The Scottish Government has launched a campaign to help people avoid puppy farmers when buying a new pet.
A Kennel Club study found just under a quarter (24%) of people in Scotland buy from an approved breeder and one in four consider getting a puppy through an online advert or website.
The Buy A Puppy Safely campaign warns most illegally-bred puppies are sold online through social media or small ads sites and the study found a quarter of pups bought online die before they turn five and a third sicken or die in their first year.
In Scotland, people selling puppies need a licence if they are selling five or more litters a year, advertising as a business breeding or selling dogs, doing so commercially or are selling puppies under 12 weeks old.
Licensed breeders must pass a premises examination and animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA warns breeders using intensive techniques and disregarding welfare, known as puppy farmers, may be licensed but ignoring its terms to maximise profit.
A significant section of the estimated £13 million a year online puppy trade in Scotland is thought to be down to illegally-bred puppies, including popular breeds such as pugs, French bulldogs, cockapoos and miniature dachshunds.
The new campaign warns of steps illegal puppy dealers take to deceive buyers, including renting homes to sell the puppies from, faking paperwork and pretending the mother of the pup is at the vets or out when the buyer arrives.
It warns farmed puppies can die early, suffer from disease and have behavioural issues, and gives tips to avoid illegal breeders including checking for stolen descriptions in online adverts and asking to see the mother and verify paperwork before purchase.
Did you know? Only 24% of Scots buy puppies from an approved breeder, and 1 in 4 consider buying through an online advert or website. The #BuyAPuppySafely campaign was launched by @MairiGougeon today as @scotgov calls on the public to raise awareness of illegal puppy farming. pic.twitter.com/a3bB2qXZwM
— Scot Gov Greener (@GreenerScotland) November 7, 2018
Launching the campaign in Edinburgh, rural affairs minister Mairi Gougeon said: “Illegal puppy farming only leads to misery – many suffer from congenital health problems or behavioural problems, causing distress to owners and leading to expensive vet bills that can cost thousands of pounds.
“So, we’re working with animal welfare charities to raise awareness of the real consequences of buying illegally and highlighting how to spot the warning signs of an illegal dealer.
“I know that a lot of people will be considering buying a puppy at this time of year, so my message to them is to do your homework first.
“The most important thing is to see the puppy with its mother and to get the correct paperwork. If there’s no mum and no paperwork, then walk away and report your concerns to the Scottish SPCA helpline.”
The campaign, which includes an advice website www.buyapuppysafely.org and advert, is being run in conjunction with animal welfare charity the Scottish SPCA and the Kennel Club.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said it is a welcome step forward in the fight against puppy farming.
“It is our hope that this will make it easier for members of the public looking to buy a puppy to avoid falling victim of this cruel trade.”