Don't get petfished campaign poster Image Open Government Licence v3.0

Research sellers thoroughly online before buying

Vets, charities and animal-loving celebrities have joined forces with a government campaign to warn prospective pet owners against unknowingly buying puppies, kittens, cats and dogs from unscrupulous sellers amid a rise in demand for pets since lockdown.

An open letter, signed by celebrities including Kirsty Gallacher, Paul O’Grady, Amanda Holden and David Gandy, and supported by charities including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Blue Cross, Cats Protection , Dogs Trust and the RSPCA, is calling on the public to research sellers thoroughly online before buying.

The British Small Animal Veterinary Association (BSAVA) said that vets are dealing with ongoing cases where owners have been sold sick puppies and kittens by unscrupulous dealers as a result of new owners not researching sellers before buying their new pet. Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss said:

“Prospective pet owners must beware of sinister sellers out there who breed animals purely for profit with zero concern for their welfare. The devastating consequences include crippling vet bills and, in the worst cases, animals having to be put down.

“It’s vitally important that people not only research the breed of animal they want but also the person selling it to them.”

‘Petfishing’ is a play on ‘catfishing’,  where a stranger creates a fictional online persona to lure someone into a relationship. Deceitful pet sellers use a similar tactic to ‘Petfish’ unsuspecting buyers.

The warning follows continued demand for pets since lockdown  eased. Online marketplace Preloved has reported that the number of pet listing has increased by nearly 50% since March. They are anticipating a further boom in adverts throughout the summer.

Pets4Homes has also said that it are experiencing not only a six-fold increase in new user accounts, but an average of 155 views per new pet advert.

Despite a huge 125% increase in adverts posted across online marketplaces during lockdown for puppies, kittens, dogs and cats, demand continues to outstrip supply.

The campaign calls for consumers to remain vigilant, always researching the seller before visiting, reporting suspicious adverts and crucially be prepared to walk away and report suspected cases of animal abuse to the RSCPA or, if witnesses, the police.

To avoid being Petfished, the public are being urged to spot vital red flags when researching sellers, with the help of the acronym S.P.O.T:

Seller – Put the seller’s name and phone number into a search engine – avoid those with multiple adverts.

Parent – Make sure you see puppies and kittens in their home with their mother.

Old enough – Check puppies and kittens are at least 8 weeks old before you take them home.

Treatment – Ask to see the animal’s health records and avoid sellers who can’t provide them.

Anyone looking to buy a pet can get tips and advice on the Petfished campaign website by searching ‘Get your pet safely’ or by visiting  getyourpetsafely.campaign.gov.uk.