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A Labrador puppy sits by a Christmas tree with a bow round it's neck

Beware illegal puppy breeders this Christmas

by Alison Cornmell

Knowsley residents are being urged to be cautious when buying a puppy this Christmas, or at any other time of the year.

High demand for puppies during lockdown has led to rocketing prices and encouraged more puppy farming, with dogs being bred in inappropriate conditions. These poor breeding practices often lead to ill health and disease, resulting in huge vet bills and/ or sadly, your puppy’s life.

Many puppies sold online have been illegally imported and come with incomplete or false documentation which leads the purchaser into believing that the puppy has been legally imported or was bred in the UK.

Due to a new law introduced in 2020 called Lucy’s Law, buyers must now purchase puppies directly from a breeder or consider adopting a dog from a rescue centre instead. While this law helps to prevent ‘third-party sales’ of puppies, buyers should still be aware of purchasing from unscrupulous breeders.

Knowsley Council’s Trading Standards Team offers the following advice to anyone planning to buy a puppy:

Protect yourself

  • Only buy from reputable, recommended breeders and be prepared to wait for the breed you want
  • Never pay for the puppy in advance
  • Get as much information about where the puppy has come from as possible and, where Government COVID restrictions allow, ask to visit the puppy to see it with its mother and the rest of the litter
  • If the puppy is found to have been illegally imported, and is taken into quarantine, it will be up to the owner to pay for the fees incurred.

Prior to visiting the puppy

  • Look at the seller’s online profile, if they are offering many different breeds for sale, this is a red flag and points towards a puppy farm
  • Copy and paste the sellers contact number into a search engine. If this number is being used on lots of different adverts, sites and dates, this may be a sign that the breeder is not trustworthy.

When visiting the puppy

  • Beware of offers to meet somewhere ‘convenient’, such as a motorway service station
  • Check that the mother isn’t a ‘fake’, this will be obvious from the way the puppies are interacting with the ‘mum’
  • If the puppy has been vaccinated, ask to see the documentation
  • If you have suspicions during the visit, do not part with your cash and walk away.

Consumer rights

  • If your pet becomes ill or dies soon after you buy it, you might be able to get a refund or replacement from the trader you bought it from. Unfortunately, the same protection will not apply when buying from a private seller and the law on who is classed as a business and a private seller can be unclear
  • It may be beneficial to ask the seller to agree to a ‘puppy contract’, containing detailed information about the health and history of the puppy so you can be reassured that your pet is healthy and well.

To report puppy scams, the illegal sale of puppies and obtain advice on your consumer rights, contact the Citizens Advice Consumer Service on 0808 223 1133 or visit: www.citizensadvice.org.uk/consumer

For more information and advice about buying a puppy, visit: