Investigation shows increase in underground puppy trading

Complaints to the RSPCA about the underground puppy trade have increased by 132% over the past five years.

Figures also reveal almost 9 out of 10 calls reporting questionable breeders and dealers came from people who purchased a puppy online. The charity also identified the UK’s puppy farming hotspots – based on the number of calls relating to the puppy trade in 2016 – as Greater London and Greater Manchester.

In a joint investigation with classified advertising site Gumtree, the RSPCA found online listings advertising dogs and puppies for sale broadly tallied with their own puppy farming hotspots.

Figures also revealed the use of online websites to sell and rehome dogs had exploded in the past decade, as Gumtree recorded a 785% increase in the number of dogs being listed on its site in Great Britain between 2007-2016.

‘Hugely concerning’

Justine Williams, from the RSPCA, said: “These figures are hugely concerning as they show the sheer number of people using the internet to buy and sell dogs. These are living, sentient creatures, which are being traded as easily as a second-hand car or a piece of furniture.

She added the RSPCA found 87% of the calls it received on puppy trade issues were those where the puppy was bought online.

Gumtree’s research showed, in one month (February 2017), almost 10,000 listings were posted on the site advertising dogs, while more than 286,000 searches were made by prospective buyers for “puppies for sale”. Over a year, 204,182 adverts for dogs were posted on the site.

RSPCA stings on organised puppy selling networks have uncovered criminal gangs making up to £35,000 a week by selling dozens of puppies – often fashionable breeds and designer crossbreeds.

Meanwhile, Dogs Trust is calling on the Government to take immediate action to address the illegal importation of puppies into Great Britain, after an undercover investigation discovered smugglers across central and eastern Europe continuing to abuse the system.

Poor breeding

BVA president Gudrun Ravetz said: “The Dogs Trust report adds further weight to what we’re hearing from our members about the growing number of poorly bred and badly socialised puppies being brought into practices with a range of health and welfare concerns.”

  • Read the full story in the 31 July issue of Veterinary Times.