Sick dog with his owner

Buying a Puppy Online Comes With High Risks

FOUR PAWS warns of the dangers of buying a puppy online 


27 July 2022 – Every year, millions of puppies are traded in Europe, often bought online from classified ad sites or social media sites. Global animal welfare organisation FOUR PAWS is warning people of the risks involved in buying a puppy online through its ‘Cute. Quick. Sick.’ Campaign. This campaign aims to help potential puppy buyers make the right choices when buying a puppy and reduce the illegal puppy trade across Europe.

Buying a puppy online is quick and easy, however, a significant number of puppies sold online are illegally imported. They are often bred on puppy farms in Eastern Europe and then sold to third party puppy dealers who sell them online and pretend to the breeder. Often the puppies are already sick upon arrival and what should be a joyous occasion causes suffering for both the puppies and their new owners, who may face high veterinary costs.

Illegally imported puppies in many cases come with fraudulent papers and falsified information. That way the true origin of the puppy and the identity of the seller remain hidden. If the puppy is found to be illegally imported, the new owner may end up paying for the puppy to be quarantined or even euthanised in some countries.

”Many diseases often seen in illegally imported puppies, such as canine distemper, parvovirus, kennel cough, or leptospirosis, can be prevented through vaccinations, good hygiene, and proper upbringing, however little attention is paid to providing these things in the illegal puppy trade due to keeping costs to a minimum to achieve maximum profits.” 

Julie Sanders, Director of the Companion Animals department at FOUR PAWS

Zoonotic diseases such as rabies, ringworms or parasites can also be transmitted to humans and other pets. Doing the right research, asking the right questions and getting the right documentation can help prospective new owners avoid the risks of the illegal puppy trade.

Growing demand for puppies during the pandemic

The growing demand for purebred puppies in Western Europe, especially during the COVID-19 pandemic, has led to puppy farms increasing production, with puppies being imported from countries such as Poland, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Romania. These producers primarily supply puppy dealers who go on to sell the puppies on classified ad sites, Instagram and Facebook. On these sites they can remain anonymous, untraceable and therefore not accountable if things go wrong.

Victims of the illegal puppy trade tell their stories

Laura K. from Germany and Richard A. from the UK are among those who are sharing their heartbreaking experiences of buying their puppies online and then dealing with their tragic deaths shortly after bringing them home. Their stories shine a light on the illicit nature of the online puppy trade and the consequences for both the human and animal victims. Read their stories here and here.

Cute. Quick. Sick. Campaign

Read more about our campaign

Katharina Braun

Katharina Braun

Team Lead Public Relations

+43 (0) 664 885 33 270

VIER PFOTEN International 
Linke Wienzeile 236
1150 Vienna, Austria

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FOUR PAWS is the global animal welfare organisation for animals under direct human influence, which reveals suffering, rescues animals in need and protects them. Founded in 1988 in Vienna by Heli Dungler and friends, the organisation advocates for a world where humans treat animals with respect, empathy and understanding. The sustainable campaigns and projects of FOUR PAWS focus on companion animals including stray dogs and cats, farm animals and wild animals – such as bears, big cats and orangutans – kept in inappropriate conditions as well as in disaster and conflict zones. With offices in Australia, Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, France, Germany, Kosovo, the Netherlands, Switzerland, South Africa, Thailand, Ukraine, the UK, the USA and Vietnam as well as sanctuaries for rescued animals in eleven countries, FOUR PAWS provides rapid help and long-term solutions.

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