Online advertising platforms are a “haven for the illegal, anonymous sale of puppies,” according to Pete “The Vet” Wedderburn.
At The Pat Kenny Show, Bray’s vet says the Irish 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 the app, with no central system to check if a puppy has been microchipped before purchase.
“There are a lot of issues that need to be addressed here because it’s still possible for people to create microchip numbers,” he said.
“You must enter the microchip number if you are selling a puppy. You have to put it in the ad, but no one checks if it’s a real microchip number, so it’s very easy for people to carry 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 poor health of the puppy is the first risk,” he said.
“As a vet, I will often examine a puppy and find that he has a big hernia or jaw problems or a strong heart murmur…and if the puppy has any health issues, you really need to be able to contact the breeder.
“The other thing is that it’s really, really important that young puppies are well socialized. Puppies on puppy farms are often not socialized – they’re in little concrete pens and have minimal contact with people. humans.
“These puppies grow up scared because there is a socialization period for puppies and if they are not socialized they end up being scared for life. This fear can turn into aggression when a puppy has about a year or 18 months, so it’s a very serious issue and people need to know where the puppies come from. It’s really, really important.”
He said there could be serious animal welfare issues on unofficial puppy farms.
“People who run official dog-breeding establishments should be inspected by a local authority veterinarian to ensure they have adequate facilities, but if they advertise anonymously, who knows? it is a duly registered establishment,” he said.
He said regulatory gaps could be easily filled with political will.
He said the Irish Pet Advertising Advisory Group backs a system that allows websites to verify chip numbers before adverts go live.
He said some websites are already using the system; however, as there are four separate microchip databases, the system does not cover all websites or all animals within a single website.
“Really, the Ministry of Agriculture is responsible for the four microchip databases, so what should really happen is that the ministry insists that all databases comply with this simple technology to enable the validation of puppy sales.”
He said animal welfare groups “absolutely need government support” to push through the changes.
In the meantime, he encouraged anyone considering getting a puppy to consider adopting him before buying him.
“There are a lot of dogs at rescue centers around the county that make absolutely fabulous pets and I would say that’s absolutely the starting point for most people,” he said.
Anyone wishing to buy a puppy should take every possible step to ensure that they are buying from a legal and official source.
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