As much as a third of the calls the Scottish SPCA receives about the welfare of new puppies are related to Fife, figures show.
In 2020, a total of 209 calls were made to the animal welfare organization’s helpline from the UK regarding puppy breeding, selling or breeding, compared to a total of 617 across Scotland for that period.
Although the SSPCA says these statistics are not entirely accurate because calls without an address are logged at their headquarters in Dunfermline, puppy breeding in Fife is undoubtedly still a problem.
Chief Superintendent Mike Flynn told the press that illegal puppy breeders were causing a great deal of “misery” to both families and animals.
“COVID has caused big problems because a lot of vendors advertise on Gumtree saying you cannot see the puppy due to restrictions,” he said.
“You have never seen the puppy before, they are going to use a burner phone and meet you in a parking lot somewhere.
“It’s just amazing how many people have fallen for this and are willing to spend £ 3,000 on a dog.
“Other times, there isn’t even a puppy for sale and they’ll ask you to leave a deposit and you’ll never hear from them again.
“I’ve spoken to a lot of people who were so shocked with the puppy’s condition that they bought it simply because they didn’t want it to stay with the breeder.”
The SSPCA has found that some merchants come with ferries from Ireland and target the Central Belt specifically for trade. On just one trip with five pups, they could make £ 12,000 in a day.
Mike stated, “Some of the conditions these pups are raised in are horrific. Many are taken away from their mothers far too early and because all the litters are transported together they ingest viruses.
“However, it usually takes a week for it to take hold, and by then they’ll have sold the puppy. That means people will then be plagued with extortionate vet bills in addition to what they just paid.
“These traders make money out of total misery – they are heartless.
“Of course, there are pups’ welfare and financial implications to consider, but just psychology – kids are devastated when the pup dies.
“Dealers in Ireland can just drop by on the ferry and be back home the same day. So it is better if you take a trip to Fife instead of Aberdeen. You are targeting the largest market.
“They can be in and out and you will never see them again.
“Those who have contacted them again because their puppy is sick have even received death threats and may not be ready to speak up, so the numbers are probably higher than we reported.
“These people are making huge sums of money because of COVID,” added Mike.
“We had someone in court proudly telling the judge that he had made £ 1.5m in puppy sales in 18 months and then fined £ 2,000. So where is the deterrent?
“However, we noticed that HMRC is now tracking these cases and is actually hunting people for taxes.
“A trader was put on a tax bill of £ 500,000 and that closed them down. It’s not the way we expected them to stop, but at least they are going to close.”
So what does Mike advise when looking to buy a puppy?
l Make sure you check papers properly – are vaccinations and certificates real?
l Check the breeder’s cell phone number online to see where else they are selling.
l Remember, you can’t have a puppy in a week – waiting lists for legal breeders are long.