Christmas shopping CRACKDOWN as government halts dodgy dog dealers | Nature | News

Ministers have met with websites such as Gumtree, Preloved and Vivastreet in the drive against unscrupulous animal sellers in the run-up to Brexit and the Christmas demand for cute pets.

Defra animal welfare minister Lord Gardiner has praised the websites for supporting efforts to crackdown on pets being advertised online as it aims to be an animal welfare world leader after leaving the EU.

The Government intends to bring in new regulations next year to make it illegal to sell puppies younger than eight weeks and for anyone trading pets commercially online to have a licence.

Whitehall sources say the minister has written to Gumtree, Preloved and Vivastreet and members of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group to praise their efforts for implementing new standards.

Among the new benchmarks set are for automated checks on adverts to make “blacklisted” terms, such as banned breeds, are filtered and that vendors use a recent picture of animals for sale.

Other measures are “three strikes and out” bans for vendors who attempt to post illegal adverts and for all adverts to display the age of animals with a ban on those offering to sell pets not yet weaned.

Offering live invertebrates for sale as food and monitoring telephone numbers and web addresses to root out frequent breeders – those offering a third animal within a year – are also being adopted as minimum standards.

The standards were originally recommended by PAAG, a group backed by all the major animal charities, and have been adopted by Defra in its efforts to stop the heartbreak caused by puppy smugglers and unlicenced breeders selling animals whose health has been neglected.

Minister for animal welfare Lord Gardiner said: “We all know that a dog is for life, not just for Christmas. But that life could be cruelly cut short if they haven’t been properly looked after by the breeder, bringing heartbreak to the family.

“We are a nation of animal lovers and buyers can do their bit to avoid the dishonest sellers by never buying a puppy younger than eight weeks old, seeing the puppy interact with its mother and checking on its health history.”

With the countdown to Christmas and an increasing demand for puppies as presents, the Government is highlighting how to combat the dangers of buying of dodgy dog dealers by following its five tips:

· Always consider a rescue dog in the first instance;

· If you are buying a puppy, only buy from reputable breeders and sellers – and make sure they’re licensed if buying from a business rather than private seller;

· Never buy a puppy that is younger than eight weeks;

· Check the puppy’s health history; check vaccinations, make sure it is microchipped, and consider asking the seller to complete the ‘Puppy Contract’ (see below);

· Always see a puppy interact with its mother.

Paula Boyden, Dogs Trust Veterinary Director and chairwoman of PAAG, said: “The ease and popularity of the internet means that the impulse buying of pets has increasingly become an appealing option for many prospective buyers. However, the lure of a quick sale also attracts many unscrupulous breeders and dealers to websites.

“We urge buyers to be cautious when looking to buy an animal via an online advert and if they have any concerns, walk away and report the seller to Trading Standards.”

RSPCA dog welfare expert Lisa Hens added: “We welcome animal welfare Minister Lord Gardiner’s warning and hope anyone thinking of buying a puppy will heed this advice.

“Unfortunately there are many people out there who are willing to put profits ahead of the health and welfare of the dogs they are breeding and selling. This is why we’d urge the public to be extremely careful when looking to buy a puppy.”

For more details of the Puppy Contract, see: puppycontract.rspca.org.uk

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