Watch out for illegal puppy sellers

With Christmas approaching, trading standards officers are urging people considering a puppy to be on the alert for criminal sellers taking advantage of the festive rush, particularly if searching online.

If you are looking for a new pet, only use a reputable breeder or a rescue centre.

Demand for puppies has increased over the pandemic 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 which do not exist. 

Lucy’s Law

‘Lucy’s Law’ was introduced in April 2020 and means that anyone wanting a new puppy in England must buy direct from a breeder or adopt from a verified rescue centre. 

Scams can involve pretending a puppy is from a reputable breeder – a process now known as ‘petfishing’.

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 your puppy's history

Councillor Lizzie Deane, chair of the Licensing Committee said: “Illegal puppy breeding is an appalling activity, often associated with immense cruelty. Owners are often unaware of this and would be shocked if they knew. 

“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.

“It's long been said that a puppy is for life, not just for Christmas. But whenever you buy a puppy, it’s so important to check its history first so you know your dog’s background.

“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 

If you have any concerns or 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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