Online puppy trade: buyers urged to #LookBeyondCute

online puppy trade

The Scottish government is launching a public awareness campaign aimed at discouraging participation in the illicit online puppy trade.

In 2019, around 45% of Scottish residents buying a puppy conducted their purchase online, nearly double the figure for 2018. However, concerns have grown over illegal and unethical breeding and trade practices; with one in five puppies bought through advertising websites becoming ill or dying within the first year after sale. One in four puppies sold online die within five years. The government’s Buy a Puppy Safely campaign aims to address the spread of illegal puppy farms and encourage consumers to consider whether their puppy is responsibly sourced.

Paulina Majerowska, a Scottish student who bought a puppy online, told the campaign: “I spotted an online advert for a Chihuahua and phoned the seller who said he could drop the puppy off within the hour as he was already in the area. When he arrived it felt very rushed. He told us the dog had been vaccinated but he’d forgotten the documentation. I spent £350 [€408.15] and was told the puppy was 10 weeks old, but she looked quite unwell. We named her Daisy but soon realised things weren’t right. She died just five days later. The emotional turmoil we have been through as a family has been awful. My advice would be do your research properly and don’t rush into buying a puppy. More importantly, walk away if something doesn’t feel right.”

The Buy a Puppy Safely campaign, using the hashtag #LookBeyondCute, encourages people considering purchasing a puppy online to make three key ‘Pup Checks’:

  • Ensuring the puppy’s mother is present or nearby when making the purchase;
  • Requesting to see all paperwork, such as evidence of vaccination or microchipping; and
  • Being prepared to leave the sale if they are not satisfied.

Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon said: “Puppy farms breed misery; and that misery is being fuelled by the huge demand for puppies and facilitated through online adverts and sellers. Last year’s campaign contributed to a 37% increase in the number of advice calls about suspected puppy farms to the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline. As people increasingly look online to buy a puppy, it is more important than ever that they know how to spot the signs of illegal dealers. There are key checks that can help ensure you are buying safely. These include meeting the puppy’s mother with her litter and ensuring all the correct paperwork is in place. If something doesn’t feel right, walk away and report your concerns to the Scottish SPCA.”


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