Thinking of buying a puppy this festive period?

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards have issued a warning to prospective dog purchasers, advising them to beware of buying from illegal puppy dealers.

Increasing numbers of puppies are being illegally imported into the UK from puppy farms across Europe.

Often they’re too young to have left their mothers, and having endured long journeys to the UK, many arrive seriously ill or die within days of being sold.

Devon and Somerset Trading Standards received, on average, a complaint per week during 2016 from people seeking advice about newly purchased sick, mid-described or suspected illegally imported puppies.

Mis-description might include puppies that are advertised as being Kennel Club registered, but that aren’t.  Other complaints included reports of traders breeding dogs without a licence.

Half of the complaints were concerning sick puppies and illegal imports.

“Dogs can be great companions, but we advise people to think hard before any dog purchase,” says Cllr David Hall, Somerset County Council’s Cabinet Member responsible for the Devon and Somerset Trading Standards Service.

“There is advice that we recommend people make themselves aware of.”

That advice includes:

  • Looking for clues that the puppy was actually born and reared where the seller says it was.  When you go to visit, look for food bowls and bedding.  If the puppy appears scared of its surroundings, it might not have been brought up there.
  • Ask to see certificates of vaccinations and microchipping records.
  • Check for any signs of illness.
  • Avoid anywhere that advertises sale of a variety of breeds.
  • Spend plenty of time with the puppy – you should not feel rushed.
  • Make sure that you see the puppies with their mum, and that she is healthy and happy.
  • Ask your vet for information about reputable breeders, or rehoming centres.

If considering an imported puppy, it should be at least 15 weeks old.  Vaccinations are only effective on puppies from 15 weeks, so those brought in illegally who are younger than this would need to go into quarantine to make sure that diseases such as rabies aren’t brought into the country.   Pet owners who want to keep their dog are required by law to pay quarantine fees, which can be more than £1,000.

Imported puppies should have a pet passport with a valid rabies vaccination recorded in it, and the date of import must be at least 21 days after the date of rabies vaccination so that the vaccine has time to be effective.

“Despite the warning, the festive period is still a popular time for dog purchases,” says Cllr Hall.

“Rogue traders will seek to use the season to increase their sales.

“Be aware of the dangers and follow the advice available.  Ask a vet for recommendations of reliable and reputable breeders or check with your District Council whether a breeder is licenced.

“If you see suspicious activity such as different puppies frequently being brought in and out of a particular house or location; sounds of dogs barking or whining from houses visited regularly by different people; or from where lots of puppies are being sold, please report it.”

You can report it to Trading Standards by calling Consumer Direct on  03454 040506.

If you bought a puppy that you are concerned about, contact your vet in the first instance.