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Buying a puppy safely is very important. Some illegal dealers own puppy mills or farms that produce many puppies without care for the health and happiness of the mothers and puppies. There are many risks of owning a badly or illegally bred puppy, but by buying a puppy safely, they can be avoided.

Risks of owning an illegally bred puppy:

1. Early death-
Most illegally bred puppies are sold online through social media or small ad sites, and the terrible fact is that more than 1 in 6 (15%) of those puppies bought online get sick or die in their first year.

2. Disease-
When you take your puppy home, it could develop severe illness straight away due to infection and the absence of vaccinations at puppy farms. Puppy farmed pups are more likely to have possibly life-threatning genetic disorders and deadly infectious diseases such as parvovirus, which causes vomiting and diarrhoea amongst other symptoms and can cost up to large amounts to treat.

3. Behavior issues-
Puppies from puppy farms are more likely to be more aggressive, anxious and show symptoms of trauma, as a result of being brought by in a stressful environment by puppy dealers. Unfortunately, these issues may never go away – they cannot always be solved through training or by a loving and caring home.

4. Increased vet bills-
The cost of buying a dog from a puppy farm can rack up over its lifetime. Owners who purchased from an Assured Breeder spent nearly 20% less in vet bills during their dog’s lifetime, compared to those from puppy farms.

5. Fuelling the trade-
Although it is a natural instinct to want to rescue a puppy from an unlikely situation, buying from an illegal dealer helps fuel a lucrative criminal industry that breeds dogs for profit, with no care for the welfare of the mum or puppy. This leads to further suffering in the long run.

When you are looking online:

1. Covid tactics-
Many illegal breeders are using coronavirus as an excuse for you not to come to visit the puppy before you buy. Reputable breeders will always allow you to see the puppy in its home environment and meet the mum safely. Given the current Government travel restriction, you should either source your puppy from a reputable breeder within your local authority area or wait until you can travel safely outside your area, even if that means having to wait a bit longer to get your puppy.

2. Phone numbers-
Many illegally farmed puppies are sold online, and dealers may create many adverts providing the same mobile number and descriptions of puppies. Try googling the number and descriptions to see if they’ve been used on lots of other adverts.

3. Stolen descriptions
Illegal dealers often copy and paste advert descriptions, and re-use them for selling multiple litters. To find out if the description of the puppy you’re thinking of buying is real or not, copy and paste it into your search engine. Again, if various adverts come up, it’s likely that your advert hasn’t been written by a verified seller.

4. Pasports-
If your puppy is advertised as having its own passport, this could be a sign that the puppy has been farmed overseas and brought to the Country the puppy currently is in to be sold.

5. Vaccinations-
Puppies can’t be vaccinated until they are over four weeks old. If the advert claims that the puppies have been vaccinated already and they are said to be younger than four weeks old, this claim is untrue.

6. Multiple litters-
If your seller is advertising multiple litters from different breeds of dog, this is a giveaway that they may be dealing puppy farmed dogs on a large scale. Verified sellers will mostly only trade in one breed of dog.

When meeting the puppy:

1. Meet at their home-
Always visit the puppy in the place where they’ve been bred and reared. Don’t agree to meet halfway due to current travel restrictions, in places like a car park, lay-by, any other unusual place, or even have the puppy delivered directly to your door. Dealers may use the pandemic as an excuse to meet you somewhere and will often rent houses to sell puppies from, so it’s important to look out for all the warning signs.

2. Meet the mum-
Make sure you see the puppy’s mum. Meeting the mum with her pups and having a chance to discuss matters with the breeder are vital steps to buying a puppy safely. Remember, some dealers will use an unrelated fake mum, but if she doesn’t have enlarged teats, isn’t showing the puppies any attention, or watching you when you interact with her pups, she isn’t their mum.

This photo is of the real mother of litters bred on a puppy farm. ”Fake” mum will have been clean and cute, nobody would knowingly have bought from someone after seeing this.

Dog Carnivore Dog breed Water dog Companion dog

3. Check the age and health of the puppy-
Puppies being sold before they’re at least eight weeks old is an immediate red flag. They need to stay with their mum long enough so that they can socialise and learn behaviours. Check that the puppy looks healthy with bright eyes and shiny fur. Any concerns you raise about the puppy’s health should not be swept aside and classed as ‘normal for the breed’. Healthy, happy and socialised puppies are naturally curious and will want to interact with you and their surroundings. If they are timid and not willing to interact, ask yourself why?

4. Check you get the right paperwork-
Illegal breeders will make excuses or give you fake paperwork that doesn’t look quite right. You should receive paperwork and certifications of vaccinations, worming records, microchipping certificates, and results of any health tests. Ideally, you’ll get a puppy contract. Verified and safe commercial breeders will have a local authority licence, and evidence of Assured Breeder Scheme membership.

