RSPCA calls for crackdown on puppy imports ahead of festive rush

The RSPCA is warning prospective puppy buyers to watch out for Christmas cons as a new survey find more than one in 10 people are planning to buy a puppy this festive season.

The charity is concerned that a record number of dogs could be imported over the following weeks to meet the demand for Christmas puppies.

Now, the RSPCA is calling for tougher regulations to tackle the issue, which raises major welfare concerns for the dogs involved. Welfare exerts are also issuing a warning to families who may be considering getting a puppy as a Christmas present to look out for breeders and sellers trying to cash-in on the festive rush and failing to take good care of their dogs.

RSPCA Chief Executive Chris Sherwood said: “Every year we see a spike in online searches and adverts for puppies in the run-up to Christmas and with lockdown continuing to drive up demand for dogs, we expect this year could see more families looking for puppies than ever before.

“While some of these families will take on loving rescue dogs or buy happy, healthy puppies from responsible breeders, we know that many will unknowingly fall victim to illicit and underground puppy breeders and sellers who prioritise profit over the health and welfare of their dogs.

“Some people may unwittingly buy a puppy who has been bred in poor conditions in a cold, dark barn or warehouse without having access to the proper food, veterinary care and early life experiences that are so important for them to grow into happy and healthy dogs. Others may well have been born in appalling conditions on puppy farms abroad, taken from their mothers at just a few weeks old and illegally smuggled into the country to be sold to innocent buyers.”

Survey results

In a new survey – carried out by Savanta ComRes on behalf of the RSPCA – 38% of UK adults said they owned a dog and, of those, a quarter (24%) got their dog since the start of lockdown and the remaining three quarters (76%) before lockdown.

But 23% of respondents said they would be interested in buying a new puppy or dog in the next six months and 12% said they’re likely to buy a new puppy or dog for Christmas.

The survey also found 79% of UK adults agree that dogs shouldn’t be smuggled between countries and 78% agree that all dogs coming into the country from abroad should receive mandatory health screenings. While 52% agree that puppies and dogs should not be imported from other countries outside the UK under any circumstances.

The RSPCA is supporting Defra’s Petfished campaign encouraging prospective buyers to think about who is behind the pet and urges anyone thinking of getting a pet to adopt instead of shop. For those who wish to buy a puppy, the RSPCA encourages using The Puppy Contract to help find a happy, healthy dog.