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Don't Get Petfished

Vets, charities and animal-loving celebrities are joining forces with a government campaign to warn prospective pet owners of unscrupulous sellers.

Following a rise in demand for pets during lockdown, prospective puppy and kitten owners are being warned of the risk of being scammed when buying a pet online. The new government campaign aiming to prevent this is named ‘Petfished’, a play on ‘catfishing’ where a stranger creates a fictional online persona to lure someone into a relationship. Deceitful pet sellers use a similar tactic.

To help prospective cat and dog owners avoid ‘cruel and opportunist’ lockdown pet sellers, an open letter is now urging them to research sellers thoroughly online before buying.

It has been signed by a whole host of celebrities including Paul O’Grady, Amanda Holden, Rick Wakeman, Kirsty Gallagher and David Gandy. It is also supported by many animal charities including Battersea Dogs and Cats Home, the Blue Cross, Cats Protection, Dogs Trust and the RSPCA.

The warnings follow a continued demand for pets since lockdown eased, with online marketplace Preloved reporting a 50% increase in pet listings since March. Along with Pets4Homes, they are also supporting the government’s Petfished campaign, which urges people to stop and ask: “Who’s the person behind the pet?”

BSAVA President Ian Ramsey said: “Vets are continuing to see many owners who have been sold very sick puppies by unscrupulous dealers simply because new owners have not researched the seller before buying their pet. As a result, vets see first-hand the distress and upset this can cause owners. We would urge anyone thinking of buying a puppy or kitten to check their pet is coming from a responsible seller before making a decision to buy.”

After the introduction of Lucy’s Law earlier this year, it is now illegal to sell a kitten or puppy you haven’t bred yourself. The ‘Petfished’ campaign urges buyers to remain vigilant of deceitful sellers by researching them before visiting and reporting suspicious adverts. Crucially, you must be prepared to walk away and report suspected cases of animal abuse to the RSPCA or the police.

To avoid being Petfished, it’s important to spot vital red flags when researching sellers. You can do this with the help of the acronym S.P.O.T:

RSPCA’s special operations unit Inspector Kirsty Withnall said: “Sadly there are lots of criminals and conmen willing to exploit the public even during difficult times when most sections of society are rallying together. Lockdown has led to an explosion in the pet market with more and more people searching for pets to keep them company; and that’s led to huge price hikes and people trying to capitalise on this pandemic, even at the expense of the animals. Every year, the RSPCA investigates thousands of reports of poorly bred puppies, sickly kittens, and gangs breeding and trafficking sick animals to sell onto unsuspecting members of the public. We’d urge the public to be extremely cautious if they’re looking for a new pet and to consider adopting from a rescue centre.”

If you’re looking to buy a pet, get tips and advice on the ‘Petfished’ campaign website by searching ‘Get your pet safely’ or visiting

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