The Scottish SPCA’s special investigations unit has launched a widespread probe following a spate of reports of puppy farming.
Nearly 80 reports about illegal breeders have been lodged with the charity this month alone.
In recent days, the charity has been contacted about four puppies sold by suspected dealers. Two of the dogs – cockapoo Maxi and bulldog-pug cross Nugget – have since died and a third is seriously unwell.
Now the animal welfare charity is urging prospective dog owners to buy their pet from a reputable breeder rather than be tempted by puppy farmers.
“The onus is on everyone single person in Scotland to put this despicable trade out of business.”
Scottish SPCA Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn
Demand for dogs soared during lockdown, with prices escalating. Now inspectors believe dealers are using restrictions to confuse buyers into parting with their cash to get their sought-after pet.
Last weekend, cockapoo Maxi died less than a week after his family bought him. He had seemed lively when first taken home, but quickly deteriorated. A sibling bought by another family is also now unwell.
And just three days after Nugget was taken home to his new family, he died.
Tests are ongoing to establish their cause of death, but the Scottish SPCA say their “appalling health” was consistent with being bred on a puppy farm. They were less than eight weeks ago, meaning they were too young to be removed from their mother.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “The combination of coronavirus restrictions and extortionate prices of puppies is being manipulated by puppy traders selling badly bred dogs.
“There are things we would urge any buyer to do, such as insist on seeing the pup they are buying at the seller’s home or premises with their mum. At the moment, we know many dealers are telling unsuspecting members of the public to meet them in a car park or public space to pass over the dog safely. The seller will often be wearing a mask and afterwards they are impossible to get a hold of when the pup gets sick.
“Prices have skyrocketed in 2020 as responsible breeders scaled back due to the restrictions yet demand increased as many people were stuck at home. Now, dealers can charge more than ever before and sell more easily than they’ve previously been able to. The root of this problem is public demand. As we approach Christmas, we are frightened by the prospect of the general public flocking to these people to buy sick and ill puppies.
“Of these four dogs, three were sold by the dealer taking the dog to the buyer’s home and the other in was given a fake address which turned out to be a car park. You should never purchase a pup in a public place or at your own home.”
Already this year, the charity has taken 523 calls from people with concerns about puppy farming.
A survey carried out by the charity in the summer found 84% of people think it is unsafe to buy a puppy online, while a third of Scots admitted they would not confidently be able to tell the difference between a responsible breeder and a puppy dealer.
Mr Flynn added: “The onus is on everyone single person in Scotland to put this despicable trade out of business.
“Every single time a pup dies we say the same thing to the public – don’t be rushed in to parting with money and insist on seeing the puppy with their mum. Do not buy a puppy until you have seen paperwork and certificates for vaccinations, microchipping and worming.”
To report a suspected puppy dealer, call 03000 999 999. For more information on buying a puppy safely, visit www.saynotopuppydealers.co.uk