The UK dog charity, Dogstrust has started the new year with a campaign to warn members of the public about puppy smuggling. It has named the practice it has named ‘dogfishing’, referencing the common parlance ‘catfishing’ which is often used when people try to convince others that they are someone else online, usually for the purposes of fraud. The charity is warning people who are looking for a puppy to be aware of the large numbers of puppies that have been smuggled into the UK and know the signs that this may have happened to the puppy that they are viewing.
DogsTrust have published four reports into puppy smuggling from 2014 to 2018, sending investigators to check out how easy it is to smuggle a puppy into the UK through border controls and they have found that throughout the four years, the practice has become more established and easier to achieve. The charity is calling on the government to ensure that when the UK leaves the EU, that stringent controls are introduced, as their findings show that because a large number of puppies are being imported, this can put other dogs and owners in danger of contracting disease, or facing the heartbreak and high vet bills of a puppy that falls ill.
The charity suggests that there are a number of warning signs that could show a potential puppy buyer that the animals they are viewing have been smuggled into the country rather than bred in the UK or transported legally:
- Buyers are not able to see the puppy more than once, or they are not able to view the puppy with its mum and siblings
- Buyers are not able to see the puppy at a seller’s home - they are asked to meet the seller to collect the puppy at a car park or lay-by
- The puppy does not seem to be the age the seller has suggested it is, it might seem younger or older, or too small for its age. The seller might have lied about the puppy breed or the vaccinations and microchips
- The microchips are registered in a foreign country rather than the UK
- The puppy falls ill or has behaviour problems within a short time of being taken home
A fifth of buyers responding to online adverts, said that their puppy seller lied to them about the dog they were buying and a quarter had health or behaviour concerns with their puppy after a few weeks. Some puppies were locked in small cages and not with mum, or were sick or very scared and wary of humans.
DogsTrust advises people who are concerned that the puppy they are viewing could have been a victim of puppy smuggling to walk away and report the breeder to trading standards. They recognise that this is a hard decision and that people may want to rescue the puppy, but that if the puppy is ill or has not had the right vaccinations, that it could end up costing a lot of money in vet bills.
When buying a puppy, potential buyers are recommended to see the puppy more than once and see it with its mother at their home so that you can see how they have been cared for.
Check out the paper work, including a puppy contract, which will offer information about the breed, health, diet, parents, the puppy’s experiences and more.
If a potential puppy buyer feels pressured or has any doubts about the way the puppy has been cared for - walk away and report the seller to Trading Standards.
As part of the ‘Don’t be Dogfished’ campaign, Dogstrust volunteers will be travelling the country in a van that has been adapted to show the conditions that many smuggled puppies have to travel in. There is also a webpage which offers advice to would-be puppy owners.
The trading standards website offers help and support as well as the ability to report a trader, including puppy sellers.