Dogs Trust

New dog owners beware!

We know how exciting getting a new four-legged friend is. But the thrill of the moment can mean potential new dog owners can miss tell-tale signs that they’re being sold a smuggled pup. Take a look at our dogfishing checklist to be in-the-know about anything that should raise your suspicions.

Getting dogfished is more common than you think. Online sellers often use a false mother and forge documents to trick owners into believing the sale is genuine. It means owners unwittingly fuel this cruel trade. In some cases, people are left with a dog with considerable underlying health issues or life-long behavioural challenges.

Don't be dogfished

Our dogfishing checklist

Answer the questions below to check out whether you've been unknowingly caught up in the puppy smuggling trade or test your knowledge to learn what to look out for.

This is a warning sign that something isn’t right. 36% of people told Dogs Trust this happened to them.

Good, it’s important to see the environment your puppy has been living in.

I first met my puppy in the seller’s home.

This is a warning sign that something isn’t right. 36% of people told Dogs Trust this happened to them.

Good, it’s important to see the environment your puppy has been living in.

If you can’t see mum when you visit, it could be because your puppy has been taken from her too young. 43% of people told Dogs Trust they didn’t see their pup’s mum when they bought their puppy.

Good, you should always be able to see your puppy with their mum.

I was able to see the puppy’s mum when I visited.

If you can’t see mum when you visit, it could be because your puppy has been taken from her too young. 43% of people told Dogs Trust they didn’t see their pup’s mum when they bought their puppy.

Good, you should always be able to see your puppy with their mum.

Unscrupulous vets in other countries will often forge documentation to help puppy smugglers import dogs across the border.

Good, a reputable breeder should always be able to supply this information for you.

I received fake microchip or vaccination papers for my puppy.

Unscrupulous vets in other countries will often forge documentation to help puppy smugglers import dogs across the border.

Good, a reputable breeder should always be able to supply this information for you.

This could mean your puppy was smuggled in from another country. People often don’t find this out until after handing over their money and taking their dog to the vet.

Good, but that does not necessarily rule out that a puppy may have been smuggled.

My puppy had a foreign microchip or passport.

This could mean your puppy was smuggled in from another country. People often don’t find this out until after handing over their money and taking their dog to the vet.

Good, but that does not necessarily rule out that a puppy may have been smuggled.

You’re not alone, over a fifth of people told us they had been lied to when buying a dog online.

Good, a responsible breeder should give you truthful information about your pup’s age and breed.

I was misled about my puppy’s age and/or breed.

You’re not alone, over a fifth of people told us they had been lied to when buying a dog online.

Good, a responsible breeder should give you truthful information about your pup’s age and breed.

Puppy smugglers often want to make a quick sale so will pressure people into buying the puppy after just one meeting. 51% of people told Dogs Trust they were only allowed to see their puppy once.

Good, you should never be rushed into a big decision like getting a dog.

I was only allowed to see my puppy once before deciding to buy it.

Puppy smugglers often want to make a quick sale so will pressure people into buying the puppy after just one meeting. 51% of people told Dogs Trust they were only allowed to see their puppy once.

Good, you should never be rushed into a big decision like getting a dog.

Great! It looks as if all is well with your recent puppy purchase. However the smugglers can be clever so it's always better to get your dog checked out by a vet. 

Oh dear - it’s very likely you’ve been dogfished. We’d advise that you report your seller

There’s a definite possibility that you’ve been dogfished. You might want to take your puppy along to a vet and get its microchip and paperwork checked. Please send a report to trading standards or share your story with us

You may have been dogfished. Sellers often want to sell quickly so will hastily arrange meeting points in places like car parks or will pressure buyers into taking the puppy straight away.

You may have been dogfished – foreign microchips, being misled about the puppy's age and fake papers are key clues that all may not be well.

Puppy smuggling facts

fact 1

In just five years, we’ve helped rescue 1,500 illegally imported puppies.

fact 2

Our undercover investigations found dealers and vets willing to falsify documents to say puppies were older than they were.

fact 3

If they’d been sold as planned, the dogs we’ve rescued would have put an estimated £3m into breeders’ pockets.

Dogfish alert!

If you suspect a seller is acting suspiciously, or if you think your puppy may have been illegally imported, please report them to Trading Standards.

Report now

Don't be dogfished

The COVID crisis facing the UK's dogs

The COVID-19 pandemic is likely to have a huge impact on dogs and dog owners around the UK. Business is booming for puppy smugglers. Changes to our daily routines could mean more dogs develop behavioural issues. And vet costs may put strains on already-stretched finances. With these very real threats facing our nation’s dogs, we need your help to be there for them, now and in the future.

>Find out how to help

About puppy smuggling

Our undercover investigations into the puppy smuggling trade have found vets willing to falsify documents and highlighted a growing trend for transporting heavily pregnant dogs.

> Find out more about the problem and what we're doing to stop it