Scotland’s leading animal welfare charity fears ‘despicable’ puppy traders have cashed in ahead of Christmas.
Data revealed by the Scottish SPCA showed a spike in calls from the public with concerns about illicit puppy farmers over autumn.
The charity said as many as a third of all calls received this year related to the Fife area, where there are currently a number of live investigations.
A total of 10 puppies died and 35 were described as “very poorly” after being bought from Fife breeders according to Scottish SPCA figures.
In total, concerns were raised in relation to 62 cases where someone had bought a puppy despite having misgivings about the breeder.
Most of the animals were bought through Gumtree, said the Scottish SPCA.
Scottish SPCA chief superintendent Mike Flynn said: “As we approach Christmas, we are frightened by the prospect of the general public flocking to low welfare breeders to buy sick, badly bred and, sadly in some cases, dying puppies.
“We have seen a surge in calls about puppy farming since October and we fear this is due to many people attempting to buy puppies in time for Christmas. We would like to remind the public that animals should never be given as gifts and any pet is a long term commitment for the lifespan of that animal.”
A dog breeder in Glenrothes is currently being probed after claims that poorly cockapoos were being sold for thousands of pounds. A nine-week-old puppy reportedly died after being purchased from the operation.
An investigation is also under way into an alleged puppy farm in west Fife.
The Scottish SPCA recently came under fire for its handling of a horrific puppy farm case in Perthshire, after it was revealed that the charity and local council were notified about the conditions Glenalmond a year and a half before it was eventually raided.
Mr Flynn added: “Please do not think this is something that only happens in other parts of Scotland. These sellers target every single bit of the country and will quite often lie about where they are based in order to seem more genuine.”
He said prices for puppies had “skyrocketed” during the pandemic as responsible breeders “scaled back due to the restrictions”.
Meanwhile, demand for puppies has increased, with more people seeking the companionship of a pet as a result of being stuck at home.
“The combination of coronavirus restrictions and extortionate prices of puppies is being manipulated by puppy traders selling badly bred dogs,” said Mr Flynn.
“Now, dealers can charge more than ever before and sell more easily than they’ve previously been able to. The root of this problem is public demand.
“There are things we would urge any buyer to do, such as insist on seeing the pup they are buying at the seller’s home or premises with their mum. Do not buy a puppy until you have seen paperwork and certificates for vaccinations, microchipping and worming. We would also recommend that members of the public check that the paperwork is genuine as we have had several reports of puppies being sold with fake documents.
“At the moment, we know many dealers are telling unsuspecting members of the public to meet them in a car park or public space to pass over the dog safely. The seller will often be wearing a mask and afterwards they are impossible to get a hold of when the pup gets sick.
“You should never purchase a pup in a public place or at your own home.
“The onus is on everyone single person in Scotland to put this despicable trade out of business.”