Suffolk sanctuaries warn of growing trade in smuggled dogs and online pet sales

The RSPCA has warned against buying pets online, Here, staff member Emma Thresh is pictured with Gok

The RSPCA has warned against buying pets online, Here, staff member Emma Thresh is pictured with Goku at the Martlesham centre. There is no suggestion Goku had been mis-sold before coming to the centre. - Credit: Archant

Suffolk animal sanctuaries have warned a growing trade in online pets is stretching their re-homing services as families find they have been mis-sold unsuitable puppies.

Emma pictured with Holly the westy. There is no suggestion Holly had been mis-sold.

Emma pictured with Holly the westy. There is no suggestion Holly had been mis-sold. - Credit: Archant

Charities in the county are urging people buying dogs to ensure they use an accredited breeder or re-homing centre rather than gambling with cheap internet offers, which they say often ignore vital information.

Despite there being stringent guidelines on pet sales to ensure animals are paired with a suitable home, some online vendors are said not to have provided vaccinations and healthcare to their puppies. The dogs may also have missed out on vital socialisation early in their lives, which can make them nervous and unsuitable pets for some families.

Jayne Roberts, founder of Suffolk Animal Rescue in Debenham, said internet animal selling has “become an escalating problem”.

“We see more cases of animals homed on Facebook to anyone who is asking,” she added. “Many of these poor animals do the rounds of homes before eventually ending up in rescue.”


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Ms Roberts said puppies sold online by vendors looking for a quick sale were rarely house-trained, had not been checked over by a vet and “usually full of worms, fleas and all sorts”.

But the most worrying aspect of online sales, she says, is the failure of online sellers to make appropriate checks on the suitability of the buyer and their home.

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“I am always astounded that no checks are done to see where the animal is in fact going to live,” she added.

“As long as the buyer has the cash to hand over; that is the main concern.”

Animal shelter charity Blue Cross has also highlighted an increase in puppies being taken in to its Felixstowe centre in a poor condition – indicative of having been sold online by puppy farms or disreputable breeders.

Buddy the Jack Russell, pictured at the RSPCA's Martlesham centre. There is no suggestion Buddy had

Buddy the Jack Russell, pictured at the RSPCA's Martlesham centre. There is no suggestion Buddy had been mis-sold. - Credit: Archant

Andrew Gillon, centre manager at Blue Cross, in Felixstowe, said: “Sadly, there are many irresponsible breeders who don’t take the trouble to make sure they are breeding healthy puppies and giving them the care they need.

“This might mean that puppies haven’t had the correct healthcare and vaccinations and the right kind of food.

“They have also often missed out on vital socialisation early in their lives, which might lead to them being nervous dogs. Also, breeders who are only concerned about making money are unlikely to make sure their puppies are going to good homes.”

The animal charities say the increasing numbers of pets needing to be re-homed after being mis-sold online is placing strains on their services.

They have urged people buying pets online to make sure the website follows the Pet Advertising Advisory Group minimum standards or, better still, to buy from a responsible charity where owners are offered advice and support.

Tom Patrick, animal care supervisor at the RSPCA Suffolk East and Ipswich Branch in Martlesham, said none of the animals at the centre currently had been smuggled or sold online.

However, he added: “It’s a lot of work taking on an animal such as a dog and it’s becoming a regular occurrence that we find people phoning up saying they have been sold a young puppy that they cannot cope with.”

Bailey, a Maltese cross, pictured at the RSPCA's Martlesham centre. There is no suggestion Bailey ha

Bailey, a Maltese cross, pictured at the RSPCA's Martlesham centre. There is no suggestion Bailey had been mis-sold. - Credit: Archant

Warning over illegal trade in smuggled dogs

Animal charities have warned the irresponsible gifting of puppies is unwittingly fuelling an illegal trade in smuggled dogs to be sold online.

The Dogs Trust and RSPCA have both raised concerns about corrupt eastern European breeders exploiting the demand for “designer dogs” by smuggling underage puppies hundreds of miles to be sold in the UK – with fears that ports in Suffolk and Essex may be used as entry points.

The charities say smuggled puppies often suffer terrible journeys and are so young that vaccinations are ineffective. Many of those seized at borders face quarantine in the UK.

Chief Inspector Ian Briggs, from the RSPCA Special Operations Unit, said: “The number of calls we’ve received this year about puppy farms and puppy trafficking is truly shocking.

“All UK ports are potential entry points for traffickers bringing these dogs in – after they have travelled hundreds of miles in awful conditions.

“We have investigated claims of puppies being bred or kept in poor conditions, before being sold to generate huge profit, for many years.

“However, the percentage rise in the calls we received since January is extremely worrying.

“People are making thousands of pounds off the back of breeding and importing sick puppies. There are no two ways about it – it is organised animal crime.”

Advice for people buying pets

People buying puppies are advised to pay attention to the following guidelines on best practice.

Online purchases should come from websites that follows the Pet Advertising Advisory Group minimum standards

Where possible buy from a responsible charity where owners are offered advice and support

Carry out research into the breed of dog that best suits your circumstances

Insist on seeing the mother with the litter and where possible the father too to help judge the health and temperament of the puppy

Paperwork and a written medical history should also be available for inspection

It should be possible that they draw up a sale agreement subject to satisfactory examination by a vet within 72 hours of purchase.

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