All puppies are cute and helpless – and at this time of the year they are on top of many Christmas lists.
Certain pedigree toy dogs are very much in demand at the moment – such as French and English Bulldogs, tiny Pugs and Chihuahuas.
These facts are beyond dispute but what is less clear is the true source of where such pups ordered on the internet are coming from.
Sadly the answer is farms where the animals are being bred in an industrial scale in unsanitary conditions where a series of easily identifiable and potentially fatal infections thrive.
New Scottish Government figures make for sobering but vital reading for anyone preparing to buy a puppy.
Almost half of people who bought a puppy in 2019 did so online, up from a quarter the previous year. One in five puppies bought through online advertising websites, where most illegal dealers operate, get sick or die within the first year, and one in four die before their fifth birthday.
Yet Holyrood believes it has the formula to stop this.
Its well-timed campaign is asking people to “look beyond cute” and crucially, not to be afraid to walk away if there is no sign of the puppy’s mother – and items such as relevant paperwork on vaccinations and microchipping.
Minister for Rural Affairs and Natural Environment Mairi Gougeon said: “Puppy farms breed misery, and that misery is being fuelled by the huge demand for puppies and facilitated through online adverts and sellers.
“Last year’s campaign contributed to a 37% increase in the number of advice calls about suspected puppy farms to the Scottish SPCA’s animal helpline.
“As people increasingly look online to buy a puppy, it is more important than ever that they know how to spot the signs of illegal dealers.
“If something doesn’t feel right, walk away and report your concerns to the Scottish SPCA.”
The Scottish SPCA’s chief executive Kirsteen Campbell warned too of the wider implications involved in funding this rogue trade.
She said: “We know there is a very high demand for puppies in Scotland with many people sadly falling victim to unscrupulous puppy dealers, inadvertently funding the illegal trade and being financially impacted or emotionally heartbroken by the experience.
“Many will be unaware that this is a multi-million pound industry, often linked with serious and organised criminals.
“Farmed puppies are also more likely to exhibit significantly higher rates of undesirable behaviours particularly relating to fear, anxiety and aggression.
“According to the Scottish Government’s new campaign, on average, owners who buy from an Assured Breeder spend nearly 20% less in vet bills during their dog’s lifetime compared to those with dogs from puppy farms and one in four of those pups bought online die before their fifth birthday, while one in three get sick or die in the first year.
“This must stop and we are determined to do just that.
“Over the past year we have been working with our partners to raise awareness of this barbaric trade in Scotland and reduce demand for these illegally bred puppies through our #SayNoToPuppyDealers campaign.
“We’ve been delighted by the support from the Scottish Government and across the Scottish Parliament – we are all unified in our ambition to end this trade. We’ve also been working with our partners to reduce the supply of these pups and disrupt the trade at source.
“Our Special Investigations Unit spearhead a multi-agency taskforce who work tirelessly to bring puppy traders to justice through Operation Delphin which includes support from Dumfries and Galloway Council, HMRC Trading Standards, Stenaline and Police Scotland Port unit.
“In 2017 our frontline team responded to 89,522 incidents as a result of calls from concerned members of the public.
“While we would always hope that people would consider rescuing an animal in need, this campaign will reduce the numbers of animals who need our support by making it easier for members of the public to buy a puppy responsibly.
“We hope too it will also encourage people to report any concerns regarding potential puppy farms to our confidential animal helpline on 03000 999 999. That’s something which we rely on every single day to allow our frontline team to investigate.”