One in four fooled into buying unhealthy pups by ‘cute’ pictures on social media

Be Puppywise. Credit The Kennel Club, Eleanor Riley
Be Puppywise 2023. Credit The Kennel Club, Eleanor Riley

Damning research leads experts to urge the public to be ‘puppywise’, as unscrupulous breeders use social media to dupe owners

Half of pup purchases are influenced by social media, with one in two then buying puppies based on the ‘cute factor’, spending little time researching the breeder or pup’s upbringing

  • A quarter of puppies found on social media get sick or die before their first birthday
  • And a third are suspected to have originated from a puppy farm, after owners are deceived by short snapshots on sites like Instagram and TikTok and miss vital warning signs
  • Amidst this social media-fuelled demand for ‘cute’ pups, The Kennel Club is warning of duplicitous breeders operating online and urging the public to ‘be puppywise’

New research, released today (8 October) by one of the biggest dog welfare organisations, has uncovered the disturbing influence of social media on dog buying in the UK and the consequences for canine welfare.

Revealed as part of The Kennel Club’s Be Puppywise campaign, statistics show one in four puppies (25%) found on social media get sick or die before their first birthday.

Thousands more unsuspecting dog owners who buy this way experience complications, with six in 10 (61%) facing unexpectedly high financial costs, a quarter (25%) admitting their dog had behavioural issues they weren’t expecting, and one in five (18%) regretting their decision.

According to the research, double the amount of would-be owners are turning to social media sites to find a puppy compared to five years ago. However, The Kennel Club is warning that platforms like Instagram and TikTok give unscrupulous breeders easy access to a mass market, where they are selling puppies with little scrutiny, and deceptively appealing to millions of unaware buyers with ‘cute’ and cleverly curated pup pictures and posts.

The research also highlights that instead of conducting thorough searches about their puppy’s background, would-be owners who are finding dogs on social media are being drawn in by ‘cute’ photos. One in two (52%) bought their puppy ‘because it was cute’ and more than half (56%) admit it was the ‘cute puppy photo’ that most appealed in their pet’s advert. A further quarter of puppy buyers (24%) who found their pup on these platforms worryingly spent less than two hours doing their research, leaving them particularly vulnerable to scams and unable to spot the signs of puppy farms.

Of those finding puppies on social media, the organisation has found thousands are also missing red flags in the process, leaving a yawning knowledge gap about how the pup has been bred and by whom:

  • Two in three (68%) didn't see their puppy interacting with their mum and littermates
  • And 64% suspect they didn’t see their puppy’s breeding environment
  • An overwhelming 81% weren’t asked about their suitability for dog ownership by the breeder
  • More than three quarters (78%) didn’t see their puppy’s vaccination records

The Kennel Club is warning that duplicitous breeders are exploiting this lack of awareness – almost one in three puppies (32%) found on social media are suspected to have originated from a puppy farm.

The research also highlights that, despite the worrying consequences of making hasty and uninformed decisions based on what has been seen online, social media has an increasingly powerful influence; more than one in two puppy buying decisions (54%) are influenced by social media and nearly three in 10 (27%) said that when buying their puppy, their main information source was either social media, influencers or celebrities – over vets, dog welfare organisations and breed experts.

“In today’s carefully curated digital world, enticing photos are the lifeblood of social media and pictures of puppies grab attention – so there is an obvious appeal to buying and selling puppies using these platforms,” commented Mark Beazley, Chief Executive at The Kennel Club, which is urging responsible buying via its ‘Be Puppywise’ campaign. “But if people forget that behind every cute photo on social media, there is a real puppy, and a real need to ensure that their health and welfare has been prioritised, then there can be truly devastating consequences.

“Platforms like Instagram and TikTok can give unscrupulous breeders easy access to a mass market, where they are selling pups with little scrutiny, so it’s down to the puppy buyer to make sure that they ask the right questions, see the puppy, with their mum and in their home environment, and step back if things don't feel right. Failing to do so can lead to a world of heartache for puppy buyers and keeps rogue breeders in business, whilst puppies continue to suffer the consequences, as this research shows.”

Following this urgent warning, The Kennel Club is urging people to ‘Be Puppywise’, providing responsible puppy buying advice and practical resources on its website.