Families were today urged to think twice before buying a dog for Christmas as a government video highlighted potential dangers of getting a pet from dodgy breeders.
Under Lucy’s Law, which was introduced following a Mirror campaign, pet shops and third-party dealers are banned from selling puppies and kittens.
The legislation, named after a Cavalier King Charles Spaniel rescued from a Welsh puppy farm seven years ago, means anyone wanting to buy a puppy or kitten in England must purchase directly from a breeder or consider adopting from a rescue centre.
Licensed dog breeders must show puppies interacting with their mothers in their place of birth.
However, coronavirus lockdown rules preventing non-essential travel have sparked fears animal-loving families could skip checks and turn to unscrupulous sellers.
Chief Veterinary Officer Christine Middlemiss feared parents desperate to give their children puppies for Christmas could be tempted to buy from sellers who breed and keep animals in poor conditions.
Puppy prices are estimated to have doubled during the pandemic as mums and dads working from home have more time for pets.
Experts predict a 400% surge in online searches for “buy a puppy” from this weekend.
Animal welfare specialists Tech4Pets recorded 27,128 UK online adverts for dogs and puppies in the six weeks before Christmas last year.
A Government video for its ‘Petfished’ campaign shows the plight of one puppy bought from a dodgy dealer – and provides advice on how to research a seller and warning signs to look for.
Professor Middlemiss said: “After a difficult year and with many of us spending more time at home, many people may be considering getting a new puppy or kitten.
“However, the lead up to Christmas is a prominent time for unscrupulous sellers to take advantage of those looking to buy a new pet.
“That is why we are advising people to remain vigilant and to always thoroughly research sellers before getting in touch.
“Potential buyers should also note that Christmas might not be the best time to get a pet as it can be noisy and chaotic, which isn’t the best environment to settle in a new animal.”
RSPCA chief executive Chris Sherwood said: “While the idea of a new pet joining your family around the tree may be a wonderful festive scene, the truth behind your Christmas puppy could be much darker.
“Dogs used in the underground puppy trade lead miserable lives in horrific conditions and their puppies often have lifelong health and behavioural problems due to their poor start.”