Published: 11:32, 30 November 2021
| Updated: 11:38, 30 November 2021
A 'mismatch' between the demand and supply of new puppies and kittens is leaving Christmas shoppers at risk of being duped by deceitful pet sellers.
Animal welfare experts say families should think twice before buying a pet in the coming weeks with a warning from the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs that unscrupulous sellers are active and looking to exploit the festive season.
More than a quarter of UK cat and dog owners have reported to government officials noticing a suspicious seller or advert when purchasing their last cat or dog. It has prompted the launch of a new campaign warning the public against being 'petfished' this Christmas.
With demand for puppies and kittens having reached record levels as a result of the pandemic, animal welfare experts warn that many households aren't always taking the time to carry out the proper checks in a timely manner in their race to get their hands on a new family member.
This includes fewer potential new owners making the time to visit the seller in person prior to buying, not taking the time to do proper research or understanding the signs of low welfare in an animal they've seen.
Bill Lambert, Health and Welfare expert at The Kennel Club explained: "Buying a puppy is a huge decision and all prospective owners should do the proper research and have all the facts available so that they can make an informed decision.
"We know there has been a surge in demand for puppies during the pandemic. The current mismatch between supply and demand can lead to more people being duped by rogue breeders and scammers, and inadvertently fuelling low-welfare breeders.
To avoid being Petfished, the public are being urged to spot vital red flags when researching sellers, with the help of the acronym S.P.O.T. They are:
1. Seller: Put the seller’s name and details including phone number into a search engine – avoid those with multiple adverts.
2. Parent: Make sure you see puppies and kittens in their home with their mother.
3. Old enough: Check puppies and kittens are at least 8 weeks old before you take them home.
4. Treatment: Ask to see the animal’s health records and avoid sellers who can’t provide them.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss warned households to be careful.
She said: "Christmas can be a difficult time to settle a pet into a new home and it’s vitally important that people not only research the breed of animal they want, but also the person selling it to them.
"Puppies and kittens bred in low-welfare conditions can often be separated from their mother too soon which can lead to severe health and behavioural problems, heartache and high vet bills for their new family. We urge people to remain vigilant and to always thoroughly research pet sellers before getting in touch."