A family’s Christmas was ‘ruined’ when a puppy they bought online came with a deadly disease that killed her within 72 hours.
Evie the pup was put down on December 27 after contracting the fatal parvo virus, which causes aggressive vomiting, diarrhoea and lethargy in animals.
Sarah, 30, from Chichester, bought the pet on Christmas Eve in a cruel scam a top charity is calling ‘dogfishing’.
This describes the horrific reality behind online puppy ads, with ‘healthy’ dogs often found malnourished, thirsty or kept in tiny cages away from their mum before being sold.
Dogs Trust, who launched a campaign to raise awareness about the con, say thousands are being duped into buying illegal animals online without realising the conditions they are kept in.
They gave the example of Sarah, who thought she would be getting well-bred dog from a happy home when she saw the advert for Evie.
The reality was far different, leaving her family with nothing but a ‘horrific story to tell’ and a ‘gut-wrenching feeling’ every time she sees a dog.
Sarah said: ‘The environment the puppies were in just wasn’t sitting well with us, there were so many things that weren’t right. We just wanted to do our best for her and take her away from there, get her vaccinated and give her a good home.’
Have you been a victim of dogfishing? Email [email protected]
However, Evie was so sick there wasn’t time to get her vaccinated and she was rushed to the vets on Christmas for emergency treatment.
Sarah said: ‘When the vet finally called to say she probably wouldn’t last the night, we decided we had to put her to sleep. We just couldn’t let her suffer any more.
‘It’s just so painful to think about our puppy going through so much pain. How could anyone let this happen to something so small? It ruined our Christmas and it has been gut-wrenching every time we have seen another dog out on a walk.’
Dogs Trust say Sarah is one of thousands who have fallen victim to puppy smuggling, when 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.
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’.
They said they then felt pressured to take the dog to save it from the awful conditions.
How to spot the scam
Over 201,300 dogs were advertised online on four of the UK’s biggest classified websites in 2019.
Over half of those polled said they felt puppy smuggling was a big issue in the UK, yet over a quarter said they did not know how to spot it or complain if they had suspicions.
Dogs Trust say are a number of signs that all might not be what it seems and issued the following advice:
The Don’t Be Dogfished campaign is asking potential new owners to take the following steps:
Dogs Trust are urging buyers to insist on these essential checks, as they are often avoided by shifty sellers who put owners under pressure to part with their cash or ‘rescue’ the puppies from poor conditions.
The charity have launched a ‘Don’t Be Dogfished’ campaign and will be touring the country in a ‘fake’ puppy van to stop people being duped into buying puppies that have been illegally imported by ‘devious dealers.’
Paula Boyden, Veterinary Director at Dogs Trust, said: ‘People think they are getting a healthy, happy puppy but behind the curtain lurks the dark depths of the puppy smuggling trade. 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.’