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Pet Buyers Warned Of Dangers Of Classified Ads

The UK’s leading animal welfare charities have united to clamp down on illegal pet classified adverts following a record number of complaints from people buying poorly pets.

Members of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group [PAAG] have launched a new website aimed at both consumers and publishers. The site www.paag.org.uk will also encourage recession-hit members of the public to think carefully before buying a new family pet through classified advertisements.

With the alarming rise in status dogs and underground dog fighting rings, the site also provides valuable help to publishers to ensure they don’t inadvertently publish illegal or inappropriate ads.

PAAG is made up of 12 animal welfare organisations, the Metropolitan Police, DEFRA and free-ads publisher Loot who have all noticed a worrying increase in the number of unsuitable pet related classified adverts appearing both online and in newspapers. In particular ads for banned breeds of dogs such as Pit Bull Terriers have become more common. These advertisements are illegal under animal welfare legislation.

PAAG members are also concerned that consumers looking for a bargain family pet are falling foul of unscrupulous pet traffickers.

Chairman of the Pet Advertising Advisory Group, Clarissa Baldwin OBE, explains:

“We’re urging people not to act on impulse and buy from a classified ad but to think carefully before taking on a family pet. Without the proper research you could unwittingly end up supporting a puppy farmer or an illegal animal breeder.

Sadly the recession has meant some people are now looking to make a quick buck by breeding animals - the end result is an influx of pets being sold online with no consideration given to their health or welfare.”

PAAG members were particularly concerned when a member of the public recently posted an online ad offering a German Shepherd dog in exchange for an iphone or wireless laptop. This highlights a worrying trend that some people regard pets as disposable commodities.

Consumer Direct reported a concerning 40% increase in the number of complaints related to animal and pet purchases from 2006 to 2008.

In 2008 alone the helpline received 4,953 complaints about pet purchases compared to 3,787 calls in 2007 and 2,843 calls in 2006.

The user-friendly PAAG website offers consumers advice on a wide range of topics and now also boasts a new ‘click through’ button designed for pet owners to report any problems with animals bought online or through classifieds.

The site also aims to encourage publishers to be as uniform and transparent as possible when it comes to pet advertisements.

The Animal Welfare Act now places a responsibility on the seller and buyer for the care of companion animals sold through classified advertisements. The advertiser’s responsibility however is purely ethical.

With this in mind, PAAG has launched an appeal to the Committee for Advertising Practice for the introduction of a formal Code for the advertising of ‘Companion Animals’. Publishers are being asked to run a short paragraph alongside any advertisements for sales of animals, birds, fish or exotic species, encouraging prospective buyers to ensure their choice and the place they buy it from is the right one for them.

Case study

Georgina Sutton from Holme Pierrepont in Nottinghamshire supports PAAG’s findings and has had first-hand experience of illegal and inappropriate pet adverts. She explains:

“I knew things weren’t right the minute I saw Molly in the back of a battered car. I had agreed to meet a man at a petrol station after he convinced me it was the most convenient place to deliver a new puppy.

The puppies were crammed into small cages in the back of this old beaten-up car. Despite realising Molly was in a bad way I instantly paid £280 to take her home with me - I just couldn’t let my little Molly go back with him!

I had looked around for breeders but there weren’t any locally so I found a website featuring Lab puppies for sale.

Molly was half-dead when I eventually got her home and so I took her straight to the vet. I also rang the breeder and told him exactly what had happened but all he could do was blame me instead!

I’ve spent thousands of pounds on veterinary treatment including x-rays and heart/lung scans. I know I shouldn’t have bought her and I committed the ultimate sin, but I just wanted to help in my own way.

Molly’s case is not as bad as some, but it’s still bad enough. At least now she’s got the life she deserves.”

To avoid getting stung by unscrupulous pet traffickers, PAAG has compiled top tips for consumers looking for a new family pet:

  1. Be prepared to wait, the right pet is worth waiting for.
  2. In the case of puppies and kittens, insist on seeing the mother with the litter and judge the parents’ health and temperament. Check that the animal you are interested in is interacting with the mother. You should have easy access to the litter and be able to play with them and handle them freely.
  3. Where appropriate make sure your chosen pet is old enough to leave its mother.
  4. Check that the facilities are clean, have adequate and appropriate bedding, toys and stimulation and that the animals appear alert and healthy.
  5. Visit your chosen pet regularly between the time of choosing and collection.
  6. Try to ensure that all relevant paperwork is available for inspection when you visit. This could include the pedigree and registration papers and the parents’ hereditary disease screening certificates. If it is unavailable and the paperwork has to be sent on later, get a written commitment to when it will be delivered.
  7. Ask the advertiser for a written medical history of the animal which might include vaccination and worming.
  8. Request a written agreement that purchase is subject to a satisfactory examination by your veterinary surgeon within 72 hours of purchase. Alternatively make enquiries with your local vet to see if he would be willing to attend a viewing to check the pet for any visible health problems before you purchase it.
  9. If your chosen pet was not born at the place of purchase ask where it came from. If you encounter any problems please contact the publisher.

Dogs Trust calls for compulsory microchipping to halt stray dog problem

A staggering 107,228 stray and abandoned dogs were picked up by Local Authorities from UK streets in the last year, according to Dogs Trust’s 2009 Stray Dog Survey. This represents an unacceptable increase of 11% and is the highest increase recorded since records began in 1997.

Dogs Trust strongly believes that 2008’s change in stray dog law in England and Wales, whereby police no longer hold statutory responsibility for stray dogs, may explain this sudden increase. The charity also fears that the current financial crisis may have had an impact in some areas.

With over 9,000 unclaimed stray dogs put to sleep by Local Authorities, the charity is calling on the Government to introduce compulsory microchipping for all dogs in the UK. It hopes this will reduce the problem and help reunite owners with their lost pets and trace abandoned pets back to irresponsible owners.

In the last year, of those stray dogs that were returned to their owners, 31% were returned due to being microchipped  – with compulsory microchipping many more could be reunited.

The annual survey, conducted by GfK NOP on behalf of Dogs Trust, shows a startling increase from the previous year. Despite the sustained efforts of both animal welfare organisations and Local Authorities, on average 12 stray and abandoned dogs an hour are now handled by Local Authorities. Each hour:

• 5 are reunited with their owners
• 3 are taken to welfare organisations
• 1 is rehomed from the Local Authority kennels
• 2 are in kennels for their seven day holding period
• 1 dog is put to sleep

Dogs Trust Chief Executive Clarissa Baldwin says:

“This is the largest annual increase since our records began in 1997. Previously we had seen a steady decline, but the latest statistics show a huge jump in the number of stray dogs both handled and put to sleep by Local Authorities. Some dog wardens mentioned the recession could have been an attributing factor to the increase, while others cited the change in the stray dog law last April.

We believe that the time is right to review the Control of Dogs Order and are calling on the Government to introduce compulsory microchipping of all dogs in the UK. Microchipping is an essential part of being a responsible dog owner and has helped so many people become reunited with their beloved pets.”

Compulsory microchipping already has significant support in the UK. Over 90% of Local Authorities and veterinary surgeons and almost 90% of dog owners are in favour of its introduction according to Dogs Trust research. To date 45 MPs have signed a supportive Early Day Motion (EDM) for the campaign and the charity has received additional support regionally from local MPs from all three of the main parties.

The introduction of Compulsory Microchipping would:

• Enable lost or straying dogs to be reunited promptly with their owners – meaning fewer dogs will be put to sleep at council pounds
• Permanently identify a dog in such a way that is virtually impossible to alter or remove - a clear advantage for dogs that are stolen
• Enable clear identification of the dog’s owner when prosecution is being considered for dog thieves and antisocial behaviour
• Significantly decrease the workload of all those dealing with stray dogs
• Reduce kennelling costs for Local Authorities and save time
• Allow puppies bred illegally or inappropriately on puppy farms to be traced to their source
• Significantly increase the welfare of racing Greyhounds as they could be traced back to their owners whilst they are racing and once they retire

Dogs Trust invests approximately £5m each year in neutering, microchipping and education programmes in the worst affected areas of the UK - Northern Ireland, North West, North East and Wales.  Since the campaigns began in 1999, over 307,000 dogs have been neutered and 228,500 have been microchipped through Dogs Trust.

Dogs Trust is the UK’s largest dog welfare charity and cares for over 16,000 dogs a year through its network of 17 rehoming centres. Dogs Trust never destroys a healthy dog in its care.

Happy Ending case study

Bear is a six year old Collie cross who was found abandoned and tied up outside a local airport where his previous owner had decided to dump him. Luckily for Bear, Dogs Trust Harefield took him in and found him a new home with Claire Phipps.

Claire from Kingston explains: “Bear has settled in so well, he is so laid back, he has really made himself at home on the sofa and enjoying trips to Richmond Park and our local dog-friendly pubs.”

Rehoming Appeal case study

Jazmine, an unusual Afghan and Saluki cross, was found roaming the streets by Woking Borough Council and brought in to Dogs Trust Harefield (West London) for rehoming.

She is a shy girl who needs to build up her confidence around people. She is ideally looking for experienced owners who can do some basic training with her and teach her that the world is not such as scary place.

Pets Welcome - Pet Friendly Places To Stay

The Pet Friendly Places To Stay website is a useful site for people searching for dog friendly accommodation in England, Scotland and Wales.

You will also find information on places to stay with cats and horses!

The website allows you to search by country and then county to find hotels, bed and breakfast and self catering accommodation where pets are welcome.

Link : Pet Friendly Places To Stay

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