RSPCA warns potential dog owners as puppy trade reports soar

puppy farm pups
Image by Becky Murray/RSPCA

The RSPCA are urging families thinking of getting a puppy to consider a rescue pet as new figures reveal that reports about puppy farms have soared by 390 per cent in the last decade.

The animal welfare charity is issuing advice to prospective owners as the figures, released today (1st August), reveal that puppy farms continue to be a growing issue. RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens said, “It is distressing that we are still seeing so many reports about puppy farms but part of this increase is probably due to people being more savvy about what to look out for when getting a pet.

“We know there’s a spike in people searching for puppies and buying dogs at the beginning of the school holidays but we’d urge families to carefully consider whether getting a dog is right for them. Dogs are a huge commitment and need lots of time and attention, even once summer is over and the kids are back at school.

“If you do have the time and money for a dog then we’d urge you to consider rescuing instead of buying a puppy. Not only will this give a rescue dog a chance at finding his forever home but it’ll also save any potential heartache caused by unwittingly buying a dog from a puppy farm.”

Over the past decade more and more unscrupulous breeders and dealers have sought to cash in on a growing puppy market – where dogs of certain breeds or types can sell for hundreds and even thousands of pounds. Last year, the charity received 4,357 complaints – a 390 per cent increase on 10 years ago (2008) when it took just 890 reports related to the underground industry.

These figures could be partially due to animal lovers being made aware of the cruel practice as the growing campaign to end it, Lucy’s Law, has shed a light on it. Recently, the government has committed to the ban on third-party puppy sales; this will come into force on 6 April 2020 and will deal a devastating blow to puppy farmers, hopefully deterring others from the cruel trade. A hotline has also been introduced to help make it easier for members of the public to report suspected puppy farming.

Tips for families looking to buy a puppy

  1. Do lots of research and make sure you can commit to a new dog before looking for your new family member;
  2. Adopt don’t shop – visit your local centre to see if you can offer a rescue dog a home;
  3. Use the Puppy Contract – a guide to how to responsibly source a puppy which can help you find a happy, healthy dog;
  4. Always visit more than once and the see the mum and puppies interacting together. Be wary of any breeder who won’t let you or pressures you into buying;
  5. If you’re concerned about something you see at a breeder then walk away, do not buy the puppy and, report your concerns to the RSPCA on 0300 1234 999, to police on 101, or your local council.

Case study

A family were left ‘heartbroken’ when they awoke to news that their puppy – who they’d bought just three days earlier – had died.

The Cann family had been thinking of getting another dog after losing their dachshund and when they saw an advert for dachshund puppies online they contacted the seller, in Kent. Denise Cann said, “When we arrived at the home everything looked fine. The woman went to get Ruby and brought her into the living room to meet us.

“Stupidly, we didn’t ask to see the parents but I did ask how many dogs she had and she said she had five. Ruby seemed fine. She was wagging her tail and seemed to enjoy cuddles with us.”

They paid £695 in cash for the pup and left to make the 50-mile journey home to Tollesbury, Essex, where they live with two of their three children; their 12-year-old son and 18-year-old daughter.

Photo posed by models

“Within 10 minutes of coming home she went to the toilet and I knew something wasn’t right,” Denise added. “There was blood in her faeces and it was really watery.”

They called the seller who said it was as a result of the journey. But overnight, the tiny pup got worse. The following day they took her to the vet who told them to monitor her closely. When she deteriorated they rushed her back to the vets.

“The vet decided to stay with her overnight and we called every few hours to see how she was doing,” Denise said. “We were so worried about her. At 7am the following morning the vet called and explained that he believed she had parvovirus and that she’d continued to go downhill. He recommended that the kindest thing for her was to put her to sleep so my husband rushed over there and she passed away.

“It was heartbreaking. The whole family was devastated.”

The Cann family reported the incident to the RSPCA who launched an investigation which led to a warrant at a property in Kent where 38 dogs and 18 cats were removed.

There are lots of benefits to adopting a rescue dog from a reputable organisation. Giving a rescue pet a second chance is extremely rewarding, and all pets are fully assessed before being put up for rehoming so you can be sure that you will be matched to the right dog for you.

Puppies and dogs will also be fully vet-checked, vaccinated, microchipped and – often – neutered so you needn’t worry about the costs of all of these extras. They may have also had some basic training already in kennels and you will receive ongoing support and advice if needed, while RSPCA centres also offer six weeks of free pet insurance.

To find out more about offering a rescue dog a home, please visit


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