1. ITV Report

RSPCA warns against buying puppies on the Internet

The RSPCA is warning people of the dangers of buying pups online. Credit: RSPCA

The RSPCA is highlighting the risks and realities of buying puppies on the internet. It says there are huge issues about buying pets online.

Increase in number of dogs listed on online marketplace Gumtree since 2007

It comes alongside a massive increase in the use of websites to sell and rehome dogs in the last decade. There's been an almost 800% increase in the number of dogs listed on online marketplace Gumtree between 2007 and 2016.

In teaming up with Gumtree, the animal charity is warning buyers to take care when looking for dogs online. It says the internet can provide the perfect marketplace for a trade which puts profit over the welfare of the dogs.

These figures are hugely concerning as they show the sheer number of people using the internet to buy and sell dogs. These are living, sentient creatures, which are being traded as easily as a second-hand car or a piece of furniture.

– Justine Williams, RSPCA
French bulldogs are the most fashionable breed to buy online. Credit: RSPCA

The RSPCA fears the soaring demand for fashionable breeds is fuelling the online puppy trade, as demand drastically outstrips the numbers coming to market through legitimate and responsible sources.

French Bulldogs are the most searched-for breed for sale online, ahead of Labradors, Jack Russells and Pugs. According to figures from the RSPCA and Gumtree, there were more than 66,000 searches for the fashionable breed in February last year alone.

As responsible breeders struggle to keep up with demand, underground breeders and traders are filling the gap in the market and are offering buyers the chance to buy puppies at cheaper prices and without waiting lists - often with disastrous consequences.

This is the price of poor puppy breeding - buyers faced with sick and dying puppies who need intensive treatment or lifelong behavioural support; a surge in these breeds coming into the care of rescue centres from people who did not do their research before taking on a dog that requires a lot of time and commitment; and an increase in the number of these breeds being abandoned. Organisations like the RSPCA are left picking up the pieces, and the animals are paying the ultimate price - often with their lives.

– RSPCA chief inspector Ian Briggs
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Gumtree UK says it works to ensure its site is a safe place to find pets and makes it as hard as possible for illegal traders to operate on the site. For example, it deletes any ads thatr indicate signs of animal cruelty.

Rise in calls to RSPCA cruelty line in last five years
The animal charity is dealing with an increasing number of calls about the illegal puppy trade. Credit: RSPCA

Last year, the charity saw its busiest year tackling the illegal puppy trade, receiving more calls than ever from people reporting questionable breeders and dealers. The RSPCA received 132% more calls to its cruelty line than five years ago.

The animal charity says anyone looking to buy a puppy should use its Puppy Contract to help ensure they are buying a happy and healthy dog.

It is also encouraging people to consider rehoming a dog from a rescue centre instead.