New statistics released by Dogs Trust reveal how thousands of unsuspecting dog lovers may have been conned or ‘dogfished’ into buying puppies illegally imported into the UK, leaving them heartbroken and nearly £500 out-of-pocket on average.
The UK dog charity polled more than 2,000 puppy owners to see how many might have fallen victim of illegal puppy smuggling, where puppies are brought into the UK – often from central and eastern European countries – to sell on.
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’.
Over half (51%) of puppy buyers were not allowed to see the puppy more than once while more than two-fifths (43%) were not allowed to see the puppy with its mother – two signs that all might not be what it seems.
CAR PARK OR LAYBY
A 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 car park or layby.
One in eight (13%) puppy buyers 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.
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’.
Overall, one in six puppy buyers polled (15%) said that within their first year their puppy had developed significant health or behaviour problems, such as diarrhoea and anxiety. 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.
More than 201,300 dogs were advertised online last year on four of the UK’s biggest classified websites.
Paula Boyden, veterinary director 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 (55%) said they felt puppy smuggling was a big issue in the UK, yet over a quarter (26%) said they would not know they needed 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 campaign kicks-off in London, where Dogs Trust volunteers will today begin a tour of the country in a ‘fake’ puppy van, which has been specially adapted to highlight how easy it can be to be duped by a seller and the dreadful conditions many dogs are forced to travel in.