Don’t Get Petfished This Christmas: Defra campaign warns about deceitful pet sellers

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Defra's Christmas campaign

The Department for Environment, Food & Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched its Christmas Don’t Get Petfished campaign, cautioning the public against buying puppies, kittens, cats and dogs from unscrupulous sellers ahead of Christmas.

Despite Lucy’s Law, a recent survey by Opinion Matters among pet buyers found that less than half (43 per cent) of dog or cat owners visited the seller in-person in the animal’s home when researching their recent pet purchase.

This is sadly not surprising. As Lucy’s Law came into effect, puppy farmers and dealers were quick to use the Covid crisis as an excuse to incentivise virtual meetings and the ‘click and drop’ buying of puppies, passing it off as a matter of safety as they hid their dreadful breeding practices behind a screen. Research by the Kennel Club found that virtual puppy meetings and ‘click and drop’ purchases have remained as an unfortunate legacy of lockdown.

Christmas hat

Bill Lambert, Health and Welfare expert at The Kennel Club, said, “Buying a puppy is a huge decision and all prospective owners should do the proper research and have all the facts available so that they can make an informed decision.

“We know there has been a surge in demand for puppies during the pandemic. The current mismatch between supply and demand can lead to more people being duped by rogue breeders and scammers, and inadvertently fuelling low-welfare breeders.”

This goes double over the Christmas season. Like every year, puppy farmers have been preparing to hit the Christmas market by mass-producing poorly bred puppies in dreadful conditions. Veterinary professionals and Defra’s Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) are urging the public to “think twice before they buy, and look out for deceitful sellers who take advantage of increased demand for pets ahead of Christmas”.

Lucys Law to be introduced in Wales to protect puppies

 

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said, “Christmas can be a difficult time to settle a pet into a new home and it’s vitally important that people not only research the breed of animal they want, but also the person selling it to them.

“Puppies and kittens bred in low-welfare conditions can often be separated from their mother too soon which can lead to severe health and behavioural problems, heartache and high vet bills for their new family. We urge people to remain vigilant and to always thoroughly research pet sellers before getting in touch.”

The campaign has released an ad you can view below:

To avoid being Petfished, the public are being urged to spot vital red flags when researching sellers, with the help of the acronym S.P.O.T.

  • Seller – Put the seller’s name and details including phone number into a search engine – avoid those with multiple adverts. 
  • Parent – Make sure you see puppies and kittens in their home with their mother. 
  • Old enough – Check puppies and kittens are at least 8 weeks old before you take them home. 
  • Treatment – Ask to see the animal’s health records and avoid sellers who can’t provide them. 

Dr Julian Hoad, Clinical Director at Crossways Veterinary Group, has recently seen two puppies dying of the deadly parvovirus after a seller lied about their vaccination status. Both pups had to be put to sleep.

Julian said, “Particularly around Christmas, people are desperate to go on the Kennel Club website to purchase a puppy. As the demand for puppies has outstripped the supply however, they can find themselves searching small online adverts that sell pets instead, often bred in low welfare conditions.

“The buyer purchases the puppy without doing much research, then brings it to our practice because it is unwell, and often that puppy or kitten has to be put down. It’s tragic.

“People don’t realise when purchasing or researching pets that vets are often available to provide practical advice ahead of buying an animal, and also advise whether they will be able to take the animal on to look after its long-term welfare. So the public can check in with a vet and also educate themselves ahead of purchasing an animal using the online resources available.”

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