Since the beginning of the pandemic, the demand for puppies has grown considerably. Unfortunately, this has led to a rise in the breeding of dogs for purely commercial purposes by those who do not have the dogs’ welfare at heart.
Some unwitting owners have sadly found themselves understandably unable to walk away from puppies, and indeed kittens too, that are being raised in less-than-ideal environments. This can then lead to their beloved new pet becoming physically or emotionally unwell, at a time when life is already stressful for their owners.
At Dave Cumber Vets we aim to educate our clients on pet welfare and ensure you are well informed about all aspects of animal care. In this blog, we will give you our top tips on buying a puppy responsibly. We will also highlight the warning signs to look out for and give an overview on the current breeding laws.
Is now the right time to buy a puppy?
We urge you consider whether now is the right time to welcome a pet into your family. Owning a pet is a considerable responsibility and not a decision that should be undertaken lightly. A few questions you might wish to ask yourself when considering buying any new pet might include;
- Do you have the time to commit to a young and energetic dog who will require a lot of attention and training?
- Are you willing to walk your dog in all weathers and dedicate time to proper training and socialising?
- Do you have a support system in place for when you return to work or go on holiday? As we well know, many of us have had to work in unusual ways, including from home, but as life returns to normal, whenever that may be, your new addition will need to be looked after when you are not there.
- Do you have the financial means to support the care and medical attention your puppy needs? Have you considered insurance, and the ongoing costs of feeding, doggy day-care, routine vaccinations and regular parasite control?
We would also encourage you to consider the expected temperament, exercise levels and financial commitment of different breeds of dogs. All dogs are individuals, however there are common conditions within certain breeds that you should be aware of prior to purchasing your new puppy.
Buying pets online
The majority of potential owners begin their search for a puppy online. While this is often an easy way to find your new pet, it can also allow for unscrupulous breeders to reach a national audience and operate anonymously. Before responding to an online advert take time to conduct thorough research both into the breeder and the animals they are advertising. There are a number of warning signs that you should look out for, but can be relatively easy to spot once you know how. If you’re looking for a pedigree dog and want extra certainty, your first point of call should be the Kennel Club’s Assured Breeder Scheme.
What warning signs should I look out for online?
- Sometimes breeders have multiple listings, advertising many different breeds and litters at the same time. This should be considered a warning and is suggestive of a ‘puppy farm’ type operation. We understand it can be difficult to find this information, especially if you’re not tech savvy. On some listing sites you can click on the breeder’s username to view their full inventory and listing history. You can also Google the breeders name and phone number to see whether it has been used elsewhere.
- Look at the pictures – if the same picture is being used on multiple listings, this may indicate a problem. To check if an image has been duplicated in multiple listings, ‘right click’ on the photo and click ‘search Google for this Image’ from the drop-down menu. This will show you every instance of the picture being used online. Likewise, some breeders will use the same description time and time again. Copy and paste this information into a search engine and see whether you can find the same text being used on other adverts
- If the pet is advertised as having a pet passport, this may be a sign that they have been imported. It is important to note that pets must be at least 12 weeks of age before they can be imported into the UK. If you are unsure of the animals age either from the photograph or the description, then it may be best to either make further enquiries or move onto the next advert.
- You should also avoid sellers advertising puppies that are ready for collection who are younger than 8 weeks old. Removing young animals from their mothers too early can seriously impact on their mental wellbeing. Remember that all puppies should be microchipped by law prior to 8 weeks old, and definitely prior to leaving the breeders premises. If the breeder refuses to do so, you should refuse to take the puppy on as a pet as it may be a sign that the breeder does not wish to be traced.
- Unscrupulous breeders will often bring money into the conversation quickly. We implore you not to part with any money before viewing the dog in person. Then only pay a deposit once you’re certain the pet has been raised responsibly and ensure you get a receipt. Under no circumstances should you be prepared to meet a breeder anywhere other than where the animals are housed and raised, i.e. a train station or car park.
- Some irresponsible breeders suggest Kennel Club Registration is a guarantee that the puppy will be healthy and happy. This is not the case. Kennel Club Registration is akin to a birth certificate only. Ask that a full veterinary health check is performed prior to you collecting your puppy, and ideally ask for written evidence.
What are the signs of a legitimate breeder puppy listing?
- Good breeders will have put a great deal of care into raising their litter and will want what’s best for their puppies. The advert will likely contain a large amount of information about the mum and dad as well as an overview of the puppies since birth. It is not uncommon for good breeders to request that you join a waiting list.
- A good breeder will be receptive to questions and will be happy to talk with you at great length about the puppy’s temperament and the steps they’re taking to socialise the dogs whilst in their care. They will be happy to talk to you over the phone, rather than email, WhatsApp or text.
- The breeder will likely have a lot of questions about you to determine whether you are a right fit for their dogs. You may be asked to complete a detailed questionnaire which requests information on your previous experience, working hours and home environment. Good breeders have the right to refuse sale if they feel that you do not have the relevant experience or work life balance. Their opinion should always be respected.
Viewing pets in person
How do I know if I am viewing a puppy farm or imported puppies?
- Don’t be fooled by the fact that the viewing is taking place in a family home. Look for signs that the puppy has been raised within the home; bowls, whelping bed, bedding, well-used toys etc. If you don’t see these, then this is not where the puppy and/or mum live when you aren’t there.
