Avoid getting ‘petfished’ this Christmas, warns government

Buyers should avoid sellers with lots of adverts and always ask to see the animal’s health records

Saman Javed
Thursday 18 November 2021 12:25
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New government campaign warns against the dangers of 'petfishing'

The government has launched a new campaign warning prospective pet owners of the dangers of “petfishing” this Christmas.

A recent survey of UK adults found that less than half of the respondents, 43 per cent, visited a cat or dog seller in-person before purchasing a new pet.

Of those who did visit, more than a tenth of buyers (11 per cent) did no prior research before going to see a kitten or puppy.

The campaign, launched by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA), aims to help buyers identify the signs of a deceitful seller – also known as petfishers.

Petfishers are sellers who lie about the health of an animal and or the conditions in which they have been raised.

They may pretend that the puppy or kitten comes from a happy home, when in reality they were bred in poor conditions.

DEFRA has released a short video featuring a number of animated cats and dogs, each one speaking in a different accent.

One by one, the animals warn potential buyers to “always Google the poodle” and search the pet seller’s name online.

They also advise against buying from sellers with “lots and lots” of adverts, and to always visit a pet before purchasing.

When going to visit a seller, potential buyers should make sure the pet or puppy is “home safely with their mother”, DEFRA adds.

“Foil any evil plans by asking to see health records which honest sellers will provide.”

Finally, the video warns buyers to always ask themselves whether they believe they can trust “the person behind the pet”.

The survey of 1,009 adults, carried out by Opinion Matters, found that 27 per cent of pet owners had come across a seller or advert that made them feel suspicious of the welfare of an animal when searching for a pet.

Additionally, only a third of respondents said they felt “very confident” that they could spot a low welfare puppy or kitten seller.

Christine Middlemiss, the UK’s chief veterinary officer, said pets bred in low-welfare conditions are often separated from the mother too soon.

This can lead to severe health and behavioural problems, and high vet bills for new owners.

“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,” Middlemiss said.

“We urge people to remain vigilant and to always thoroughly research pet sellers before getting in touch.”

Experts have also advised potential owners to check that puppies and kittens are at least eight weeks old before buying.

“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, Bill Lambert, health and welfare expert at The Kennel Club said.

“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 fueling low-welfare breeders.”

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