UNSUSPECTING dog lovers in Wales may have been conned or ‘dogfished’ into buying puppies illegally imported into the UK, according to shocking statistics released by the Dogs Trust.

The charity polled over 2,000 puppy owners UK-wide to determine how many buyers might have fallen victim to 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, called ‘Don’t Be Dogfished’.

More than (58 per cent) of puppy buyers in Wales who were surveyed were not allowed to see the puppy more than once before buying, while 41 per cent 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 per cent) also revealed they were asked to collect their puppy in a car park or lay-by, something no breeder who cares about the welfare of the puppies would do.

One in 10 puppy buyers in Wales said their seller lied to them about the dog they were buying - rising to more than a fifth (21 per cent) among those who bought via online adverts - lying about things such as the age, breed and whether they had been vaccinated and microchipped.

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

Worse still, some reported 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”.

Thirteen per cent of puppy buyers polled in Wales said within the first year their puppy had developed significant health of behaviour problems, such as diarrhoea and anxiety, causing terrible suffering for their beloved pet while 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.

More than 201,300 dogs were advertised online in 2019 on four of the UK’s biggest classified websites.

“We’re launching a campaign warning people ‘Don’t be dogfished’ - to help stop them being duped into buying puppies that have been illegally imported into the country by devious dealers," said David Franklin, regional manager at Dogs Trust.

“People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade.

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“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”.

More than half of those polled in Wales said they felt puppy smuggling was a big issue in the UK, yet almost a third (27 per cent) said they would not know they need to speak to their local Trading Standards department if they suspected their puppy was smuggled, with contact details able to be found on the ‘Don’t be Dogfished’ website.

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 more than 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 campaign, visit www.dogstrust.org.uk/dogfished