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Dogs Trust claims dog owners are being duped into buying illegally imported puppies

ONE in 10 puppy buyers in Wales suspect they were lied to by the seller of their puppy. That is the claim being made by the Dogs Trust.

Citing research by Censuswide (1). Puppy buyers describe the horrific reality behind many online puppy adverts, with some puppies found malnourished, thirsty or kept in tiny cages away from their mum

Over half (54%) of puppy buyers think puppy smuggling is a big issue here in the UK

Using catfishing as inspiration, Dogs Trust launches ‘Don’t Be Dogfished’, a campaign warning dog lovers of deceitful puppy sellers online, with a ‘fake’ puppy smuggling van touring the UK.

Shocking new statistics released today by Dogs Trust reveals how unsuspecting dog lovers in Wales may have been conned or ‘dogfished’ into buying puppies illegally imported into the UK, leaving them heartbroken and almost £500 on average out-of-pocket. (1)

The UK’s leading dog charity (2)  polled over 2,000 puppy owners to see how many buyers might have fallen victim to illegal puppy smuggling, where puppies are brought into the UK from central and eastern European countries to sell on for vast profits. Many described how sellers falsified paperwork, offered discounts for a quick sale or lied about the age and breed of the dog.

To help prevent prospective owners from being misled into buying dogs that may not be what they seem, Dogs Trust has today launched a new campaign: ‘Don’t Be Dogfished’.

All is not what it seems

Over half (58%) of puppy buyers in Wales were not allowed to see the puppy more than once while 41%) were not allowed to see the puppy with their mum – two signs that all might not be what it seems.

A worrying number of buyers who were not allowed to see the puppy at the seller’s home (19%) also revealed they were asked to collect their puppy in a carpark or layby – something that no breeder with care for the welfare of the puppies would do.

One in 10 puppy buyers in Wales said their seller lied to them about the dog they were buying rising to over a fifth (21%) among those who bought via online adverts, lying about things such as the age, breed and whether they had been vaccinated and microchipped. Over a quarter (26%) said they had concerns, related to health or behaviour, about their puppy within just a few weeks of buying them.

Horrific conditions and unnecessary suffering

Worse still some reported terrible conditions where their puppies were “locked in a small cage away from mum”, were so sick they “very nearly died”, or were “scared of their own shadow and very wary of humans”. 13% of puppy buyers polled in Wales said within their first year their puppy had developed significant health or behaviour problems, such as diarrhoea and anxiety, causing terrible suffering for their beloved pet whilst costing them on average almost £500 in additional vet bills. Some of those people even said their puppy had either died or had to be put to sleep, due to the severity of their condition.

Over 201,300 dogs were advertised online in 2019 on four of the UK’s biggest classified websites. (2)

David Franklin, Regional Manager at Dogs Trust, said:

“Today we’re launching a campaign warning people ‘Don’t be dogfished’ – to help stop people being duped into buying puppies that have been illegally imported into the country by devious dealers.

“People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade. Many of these poor puppies suffer significant health conditions or lifelong behavioural challenges, and sadly some don’t survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.

“This is why we are touring the country in a van like those used by puppy smugglers to educate the public on the shocking realities of the puppy smuggling trade and advising them how they can take action to avoid being ‘dogfished’. If it seems too good to be true, as hard as it is, walk away and report it.”

Over half of those polled in Wales said they felt puppy smuggling was a big issue in the UK, yet almost a third (27%) said they would not know they need to speak to their local Trading Standards if they suspected their puppy was smuggled, with contact details able to be found on the ‘Don’t Be Dogfished’ website.

The Don’t Be Dogfished campaign is asking potential new owners to take the following steps to avoid being misled when buying a puppy:

Always see puppy and mum together at their home and make sure to visit more than once.
Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more.
If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away.

The findings reveal the importance of puppy buyers insisting on these essential checks, as they are often avoided by shifty sellers who put owners under pressure to part with their cash or ‘rescue’ the puppies from poor conditions.

Launching today, the Don’t Be Dogfished campaign will head to Cardiff on Monday 20th January. Dogs Trust volunteers are touring the UK in a ‘fake’ puppy van. The van has been specially adapted by dirt artist Ruddy Muddy to highlight how easy it can be to be duped by a seller and the dreadful conditions many dogs are forced to travel in.

For more information about the Don’t Be Dogfished campaign and advice about how to avoid being misled when buying a puppy online, search ‘Dogfished’ or visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/dogfished

  1. The research was conducted by Censuswide, with 2,007 people in the UK 18+ who have bought a dog as a puppy including a minimum of 1000 who have bought a puppy wither online or through a private sale. The study was carried out between 12.11.2019-18.11.2019. Censuswide abide by and employ members of the Market Research Society which is based on the ESOMAR principles. 
  2. Data supplied by Tech4Pets. In 2019 there were 96,617 adverts for dogs on Gumtree, 2,743 on Preloved, 1,052 on Dragon Driving and 100,898 on Pets4Homes.

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