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WATCH: Rise in calls about underground puppy trade

WATCH: Rise in calls about underground puppy trade

Published by the Pirate FM News Team at 7:59am 18th July 2017. (Updated at 8:00am 18th July 2017)

The number of calls in Cornwall about the underground puppy trade has been revealed.

Figures from the RSPCA show it was almost 50 in the Duchy last year.

The charity says it saw its busiest year tackling the trade in 2016, receiving more calls than ever before from people reporting questionable breeders and dealers.

It warns there has been seeing a 'steady rise' in the number of complaints coming in.

In 2016, the RSPCA dealt with 6% more calls than the previous year, and 132% more than five years before. 87% of those calls came from people who purchased the puppy online.

RSPCA dog welfare expert, Lisa Richards, said: "We urge anyone thinking of buying a puppy to be extremely careful when they're choosing what type of dog to buy, where to buy from and who to buy from.

"It's so important to do lots of research not only into the type of dog you want and the kind of care he needs, but also into any potential breeder that you're considering going to.

"Today, particularly with the rise of puppies being advertised and sold online, it's becoming more and more difficult to tell the responsible breeders apart from the unscrupulous ones.

"We would encourage anyone who is thinking of getting a puppy to use the Puppy Contract to help ensure they buy a happy, healthy dog".

The charity is revealing the hotspots for the underground trade.

It says Greater London had the most calls, at 280, with Greater Manchester recording the second highest figure, at 269.

In the south-west, Hampshire had the most calls, at 100. Figures show there were 71 in Devon and 47 in Cornwall.

The RSPCA, working alongside Gumtree, also looked into the areas with the highest number of online listings advertising dogs and puppies for sale.

In 2016, more than 204 thousand listings for dogs were posted on the online marketplace in Great Britain.

Lisa added: "These statistics reveal the scale of the online puppy selling market and it's very concerning.

"We want all sellers to put the welfare of their dogs and puppies ahead of everything else but, unfortunately, there are many dealers who care only about their profits at the expense of the animals' health and welfare.

"While classified websites, if used responsibly, can be an effective method of advertising for responsible breeders and rescue organisations, sadly, far too many people abuse the internet and this has led to many animal welfare issues arising.

"As well as the classified websites, like Gumtree, working with us to crackdown on these dealers, we also need the public's help to stamp out this underground trade. So please take care when buying a puppy. We know it's hard but if you're concerned about anything when you visit a breeder, walk away and call the RSPCA and your local authority".

Morten Heuing, general manager at Gumtree UK, said: "Whilst most people have safe and successful experiences rehoming dogs on Gumtree, there are a minority of unscrupulous breeders and dealers who put profit ahead of the health and welfare of the animals.

"We take the welfare of animals very seriously and work hard to ensure our site is a safe place to find pets in need of rehoming.

"Our dedicated safety team takes steps to make it as hard as possible for illegal traders to operate on the site.

"For example, we do not allow 'wanted' ads in our 'Pets' category and we delete any ads we believe are encouraging or indicate signs of animal cruelty.

"If users have concerns about an ad on our site, they can use the 'Report an Ad' button on our website and our safety team will then investigate it".

RSPCA stings on organised puppy selling networks have uncovered criminal gangs making up to £35 thousand a week by selling dozens of puppies - often fashionable breeds and designer crossbreeds.

The charity has rescued more than 1200 from puppy farms across the country in the past four years, but warns this is just the tip of the iceberg.

If you're concerned about a breeder, please contact the RSPCA's 24-hour emergency hotline on 0300 1234 999.

To help the RSPCA continue investigating the illegal puppy trade and rescuing, rehabilitating and rehoming dogs saved from puppy farms please visit its website.

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