Petfished- Who's the person behind the pet? Open Government Licence v3.0

‘Petfished’ campaign urges people to spot ‘red flags’

Stark new findings reveal that buying a pet from a low-welfare breeder could cost pet owners an extra £5,000 in vet bills over just 12 months. A new government campaign has been launched urging people to take simple steps to research the seller before buying a puppy or kitten.

More than half of vets surveyed said that the poor conditions of puppy or kitten farms can lead to illnesses and complications which would incur treatment costs of over £1,500 in the first year of the animal’s life.

In some severe cases, the costs could rise to £5,000 or even result in the pet being euthanised.

Animal Welfare Minister, Lord Goldsmith, said:

“I am delighted that a ban on third party sales of puppies and kittens is coming into force – it is a crucial piece of legislation that will help us tackle the abhorrent and heart-breaking trade of pets.

” The animals reared on puppy farms are often in awful conditions which can lead to chronic health problems, behavioural issues, and, in the most tragic cases, death.

“This simply has to stop and the public can do its bit to help.”

Lucy’s Law

The government has already changed the law to ban commercial third party puppy and kitten sales, known as Lucy’s Law. It will be supporting a Private Member’s Bill to raise the maximum penalty for animal cruelty from six months to five years.

Today’s launch of the government’s campaign calls on the public to also play their part to tackle the cruel trade of puppies and kittens. It is encouraging prospective owners to be aware of illegal, low-welfare breeders and look for ‘red flags’ when buying a new pet.

The campaign, called ‘Petfished’, outlines the deceitful tactics pet sellers use to trick buyers and sell their animals to line their pockets.

Christine Middlemiss, UK Chief Veterinary Officer, said:

“Vets see the tragic effects of ‘Petfishing’ first-hand but so too do the public who may be put through the pain and cost of looking after, and even losing, a sick puppy or kitten due to the conditions it was bred in.

“The campaign launched today sets out the simple steps that can be taken by the public to spot the warning signs and ensure their puppy or kitten is given the best start in life.”

The poor conditions suffered by puppies and kittens include early separation from their mothers, huge numbers of animals cramped in unhygienic spaces, and the likelihood of long journeys from the place they were bred to their new home.

All of these can contribute to an increased risk of disease and behavioural issues.

‘Who’s the person behind the pet?’

The campaign launched today urges people to ask themselves ‘Who’s the person behind the pet?’. It introduces a new phrase ‘Petfished’ – much like ‘Catfished’, when someone is lured into a relationship by a fictional online persona, it refers to deceitful pet sellers who use a similar tactic to trick buyers, mistreating animals and selling them at high-volume to line their pockets.

On 6 April 2020, the ban on commercial third party puppy and kitten sales – known as Lucy’s Law – will come into force in England. The ban will help to crack down on puppy farms by disrupting the supply-chain of low-welfare breeders which relies on third party sales.

This new legislation, married with the ‘Petfished’ campaign which seeks crack-down on the public’s demand for this trade.

RSPCA Inspector Callum Issit, who appears in the Petfished short film, said:

“If you suspect foul play at any stage when researching and buying your pet, report the seller immediately to the RSPCA or your local authority to help us stop this. If you’re looking for a new pet to join your family please consider giving a rescue animal a new home.”

The warning signs of low welfare conditions

People should follow these tips to help spot warning signs that a puppy or kitten has been raised in low welfare conditions:

  • Research. Have a look at the seller’s profile and search their name online. If they are advertising many litters from different breeds, then this is a red flag
  • Check contact details. Copy and paste the phone number into a search engine. If the number is being used on lots of different adverts, sites and dates then this is likely a deceitful seller
  • Check the animal’s age. Puppies and kittens should never be sold under 8 weeks old – do not buy from anyone advertising a puppy or kitten younger than 8 weeks
  • Check the animal’s health records. Make sure the seller shares all records of vaccinations, flea and worm treatment and microchipping with you before sale

Anyone looking to buy a pet can get tips and advice on the new website: