Mel Hood —
The number of puppies advertised for sale on various platforms (classified advertisements, social media and the like) is cause for serious concern. Many different breeds are available, with some adverts even offering to find you the breed of your choice.
In most municipal areas in Zimbabwe, it is illegal to breed dogs without a current breeders’ licence and there are, in fact, very few “legal” breeders in this country. There certainly are no registered breeders of many of the more exotic breeds offered for sale.
Most of the pedigree/purebred puppies advertised for sale are smuggled over the border from South Africa — investigations in Beit Bridge have revealed that the puppies are simply hidden in vehicles driving across the border or carried to waiting vehicles in boxes across the dry river bed.
They are then brought into various towns, Marondera and Harare in particular, from where they are advertised for sale. It is our belief that the puppies are bought through adverts in South African newspapers — particularly from the Polokwane area — where the sellers are met on the side of the road, payment made and the dogs then begin their tortuous journey to new homes in Zimbabwe.
The conditions under which the puppies are bred often verge on being classified as puppy mills, the parent dogs are seldom pedigree or even pure bred as claimed and many of the puppies suffer from health and congenital problems.
Most of the puppies are not vaccinated as claimed (an added cost) and there is a real danger of new strains of diseases (particularly parvo virus) being brought into Zimbabwe.
The director of Veterinary Services, Dr Josphat Nyika, has expressed the department’s concern at the possibility of disease outbreaks — both animal and zoonotic — as the real health status of these puppies is unknown.
Private and Government veterinarians have reported a number of cases where clients have paid exorbitant prices for their puppy, believing their vaccinations to be up to date, only to have the puppy fall ill shortly after purchase — many subsequently dying.
Buyers pay in the region of between R200 and R300 for each puppy and sell them here for several hundred US dollars — a lucrative business indeed — but at what cost to the animals?
The cruelty suffered by the puppies is appalling. To start with, many are too young to be taken away from their mothers, they are then carted around like pieces of luggage, with very little provision being made for food, water or their comfort. Vaccination certificates and import permits are falsified, often with the names of reputable vets being forged as the signatory.
Dogs and puppies imported into Zimbabwe from South Africa require the following papers:
An import permit issued by the Department of Veterinary Services;
A health certificate/export certificate/movement permit from a state veterinarian in South Africa (this is a combined form).
The state veterinarian will have to verify the rabies vaccination status of the mother, if the puppies are less than three months old. The mother must have been vaccinated against rabies within 12 months prior to delivery of the litter. If over three months of age, the puppy must have its own proof of rabies vaccination. NB —The puppy may not travel for 30 days after vaccination;
The South African state veterinarian will also examine each dog or puppy for any obvious communicable diseases or congenital defects; and
Upon arrival in Zimbabwe, puppies or dogs and their health certificates must be seen and examined by a Government veterinarian.
When buying an advertised puppy:
Ask to physically see the parent animals and check what kind of home the puppies have come from — correct breeding of dogs is costly and shortcuts could lead to physical and mental issues;
Ask for all the relevant documentation — breeders’ licence, import permits, vaccination certificates, etc, check the authenticity of the paperwork;
Adverts listing several breeds will undoubtedly be smuggled in puppies;
Pictures of the puppies are often taken off the Internet — as are ones claiming to show the parents — you may not get what you see;
Sellers who insist on meeting you “on the side of the road” have something to hide;
Don’t buy puppies from puppy vendors — you’re perpetuating cruelty if you do; and
Report suspect breeders/sellers.
At present, most towns in Zimbabwe are experiencing problems with stray/straying dogs and with the ever-present threat of rabies and dog bites, adding to the dog population will only compound the problem.
A plea from the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe — Zimbabwe’s hard working animal shelters are over-flowing with healthy dogs and puppies.
Uncontrolled breeding and the present economic difficulties put extreme pressure on our shelters and while they do the best they can, they are simply being overwhelmed with animals looking for good homes. Instead of spending a fortune and supporting an illegal and cruel trade, we urge you to give a really deserving dog a forever home – their unconditional love and loyalty will amaze you.
Mel Hood is an animal welfare officer with the Veterinarians for Animal Welfare Zimbabwe and writes in her personal capacity.
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