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How to spot an unscrupulous dog breeder

The cost-of-living crisis has had a huge impact on dog ownership, with many people increasingly struggling to care for their pet due to financial constraints. The Dogs Trust are recording increases of over 50,000 inquiries regarding handovers in the last year, and many rescue centres are now at 90% capacity (Association of Dogs and Cats Homes annual return). It costs around £2,000 per year to keep a dog, over an average lifetime of 15 years totalling £30,000. This figure is not widely known but should be included in the current Code of Practice from the Animal Health and Welfare (Scotland) Act 2006, to help educate the general public about the financial commitment of owning a dog.

In a survey carried out by the Kennel Club, it reported that a fifth of the UK public buying dogs spend less than 2 hours researching dog breeds and investigating whether they will be suitable for their home environment. More public engagement and education is required to better inform people before buying and owning a dog. A simple and engaging Code of Practice should be publicised via a nationwide campaign and made widely available.

Microchipping has been helpful up to a point with illegal puppy sales, however this process is easily circumvented. Puppies under 8 weeks old are legally required in the UK to be microchipped and the breeder details registered on a compliant database. Often microchips will have the final owners’ details on it but may not have information on the breeder. Ensuring that all breeder and owners’ details are contained on the microchip and are contained in a centralised UK database for easy referral, should be a priority. Currently there are 13 microchip companies operating in Scotland, each with their own database, which makes it an onerous task to determine the current owner of the dog. Battersea reported that around 20% of dogs and 60% of cats brought into rescue centres are not microchipped.

Local councils are experiencing huge financial pressures and are struggling to keep up with the current demands placed on them. A FOI request was recently made by the Dogs Trust showing that 16% of Scottish councils were not inspecting registered dog breeders in their area. In Wales, they have implemented a centralised unit working across all councils trained in animal welfare, which has, to date, been very successful. The Scottish Countryside Alliance would welcome a similar animal welfare unit operating across Scottish council areas to help counteract unscrupulous dog breeders. 

For more information on how to spot an irresponsible dog breeder, click here.

To report incidents of illegal puppy trading, you can contact Citizens Advice Scotland or Say No To Puppy Dealers.

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