- Never buy a puppy that cannot be viewed with its mum and siblings. If the breeder has a well-rehearsed excuse i.e., they’re sleeping, ill, at the vets or gone for a walk with my children, it’s best to walk away from the sale.
- If the puppy is listless, docile, trembling or looking generally unwell, this could be a sign that they have not been looked after properly or have an underlying medical condition. As mentioned previously, ask for documented evidence of veterinary health checks and if the breeder is unable to prove said documentation, walk away.
- Also check the condition of the mother. Ensure they are happy, content and not fearful of human contact. A good temperament in a dame will hopefully lead to a well-rounded puppy of your own!
- As mention before, do not meet breeders in a carpark or let them deliver the dog to your house. Always insist on the seeing the puppy in the environment they grew up in so you can be certain they were properly cared for.
- Ask to see photos from birth. If the breeder cannot or is unwilling to provide these this might be a sign they have been raised elsewhere.
- Specific working breeds are docked shortly after birth; the breeder should be able to provide you with certification that this was carried out by a veterinarian within 5 days of birth. The only reason a dog should be docked legally, other than for accidental injury necessitating surgical removal, is if it can be demonstrated that the animal is or was genuinely intended for a permitted working role. Docking should not be performed based on breed alone. Unless you intend to use your new pet for working, we strongly urge you to pass on any docked puppies, as this could land you in hot water!
What are the signs of a legitimate breeder?
- A legitimate breeder will welcome you into their home and allow you to look at the whole setup. There will be a clean and safe space dedicated to the dogs and the mum will be present and well cared for. Ideally, they will also have access to an outside space.
- The puppies will be in good physical condition e.g., clear eyes, clean ears, skin is not flaking or sore, shiny coat without fleas, clean bottom, good weight with no ribs showing and be mobile without signs of stiff hips or a limp. Their breathing should be quiet, and they should not be coughing or wheezing.
- A good breeder will have spent a lot of time socialising the puppies by introducing them to household noises, new people and new environments. This will result in confident and outgoing puppies that are inquisitive and enjoy interaction with new people. They should also have started the early stages of housetraining.
- An experienced breeder will encourage you to interact with a range of puppies to make sure you find a puppy with the right temperament for you and your family.
- Good breeders expect you to answer questions and want you to take an active interest in the litter.
- The breeder will be able to supply you with both the mum and dad’s paperwork. If the breed is prone to certain illnesses, they should be able to provide you with screening and test results. If the parents are pedigree, they will provide the appropriate registration documents. The Kennel Club will be able to confirm the legitimacy of these for you.
- They will provide legitimate documentation that shows the puppies have received their first vaccinations, microchip and worming treatment. It is a legal requirement to have all puppies microchipped and the breeder should be the first registered owner and be able to provide the appropriate documentation. They will be happy to give you their vets contact details so that records can be transferred once you have found your vet (hopefully us!).
- A reputable breeder will not rush you and many breeders will encourage you to visit the puppy on multiple occasions on the lead up to collection day.
- Before taking the dog home the breeder may ask you to sign a puppy contract, often including a clause to accept the puppy back should your circumstances change. Make sure you are happy with the terms of the contract before signing.
- Most breeders will arrange pet insurance for the first month after collection, so that you don’t have to worry while you get your new puppy settled and can organise your own financial plans for supporting your new arrival.
The breeding laws in the United Kingdom changed in 2018 to improve animal welfare. Currently, anyone breeding 3 or more litters of puppies in a 12-month period or as a business, must apply for a license from the local authority. In order to receive a licence, they must meet a number strict conditions and have their home assessed. They will be given a star rating and will are required to display their licence number when advertising puppies. You can check this number is legitimate by contacting your local council.
More recently, a law has been passed which makes it illegal to sell a puppy under 6 months old that you did not breed yourself. It is also illegal to sell dogs under the age of 6 months in a pet store. Be aware of these legal requirements when searching for your new pet.
Don’t forget many rehoming centres often have puppies and young dogs available to adopt. Adopting a dog from a shelter is an excellent way to support animal welfare charities and give a dog a new start in life. If you feel able, please consider adopting an older dog rather than buying a puppy. Older dogs can be more difficult to rehome due to some engrained behaviours and medical conditions, but will still make loving companions for the right family. With the current pandemic, the rehoming centres are overflowing with animals that people can no longer afford to look after, so we ask you to think about whether you might be able to give an older animal a new home.
Always go with your gut instinct. If you have concerns or feel that something is amiss, it would be wise to walk away from the sale. If you have concerns for a dog’s welfare or think that something illegal is going on, you should report this to the appropriate authorities as soon as possible. You can contact the Police or the RSPCA via phone or web form.
The RSPCA discourage people from buying a pet in poor conditions to ‘rescue’ them from the situation. Whilst this will help an individual dog in the short term, it will allow the cycle to continue and enable more dogs to suffer horrific abuse. It also sets you up for some heartache and potentially significant medical expenses.
If possible, do not take your children to the first viewing. This will make it easier to walk away from the situation. Choosing a puppy can be a long process, it’s important to find a breeder and puppy that’s the right fit for you.
Buying a puppy is an incredibly exciting time for the whole family that can bring years of fun, love and laughter. We encourage you to heed advice and not be afraid to ask for guidance if necessary.
After bringing your puppy home you should make an appointment with your local vet for a health check as soon as possible