5. Take your time-
If you feel like you’re being rushed to part with cash, pressured into buying a puppy or aren’t asked about your home situation, it may be an illegal breeder. Legitimate sellers won’t ever rush you and won’t mind you visiting the puppy more than once. Treat any dealer that can offer you a puppy within a few days with caution. Established, reputable dealers often have waiting lists, which can be even longer just now due to the pandemic.

6. Look at the price-
The price of puppies has more than doubled since lockdown, according to recent news, so it’s important to be aware that many illegal puppy traders are trying to cash in by increasing their prices to meet demand. Also, remember that a reputable breeder will never pressure you to part with cash or pay the full amount upfront, and you should never be asked to pay for your puppy online.

7. Think long term-
As the saying goes, a puppy is for life not just for Christmas, or lockdown for that matter. Please consider all the long-term implications of owning a puppy, such as puppy training, veterinary bills and food. Also, think about your day-to-day lifestyle. Do you have time to walk your puppy regularly - even after lockdown? How will your puppy respond to any children in your household? Reputable breeders and re-homing centres will ask these kinds of questions, whereas illegal traders may not.

Reporting a possible illegal dealer:

United States-
Cruelty or neglect laws vary by state but typically address conditions such as animals without food and water, sick dogs who are not being medically treated or dogs without adequate shelter from the elements. Prepare specific details of your complaint in advance and, after you have made a report, get a case number or contact information related to your case. If you do not hear back from the local authorities within a week, please call them back to ask for an update, but be aware that if there is an ongoing investigation some information may not be available to the public. If you can't get local help for the situation or are not sure who to call, please contact us. You may also wish to contact the United States Department of Agriculture Animal Care Division and find out if the USDA licenses the facility owner. Only "wholesale" breeding facilities (those that sell puppies to other businesses who in turn sell the puppies to the public) are required to be USDA licensed—this is a small portion of all the large-scale breeders in the country. Currently licensed breeders and some of their most recent inspection reports are available on the USDA/APHIS website. The HSUS Puppy Mill Task Force tipline, 1-877-MILL-TIP, is available to anyone with information on a possible crime involving puppy mills—especially information from those with "insider" knowledge, or from law enforcement officials who might be aware of such operations. If you witnessed deplorable conditions in person and wish to file a complaint with the HSUS, please call 1-877-MILL-TIP or report it. You can also file a complaint with the USDA. If you have purchased a puppy and wish to report problems to the HSUS, please complete the Pet Seller Complaint form. This form allows us to track data accurately and ensure that we have as much information as possible to help us in our fight to stop puppy mills.

In Canada, we don’t have any laws specifically against puppy mills. But the worst puppy mills are in violation of animal cruelty laws due to the suffering and distress endured by the animals. The problem is that they are located in rural areas and are difficult for humane society or SPCA inspectors to uncover. When inspectors do find puppy mills, they are quick to take action to investigate. If you find or suspect a puppy mill, call your local humane society or SPCA or the police

United Kingdoms-
Do you think your puppy, or a puppy you have visited may be from a puppy farm? Or do you think you might have come into contact with an illegal puppy dealer? If so, you can report them to the RSPCA, or the Scottish SPCA (see below) and help stop puppy farming for good.

Look beyond cute; the three pup checks:

1. Look for the mum-
Many illegal breeders are using coronavirus as an excuse for you not to come to the place where the puppy was bred and see it with its mum. Given the current Government travel restriction, you should either source your puppy from a reputable breeder within your local authority area or wait until you can travel safely outside your area. This might mean meeting the puppy and its mum isn’t possible just now, but it’s important that you wait until the travel restriction allows you to do so. This will let you to see the puppy in its home environment and meet the mum safely. Never agree to meet halfway due to current travel restrictions, in places like a car park, lay-by, any other unusual place, or have the puppy delivered directly to your door. Reputable breeders will always work within the current Government guidelines.

2. Look for paperwork-
You should always receive the puppy’s paperwork for vaccinations, microchipping, anti-worming medications and check-ups. Some dealers might use the current lockdown restrictions for not providing these essential documents or provide fake paperwork that doesn’t look right, or which doesn’t have the name, number and address of a real veterinary practice.

3. Look beyond cute-
Even if you are desperate for a pup right now or overcome by strong emotion to rescue it, if something doesn’t feel right, walk away and report your concerns to the right organization.

Now more than ever, it’s important to #LookBeyondCute and be aware of the three ‘Pup Checks’ to buy a puppy safely. More advice is here -

Note, this information was written during the pandemic and as a result some info may not be up to date in the future.

Credit goes to Buy A Puppy Safely for the information and reporting a illegal dealer in the UK, Humane Canada for reporting a illeagal dealer in Canada and Humane Society of the United States for reporting a illegal dealer in the US.

Olive Love
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