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Interview: author and anti-puppy farm campaigner Janetta Harvey

by Shake Paws

Shake Paws talks to author and anti-puppy farm campaigner Janetta Harvey

Interview with author and anti-puppy farm campaigner Janetta HarveyJanetta’s dogs, Twinkle, Susie-Belle and Renae

An acupuncturist by day, and an author and anti-puppy farm campaigner when time allows, Janetta Harvey certainly has her work cut out. Back in November 2015 she and her family suffered the sad loss of Susie-Belle, the beautiful, little Schnauzer they had rescued from a puppy farm where she was bred from over and over again.

“Losing Susie-Belle was a tremendous blow, both because I lost a wonderful friend, but also my muse. But, through my grief, there’s been the knowledge that I will continue to write and campaign in her name,” says Janetta.

“We adopted Cerise Rose on Boxing Day 2015, and as soon as she came into our home, I felt the old urgency reignite to do something, anything, to end the puppy farming business. Seeing the journey ahead for Cerise, another dog so damaged by the breeding industry that she’s terrified of humans, means I will continue in the direction that Susie-Belle steered me towards, during her time with us, which was far too short.”

Describe your path to becoming an anti-puppy farm campaigner and author.

I adopted Susie-Belle in August 2011 and this changed the direction of my life. She had spent six or seven years in a puppy farm, being repeatedly bred from. This existence left her deeply traumatised and damaged, physically and emotionally and seeing first-hand the harm that the puppy farming industry does to dogs has meant that I cannot turn away from this. I knew about puppy farming before Susie-Belle came into my life, but she made sure I would know a lot more, and want others to know this too, so that the industry will one day end.

I don’t campaign and write full-time, I still earn my living as an acupuncturist specialising in obstetrics and gynaecology, and have done for 20 years. Fortunately it’s a job I love and as I work for myself, I can organise my time to accommodate everything I do. Some days, it does feel a little as if I have two separate personas – my advocacy and writing and, then my day job. It’s also a bit ironic that I spend a lot of my time in clinic helping women with their fertility problems, and to have babies, and the rest of my time trying to do the complete reverse for the breeding dogs of the world. Life can be weird at times.

Before I wrote Saving Susie-Belle, I’d written and published two books within my field of work and this gave me the confidence to set about writing a book based on my experiences of living with a dog rescued from the puppy farming industry. And it has gone from there, with the sequel, Saving One More, and the articles and blogs I write, all in the hope my contributions will make some difference.

Did you have any mentors – people you look up to – on your way to becoming a writer/anti-puppy farm campaigner?

Before I wrote my first book on it, I’d been following the anti-puppy farm campaign for a number of years as a bystander and seen some good work being done by various individuals and groups. Some of the earliest footage in puppy farms that I saw, which shocked me deeply, was from the group Puppy Love Campaigns who have been obtaining undercover footage that has been used by the media, and authorities in prosecutions, for a number of years. Their commitment to ending the industry impressed me back then, and it still does.

Many people don’t hear much about them, as they seek no publicity for what they do. They do it because they just want puppy farming to end and want the dogs out of those places. They’re on the frontline and put themselves at risk, and they’ve been doing it for years and yet most people remain unaware of their huge contributions. They speak the uncomfortable truth and this is a hard and lonely place to be when it comes to puppy farm campaigning. These are the people I greatly admire, they’re truly unsung heroes in the campaign; they’re the ones that are directly making a difference to the lives of the dogs.

I’m also impressed by the work of the Australian group, Oscar’s Law and their founder Debra Tranter, as they have a strong voice and are really making practical differences both in terms of legal influence, but getting the evidence that’s needed to close puppy factories. Their supporters, and they have many, get out there, get dirty, get the bit between their teeth and don’t let up. The nature of the campaign, against what is a huge and lucrative business, where there are some nasty characters who will fight to keep the status quo, requires toughness and determination from those who oppose it, Debra embodies this. She’s been doing it for over two decades; that takes the tenacity of someone deeply committed. I honestly don’t know where those like her, who go into the puppy farms, time after time, and see what they do, for years, find the strength to continue. But thank goodness they do.

But, for the public to be aware of what a disgrace puppy farming is, the media has to be on board and as things have evolved, especially in recent times, it has been interesting to see more people contributing in different ways to the overall campaign and anyone who can capture the interests of the media to promote the anti-puppy farming message I applaud. This is where events like the annual Pup Aid day in London makes a good contribution to raising public awareness. Having celebrity interest always attracts publicity, and hopefully the message that puppy farming must end also gets taken on board, alongside the celebrity focus.

What does a typical day look like for you?

We’re early risers, and once my husband has left for work, I do a bit on social media and I might write a few notes for whatever I’m working on. It depends if it’s a clinic day, but typically I try to spend the mornings with the dogs, giving them a good walk, plenty of attention and company and then settle down for some writing if I have time before my first patients. Afternoons and evenings are when I do the bulk of my clinic work. I like a varied working life and write best when I have less time to devote to it. Deadlines are always great to focus my mind.

I usually have a few writing projects on the go at any one time; right now my biggest project is the new children’s book I’m working on with illustrator Annabel Wilson. This is a new genre for me and I’m loving it, but finding it challenging as I want to put across the reality of puppy farming, but, I need to find effective ways to do this for children. I’m reading a lot of children’s literature, revisiting stories from my own childhood, and realising that a lot of our familiar fairy tales are pretty scary. It emboldens me as to what I will be able to say in my book, as I think children can deal with more honesty than I may have initially thought they might.

I’ve always got a list of blogs and articles to write, and how much gets done in a day varies greatly. We’re fortunate to spend regular time in France, and when there, I write more. Some days a lot of time gets taken up with networking with various campaigners and activists around the world. Social media is fantastic for connecting us and I’ve made some good campaign friends who I will probably never meet in person, but with whom I have close and honest relationships as we’re united in our commitment to make lives better for the dogs through our various means.

Whatever I’m doing, the dogs take priority and I feel very fortunate that I can organise my diary and life, to allow me to focus on them regularly during the day in between my other commitments.

Interview with author and anti-puppy farm campaigner Janetta HarveyTwinkle and Susie-Belle, rescued from UK puppy farms having spent years breeding puppies

How does anti-puppy farm campaigning in the UK compare with other countries?

I wrote Saving One More both as a sequel, but also to allow me to document the global problems of puppy farming. Many countries have similar issues. The difference is usually one of scale rather than detail, as in every country that breeds dogs for commercial benefit, whether that’s Canada, the US, Australia, New Zealand, South Africa, many European countries, they all seem to have poor regulations and enforcement of what there is. It’s a terrible international calamity for dogs. One driven by puppy buyers and greedy breeders.

The campaign in the US is a strong one, and more cities are bringing in laws banning sales of puppies in shops, thus ending one major outlet for the puppy mills (farms) there. However, the scale is great, and even though there are regular victories for campaigners, there are still huge problems. Australia is similar, good progress in some areas, tougher laws being introduced, but again, so much still to do. But, these countries do offer some hope.

At the end of 2015, the UK government indicated they were open to updating legislation in this area and launched a consultation, so we shall see what this brings. I hope it’s not a replacement for real policy and action, which improves matters for the dogs. Looking back over the years of campaigning done by others, it’s a depressing reality that things in the UK have worsened for dogs, not improved at all.

The UK has many small groups and individuals working away, doing what they can. But we do lack a strong, well-resourced group that can bring everyone together and cover all aspects of the problem. The UK could really benefit from what the US has in the form of the Humane Society of the United States Puppy Mill Campaign. The HSUS group effectively lobbies legislators, they rescue and close down puppy mills; they have excellent public information available and, this is one great initiative I’d like to see taken on board in the UK, they help pet businesses to switch to a good model of adoption in stores. This is really making a big difference to how people are sourcing their puppies and taking away the market from the puppy mills. It’s a great success, one not yet replicated in the UK. We lack this kind of specifically focused organisation that tackles all aspects of the puppy farm problem, the closest to the HSUS I see here, are the efforts of the RSPCA.

What are your thoughts on puppies being sold in shops?

It’s a disgrace that it’s still legal to do so. Many people are surprised it is, a lot of the public believe it was outlawed years ago. The government needs to bring the law in line with what people expect to be already the case. There’s no moral justification at all for the government not to do so.

Do you have any favourite books about dogs?

I have so many favourites. It’s impossible to nail me down to a handful! But I’ll give you three that I love and which I re-read from time to time. Jeffrey Moussaieff Masson is an all-round brilliant writer, his book Dogs Never Lie About Love (Amazon US, $12.23; Amazon UK, £8.99) was an early dog book I read. I’ve re-read it twice and enjoyed it more each time. His openness about the special love that exists between dogs and their humans is beautifully expressed.

The Pulitzer prize winning poet Mary Oliver’s Dog Songs (Amazon US, $12.13; Amazon UK, £11.05) is similarly gorgeous, as her abundant love for dogs is expressed with such beauty and eloquence and every word is enjoyable. I dip into this book several times a week, and never get bored by her poetry.

John Bradshaw’s In Defence of Dogs (Amazon US, $7.23; Amazon UK, £8.99) is another favourite, there’s so much useful, fascinating information in it that I think anyone thinking about bringing a dog into their life should read it. He writes brilliantly about how dogs lives have changed as our society has altered over the years and how this means the demands we make on dogs are, in some ways, unreasonable.

Can you recommend any websites for our visitors, in particular those where they might find out more about the fight against puppy farming, both here and abroad?

Janetta Harvey is a writer and commentator on the puppy farming industry. Her books Saving Susie-Belle (Amazon US, $6.67; Amazon UK, £7.99) and Saving One More (Amazon US, $12.34; Amazon UK, £9.99) are personal accounts of living with her dogs rescued from a life of breeding. She’s currently working on a book for children, the puppy buyers of the future. Janetta lives with her husband, Michel, and their dogs, in England and France.