Online advertising platforms are a “haven for selling puppies illegally and anonymously,” according to Pete ‘The Vet’ Wedderburn.
On The Pat Kenny Show, the Bray vet said Irish people spent up to €200m on puppies last year.
He said new laws on the sale of pets came into force last year; however, there are still “far too many gaps” in enforcement, with no central system for verifying whether a puppy has been microchipped before you buy it.
“There are lots of issues that need to be tidied up here because it is still possible for people to make up microchip numbers,” he said.
“You have to put the microchip number down if you are selling a puppy. You have to put it in the advert, but nobody is checking if it’s a real microchip number, so it’s dead easy for people to go on anonymously, sell puppies and move on.”
He said there are a host of reasons people should avoid buying puppies from unofficial sources.
“The subsequent ill-health of the puppy is the first risk,” he said.
“As a vet, I will often examine a puppy and I’ll find it has got a big hernia or problems with its jaw or a loud heart murmur … and if the puppy has health issues you really need to be able to contact the breeder.
“The other thing is it is really, really important that young puppies are well-socialised. Puppies in puppy farms are often not socialised – they are in small concrete pens and have minimal contact with humans.
“Those puppies grow up to be fearful because there is a socialisation period for puppies and if they are not socialised, they end up being fearful for life. That fearfulness can turn into aggression when a puppy is kind of a year or 18 months of age, so it is a really serious issue and people need to know where puppies are coming from. It is really, really important.”
He said there can be serious animal welfare concerns at unofficial puppy farms.
“People who run official dog-breeding establishments have to be inspected by a local authority vet to make sure they have adequate facilities but if they are advertising anonymously, who knows if they are a proper registered establishment,” he said.
He said the gaps in the regulations could be easily closed with the political will.
He said the Irish Pet Advertising Advisory Group is backing a system that allows websites to verify microchip numbers before advertisements go online.
He said some websites are already using the system; however, because there are four separate microchip databases, the system does not cover all websites or all animals on any one website.
“Really, the Department of Agriculture is in charge of all four microchip databases so what really ought to happen is the department should insist on all databases complying with this simple technology to allow puppy sales to be validated.”
He said animal welfare groups “absolutely need Government support” to get the changes over the line.
In the meantime, he encouraged anyone thinking of getting a puppy to think about adopting before buying.
“There are plenty of dogs in rescue centres around the county that make absolutely fabulous pets and I would say that is absolutely the starting point for most people,” he said.
Anyone set on buying a puppy should take every step possible to ensure they are buying from a legal and official source.
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