A new government awareness campaign is warning the public to be look our for red flags when buying a puppy or kitten, as deceitful sellers dupe animal lovers into buying sick pets.

The ban on the sale of puppies or kittens from third party sellers such as pet shops or commercial dealers, known as Lucy’s Law, will come into force next month (6 April). However warnings from the government, backed by the Chief Veterinary Officer and leading animal charities, are urging the public to do their part by ensuring that they only buy pets from responsible breeders and are vigilant in reporting any cases of animals that they suspect to be bred in low-welfare conditions to the RSPCA.

Poor breeding conditions can cause illnesses, leading to huge vet costs and, in severe cases, even to the pet being put to sleep. One in five vets say that they have seen illnesses so severe they have reported the case to the authorities. By taking the necessary steps, unscrupulous breeders can be avoided – and with the third-party sales ban coming into place, the cruel industry could face a huge blow.

Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said, “I can’t stress enough the importance of doing research before buying a puppy or kitten. Being tricked into buying a seriously ill puppy or kitten is more common than you think.

“We want new pet owners to make the best possible decisions where they are truly informed about what they are purchasing to avoid unscrupulous sellers. Familiarise yourself with cagey behaviour. Warning signs such as a seller’s unwillingness to answer questions or provide legitimate medical documentation could lead to a host of illnesses and even premature death for your pet.

“It’s important to report suspicions of UK puppy farming or low-welfare kitten trade activity to the RSPCA and avoid the temptation to save the pet yourself. By turning down a low-welfare raised pet you are helping to stop this cruelty once and for all.”

With a clear consensus among vets (87 per cent strongly agreeing) that the public needs access to clear information in order to do effective research before buying a pet, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) has launched its Petfished short film with journalist Leah Green, who follows pet-owner pitfalls at the hands of deceitful sellers to help the public avoid these everyday tragedies.

Much like ‘Catfishing’, when someone creates a fictional online persona to lure a person into a relationship, deceitful pet sellers often use a similar tactic to ‘Petfish’ buyers, mistreating animals and selling them at high-volume to line their pockets.

RSPCA Inspector Callum Issit, who appears in the Petfished short film, said, “There’s always been a high consumer demand for puppies and kittens and sadly there are people out there who try and meet this demand by prioritising quick cash profits at the expense of animal welfare.

“Puppy farming in particular is a disturbing industrial-scale attempt to meet this demand and the low-welfare conditions and animal illnesses this leads to are distressing. Some of the worse cases I’ve seen have resulted from so-called ‘back-yard’ kitten breeders removing a kitten from its mother too early with little chance of survival or hundreds of puppies kept together in their own faeces with matted fur.

“It’s important the public remain vigilant. If you suspect foul play at any stage when researching and buying your pet, report the seller immediately to the RSPCA or your local authority to help us stop this. if you’re looking for a new pet to join your family please consider giving a rescue animal a new home.”

People should follow these tips to help spot warning signs that a puppy or kitten has been raised in low welfare conditions:

  1. Research. Have a look at the seller’s profile and search their name online. If they are advertising many litters from different breeds, then this is a red flag.
  2. Check contact details. Copy and paste the phone number into a search engine. If the number is being used on lots of different adverts, sites and dates then this is likely a deceitful seller.
  3. Check the animal’s age. Puppies and kittens should never be sold under 8 weeks old – do not buy from anyone advertising a puppy or kitten younger than 8 weeks.
  4. Check the animal’s health records. Make sure the seller shares all records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and microchipping with you before sale.

More warning signs include: the breeder wanting to deliver the pet to you/wanting to meet in a location other than their home; the breeder or puppy’s seller can’t or won’t show you the puppy or kitten with its mother (she’s most likely miles away on cruel puppy or kitten farm); the price is either very cheap (£100-£350) or very expensive (£2000-£7000).

To find out how to responsibly purchase a pet, visit: https://getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk/

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