Puppy scams and the sale of illegal puppies has skyrocketed during lockdown due to a surge in demand for pets.
But sadly, competition for ‘pandemic puppies’ has created the perfect environment for unscrupulous breeders to benefit, with many would-be dog owners not doing their research before making a purchase.
So how do you spot a puppy scam? Here are the warning signs to look out for - and the questions you should ask before buying a dog.
Why are more people buying puppies?
With people being forced to spend more time at home during the coronavirus lockdown, demand for puppies has sharply increased.
There was reportedly a 168 per cent increase in people searching for puppies using the Kennel Club’s “find a puppy” online tool, according to the dog welfare organisation.
This in turn has created the perfect situation for puppy farm breeders to take advantage of increased competition.
What are puppy scams?
With demand for puppies on the rise, prospective owners have not been doing the required research before buying a puppy, leaving them vulnerable to scammers and rogue breeders.
In response to rise in puppy demand - and scams - the Kennel Club has launched the #BePuppyWise campaign to urge prospective owners to do the necessary research before committing to a puppy.
The Kennel Club revealed that 27 per cent of people who bought a puppy said they paid money before actually seeing their puppy, and 42 per cent did not see the puppy’s breeding environment beforehand.
Not meeting a puppy before putting down money could lead to a lot of problems - like the fact that there might not even be a puppy at all.
Not seeing the puppy’s breeding environment could also mean that you have inadvertently bought a puppy from a puppy farm.
Bill Lambert, Head of Health and Welfare at the Kennel Club, said: “We are worried about this rather terrifying picture of a nation of people who are careless and impulsive when it comes to choosing where and how to buy a dog.
“The result is puppies with all manner of health and behavioural problems being sold via the internet or social media to people who don’t know the true background of the pups and who pay the price in vet bills and heartache, as they watch their beloved pet suffer.”
How do I avoid puppy scams?
Bringing a puppy into your home and welcoming it into your family can be a very exciting time - but people can get carried away and forget to look for red flags.
Dogs Trust offers great advice to help keep you and your family safe from a puppy scam.
First, always meet the puppy and its family beforehand. Seeing your puppy’s littermates, you’ll be able to determine if they’re all of the similar size, characteristics and health.
You should also arrange to meet the breeder at the puppy’s home - if the breeder wants to meet elsewhere, or deliver the puppy straight to you, this is a red flag.
Also, don’t feel pressured by the breeder into making a snap decision. You need time to make sure the puppy is right for your circumstances, and any legitimate breeder will understand this.
And be aware if the breeder isn’t asking you any questions about yourself or your home, since a good breeder should be invested in making sure that you’re suitable to take care of a puppy.
For complete peace of mind, you can check out The Kennel Club Assured Breeder Scheme, which promotes good breeder practice.
Alternatively, you should look into rescuing a dog from a shelter.
Questions to ask before buying a puppy
There are some important things you should know about a puppy before confirming your purchase according to The Dogs Trust and The Kennel Club.
Here are some key questions to ask before buying a dog.
How old is the puppy?
A puppy should be at least eight weeks old before it is taken away from its mother.
Puppies do a lot of learning in their first few weeks of life, and at eight weeks, most puppies are able to eat well, are mobile and aware of the world.
Has the puppy been weaned?
If the puppy has not been weaned, then there is a chance that it’s actually younger than what the breeder is claiming.
Taking a puppy away from its mother too young could lead to a number of problems later in life, including behavioural issues.
How old is the mother?
The Dog’s Trust says that the mother should be at least one year old, but not too old.
If a dog is over eight years old, that is too old to be having puppies.
How many litters has the mother had?
There are only so many litters that one dog should have.
From the Breeding and Sales of Dog (Welfare) Act 1999, licensed breeders must not breed more than six litters from a female dog, but three to four is the recommended limit.
What is the puppy eating?
It’s good to know what the puppy has been eating. This firstly lets you know that the puppy has in fact been weaned, and secondly it’s best to keep them on a similar diet, at least for the first few days you have them at home.
A good breeder should have a diet sheet that you can take home with you, informing you of a feeding schedule and how much you should be feeding your puppy.
Is there a contract of sale?
The breeder should be able to provide you with a contract of sale. Among other things, this contract should detail both the breeders’ and your responsibility to the puppy.
Do you have written advice on training, feeding and exercise?
You should get written advice from the breeder regarding things like advice on training, feeding, exercise, worming and immunisation.
What’s the dog’s ancestry?
You should ask the breeder about the puppy’s ancestry.
This could be either hand-written, or a printed pedigree from either the breeder or an official one from The Kennel Club.
You should also ask for any copies of any additional health certifications for the sire and dam.
Has the puppy had vaccinations?
You should ask which vaccinations the puppy has already had and which ones the puppy still requires.
Can I meet the puppy’s mum and siblings?
It’s important to see the puppy interacting with its mother and any other litter mates - this is a good sign that they’ve been bred properly.