Buying a puppy? Know the risks.

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Puppy ad


Buying a puppy? Know the risks.

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Sick puppy


Buying a puppy? Know the risks.

Read more

Cute. Quick. Sick.

Today the way we shop is fast – we see something online, click a button, have it delivered and own it instantly. But buying a dog should never be quick or easy. An impulse buy can lead to owning a sick puppy, heartache and unexpected expense.

Many of the puppies advertised online come from the illegal and cruel puppy trade. They are bred in poor conditions, taken from their mothers far too young and endure long journeys, often across borders, before being sold. By the time they are in your arms, they could be sick or go on to have behavioural problems due to lack of socialisation.

Doing the right research and asking the right questions can help you avoid the risks of the illegal puppy trade. Here you can find the information and resources you need to acquire a puppy responsibly.

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Commit to buy a puppy responsibly

Health Risk

Illegally imported puppies can suffer from various diseases including canine distemper, parvovirus, kennel cough, leptospirosis for example. Many of the diseases can be prevented through vaccinations, good hygiene and proper upbringing, but due to the nature of the illegal puppy trade where puppies are bred in poor conditions, there is a risk that some of the puppies may have contracted these diseases. Later in life they may also suffer from behavioural problems due to poor socialisation.

Emotional Risk

Many puppies from the illegal puppy trade are sick or even worse, die. Heart-broken owners may find it very hard to recover from the experience of having a helpless pup, who they have bonded with, die in their arms, unable to do anything about it. This could also have an emotional impact on children who have bonded with their new pet only to see them suffering and not returning from the vets.

Financial Risk

If you unknowingly purchase a puppy without the proper vaccines, worming regime and socialisation in their first months, you may have expensive veterinary costs. Veterinary care may be needed to either treat an illness or to treat ongoing medical problems caused by poor breeding practices and genetic disorders. Later, you may also have to pay for behavioural training or therapy if your puppy develops behavioural problems due to a lack of socialisation earlier in life.

Legal & Fraud Risk

Illegally imported puppies often come with fraudulent papers. This includes false vaccination certificates, microchip details, certified pedigree and falsified information in their pet passport. This is done to hide the true origin of the puppy and the identity of the seller. Rabies and other vaccinations may be invalid, and only done on paper. If the puppy is found to be illegally imported, this may result in the owner having to pay high quarantine fees and leaving the puppy in quarantine for weeks, or even lead to the puppy being euthanized.

What You Need to Know Before Buying a Puppy

Looking for the right puppy can be a difficult task, especially with all the fraudulent practices that unscrupulous puppy dealers have to hand. But there are steps you can take to avoid buying a puppy from the illegal puppy tradeHere is what you need to know:


How to Find a Responsible Breeder

Thinking about buying a puppy? Follow these steps! 

Woman doing online research

What You Need to Know About Illegal Online Puppy Sellers

The most common tricks to avoid when looking for a puppy

Dog mother with puppies

How to Distinguish Between an Unscrupulous and a Responsible Breeder

The key differences that can help guide your search


Questions to Ask When Buying a Puppy

Simply asking the right questions can be the best way to avoid the risks of the illegal puppy trade  


Pandemic Pups – find out why

Victim stories

Laura's story

Absolutely heartbroken 

Chico lived in Laura’s loving home for less than a day. Read the full story.

Anonymous Story

Gone too soon

Bella's owners world fell apart when the beloved new puppy got sick immediately after they picked her up. Read the full story.

Christine's story

8 months of turmoil

Christine and Poppy fought long and hard for her survival, after unknowingly buying her from an unscrupulous dealer. Read the full story.

Elina’s story

Fighting for their lives

Elina suffered heartbreak not once, but twice. Here she tells us of the emotional rollercoaster and her ongoing journey. Get to know her story.

Richard's story

Instantly unwell

Reggie was bought on one of the UK’s most reputable classified ad sites, but within hours of joining his new family he became seriously ill. Find out the whole story. 

Are you a victim of the illegal puppy trade?


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Further Information

Tracing the Trade

Tracing the Trade

The FOUR PAWS Model Solution for ending the illegal puppy trade

Dogs at home

Does a Dog Fit My Lifestyle?

Test yourself with our '30-day dog challenge'


Getting a Dog?

Things to consider before getting a dog

Happy dog

Dogs and Their Needs

Guide for dog owners: What does my dog need?

Golden retriever puppy outdoors on a sunny day

10 Tips to Recognise a Responsible Puppy Seller

FOUR PAWS advice on what to look out for when you are buying a puppy 

Puppy and its owner

The Responsible Way to Acquiring a Pet

Where should you purchase your pet from? 


Alternatives to Having Your Own Pet

Maybe you cannot commit to having a pet? We show you other options for enjoying pets without having your own 

Puppy in a shelter

The Beauty of Adoption

Adopting a pet is a wonderful process