puppy farms’ [puppy mills] show more temperament and behavioural problems than if acquired from other sources? Using CBARQ to assess” Rebecca Gray, Catherine Douglas, Sophie Butler and James Serpell, Presented at British Society of Animal Science “Annual Conference”, Chester, UK, 6th April 2016. – http://www.ncl.ac.uk/press/news/2016/05/puppyfarms/

The Humane Society of the United States, “Veterinary Problems in Puppy Mill Dogs” (2012). HSUS Puppy Mill Research, Reports, and Facts Sheets. Paper 7

BBC Scotland. 2015. The Dog Factoryf

Survey highlights welfare concern of modern puppy-buying habits