'Incredible suffering' exposed as new research reveals rogue world of dog breeding and buying

Experts warn of impending and unprecedented welfare disaster with ‘explosion’ of sick dogs bred by rogue breeders, amidst spiralling cost of living

  • Thousands each year fooled by rogue dog breeders hiding behind the internet and pup deliveries, with one in three admitting not seeing their puppy in person before buying
  • More than a third of pups bought virtually die or get sick before their first birthday, with owners suffering heartache, guilt and serious financial consequences
  • Coupled with a spiralling cost of living, The Kennel Club fears worsening welfare crisis for sick dogs sold to duped owners, as almost one in three fear they won’t be able to afford to keep their dog
  • The Kennel Club provides advice and practical resources to help public to ‘Be Puppywise’

Shocking new research has revealed an explosion in rogue breeding of puppies with health and behavioural problems who can no longer be adequately looked after by their owners, as the cost of living continues to soar. This has led dog welfare organisation The Kennel Club to issue a stark warning about the need for action, in the face of an unprecedented welfare disaster.

The research from The Kennel Club as part of its Be Puppywise campaign shows a three-fold increase in people buying pups on social media since 2017, with almost a third (31%) of people paying before they even see the puppy in real life. Furthermore, nearly a quarter (23%) had their puppy delivered or picked it up from a neutral location – a common practice during lockdown – enabling duplicitous sellers to disguise horrific breeding conditions and the true background of the puppies sold to unaware owners.

The murky world of dog breeding is having dramatic consequences for our nation’s pets, with shockingly nearly one in four (22%) pups getting sick or dying before their first birthday, increasing to more than one in three (36 per cent) if the pup was not seen in real life before being purchased. Amongst these virtually bought pups, the research also showed that:

  • A third (33%) developed unexpected behavioural issues
  • They had double the number of trips to the vet for non-routine treatment or checks in their first year, when compared to those who met their owners in real life before purchase
  • And around a quarter of these owners who didn’t see their pup before paying suffered emotional (28%) and financial (24%) hardship during their puppy buying experience

As the cost of living continues to spiral, there are fears for the long-term future for tens of thousands of pups needing expensive behavioural and veterinary care, as the research reveals that 40 per cent of those who didn’t see their puppy before buying are afraid that they can no longer afford the cost, whilst rogue breeders could potentially be dumping pups they can no longer sell.

Three in four (72%) puppy owners also weren't asked about their suitability for ownership in the first place, indicating an increasing likelihood of impulse pup purchases, without buyers understanding the full responsibilities and commitment of ownership. These shocking statistics have led to welfare organisations like The Kennel Club to warn of an impending welfare disaster of devastating proportions.

“Thousands of puppies and dog owners are suffering and this research really does show a damning portrait of our puppy buying nation,” commented Mark Beazley, Chief Executive at The Kennel Club. “The virtual puppy buying habits that were normalised during lockdown – which have enabled shady breeders to thrive – have combined in a perfect and terrible storm with the cost of living crisis. This means that thousands of people who have been duped are now struggling to care for dogs with health and behavioural problems, who are sadly the victims of this unprecedented set of circumstances.”

The spiralling growth of the shady world of dog breeding is revealed to be driven by a lack of puppy buyer awareness, with a third (33%) of owners admitting they didn’t know the signs of a puppy farm when looking, and a quarter (25%) now suspecting their breeder was operating illegally. Worryingly, more than two in five (44%) said that they bought via an advert with red flag words that should give cause for suspicion, such as ‘ready to go now’ or ‘puppy delivery available’.  

Mark Beazley, Chief Executive of The Kennel Club, continued: “With the world of puppy breeding and buying getting more and more difficult to navigate, it’s crucial that would-be owners know exactly what to look for when buying a puppy. Puppy buyers should be cautious of adverts using words that try to lure you in with promises of ‘rare’ or ‘exotic’ dogs, or a quick sale, as a good breeder, such as a Kennel Club Assured Breeder, will always ask questions about your suitability for dog ownership, and you will often need to be prepared to go on a waiting list. You should see the puppy interacting with its mum, where it was bred and reared in real life, so clever guises, marketing ploys or tactics to disguise a puppy’s true background to simply make a huge profit, are exposed.

“For anyone thinking about getting a dog, please avoid this heartache and incredible suffering, and make sure you find a responsible breeder, who absolutely prioritises your dog’s welfare above anything else.”

Following this urgent warning, The Kennel Club is providing advice and practical resources – from videos to top tips – for would-be owners to help them Be Puppywise as part of its campaign. The organisation is also urging responsible and caring breeders, or those thinking of breeding, to join its Assured Breeders Scheme and help buyers find a well-bred and care for puppy more easily.