RSPCA Shop Next Gen Education
Colour mode

Coronation Street puppy farm story highlights reality of backstreet breeders

Coronation Street puppy farm story highlights reality of backstreet breeders

The scourge of illicit puppy breeding will come under the spotlight in episodes of Coronation Street this week - after the RSPCA worked closely with the soap on the hard-hitting storyline. 

In recent weeks, viewers have seen character Terry Fensley (played by Jamie Foster) suspected of illegally breeding and selling puppies from a property in the precinct.

Fellow resident Evelyn Plummer (Maureen Lipman) - and her daughter Cassie (Claire Sweeney) - become suspicious after seeing Terry mistreat his dog outside the local cafe. They begin monitoring his movements and their investigations will this week lead her to Terry's house, where they find a room filled with crates of puppies and a bag of cash - as part of an underground, illegal puppy breeding operation. 

The storyline returns to television screens on Wednesday (10 January) - and is sadly typical of many underground puppy operations reported to the RSPCA and local authorities across England and Wales.

Charities like the RSPCA have rescue centres full to bursting with rescue pets - and rehoming rates have sadly dropped 30% since 2019; so those looking to add a pet to the family are always urged to adopt rather than shop - and use resources like the RSPCA's ‘Find a Pet' website to meet their paw-fect companion.

But for those who choose to buy from a puppy breeder - the RSPCA hopes the ongoing Coronation Street storyline will help highlight how people can ensure they only buy puppies that are healthy and happy, and that shoppers do not unwittingly fund the cruel puppy trade.

Herchy Boal, RSPCA inspector and performing animal welfare expert, said: "Sadly, our frontline officers too often see the negative impact that illicit puppy breeding can have on animal welfare. 

"Too often, unscrupulous breeders disregard the welfare of pups all to make a quick buck - and dogs pay the price. That's why it's so important that Coronation Street has focussed on this important storyline - demonstrating the lengths underground breeders can go to make money, and the impact on the dogs and owners involved.

"A responsible breeder will always be happy to show you their local authority licence, answer all your questions, and arrange for you to meet the pup with their mum and siblings, in the place they were born and raised. Tools like the Puppy Contract are great to help people buy a happy and healthy puppy. It also helps spot rogue dealers and includes a checklist to make sure any breeder is doing the right things."

According to the charity's landmark Animal Kindness Index, ending harmful dog breeding practices and stopping the illegal puppy trade are the animal welfare issues the public most care about.

In recent months, the RSPCA has worked closely with programme makers - to ensure the storyline is as realistic as possible, and that any pets used during filming have their welfare protected and are looked after properly.

The popular soap opera has been praised by the RSPCA for its attention to detail - and in always prioritising the welfare of animals throughout filming.

Herchy added: "The team at Coronation Street were fantastic - showing great patience, listening to our advice and always putting the welfare of the puppies first. They even happily agreed to pause filming when I saw the pups were getting tired and needed a nap! Airing this storyline during winter is particularly poignant - as this time of year is really tough for animals. As the cost of living crisis continues to bite, many animals face a bleak winter. As the RSPCA works tirelessly to bring animals to safety, we need our supporters to Join the Winter Rescue, so we can raise funds and come together for the animals who need us." 

Coronation Street producer Iain MacLeod added: "It was hugely important to us to work with the RSPCA on this storyline, both in terms of the accuracy of the on-screen narrative and also the welfare of the animals on set during filming. We're hugely grateful for all their input and support throughout. Having Herchy on set was vital to ensure everything was done correctly."

The RSPCA has a dedicated team providing advice and support for those using animals in the entertainment industry. The team offers expert advice - including script review and animal welfare risk assessments.

Dr Ros Clubb, RSPCA performing animals specialist, added: "It's been fantastic for the RSPCA to be involved in this important Corrie storyline. Our performing animals team not only helps with the realism of animal storylines, but crucially advises on how to best protect  the welfare of animals used on set - and we were delighted to work closely with ITV to ensure this.

"We're proud to have a dedicated team leading on this work, supporting producers and helping to keep animals safe. It was so important to deliver this storyline in a welfare-friendly way, which we hope will highlight to a mass audience the risks to animal welfare of illicit, underground puppy breeding - and the actions owners can take to ensure that if adding a pet to the family, they do so in a responsible way."

A happy rescue story

In November, the RSPCA was alerted after a member of the public found a tiny dachshund puppy abandoned in Somerset. The pup, nicknamed Little Will, was aged around eight weeks old when found. He was taken to RSPCA Brent Knoll Animal Centre, and was believed to have a disease called puppy strangles. Fortunately, Little Will made a swift recovery and is doing well with a foster carer.

The RSPCA continues to share tips for safely buying a puppy

Things to consider before buying:

  • Always consider giving a rescue pet a new home instead of buying
  • Do lots of research and ensure you can commit to a dog, for life, before getting one
  • Use the Puppy Contract so that you know what to ask the breeder, visit the puppy multiple times and ask to see paperwork (licensing, health checks, vaccination records etc) so you can check it's all correct
  • See the pup's mum, watch her interacting with the litter and make sure they are happy and healthy
  • Never pay cash and if anything concerns you then do not hand over any money or buy a puppy, walk away and contact the RSPCA, local council or police.

Under legislation in England, people can only legally acquire a puppy from the breeder or a reputable rehoming centre - while in Wales, it's the breeders' premises or a rehoming centre. Anyone selling a puppy commercially in both England and Wales should meet welfare standards before selling - including ensuring the dog is healthy. Breeders of a certain scale and meeting certain conditions need to be licensed and inspected by the local authority.

For more information online