This Christmas, the RSPCA are warning parents about the risk of being conned by 'counterfeit' puppies - puppies being sold with fake vaccination cards and fake pedigree papers (if any) by sellers who either won't disclose, or lie about, where the puppies come from.
At this time of year, many parents will be scouring the internet to find the best deal on toys and gadgets, which means facing the online threat of ‘counterfeit’ goods.
However, there’s another item on the list, and it’s not the latest games console or fad toy, but one of the 50,000 trafficked puppies believed to be imported from Ireland each year, as well as those bred by unscrupulous breeders in the UK.
Would you shop around for a cut-price puppy bargain?
Nearly a third (32 per cent) of people thinking about buying a puppy admitted they will search the internet or ads in a local newspaper to find a cut-price puppy bargain, and 45 per cent would be prepared to pay less than £200, according to new RSPCA research.
The Society are concerned that, despite warnings not to buy a puppy this Christmas, people are unaware of the threat of potentially huge hidden costs and dangers of buying a ‘counterfeit’ puppy.
Furthermore, almost one in five people (19 per cent) planning to buy a puppy are giving in to the demands of their family’s children. The research shows that the combination of desperate parents, and the Christmas rush for presents, could create the perfect storm for the puppy ‘counterfeiters’ who have little regard for animal welfare and whose main concern is profit.
When asked about buying a puppy, 92 per cent of those planning to purchase feel it is important to know where the puppy has come from, yet more than half (56 per cent) say they plan to get one from an advertisement in a newspaper, on the internet or from a pet shop.
Based on complaints received from members of the public, the RSPCA believes this increases the chance of buying a ‘counterfeit’ puppy, with potentially fatal health problems such as canine parvovirus or worms. This means that some new owners could find themselves facing the heartache of a very sick or even dead puppy after Christmas.
Justine Pannett, RSPCA spokesperson, said: "The RSPCA warns people not to buy puppies as Christmas presents. It’s quite shocking to learn that despite this, people may be treating shopping for a puppy in much the same way they would for other Christmas gifts, like a Wii, and looking at ways to make savings wherever possible.
"There’s no cheap way to be a puppy owner. People thinking about buying a puppy don’t just need to plan for the initial cost of buying the animal. They also need to consider the on-going costs and commitment needed to care for a dog throughout its life. Researching your puppy's background is vital."
One mother's tragic story
A mother from Kent, who remains anonymous due to an ongoing investigation, gave into pressure from her children to buy a puppy and has regretted not researching the puppy's origins ever since.
This October, after scouring the newspapers and internet, an advertisement on a website selling puppies caught her eye. She went to the breeder’s home in Surrey with her family and paid £250 for Archie, a Jack Russell puppy.
Despite seeing what the breeder claims was a vaccination card, within five days Archie became dehydrated, was diagnosed with suspected canine parvovirus, and placed on a drip. A few days later he was put to sleep.
“We were all absolutely devastated,” the mother said. “I feel like I’ve been very naive, but you don’t expect to get a puppy and for it to die just a few days later.
"Archie was supposed to have been vaccinated, but when we looked closer the card we had been given by the breeder [it] looked like a fake. Next time we will do more research and think very carefully about where we get a puppy from.”
Help us put an end to the puppies' suffering
Justine concluded: “Puppy trafficking is an appalling, profit-driven business and we can’t emphasise enough the importance to Britain’s dog-loving public of working together to fight the puppy ‘counterfeiters’.
"It’s not always easy to spot a trafficked puppy just from looking at it, but we recommend doing thorough research before buying a puppy, to help save heartache and spare people from lining the pockets of unscrupulous ‘counterfeiters’.”