Dogs Trust reveals the cruel ‘Dogfishing’ scam duping thousands of UK dog lovers

Shocking new statistics released by Dogs Trust reveal how thousands of unsuspecting dog lovers may have been conned into buying puppies illegally imported into the UK.

As a result of unsuspecting dog lovers being ‘dogfished’, many are left heartbroken and on average, almost £500 out of pocket.

Dogs Trust polled over 2,000 puppy owners to see how many buyers might have fallen victim of illegal puppy smuggling, where puppies are brought into the UK from central and eastern European countries to sell on for vast profits.

Many described how sellers falsified paperwork, offered discounts for a quick sale or lied about the age and breed of the dog.

To help prevent prospective owners from being misled into buying dogs that may not be what they seem, Dogs Trust has launched a new campaign: ‘Don’t be Dogfished’.

Over half (51%) of puppy buyers were not allowed to see the puppy more than once while 43% were not allowed to see the puppy with their mum – two signs that all might not be what it seems.

A worrying number of buyers who were not allowed to see the puppy at the seller’s home – 19% also revealed they were asked to collect the puppy in a carpark or layby – something that no breeder with care for the welfare of the puppies would do.

The statistics also revealed that one in eight puppy buyers said their seller lied to them about the dog they were buying, rising to over a fifth among those who bought via online adverts, lying about things such as the age, breeds and whether they had been vaccinated and microchipped.

Over a quarter (26%) said they had concerns, related to health or behaviour, about their puppy within just a few weeks of buying them.

Horrific conditions and unnecessary suffering

Worse still, some prospective new pet owners report terrible conditions where their puppies were “locked in a small cage away from mum”, were so sick they “very nearly died”, or were “scared of their own shadow and very wary of humans”.

Overall, one in six puppy buyers polled said within their first year their puppy had developed significant health or behaviour problems, such as diarrhoea and anxiety, causing terrible suffering for their beloved pet whilst costing them on average almost £500 in additional vet bills.

Some of those people even said their puppy had either died or had to be put to sleep, due to the severity of their condition.

Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said: “Today we’re launching a campaign warning people ‘Don’t be dogfished’ – to help stop people being duped into buying puppies that have been illegally imported into the country by devious dealers.

“People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy, but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade. Many of these poor puppies suffer significant health conditions or lifelong behavioural challenges, and sadly some don’t survive, leaving their buyers helpless and heartbroken – as well as out of pocket.

“This is why we are touring the country in a van like those used by puppy smugglers to educate the public on the shocking realities of the puppy smuggling trade and advising them how they can take action to avoid being ‘dogfished’. If it seems too good to be true, as hard as it is, walk away and report it.”

The ‘Don’t be Dogfished’ campaign is asking potential new owners to take the following steps to avoid being misled when buying a puppy.

  • Always see puppy and mum together at their home and make sure to visit them once.
  • Ask lots of questions and make sure you see all vital paperwork, such as a puppy contract – which gives lots of information about their parents, breed, health, diet, the puppy’s experiences and more.
  • If you have any doubts or feel pressured to buy, as hard as it may be, walk away.

For more information about the Don’t be Dogfished campaign and advice about how to avoid being misled when buying a puppy online, search ‘Dogfished’ or visit