RSPCA exposing Britain’s puppy dealers

Shocked by the scenes on BBC Panorama’s Britain’s Puppy Dealers Exposed?

Sadly, we’re not.

We’re all too familiar with the cruel and callous people involved in this horrific business, and the wily ways rogue dealers are tricking innocent members of the public into believing that they are ‘responsible breeders’ – and that the puppies they are selling are happy and healthy, and have been brought up with the love and care they deserve.

But the reality is, some of these dealers are acquiring and selling on puppies that have come from places like this:

As the Panorama investigation showed, many puppy dealers buy in ‘stock’ of puppies for cheap – sometimes from UK or European puppy farms – and then they sell them on to the UK public for a high profit margin by posing as ‘responsible breeders’.

To pose as a responsible breeder, dealers will often go to these lengths:

Advertise puppies on classified websites with convincingly reassuring advert descriptions: that might promise a ‘KC registered puppy’, who has been wormed, flead, vaccinated and microchipped.  They’ll often say that their puppies have been ‘brought up in a family environment’ and ‘must go to loving homes’.

Rent residential accommodation to use as a ‘storefront’ to sell their puppies: dealers will often pretend that they live in a family home – leading the purchaser to believe that they are a normal family, and that their puppies were born in that home.  But the reality is, these puppies may have been born on puppy farms thousands of miles away.

Produce counterfeit paperwork: such as fake vaccination certificates, insurance documents, or pet passports.

They’ll also often say that you can see your puppy with his or her mum (as everyone knows you should see a puppy with their mum). However, sometimes dealers will have a completely unrelated female dog present to pose as the mother – as the real mother will be busy thousands of miles away, churning out litter after litter of puppies. Or sometimes they’ll just make up some convincing excuse as to why the mum isn’t there when you visit (“She’s at the vets today”).

Because of their convincing lies, it is often almost impossible for buyers to distinguish a responsible breeder from a rogue dealer.

And we see puppy dealers trick people time and time again – with unsuspecting buyers left heartbroken with fearful, sick or dead puppies and huge vets fees, with the dealers who sold these puppies uncontactable. Nowhere to be found. Profiting from more cruelty, and duping more innocent members of the public.

But, can’t we just ban these third-party sales of puppies?

A ban on third-party sales sounds great in theory, but we don’t believe that it would work in reality – it would instead further drive the puppy trade underground, with dealers simply continuing as they are – posing as ‘responsible breeders’ to trick unsuspecting buyers.

So long as the huge demand for puppies continues to grow, and so long as there is money to be made in this trade, there will be people willing to meet that demand and ignore a ban. The indirect market would still thrive. And driving the trade further underground could lead to worse animal welfare. 

What will work is more transparency and more effective enforcement.

This is why we agree with the Government that we need a complete overhaul of the licensing system and the entire trade must be licensed, regulated, and enforced.  At the moment it simply isn't. Puppy dealers are slipping through the net as the rules around the breeding and selling of dogs are confused and outdated, and the welfare standards are not defined. 

We want anyone who sells a puppy to have a licence that is linked to good animal welfare standards. If you don’t meet the standards, you don’t get a licence.  

We also want clear information available to a puppy buyer. It would be simple to do this through a national database of licensed puppy sellers (funded by license fees), and that would link through and verify any internet advert selling a puppy. No link? No advert. This would help prevent some of these unscrupulous dealers from even posting online – making internet sales less of a minefield for buyers.

But isn’t this too farfetched? Well no, they already do it in France and it works. Regulation can work. Gumtree – the third largest pet internet site – already remove, each month, a quarter of all pet adverts that don’t comply with the voluntary code set up by the RSPCA and other charities. 

And Gumtree will be giving evidence to MPs on Tuesday 25th May showing how this is possible. If we all work together, including rescues, internet sites, Government, responsible dog breeders – together we can weed out the cruel dealers.

Join us and call on the UK Government to act urgently and introduce the ‘Puppy Dealers Act’ in England to help stop the unscrupulous trade in puppies, sign our petition here.

And if you are thinking of buying a puppy, make sure you use the Puppy Contract, which could help prevent you becoming a victim of puppy dealers.