Puppy scams warning

Trading standards officers are urging people to be on the alert for scams if they are considering getting a puppy, and only use a reputable breeder or rescue centre.

Demand for puppies increased during this year’s lockdowns and prices have soared, with popular breeds now selling for upwards of several thousand pounds.

This has seen a large escalation nationally in both puppy farming and puppy smuggling, with puppies often being bred in appalling conditions, increasing the risk of disease and ill health for the dogs. 

There has also seen a rise in bogus online puppy sellers, where consumers have paid hundreds of pounds upfront for puppies they’ve seen advertised, but that do not actually exist. 

Lucy’s Law

‘Lucy’s Law’ was introduced in April this year and means that anyone wanting to get a new puppy in England must now buy direct from a breeder or adopt from a verified rescue centre. 

If a business sells puppies without a licence, they could receive an unlimited fine or be sent to prison for up to six months. 

Buy from a reputable dealer

If buying a puppy, Brighton & Hove Trading Standards strongly advise people to: 

  • only buy from a reputable and recommended dealer
  • view the animal with its mother and siblings where it has been bred
  • ask to see vaccination documentation from the breeder
  • never pay in advance for a puppy, however much the seller insists on this
  • put in place a puppy contract with the seller – the contract is designed to encouraging responsible breeding and sales 

Check a puppy's history

Councillor Lizzie Deane, chair of the Licensing Committee said: “It has long been said that a puppy is for life, not just for Christmas. Whenever you buy a puppy it is so important to check its history first. 

“Puppies bred illegally and in appalling conditions often come with long term issues of trauma and ill health, which in turn only stores up problems for the owners later on.

"So it makes sense all round to know your dog’s background before buying.

“Illegal puppy breeding is an appalling activity, often associated with immense cruelty, which owners are often unaware of and would be shocked if they knew. 

“Buying a puppy without asking the right questions only serves to promote this heartless and disgusting trade when it should by contrast be totally eradicated.”

Reporting concerns 

In the last couple of months, two joint trading standards, police and RSPCA operations have taken place following information received from members of the public and partner agencies. 

Five puppies and two female dogs were removed from shocking conditions and rehomed. Investigations into the sellers of these puppies and others are ongoing.

If you have any information about the illegal sale of puppies, please contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133. This information will be then be referred to trading standards. Callers can remain anonymous. 

More information and guidance

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